American culture places a high value on independence and self-reliance. Throughout my experience as a postpartum doula, I have seen how hesitant many new moms can be to ask for help of any kind after giving birth. Leaning on others means weakness and even failure, for some.
Instead of validating the need for rest and care by others after childbirth – which may involve major surgery as in the case of a c-section – the lack of social, emotional, and physical support for new mothers in this culture sends the message that they shouldn’t need it, that they ought to just carry on with their home and work responsibilities, as if what they just experienced was not a major life event! This theme has been a big motivation for me to make this film.
I see many mothers who are highly self-critical because they don’t feel confident in caring for their babies when this may well be their first experience with a newborn! Instead of cutting themselves some slack, they beat themselves up because the house is a mess and they can’t manage to find time to keep up with the most basic routine tasks. Friends and family may live far away and partners may have little or no leave from work. A sense of isolation sets in and the lack of sleep doesn’t help matters.
When it comes to breastfeeding, having the right support throughout the learning process can mean the difference between making it happen and giving it up altogether. Acquiring any new skill set takes practice, patience, and guidance from people who have either done it successfully, or who are learned experts; in this case, care professionals who are proficient in the art and science of breastfeeding. Not only do many mothers not have the necessary resources, but in our society they may even meet with hostility when nursing their babies in public or pumping milk while at work.
Connecting with and learning from other mothers can be a life-line. As I speak with women about Mother’s Milk, Mother’s Wisdom, I’ve seen that many have a need to share their breastfeeding stories openly. For some, talking about their experience is cathartic. Others want to share in hopes of helping women avoid unnecessary suffering. In identifying with such stories, new and even experienced breastfeeding mothers are relieved to learn they’re not alone: Other moms have faced similar challenges and found solutions to move beyond them.
As Barbara L. Behrmann writes in her excellent book, The Breastfeeding Café, “Women must begin to talk about it [breastfeeding] honestly and unabashedly. We need to shatter the myths surrounding it and insist on the right to nurse our children without apology and with dignity.” The profound wisdom that emerges as women gather in solidarity to share their tribulations and triumphs – and to nurture and nourish the wholly dependent, beautiful beings they create – is the gift I wish to give in creating this documentary.
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