On blaming the victim for their reproductive struggles
Ableism, baby soul readiness, and neglected "womb voices"
Momfluencer culture is a lot of things. Sometimes it’s consumerism by way of affiliate links for status strollers, linen baby slings, and MLM leggings. Sometimes it’s education by way of accredited mental health experts. Sometimes it’s inspiration by way of bespoke nurseries and DIY diaper balms. Sometimes it’s aspiration by way of clean countertops and clutter-free play rooms. Sometimes it’s white ideals of maternal femininity. Sometimes it’s ballet. Sometimes it’s a slice of pineapple that looks like a star.
And sometimes it’s ableist as hell!
I have no opinion about anyone’s individual choices regarding maternal healthcare. I also have zero expertise in maternal healthcare. ZERO. And to be fair, @trusting_birth states in their bio “Not Medical Advice,” so I guess it’s on me for assuming the following slides imply a certain level of expertise. But I don’t very much care to assess the intentions behind this particular account or this particular post because the effects are crystal clear.
Having trouble getting pregnant? MAYBE (according to the caption of this post), “there is a time and place for science,” but maybe (also according to the caption) “the medical system loves to play the savior role to a woman’s womb yet again” and you need to invest a little “healthy critical thinking” into whether or not you actually need IVF or other fertility treatments. Maybe that “healthy critically thinking” will reveal that all you really need is not the type of medical intervention which has resulted in one million babies being born between 1987-2015, but simply a different diet, a “balanced” gut, less toxins, less “inflammation,” “etc. etc.”
Maybe, in fact, you’re not getting pregnant because your body simply is not right. YOU are not right.
This type of momfluencer account is a perfect example of what happens when vaguely woo-woo anti-establishment wellness culture intersects with prescribed ideals of motherhood (read more about that intersection here).
According to this account’s worldview, an ideal mother is an island of self-knowledge and self-regulation. She is a good mother because she eats the right vegetables grown the right way in the right place. She is a good mother because she has the privilege of time to spend hours on “research” about how to turn her body into an ideal home for [an ideal] fetus. She is a good mother because she trusts the wisdom of her body. She is a good mother because she is less inflamed than other, inferior mothers. She is a good mother because she is able to get pregnant without IVF or IUI or hormone treatment or surgery or any other methods which rely on “mainstream, basic narratives that our bodies are stupid.”
A good mother is a good mother before she even gets pregnant because she makes good choices and as a result of those choices, has a “good” body.
Can’t get pregnant? It’s YOUR fault for using birth control!
Can’t get pregnant? It’s YOUR fault for having an unborn baby whose soul is simply unprepared!
Can’t get pregnant? It’s YOUR fault for not ushering in the heartbreak, anxiety, and despair that can sometimes result from fertility issues as a welcome chance to make some “massive personal growth.”
Can’t get pregnant? It’s YOUR fault for having CONTROL ISSUES. And please understand that in this case your “control issue” is the audacity to want a baby at a particular point in your life for a variety of entirely particular, personal reasons!
Can’t get pregnant? It’s YOUR fault for not paying enough attention to your WOMB VOICE. If you’ve been struggling to conceive for over a year, don’t call your doctor or midwife. Have a sleepover with your womb voice and play MASH instead.
According to the logic of this Instagram account (“Not Medical Advice”), people coping with chronic medical conditions which make pregnancy difficult or impossible (without medical intervention) are apparently not good mothers because it’s not blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, ovarian insufficiency, or cancer impacting one’s ability to conceive, it’s simply a lack of “balance.” It’s not a medical thing. It’s a YOU thing.
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Because obviously (according to @trusting_birth), the “right” people become pregnant for the “right” reasons (attending to a needy womb voice and eradicating “toxin overload”), and the “wrong” people (people managing sickle cell anemia, uterine fibroids, kidney disease, or PCOS) don’t get pregnant because their bodies are wrong. They are wrong. And if these “wrong” people don’t get pregnant simply by becoming more attuned to whether or not their babies’ souls are “ready” (is there some sort of baby soul thermometer one can use?!) and are forced to rely on evidence-based medical intervention, what does that mean? It means these mothers’ bodies are less wise, these mothers’ babies’ souls are less ready, these mothers’ womb voices are less heard.
These mothers are less.
There are many, many, many ways in which mainstream medicine fails child-bearing people. Way too many people experience racism, mistreatment as result of weight stigma, trauma, disrespect, neglect, inaccessibility, and a lack of informed consent when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Oh, and fertility treatments should not be bankrupting people! We 100% should demand better.
But better does not mean blaming people for not having adequately “wise” [read: non-disabled or un-afflicted by any number of health conditions that might impact fertility] bodies. Some people cannot get pregnant without medical intervention. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEIR RIGHTNESS OR GOODNESS AS HUMAN BEINGS OR THEIR BABIES’ SOULS. Fertility is morally neutral. And to suggest that the sometimes incredibly painful experience of infertility can be magically cured by more carefully attending to one’s “womb voice” and dealing with one’s latent CONTROL ISSUES is irresponsible and potentially harmful.
I hate it.