When I was pregnant with my daughter, I signed up to a pregnancy yoga class. I imagined a weekly session of gentle stretching and breathing techniques to prepare my body for the upcoming birth. In reality though, the class offered me so much more.
We started each session in a big circle. Fifteen pregnant women, with bellies of varying sizes, all sat semi-awkwardly on multi-colored yoga mats. And one by one, we went round the circle and divulged just a little of what was on our minds. At first, this sharing felt so weird…so unnatural…so exposing. I didn’t know these women, we just happened to meet up each week to stretch our growing bodies side-by-side, in hopes of finding some much-talked-about balance for our rapidly changing realities. Yet week after week, mom after mom would give her update. Some short, some long. Some that would bring the room to raucous laughter, some that would bring us all to heavy tears.
Together, we held the space for one another, in that stuffy village hall, five years ago.
“I started maternity leave this week! I am so relieved to be able to focus on just me and my bump!”
“One of the twins is pressing on my bladder…so I might need to dash to the bathroom after every stretch today…”
“I have a weird rash on my leg, has anyone else had this at around 20 weeks?”
“I felt my baby move for the first time last night!”
“I’m struggling to pick up my toddler, with this bump, and it’s breaking my heart.”
“My husband is driving me CRAZY!!!!”
Every Saturday morning, tales would be told. Worries would be aired and triumphs shared.
Don’t get me wrong, it certainly wasn’t Pinterest-worthy. We were not kitted out in maternity yoga gear, nor were we the masters of every pose or salutation recognizable. We were moms; exhausted, worrisome, bladder-sensitive moms and our experiences were real and strengthening and actually, pretty beautiful. In a real-world, non-airbrushed kind of way.
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to find a class such as this. Not everyone finds a group of women with whom to share our pregnancy journeys with. But this sense of solidarity is, crucially, far more flexible than even the most far-flung yoga pose.
Because solidarity knows no bounds. Human connection can span time zones and oceans, particularly in our current Era of The Screen.
How many of us reach out to our Facebook mommy groups with midnight worries?
How many of us turn to forums in search of somebody else who has experienced this too?
We have the tools to seek sisterhood. We have the means to share our pregnancy stories and while that might seem like a given, it hasn’t always been the case.
As recently as the 1950s, even the word “pregnancy” was a taboo in western society. Pregnant women were often shamed for being seen out of the house, preferring instead to stay at home once their tell-tale bumps started to show.
“…the expectant woman separated herself and kept to her home, indicating her need for rest and her unfitness for polite, mixed society.” (Wertz,R. & Wertz, D.)
It’s mind-boggling to think that something so natural, so innately normal and so essential to humankind could be considered shameful. Reminiscent perhaps, of society’s current attitude towards breastfeeding…where the objectification and sexualisation of the female body actively creates a barrier to Common Sense. Where outdated values of supposed ‘modesty’ hamper optimal infant feeding and cast a taboo over an act that is normal, natural and needed.
In another 60 years, I hope that social commentators will look back in utter shock at the way nursing mothers were treated back in 2016. I hope that breastfeeding rates will far-surpass national targets, as opposed to fall below every bar that’s set. I hope that our granddaughters will look at us in disbelief when we explain the social stigma that we endured – and fought through – as they nurse their own babies freely and peacefully, whenever and wherever they choose.
Thankfully, the much-needed ginormous shift in attitudes towards pregnancy since the 1950s has, for the most part, already been ingrained in our culture. Because let’s face it, there was no way that a group of pregnant women would have gathered each Saturday to discuss their haemorrhoids and leaking breasts in the 1950s, or to run through one another’s birth plans with a fine toothed comb. And while many moms won’t have the time, childcare, finances, opportunity or energy to embark on a Saturday morning yoga experience…we have other ways to find solidarity.
Take for instance, Earth Mama Angel Baby’s newest project: Mama's Bump Squad. Mama's Bump Squad is a group of moms-to-be who are letting us follow their journeys through pregnancy, and it’s so refreshing! Reading their posts, I feel as if I’m right back in that stuffy village hall, listening to the words of my bump buddies. Seeing these bellies grow, in unison with my own, gives me the courage and confidence to trust in my body. Because seeing is believing…and sharing our thoughts through stories and our realities through images can bring even the most distant mom-to-be into the fold.
Because pregnancy really does feel like a club. It is such a rollercoaster of emotions and changes and hopes and fears and I truly believe that this is a journey we are supposed to experience together. Not because Pinterest told me so, but because sisterhood is empowering. Together, we are stronger…we can breathe strength into one another and metaphorically help to carry these ever-growing baby bumps around with us, lightening the load.
And for me, reading the updates from Earth Mama’s Bump Squad not only answers some niggling questions with super-practical answers - (seriously, I had no idea a morning sickness spray even existed!) - but each post reinforces this sense of togetherness.
So say it with me, beautifully awkward and ever-growing, life-giving mamas…
Together, we are stronger.
Because every mama needs a #BumpSquad.
If you're growing your own baby bump, why not find solidarity with the Bump Squad and follow along here.
You might also like:
- The Problem With 'All Or Nothing' Breastfeeding
- 4 Words Every Breastfeeding Mother Needs To Hear
- Why Nursing In Public Should Be No Big Deal