Pregnancy and giving birth, for many womxn is an experience that allows them to understand and feel the extent of the power of their own bodies. But it is also a time of immense physical change, and one riddled with endless amounts of choices to make. What to eat, where to give birth, to breastfeed or not to breastfeed, how much maternity leave to take, how to approach sleep with a newborn, and so on. And all of these choices come with conflicting advice as well as a lot of pressure from society about what to do.
The historically male dominated field of medicinal research, which has caused medical practices to be heavily influenced by patriarchal thinking, often devalues the strength of the female body in the interest of male convenience. This can be seen still in the way in which the process of giving birth happens. The position womxn still give birth in today actually only first came into practice because Louis XIV took pleasure in watching his mistresses in labour and therefore wanted to witness it happen with them lying on their backs. It continues to be standard practice today for the convenience of medical practitioners, but still highlights how blatant the remnants of the male voice is in this female experience. The lack of attention given to womxn’s opinions during labour, still carries a lot of the weight of patriarchal influence and shows how women’s health in general has been given less importance in the field of medicine. Not to mention how much worse this problem is for black womxn especially, whose voices are taken even less seriously as a result of institutional racism, lack of attention to POC in western medicine, and stereotyping, and whose rate of death during childbirth is therefore 3-4 times higher than white womxn.
This context makes it all the more important for womxn to be able to feel empowered during this experience, which innately should be an empowering one. This begins with womxn’s opinions and voices being taken more seriously, while being encouraged to trust their own bodies and make their own choices with the right support. Femique, a bra brand which specifically designs maternity and nursing bras, has put these values at the center of its brand mission. After noticing a gap in the market for bras that have prioritised both comfort and style for pregnant and nursing mothers, it has drawn attention to the importance of this.
The founder of the Femique said in an interview with us that the drive behind the concept was wanting mothers “to feel good about themselves so they can feel good about the accomplishments their body has actually been through”. From Miriam’s perspective as both brand owner and as a mother herself, who has been through pregnancy, she spoke from both perspectives in saying:
“We don’t want to compromise on style anymore”
Because pregnancy is usually one of the biggest changes womxn’s bodies will undergo in their lifetime, and a change which has tended to be seen negatively in terms of appearance. But in reality, irrespective of what society has conditioned us to believe, it’s an accomplishment which should be celebrated, and womxn should be able to feel positive and confident about their bodies throughout the process. On top of this, Femique has tried to become more than just a brand by fostering a feeling of community within the brand through sharing some of their customer’s stories on their website. The idea here is again to allow womxn to feel supported in their journey and open up healthy discussion among themselves about the choices for breastfeeding for example. The aim is to encourage womxn to “feel comfortable in whatever they choose'' through reading about the many different experiences of various different people.
In speaking to instagram activist and mother, Jaime Johnson (who can be found on instagram at @greenmamauk) this was the sort of attitude she had managed to adopt about her body during her pregnancy. In Jaime’s experience, the changes to her body had actually made her feel more feminine and positive about herself. But more importantly, the experience allowed Jaime to place less importance on how her body was expected to look to make it feel impressive and valuable, but instead admired it for what it was able to do. In her words:
“They’re feeding a little boy, keeping him alive, I’m very proud of my boobs.... I’m less worried about how they look and more worried about the fact that they’ve actually fed three beautiful children”
Written by our blog writer Carla Mcdonald-Heffernan!
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