MOTHERHOODs AND VAGINISMUS:
The following article was written for those of you who ARE under the pressure of your biological clock and who would like to set themselves free from it.
or for those of you who do not want children but are stressed about it by people around them.
The following point of view has helped some women look at maternity from a non-biological point of view, which they found liberating.
This article is not about the pros and cons of biological motherhood. If you are already sure that having your own baby is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the planet, then this page isn't for you, you do not need convincing or being challenged, we respect your choice and hope it wasn't or will not be too stressful to and we invite you not to read it.
If you cannot conceive because of vaginismus and you want help, there are other sites and support groups which can help you conceive biologically. The point of view of this article began forming with the acknowledgement that not being able to conceive a biological child through intercourse is a source of major stress for some women with vaginismus, and this stress and suffering can be avoiding by reconceptualizing motherhood.
Vaginismus may no longer look that awful once our view on maternity has changed...
Vaginismus and the time bomb
Having vaginismus in your 30's or 40's can mean an additional burden for a woman: the thought that she knows she won't have too much time to try and get rid of it, cause she may lose her last chances to get pregnant forever.
"If I never get pregnant, I will never be able to..."
- &become a mother.
As we try to show in this article, becoming a mother is so much morth than delivering a baby through your vagina.
- &keep my partner with me in the long run.
If your partner is connected to your heart, he/she will not love you any less if you cannot have a child or do not want to have a biological one because he/she will understand you.
- &truly become a family.
So ask yourself what "family" means for you, for your religion, family, society and whether you can recognize idealized pictures of it which you may first want to challenge.
Motherhood and Pregnancy: not necessarily a link
Most women seem to want to become mothers, which is beautiful, cause this world needs more maternal love everywhere. so if you feel that having a child is really your call and always has been, that's beautiful.
However, does becoming a mother have to always mean getting pregnant... ?
It is undeniable that the pressure on girls to think of themselves as mommies and act maternal starts very early on in life. Which would be fine and probably harmless, and boys should be encouraged to get just as tender and nurturing for sure, so it would be great, if only the concept of becoming a mom did not necessarily then become combined with the thought of having to get pregnant and have your own baby.
That's when pressure begins, which almost half of women may then pay dearly for later in life.
If girls were clearly told about infertility instead (both male and female infertility) or about vaginismus, and if they were taught a definition of motherhood based on nurturing more than on giving birth, probably they would then be spared the terrible feeling of not being able to get pregnant.
We wonder, if this definition of motherhood was given to girls instead:
Motherhood: the experience of mothering, nurturing, raising, caring deeply and being responsible for a child or an adopted child, an animal or a project to help others.
wouldn't a lot of pain associated with infertility and with vaginismus (in relation to pregnancy) disappear ??
Women then would know that they can become mothers in so many other ways and be maternal just as much or even more than biological mums.
And pressure from their biological clock would no longer affect them so much, they would know they have plenty of other options to become MOTHERS...
Reasons not to wish to become a biological mother and yet be maternal
Besides not being able to conceive, there are women who may simply CHOOSE not to conceive.
Vaginismus has been described by many psychologists as an unconscious fear of pregnancy or an unconscious rebellion against becoming a mother.
Well, if more women were able to make those fears conscious and to speak out loud about why they really don't feel like having a child, maybe we would have a lot less vaginismus around.
There are many valid reasons for a young woman not to want to get pregnant. It may be worth remembering the main ones reported by women interviewed about their choice of remaining child-free (biologically).
1. If you live in the Western world, it may come as a shock to you to find out that 1 child raised in developed countries will consume and impact on the planet 30 times more than a person in developing countries.
Basically, having 3 children in England will cost and have an impact on the planet equal to having 90 children in Africa
It's tough stuff to come to terms with, especially if we badly want to believe that our child is worth more than 30 African children who we could evidently help with the money to raise him instead.
But whether or not we decide that it's still worth having a child of our own , like many of us will, it would be at least fair to call a woman spending her life to help African children and who doesn't have a child of her own, a mother too...
2. 150million children are orphaned or abandoned per year in the world.
There are many reasons. In Africa, where maternal mortality is at its highest, many children lose their mother as soon as they are born, or lose her or both their parents to Aids. Some are plainly abandoned when not sold. Some run away from terrible living conditions or go look for fortune as young as 9, and end up living on the streets.
(See some of these children living in a Brazilian shelter run by Children in Hunger).
Now, we may still want a child of our own, or we may decide to adopt one, or we may spend a year volunteering in one of these shelters.. If you have vaginismus, obviously option number one may be barred to you, but not all the others!
Those options are more than equally worth...
Anyway, one woman can't be pressured to adopt just like one shouldn't be pressured to have her own child. The problem is that very few women will be pressured to adopt whereas most of us will be encouraged, more or less politely, to go make a baby. THAT is the real issue after all: not having children, but having them out of that pressure.
3. The planet can no longer sustain our development at this pace.It was a debated theory but it's no longer just a worry. This is the latest report on global warming (2007 March) :
-Hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans who now have water will be short of it in less than 20 years.
_By 2050, more than 1 billion people in Asia could face water shortages. By 2080, water shortages could threaten 1.1 billion to 3.2 billion people, depending on the level of greenhouse gases that cars and industry spew into the air.
_Death rates for the world's poor from global warming-related illnesses, such as malnutrition and diarrhea, will rise by 2030. Malaria and dengue fever, as well as illnesses from eating contaminated shellfish, are likely to grow.
_Europe's small glaciers will disappear with many of the continent's large glaciers shrinking dramatically by 2050. And half of Europe's plant species could be vulnerable, endangered or extinct by 2100.
_By 2080, between 200 million and 600 million people could be hungry because of global warming's effects.
_About 100 million people each year could be flooded by 2080 by rising seas.
_Smog in U.S. cities will worsen and "ozone-related deaths from climate (will) increase by approximately 4.5 percent for the mid-2050s, compared with 1990s levels," turning a small health risk into a substantial one.
There's no debate that this waste has to stop, but nobody ever suggests that maybe we should be much more careful before having a baby or many of them.
Having a biological child is certainly going to impact on the amount of resources we use and waste. The environmental impact of nappies alone cannot be underestimated.. These are some facts taken from the Women's Environmental Network on nappies' waste and what can be done about it.
It certainly seems like a very serious problem to consider before deciding to add another child on the planet.
Childfree women or mothers who choose not to have a biological child: the stereotype:
Women without children are still seen as:
* Missing something
* Less satisfied compared to mothers
* Sinners for some religions
* Less happy in their elderly years
* Regretting their choice
* Frigid or Infertile
* Less healthy
* Psychologically immature (according to Freud of course)
* Excessively ambitious
* Deviant / Not normal
* Rejecting biological destiny
Nowhere in the scientific literature there is evidence to support the stereotypes. The fact that they persist says more about our society than about those women. Childfree women or infertile women however are in continuous pressure of internalizing the prejudicial stereotypes
Women without a child, for whatever reason, even vaginismus, suffer the following consequences in most societies:
They are looked down upon as bad, wrong.
They are harassed with questions about their fertility
They are put under pressure to have children
Their family is marginalized and not considered as a family unit
They are patronized by mothers/mothers-in-laws/relatives and by the medical profession
They are treated with sarcasm and are the subject of jokes
(SOURCES: Bartlett 1994; Campbell 1999; Gillespie 2003; Landa 1990; Park 2003; Somers 1993)
Biological Motherhood: THE choice?
In the mind of all those people pressuring women to get pregnant and those harassing childless and childfree women with questions about when will that happen, and why does that not happen, probably motherhood is ALWAYS a good idea, a positive experience and something that they feel they should encourage ALL women to go through.
But is it really?
By the time they reach 45, 88% of the worlds women will have become mothers.
How many will choose it responsibly ? How many are fit or supported? How many will regret it ?
Unfortunately, the fact that a woman is a mother is NO indication she wanted it, that she is fit for it or that she will not regret it
The truth is that a good percentage of biological mothers in the world will get pregnant as a result of:
- Forced Sex/Transitional sex (Prostitution or Sugar Daddy phenomena)
- Coerced Sex/Marital rape
- Lack of access to contraception or medical abortion
- Contraceptive failure
- Unplanned mistake
- An effort to try and trap their man, without telling him about their plan to get pregnant
- Pressure from relatives/partner/society
- Choice made in the heat of the moment without careful considerations
-Biological clock ticking
Only a very limited percentage of world biological mothers together with their partners will have chosen carefully and responsibly to get pregnant...
So, it is not surprising to read that out of a sample of more than 1,000 mothers interviewed for scientific research carried out by A. Rich in 1976, more than 25% of them said they had regretted getting pregnant and that another 25% said they would only do it again if things were different (ex. Could stay home, had a more supportive or different partner etc)
So, why are all women pressured to get pregnant and why should so many of us succumb to our biological clock before taking a hard good look at biological motherhood first, objectively?
(Biological) Motherhood Appeal
Motherhood is vastly seen as womens biological destiny, a primordial, natural instinct, a duty even, to one's country or to one's God.
Motherhood is endorsed by all major religions, regardless if it was unwanted or a result of unwanted marital sex, which is rampant, a child is always seen as a good thing for a woman.
Biological motherhood is seen, psychologically, as a central developmental stage of adulthood despite the fact that it's often an irrational choice
Pregnancy is very much idealized in art and literature
It is seen as a way to immortality
It can give meaning to ones life more easily than other projects
It can save' shaky relationships
It is seen as what turns a couple into a family
Women with children often have a higher status in most societies
Babies and children are sentimentalized and idealized in the media
The choice of getting pregnant is vastly supported in pro-natalist societies
In idealizing motherhood, a tremendous amount of denial takes place and this denial is projected onto the woman who can't have or doesn't want to have one (Bartlett 1994)
Motherhood: the hidden realityIt is a non paid, unrecognized job, it gives no entitlement to pension (despite politicians and religious leaders giving lip-service to women for their "contribution" to society.
According to one study, up to 25% of mothers regret having had children. Up to 40% regret it or would only do it again if things were different. Up to 70% of girls don't want to become like their mothers when they grow up... (!)
Post-partum depression affects about 1 woman in 10.
Women from the dawn of time have tried to abort children they hadn't planned and knew they couldn't support or weren't ready to raise.
Unwanted pregnancies, especially among teenagers, are still rampant, just as is sexual abuse
Infanticide: unfortunately it's not that uncommon to find mothers who kill their own babies or children because they simply can't cope with them anymore and don't get support when they ask for it
Children orphaned or abandoned by their parents are about 150million per year...
Child abuse/maltreatment/lack of care is quite an issue everywhere
Higher marital strains and a higher divorce rate are registered for couples with children under 16 than couples without children
Many mothers report decreased marital/sexual satisfaction after giving birth
There is a documented clear increased chance of physical abuse, and domestic violence during a woman's first pregnancy
Motherhood has a higher level of exhaustion than any other group of workers
Many mothers experience feelings of Anger, Isolation, Depression, Frustration, Boredom - these feelings, often due to the many demands of motherhood and the little support and preparation they receive, lead some mothers to abuse medicines and alcohol, have abusive or violent behaviours towards their children, or other harming and self-harming behaviours.
Single mothers are the social group of people with the most extreme financial difficulties even in rich countries
There is unfortunately also the issue of children/Adolescents/Adults abuse, violence or abandonment of their mothers, especially in old age.
As one old woman said: "Having had a child is no guarantee you'll have someone to look after you when you're old and gray"
(Wolf 2001; Rich 1976)
It's an ideology endorsed by religions and/or States that implies encouragement of all births as conducive to individual, family and social well-being. (Park)
An ideology reflected in policy concerns related to the maintenance of a working population sufficient to provide a tax base to support the elderly, ill and disabled (e.g. Commonwealth of Australia)
Some countries do indeed get very pro-active trying to pressure women to make more babies (makes you wonder why...) but they don't really offer them enough support both in terms of economic support to unemployed mothers or single mothers or in terms of services available for free to children.
For example, this is a newspaper article from a German newspaper reported in the Guardian last year. Note the language and the pressure that consciously or not we get as women to 'breed'...
The Guardian -January 27, 2006- Luke Harding - Berlin
Germany was plunged into an anguished debate yesterday about how to encourage reluctant couples to breed after new figures showed Germany with the world's highest proportion of childless women
(You can retreive it from The Guardian.co.uk)
To breed ? Reluctant ? Anguished debate ?
Why this apocalyptic language ? And also, how can they talk about encouraging couples to 'breed' as if they were animals and as if ALL couples COULD get pregnant in the first place (let alone WANT to have a baby)
The pressure on women to get pregnant, and the following pain and REAL anguish that a lot of women with vaginismus will therefore be unnecessarily put through, does not only come from politicians and from mothers-in-law unfortunately.
We have to notice that another powerful pressure on women comes from religious leaders too.
These are some quotations from different religious texts or religious leaders.
Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis)
Marriage first function is the procreation of children (Thora; Book of Common Prayers)
Christians must recognize that deliberate childlessness represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design ( A Southern Baptist preacher on the web )
For women to achieve true liberation they need only to recognize their specific feminine vocation is to become a mother (Pope Paul V, 1972 in Campbell p. 101)
According to this view, women with vaginismus will never reach true liberation I guess, nor will lesbians, infertile women or women with infertile partners and women who will be busy taking care of starving children somewhere on the planet.
Just as we believe that you can be a real woman without having penetrative sex, it's just as important in order to spare suffering, to realize that you can be a full real woman even without getting pregnant and that you can still be a MOTHER..
Vaginismus really shouldn't be the obstacle to a meaningful, loving, maternal life...
Your choice though. We just hope more women won't feel the pressure of a biological clock and that they'll feel more the pressure coming from their heart to put their maternal resources and instincts to good use..
Bartlett Jane (1994) Will you be mother? Women who choose to say no Virago Press. London
Campbell Annily (1999) Childfree and Sterilized. Womens decisions and medical responses Cassell Pub. London
Gillespie R. (2003) Childfree and feminine: Understanding the Gender Identity of Voluntarily Childless Women. Gender and Society 17 (1): 122-136.
Wolf Naomi (2001) Misconceptions. Truth, lies and the unexpected on the journey to motherhood. Doubleday Pub. New York
Park K. (2005) Choosing childlessness: Webers Typology of Action and Motives of the Voluntarily Childless. Sociological Inquiry 75 (3): 372-402.
Rich Adrianne (1976) Of Woman Born: Motherhood as experience and institution. W.W. Norton and Co. New York
Seccombe Karen (1991) Assessing the costs and benefits of children: gender comparisons among childfree husbands and wives. Journal of Marriage and the Family 53: 191-202.
Somers M.D. (1993) A comparison of Voluntarily Childfree Adults and Parents. Journal of Marriage and the Family 55: 643-650.
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|DISCLAIMER: This site is not designed to provide medical advice. All material is gathered from the experience of hundreds of women who experienced vaginismus but it is for information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Please review the information contained on vaginismus-awareness-network.org carefully and confer with a health care professional specialized in vaginismus, as needed.|