Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Time Magazine article on motherhood: "The Goddess Myth"

"Propaganda is amazing.  People can be led to believe anything."--Alice Walker

Guilt and shame and more guilt and shame, brought to you by Time Magazine or should we say brought to you by the Genetic Literacy Project.  I found the article, "The Goddess Myth:  Why Many New Mothers Feel Guilt and Shame," (10-19-17) to be a great social marketing piece.  We might all want to send our letter of thanks to Alice Park and Alexandra Sifferlin, who were listed at the end of this article. Both Park and Sifferlin contributed to this article and their names are listed in the author section of the Genetic Literacy Project website

In bold letters prior to the article, it says, "Motherhood Is Hard to Get Wrong, So Why Do So Many Moms Feel So Bad About Themselves?"
I am already feeling the guilt.  I always questioned my mothering ability, there must be something wrong with me to believe that motherhood is not easy.  There were days when I felt like a good mother and there were days when I think I failed motherhood 101.  I thought that was normal.  I am a grandma now. While I like to see the little fairies under the toadstool with my grandchildren; I do not believe that motherhood was an easy trip, and hard to get wrong.  Nor do I believe that birth and breastfeeding is about being a goddess, like the earth goddess Gaia.  Yet I had my babies at home and I breastfed them. 

I had a homebirth because I didn't have health insurance--lost it because my husband's new job had a insurance company that considered my pregnancy a pre-existing condition. We had to pay out of pocket anyways and at that time homebirth with midwives was far less expensive than a hospital birth. And the reason I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby was another economic decision-infant formula was costly--and I planned on being a stay-at-home mom for the first 3 years.  I did those things out of practicality.  And the crazy thing is the practicality became a love, an attachment to the value of homebirth with midwives and to the value of breastfeeding, with La Leche League as my support system.

I am not sure where the author and her reporters got their data regarding home births (1.5% of all US births) being almost as many as "elective" c-sections.  Or that c-sections are down to 26% of "low risk first births."  Sounds good but no references to where this data comes from.  No discussion regarding the rising morbidity and mortality rate of mothers giving birth in the USA.  Nor discussion of the high morbidity and mortality rate of African-American mothers and babies.  The critique is centered around women who choose to have a more natural birth or want to exclusively breastfeed.  If you want a more natural birth or want to exclusively breastfeed, it would seem that you suffer from a goddess complex.  

The article states, "it [breastfeeding] may help reduce gastrointestinal infections, middle-ear infections, some immune-based diseases like allergies and asthma."  May help?  I think the author and her trusty reporters need to read some infant formula patents regarding the use of human milk components to treat all the illnesses they mention. The article states that 80% of American women "try" breastfeeding.  Try is an interesting and very tentative word.  When I worked as a lactation consultant some moms told me that they were going to "try" and breastfeed.  It reminded me of someone saying that they are going to try and exercise tomorrow. Maybe they will exercise, maybe not.  Of course sometimes we are only mimicking what we heard someone else say or repeating phrases from something we read.

The thrust of the article seems to be a criticism of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.  In horror they write that, "You won't see any formula, bottles or pacifiers on display.  They are forbidden..."  Yes but mothers can bring those items from home.  The hospital can't display them or give them to mothers-- remember nothing is free in hospitals.  So if they are giving you something for free, then one might suspect that there is a marketing deal in which a company is benefiting.  

The article discusses a paper published in 2016 JAMA Pediatrics authored by several doctors regarding rooming-in and their concerns that this will lead to "hazardous practices" and "counterproductive outcomes."  Their concerns are about babies being smothered and a rare fatal respiratory failure.  Interestingly, one of the authors, Dr. Ronald Kleinman, has been funded in past research by Nestle, Mead Johnson and Coca-cola.  Hospital nurseries in years past were often designed and funded by the infant formula industry.  Separation of mothers and babies may work wonderfully for babies who are formula-fed;  especially since most nurses love feeding babies.  But separations don't work well for getting breastfeeding off to a good start.

Fed Is Best is discussed towards the end of the article.  And the word starvation and exclusive breastfeeding is tied together.  How to make mothers fearful of exclusive breastfeeding. They quote Dr. Del Castillo-Hegyi, "If you have leaders telling you this is what's best [exclusive breastfeeding], it becomes ideology, policy, identity." Back at ya, Dr. Del Castillo-Hegyi.  One could easily say that the Fed Is Best organization is about ideology, policy, identity.

This whole article reminds me of the Similac Ad called the Mother-Hood regarding the mommy wars.  Heaven forbid anyone make any judgments or really read the last 50 years of medical literature regarding the value of breastfeeding.  And heaven forbid we ask why the Genetic Literacy Project appears to be so involved in trying to subvert the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and exclusive breastfeeding.  Here is an interesting article on how the Genetic Literacy Project has behaved regarding its use of writers to spread a positive spin on GMOs.

As author, Alice Walker, said:  "Propaganda is amazing.  People can be led to believe anything."  Time for people to use their critical thinking skills when reading this article. 

Copyright 2017 Valerie W. McClain