In our modern world, girls and women are inundated with messages about pregnancy: “It’s not the right time.” “Get your education first.” “Get married first.” “Get your starter home first.”
For so many reasons, some good reasons, women today are told that un-timely pregnancies can and should be controlled. All these messages are strong and getting stronger, but when is enough actually enough? When is there enough education? Enough money? Enough stuff? Enough love?
Modern mothers are facing more pressure than ever to consume products, education, and achieve more “to do it right,” “to have enough,” “to keep baby safe enough,” and to be “lovable enough.”
What we believe at Birthright is that every woman has a right to give birth, regardless of education, age, relationship status, location, or income. Sure, there are “ideals,” specific and perfect ways that things could go. For instance, it may be ideal to have a committed partner, secure job, a stable home, and a robust education.
But real life often falls short of perfection, of ideals. If we imagine that ideals are the north star, we may head towards that light, but we never leave the earth entirely. We exist in the world of certain realities, where our ideals are not likely. Sometimes women and their partners are between jobs, searching for affordable housing, or reaching for education.
Amidst all this striving, we are all inundated with product advertising and societal standards for necessities. Social media and strategic marketing algorithms ensure that a mother’s sense of what is essential is also costly and vast. Additionally, there are real standards for how babies are to be cared for. For the modern mother, there are so many non-negotiable, necessary purchases to stay current with health and safety recommendations, and to participate in the modern world:
- Safety-rated/unexpired car seats are required to leave the hospital.
- Safety-rated cribs and pac-n-plays are essential for baby to sleep safely.
- Specialty formulas for fussy/allergic/colicky/sensitive babies are prescribed by physicians but notalways covered by state social services.
- Diaper bags, disposable diapers, and diaper creams are required by daycares and providers which are essential so mom can go to work.
- Specific bras/shirts/dresses for breastfeeding moms allow them to remain modest when nursing in public.
- Breast pumps are essential for breastfeeding moms to go to their day jobs
- Teethers and medicines are valuable to soothe and treat baby.
- Name brand diapers/wipes/detergent/wash/you-name-it because baby is allergic to (fill in the blank) ingredients in the generic kind.
- An endless list of supplemental toys/books/products are required to entertain and enrich so baby can grow smarter.
One (of many) online baby budget calculators suggests that a first-time mom will spend $15,775 on these items and more in the first year alone (https://www.babycenter.com/baby-cost-calculator). Our brave women and mothers are surviving in a culture that makes mothering oh-so complicated and oh-so expensive.
It may seem that if funds aren’t available, moms should simply revert to the old ways: cloth diapering, exclusive breastfeeding, co-sleeping, making food at home. Some stay-at-home moms can spend time learning to do these things safely. Social media is flush with vloggers who are blazing that trail, re-learning those old ways, and kudos to them! We know them, honor them, and love them too.
But there are many women who right now—today are not able to simplify: single mothers, care-giving grandmothers, student mothers, working mothers. These women are simply not able to re-incorporate all those “simpler” and “cheaper” methods and still participate in the modern world. And the cost of non-participation in modern mothering may be exclusion from society and peers.
Our nation’s surgeon general recently declared an “Epidemic of Loneliness” (https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf) Shaming mothers for falling short of perfect, or withdrawing material support for the long list of modern essentials, may exclude them from peers—from society—and increase loneliness. At Birthright, we hold that women are enough as they are today. We work together with women to put the “modern essentials,” that make life smoother, within reach.
First, we believe in serving women with unintended or untimely pregnancies without them having to ‘qualify’ for our services. We believe that the modern mother must be supported so that she can remain included in the society we live in today, not an ideal society.
Every mom gets a layette of baby items before their baby arrives. It includes newborn clothes, a diaper bag, diapers, rash cream, toys, bottles, wipes, burp cloths… everything a newborn will need to come home from the hospital. And after, moms can come back for supplies every month.
Second, we honor what mom says she needs. We do this by providing a large variety of brands of every item in our office. We rely on donations, but we work with donors to offer a wide variety of brands in formulas, bottles, pacifiers, diapers, and more. Our donors work hard to procure items that mom says are necessary, because our moms know what their needs are. All items are given free of charge!
Finally, our institution provides this support without judgement, and a guarantee that her visit will be confidential. There is no other place that has an open-door policy – no appointment needed. There is no other organization that has zero government support and is 100% donor funded. There is no other organization that refuses to participate in politicking.
Our culture has become far too complicated in the ways we offer help, without strings or conditions. To be sure, there are situations and people that require help beyond the scope of material services. But when your back is against a wall and you just need to talk things out, to be accepted as you are today, and to have a need met today, it is Birthright that provides this help with love and understanding.
What they need when they need it.