So glad they told me #sogladtheytoldme

So glad they told me

On Monday and Tuesday I wrote about the ways in which people misuse science to tear down emotionally fragile new mothers.

Last night, while checking my Twitter feed, I made the happy discovery of a new movement designed specifically to do the opposite, to support mothers, especially emotionally fragile new mothers.

It’s #sogladtheytoldme and it was started by women whom I admire.

Here’s Stephanie Sprenger explaining the genesis of the movement:

… [W]hat if we didn’t do either of those things — fill mothers’ heads with unrealistic, sugar-coated imagery OR try to scare the bejeezus out of them with horror stories and unkind warnings? What if, instead, we just supported mothers? What if we gave them the room to speak honestly and openly about their experiences, including the ugly, hard-t0-hear stuff? What if we compassionately shared our own truths without a hidden, possibly malicious “warning” attached to it?…

I am teaming up with my partner Jessica Smock at The HerStories Project to issue a challenge to mothers this week. We want to hear from YOU now. Did anyone throw you a life preserver at some point—either during your pregnancy, postpartum period, or even later into motherhood? Did someone give you a piece of advice or an honest admission that you were profoundly grateful for?

I had my four children before the motherhood competition became as toxic as it is now. I was exceedingly fortunate to be surrounded by a group of women friends, as well as the greatest sister-in-law in the world, who supported each other through pregnancy, infancy, toddlerhood and beyond. Most are friends from college or professional school. I knew them in their pre-mommy incarnations as doctors, lawyers, teachers and executives. Most were at my wedding, and I was beyond thrilled that nearly all were there when my eldest son and his wife were married over a year ago. It seemed only fitting since there were times I didn’t think I would survive until his adulthood without the love and support of those friends.

I learned a lot from these women as we navigated motherhood together. It wasn’t so much what they told me, as what they showed me.

I’m so glad that they showed me that it makes no difference how a baby arrives, whether through vaginal birth, C-section or adoption. The love of a mother is fierce regardless of how the baby came to be part of the family.

I’m so glad they showed me that it makes no difference how an infant is fed. I was proud that I breastfed my children, but 25 years later I can see clearly they are indistinguishable from the children of my friends who bottle fed.

I’m so glad they showed me that there is no right way to raise a child. Different approaches work for different families and different approaches are needed for different children within the same family.

I’m so glad they showed me that it doesn’t matter whether a mother stays home full time with her children, pursues a full time career, a part time career or a career that is staggered over time to accommodate the needs of children.

I’m so glad they showed me that the most important thing a mother can do is love a child and make sure that child knows it. The rest, as they say, is just commentary.

Truth be told, what I learned from these women, influences what I write nearly as much as what I learned in medical school and working as an obstetrician.

I’m so glad they supported me in motherhood, and I hope that by what I write, I can support other mothers in the same way.