Regarding Your Goddess Myth: A Letter To TIME Magazine
Dear TIME magazine editors:
I don’t know where to begin. Please, no more bashing of the “feminine”, and nature (i.e. biology, including “natural” birth and breastfeeding).
A few years back it was named the “Mommy Wars”. In 1973, as a new mother, I began researching birth, writing, speaking, critiquing the USA profit-driven culture of routine hospitalization, routine interventions and drugs, separation of mother and baby after birth, bottlefeeding, circumcising, ignoring the needs of postpartum women and treating all newborns as if they are separate individuals able to tolerate lots of stress and ought to sleep in separate rooms from their parents and be toughened up by not “coddling” them, lest they be “spoiled”. (See Immaculate Deception, published 1975).
I didn’t understand then that the “Goddess Myth” was just part of culture based on unbridled greed and power-over, with women’s bodies and babies just exploited colonial territories. Across the country, as part of the “alternative” culture of the late 60s, Ina May Gaskin and other women started daring to have birth “naturally” and help others do so at home. They weren’t crazy; many became well-trained midwives. Good science supports “natural” birth and full breastfeeding, along with 9 months of “in-arms” time (parents not out working a job and coming home exhausted and stressed) and close bonding for new babies for their critical brain development.
Everything may look different 40+ years after Immaculate Deception, but not much has really changed. We still live in a white-male privileged, feminine-hating, patriarchal, child-neglecting culture that abuses all things tender (including nature and the right brain hemispheres of men). That’s why Trumpism prevails. Men are harmed as much as women under patriarchy, even though they’re granted more power and wreak havoc for women, children and Earth.
I’d like to rant about this wrong-hearted and shallow cover story. Instead, I’ll take a couple deep breaths and see if I can make points readers of any gender might find worth thinking about:
YES, childbearing women are under enormous pressure (those of color much more so). But it’s not because of folks pushing what’s natural (i.e. biologically-sound or “evidence-based”) or talking excitedly about the research in epigenetics, neurobiology, attachment and early trauma, that proves every mother-baby is one biological system: vulnerable and needing special support to thrive. Childbearing (and all ) women live under the same impossible pressures men are under in this country… to produce more, in less time, and to consume more, to “climb the ladder to success,” pull themselves up by their bootstraps, even though their hearts may wish for – and prospective and new mothers and their in-womb and infant babies and fathers too require – a life of less pressure, more time to spend just living, enjoying relationships, including parenting, and contributing to their community – because humans innately want to contribute, just as we are innately social creatures who need each other’s support to thrive. But they also are designed to be the bearers of life, and whatever harm they experience, their baby does too, starting in-womb.
The real issue is not that motherhood today is a goddess myth. Let’s tell the truth: It’s about few parents getting what they need, women going back to work, leaving their babies behind and paid 78% of what men get doing the same work get. The abuse of women still rampant, including having NO guaranteed, universal and paid maternity leave (unlike every other “developed” nation) which by the way, I propose start at six months pregnancy and continue for 12 months — for the benefit of the woman herself and her baby, the father, the family, and for employers. That social system has been proven to lower maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, lower her chance of having birth complications or Cesarean or a premature baby (with all the accompanying long-term problems and costs), proven to lower breastfeeding complications, increase the time mothers breastfeed (which directly lowers obesity in kids and adults) and would create stronger mother-baby bonding (which means fewers kids and adults with attachment disorders). It’s also cost-effective, for those who only look at $$.
You take a swipe at “doulas” who are almost exclusively women and the lowest member of the birth power system — paid by folks who can afford them to give the woman emotional and physical support and privacy her body needs to birth normally in a hospital (or sometimes by profit-making hospitals to keep their maternity patients “compliant” to medicalized birth).
I’m so tired of women falling into the trap of thinking it’s other women, or nature – and sound biological principles such as natural birth and breastfeeding – that are the problem. The problem is white-male privilege, greed-based capitalism (of which hospitalized, medicalized birth is a part), and patriarchy (a system based in control through domination and suppression).
I expect deeper journalism from TIME. How about an in-depth piece on the fear-driven, attachment-disordered, misogynistic white-privileged folks in Congress who are slashing all social programs – including education, health care, and social security. They call social security an “entitlement program” and “coddling” publically, “sucking off the tit,” and want to privatize it, which should remind us just how much patriarchal systems hate all things feminine, and all those who are “dependent”, such as babies, kids, the disabled, the elderly). These folks — and they’re mostly guys) hate public education and the idea of universal health care as a human right (like decent housing and food ought to be), while they vote to increase the U.S. military budget and reject any form of control over handguns and automatic weapons (or dare I say: penis substitutes).
How we bring babies into the world and care for every mother-baby and family literally shapes the human brain and determines the kinds of adults that run the world. Do we want to create more anxiety-ridden and suicidally or addicted-pronte teens and narcissistic, rigid adults, whose brains were wired at the start of life for fear and defense? Think Trump, his cabinet, Ryan et all, fundamentalist extremists of all kinds, plus ordinary folks – including youth – delete: “being bulled, feeling depressed or suicidal, or acting out from rage”, more mass shooters and more men who perpetrate domestic violence on women and kids?) Or do we want to do what it takes create human beings rooted in – and behaving – out of trust, compassion, cooperation and altruism. That’s the cover story I want TIME to research and write. Or any other publication or media source to publish!
When this society decides to treat all childbearing and babies – and kids – as deserving of a real community of protection and support, and see that their needs are met, then and only then, I say, will be have happier human beings who contribute to a more just and peaceful world.
Founder, Birthing the Future
Read October’s Birthing the Future Newsletter
P.S. I missed a and a walk out in nature and a yoga class this morning, that my 73-year-old body/mind needs, because I felt I had to write this. And I’m angry, and I’d much rather be dancing. Am I alone? Is anyone listening?
Featured photo: Shutterstock/Valentina
Thank you for your words; thank you for your anger; thank you for your time!
I am with my littles this morning, so this is brief. But, please know I found your article when it was shared on Facebook by Evolutionary Parenting. Although we are not the majority, we are here. And we are grateful to you for saying all the things we would…if we weren’t already so busy treading water in this system.
I hope your walk and yoga are uninterrupted tomorrow morning.
Thanks Leah, You’re one of the women/parents on the “front line”, doing the day-to-day work (hopefully with a lot of play in it too) of being a parent in a society that marginalizing parents in a multitude of way. Thank you for all that you do. Sending Love, Suzanne
PS I should mention that I write a newsletter for Birthing The Future that comes out 4 times a year, and also send out letters to “progressive” folks that includes social/political and environmental thoughts….If you, or anyone, would like to receive those, just send me an email with your email address (and name, if you like).
Send it to: email@example.com
You are not alone. I am listening. Your words go to the very core of me, and express why I do what I do as a birth worker. The best way I know how to effect positive change in this world is to support families at the start. The best way I know to smash the patriarchy is to honour birth.
Of course. Indeed, supporting families as they start out and honoring birth is critical. I’d like to add the suggestion that whenever you’re talking with someone about any aspect of the “primal period” you weave in the subject of patriarchy and even colonialism, as women’s and babies’ bodies have been colonized…for 6-8,000 years. And it’s damaged boys and men as much as girls and women and all things feminine, including Mother Earth.
Hugs to you.
To receive my writings and the Birthing The Future newsletter, do send me your email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You are not alone. Thank you. Thank you then, and thank you now. I feel your struggle between anger and the need for joy. I feel it every day. I hope you danced, enjoyed yoga, and communed with nature in large doses after writing this essential piece.
Thanks so much, Kelly. I’m indeed getting out in nature – mostly just long walks – and doing some yoga and a wee morning mediation practice (and even sharing meditation at our local library once a week, no charge). It’s hard to find balance, day-to-day, isn’t it.
I sure would like to be interviewed by NPR’s Teri Gross on Fresh Air. She clearly has no children and no interest in the subject of birth or new parenting/mothering. I’m going to work on the letter a bit and see if I can get it to her producers. Perhaps you’d contact her too. The show is out of Philadelphia. mmm
Meanwhile, sending you love,
THANK YOU for writing what I thought as I read that TIME article. I am with you 200%. Thank you thank you!
Hi Fiona, This is the week Time is likely to publish any letters about that cover article…or maybe next. Fingers crossed they’ll publish a piece of my letter…or similar thinking ones.
Hugs to you my dear…
Thank you <3
Hear hear! Well said. Thank you for writing this. I really like your proposal for a 12-month leave, starting during pregnancy.
Let’s start talking up to everyone the idea of a 12 month paid universal maternity leave, starting at 6 months pregnancy with 3 months for the father/co-parent that can be taken any time in the child’s 1st year. As we as a society move toward universal single party payer health care – which I’m sure we’ll get – we need to be talking about what should be included in that… not only maternity/paternity leaves but also what kinds of practitioners who are not now covered SHOULD be covered…such as naturopathic physicians and oriental medicine/acupuncture, chiropractic…
Love to you, Hope,
Thanks for writing this! I, too, was frustrated with the story and wrote a response here:
I completely agree! Thank you for this.
Bravo for your Huff Post-published piece. I’ve never known how to go about getting them to publish something. Any ideas?
Also I’d love to converse further with you, if you would like to call me, in Colorado.
Just email me at
email@example.com and we can set up a time to talk.
I was just sad when I read it. It’s still true that more than 90% of women have hospital births with obstetricians, and even if they “do their research,” that’s all they know. That’s all their friends know. The author of the TIME article does not even mention midwives or birth centers as an option, and doesn’t seem to have a clue what she missed. My heart aches for her and all the women like her and their babies. Those of us who know better still have a lot of work to do.