There is relatively universal consensus that pregnancy and motherhood is a beautiful and blessed journey. For the most part, it is a common belief that “A child is a blessing from God.” That is how I’ve always heard it, but you ever notice how pregnancy and motherhood is a huge source of cultural shame?
The Dome of Shame
The moment I became visibly pregnant at 21 looking every bit of 17 as a black, unwed expectant mother, I could feel the difference in energy of the way I was perceived in the world. I could feel the stares and I could hear the whispers. Some of it didn’t come in whispers, just outright questioned expectations, disappointment, blame, ridicule and the like. I was excited to become a mother within myself but as I heard the words “Your life is over,” as I’m sure many women and girls had heard before me, all I could do was cry in spite of the joy that resonated from my womb. I felt weak, vulnerable, and strapped inside the “dome” of shame, referring to my taut, dome-shaped pregnant belly. I felt like I could not fully embrace the spiritual jubilance of carrying my child.
There is so much shame and blame associated with becoming a mother coupled with the details surrounding your journey: How many kids do you have? Do your kids have the same father? Were you married to their father? How old were you when you had your child? Did you graduate college? The list is endless. It was like I had less privilege without a man to validate me, without a marriage as proof of that validation.
God forbid you have three or more children with different fathers, be unwed, and never married. You carry the scarlet letter of shame. This was exactly the case with my own mother. I, her only daughter and eldest child, had to watch as she toiled in the psychological damage that resulted from her self-criticism and the constant judgement she received from others. Somewhere, I made a promise this would never happen to me.
Are you a bastard?
In 8th grade, a girl walked around the class pointing at students asking, “Are you a bastard?”, “Are you a bastard?” “I know you’re not a bastard.” “I’m not a bastard, because my parents were married before I was born.” She stood in front of me, pointed, and asked, “Victoria, are you a bastard.” I recall rolling my eyes and ignoring her as she walked over to the next student and posed the same question.
Of all the things that had happened to me in middle school, why do I remember this so vividly; why was this particular incident so effective that when I think of this moment, a part of me says, “Ha, now I have two children with the same father and all of her five children have different fathers,” despite the fact that I know in the grand scheme of life, it matters not at all. Why do I think this way? Because this type of cultural shame has been reinforced in our lives as women, as mothers over and over and over again.
Then comes the postpartum body judgement. Your lovely new “kangaroo pouch”, for those of us that don’t snap back or who were never snapped in the first place, means you are no longer suitable for male consumption.
Oh yes, let us not omit the infamous “Ewwww stretchmarks”. Yet another scar-let letter of shame. Pun intended. I watch mothers on Instagram, who flaunt their postpartum tummy (@powertoprevail) get grueling insults hurled at them so much that an entire campaign (Love Your Lines) uplifting the journey into motherhood and the bodily changes that come with it, was erected in their honor. We shame mothers into hiding through the idolization of perfect bodies and the condemnation of what we categorize as imperfect ones, after they have emerged from the perilous yet miraculous labor of childbirth.
Honor & Celebrate Transition
Author Emily Nagoski proposed a beautiful idea in her book Come as you Are. “Let’s invent a ritual where women celebrate the transition into their postpartum bodies.”
When Maya Angelou traveled to Africa she stayed with a tribe who bathed communally. She said the women began to weep and console her and she didn’t know why. They thought she was childless because she had no stretch marks. In their society, marks are a badge of honor. They said that even if the baby died and she was kidnapped into a new village, if she passed away and could not speak for herself, the marks would tell her story and she would get the proper rites at her burial.
We must guide in a different way, uplift, honor, and empower ALL women and girls on their journey into motherhood. ALL of them and not just a select few who did it the “right” way. It is imperative that we love and embrace our transition into motherhood both physically and psychologically. Now more often than ever, we hear reports on the rise of postpartum depression. I do not wonder why.
The lack of appreciation for being the giver of life is beyond disgusting.
Welcome to postpartum motherhood, the land of “damaged goods”. The place where your shitty baby’s father threatens to leave because no one else is gonna want you anyway. I actually heard one of the guys from TeenMom say that to the mother of his child. All I could think was, “Oh wow, is this what we think of our child bearers?” The place where you get likened to an old car that has lost its value with your “high mileage pussy.” I swear I didn’t make any of this up. Why do we treat women like they’re property and products; An asset that decreases in value over time and sexual experiences?
As a mother, how can I be socially barred from being associated with sex when it is the very act of intercourse that brought me to this place of motherhood. To be a mother and to also be sexy creates a feeling of cognitive dissonance from both a personal and social perspective, a dichotomy that artist Michael explores quite nicely in his post “Cognitive Dissonance: Hestia vs Aphrodite.” In his post he talks about Hestia, Greek goddess of the hearth who is a virgin and Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. In summary, it mentions the way the goddesses represent two extremes of a single spectrum which mirrors the way women see themselves, the way that men view us as well as the way we are expected to exist in the real world. Essentially, it is difficult to accept us as being both; A feeling I can readily identify with as a woman, as a mother, and as a former wife.
There is such a dissociation between sex and motherhood that the thought of a mother having sex and being a sexual being is complete taboo. The idea of fucking someone’s mother is a repulsive turn off and she should tread carefully on any consideration of having sex with anyone who is not her child’s father or any other sexy behavior for that matter as not to be labeled a slut, whore, sorry excuse of a mother, poor example for her daughter, and an embarrassment to her family. And please don’t let a child result from such a union without a solid commitment to redeem her respect. The postpartum period of a woman’s life is a laundry list of things you shouldn’t do, clothes you shouldn’t wear, and people you shouldn’t be.
Free my postpartum sexuality.
Get you a girl that can do both. We are not one dimensional. Yes, I am a mother. I am still fucking sexy and ****NEWS FLASH**** I also love to fuck. I still wear crop tops, booty shorts, and bikinis, my stretchmarks proudly on display. Body dresses, stilettos, and brightly colored lipstick, fly by romance and one night stands are still a valid occurrence in my life. I twerk, I flirt, and in the bedroom, trust that I werk *snap, snap*. I wear what I want. I do what I want. I’ll be who I want. I embrace my postpartum body as my version of sexy. I am a single, sexy mommy. Yes, I am a fused duality of Hestia and Aphrodite; mother lover, mother goddess, mother slut.
“Eve” by artist Eric Heard.
To learn more about Eric’s work and how you can give his art a new home visit his IG. Check out his beautiful work, like, share, and buy, buy, gift.