parent opinion

'In the weeks before and after giving birth, I was shocked by the comments I received.'

Listen to this story being read by Laura Jackel, here.


This International Women’s Day, Mamamia is creating the world we wished we lived in via our website and socials. That’s why today on Mamamia, you’ll see headlines we wish existed. But we cannot write these stories. Instead, the story will reveal the reality of what the world really looks like for women in 2022. You can read more about our pledge to #BreakTheBias this IWD  here.

This is the headline we wish we could write on International Women’s Day: Woman surprised by lack of judgement she receives as a first-time mum.

But this is still the reality for women in 2022

Along with the congratulatory cards and well wishes after you officially announce your pregnancy, there comes a less welcome and uninvited side order of judgement and commentary thanks to your new status as a mum-to-be. 

There might be judgement on your pregnant body and how it looks, what you eat and drink and simply do as a woman carrying a baby. There might be comments on how you birth your baby, feed your baby, hold your baby and dress your baby. 

Judgement on how quickly your body returns to its pre-baby size and whether you return to work, or choose to be a stay at home mum.

Comments about how many kids you have, what age you are when you have them, what gender they are and how quickly or slowly you choose (or don't choose) to have subsequent babies. 

Judgement on how you cope with motherhood and how quickly and naturally to adapt to your new role.

It’s a whole new world of sometimes surprising but wholly unnecessary judgement that I wish we mums didn’t have to put up with at an already challenging time in our lives.

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I am a mum of two boys and I have very vivid memories of how it felt to go from feeling like I was an equal partner in a modern marriage, to a baby 'host' whose body and life choices were open to a constant stream of commentary. Whereas my husband - an equal parent to both boys - was mostly assigned hero status if he merely helped me get up or gave our baby a cuddle.

While some comments I received as a pregnant woman and new mum were harmless or well-intentioned, other comments shocked me. 

With my first pregnancy in 2010, I found the constant commentary on my body shape and size very uncomfortable. On different days (or sometimes even on the same day) and perhaps depending on what I was wearing, I would be told my bump was 'huge' or 'tiny'. Someone once asked me to 'do a little spin' so my colleague could decide if I looked pregnant 'from behind'.

Aside from comment on how I looked, I did not enjoy the assumption I would want caffeine-free tea (I didn't) or being scolded like a child for wearing a small heel to a wedding, 'in case I fell and hurt the baby'.

After many years of only having one child, random people would comment about us having another baby, so poor Toby could have a sibling and not end up ‘spoiled’ or ‘lonely’. 

The same people usually felt terrible when I told them we had suffered multiple miscarriages in our attempt to conceive, which led me to question why people say these things at all.

With my birth plan, my obstetrician advised me (for various reasons) to opt for a c-section. I often read or overheard commentary around ‘natural births’ being preferable but I felt comfortable with this choice until I went into hospital to have my second baby Leo in February 2017. 

Before even saying hello to my husband or me, the midwife asked me why I was booked in for a c-section. I stammered out a reply while she roughly put on my surgical socks. I could sense her disapproval and judgement and I felt annoyed and upset that my birth plan mattered so much to her she demanded a reason for it.

Once both my babies were out in the world, I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding and on both occasions, we gave it a good shot and at times I loved the bonding and the ease of just whipping out my boobs to soothe a crying infant. 

After about six months and as we introduced solids, both boys began to lose interest and honestly I was ready for more freedom, so I phased it out. 

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I was surprised when a friend commented I was going against WHO recommendations for the full 12 months of breastfeeding, as if I didn’t know. But even if I didn’t know the WHO guidelines, I didn’t understand the point in judging someone else’s feeding choice - especially a friend who you knew wasn’t harming her well fed and loved baby and so the comment felt unnecessary.

As I have got older and my kids are now both at school, these early days of intense scrutiny and judgement seem thankfully far, far away in the distant past. 

In spite of my wearing heels, having an enormous bump, delivering both babies by c-section and only doing a bit of breastfeeding, my sons seem as happy and healthy and well-adjusted as any other kids I know. 

There is still judgement and commentary, of course, the most recent being about sending my February born Leo to school. It might still smart a little but the difference now, is that I have been a parent for years; not days, weeks or months and I feel like I know my kids and the sort of parent I am and what's best for our overall family dynamic.

The problem with judging new mums, especially first time mums, is that they are incredibly vulnerable, as well as exhausted! I cried many times at being made to feel like I wasn't doing motherhood 'right', but it was really only someone else's opinion that I was too tired to ignore.

But we all work it out as we go along and rather than judgement or commentary based on what might have worked for someone else, new mums need support and encouragement to make our own decisions. Decisions that are right for us, our baby and our family.

I hope we are not too far from a time when all new mums are surprised by the lack of judgement they receive, and instead are given all the support, respect and love they deserve for the incredibly important job they do.

At Mamamia, every day is International Women’s Day. We fund the education of 300 girls in school every single day with our charity partner Room to Read, and our goal is to increase that number to 1,000. To help support girls’ education in developing countries, you can donate to  Room to Read and contribute to a brighter future.