We are in a time of change for women, as the #metoo #TimesUp and Women’s Marches have shown. It is now time for a motherhood revolution! We often forget that when a baby is born, a mother is born too. And that those mothers need support too. At the moment, in the US, motherhood care seems almost inexistent.
1) No mandatory paid maternity leave
Most countries have a mandatory paid maternity leave. The US is the only industrialized nation that does not offer paid maternity leave. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for some workers and in some specific conditions. Many families cannot afford to lose one income so new moms face the impossible choice of taking care of and bonding with their newborns or risking their family’s economic security.
2) Pregnancy care and birth is extremely expensive
In NYC, it costs around $35,000 - $45,000 to give birth vaginally. Costs can escalate in a frightening way if you require a C-section or have any complications. Without insurance, it is simply insanely expensive to have pregnancy care and deliver a baby.
Even with good insurance, the deductibles and out of pockets add up very fast. Let’s take an example: the charge for a simple monitoring appointment at the OBGYN with a 1-minute sonogram is $400. Your insurance requires that you pay 10% of the amount from your appointment. You will go to your doctor every month, then every two weeks, then every week. Add to that all the blood, urine, genetic tests, the sonograms, the delivery and care of you and the newborn in the hospital… it leads to an astronomical amount of money.
3) Limited access to midwives & no post-partum support system for mom
The hospital stay in the US is really short: usually 2 days for a vaginal birth and 3-4 days for a C-section. During that time, your care is by doctors and nurses only in most places. All the other physical/emotional/mental changes that happen to you are not addressed and you are also not practically advised on how to take care of yourself and your brand new baby.
In many countries, midwives, professionally trained to take care of moms and babies, take the time to show, in the hospital, you all the essential tools that you need to take care of your baby and yourself (how to clean yourself, breastfeed, check your stitches, train your perineum, etc.). They also come to your home after your return from the hospital to check on baby and mom during the first few weeks after birth. They take all the time necessary to answer any questions that you have about anything: baby’s health and growth, your emotional state, your body recovery and changes, your intimate life, etc.
4) Pelvic floor rehabilitation is unknown or taboo
No one tells you about your pelvic floor and the fact that it needs physical therapy to recover from birth. Or the subject is taboo. As a consequence, it is hard to find a PT specialized in pelvic floor rehabilitation and it is often not covered by insurance. Many moms end up having leaks when they laugh or do sport. It can be very debilitating and seriously affect one’s self-confidence.
In France and Belgium, all women are aware and there is no taboo around the subject. It is easy to find a specialist and social security covers it for everyone.
5) Daycare often costs almost the equivalent of an entire salary
Child care is extremely expensive in the US. In NYC, a full time 5 days/week daycare costs at least $2000/month. Even for a multi-income family, it means that a huge part of your household’s income goes to childcare. Think of how much money each parent has to earn before tax to make more than the cost of childcare. A lot!
It puts women in a vulnerable situation. Combined with the absence of paid maternity leave, many choose to stay at home to take care of the children because they cannot afford to go back to work.
Is there any hope? Yes! We can change the world.
The revolution has started already, like the new paid family leave law in New York shows. We need to unite our forces to make it happen! It starts with us, the mothers. We need to acknowledge that there is a problem and that things need to change. Our Canadian neighbors and many other countries have laws and programs in place to support mothers. We need to be vocal about the challenges that we face and show how improvement can be made.
As a maternity, baby and motherhood photographer, many of the women that I meet face these challenges. It is a topic of discussion that comes back, session after session, in the studio. And we all agree on the fact that we can change the world, even as individuals. We the mothers are also the sisters, friends, employers, employees, business owners, leaders, speakers, writers, caretakers, connectors. We are all able to do something.
For example, here a few little things that I have done:
- After being discriminated at work (twice!) because I was a woman and a mother, I carefully planned to leave a stable job to start my own business. It took a long time to prepare, but I decided to reject a system that discriminates women and mothers;
- I created a small networking group of women-owned businesses only. It creates a community and support for other women and moms;
- Whenever possible, I love buying from a woman-owned business;
- I started a database of NYC women providers that help pregnant ladies and new moms in their transition. It serves my clients to find the help they need and it also supports women-owned businesses.
We can all do something at our own level. Drops do add up to make an ocean. And you, what will you do to make this motherhood revolution happen?