Toxic Positivity During Pregnancy and Postpartum, with Emily Flynn

Many years ago a good friend of mine called me to share a problem she had. My response was to immediately dish out suggestions about how she could remove this problem. I thought I was being helpful. Her response to me was: ’’Krish, I’ve called you vent about my problem, I haven’t called you for a solution to my problem.’’

Ok. Got it.

I was trying to help. But she needed my help in a different way. So, I shut up and let her express her feelings. For the rest of the conversation I tried to keep my ego in check.

I’m glad she was close enough to tell me, because I do wonder, how many times has this happened with other people who maybe haven’t been able to tell me ‘’Krish, please, I don’t need advice, just listen’’.

After this incident, I started to recognise when people did that same thing to me, and the things they used to say. For some reason, it happened a lot during my pregnancy, more when the topic of birth came up, and even more after I had my babies.

Fast forwards a few later, another friend was telling me about the birth of her 1st son. She had had an emergency c-section with hospital staff that didn’t respect her and her partners wishes. As she was telling me her traumatic experience, she stopped and said, ‘’ ’Krish, thank you. You’re the first person who hasn’t said, ’’it’s ok. At least you and the baby are ok, you should be happy.’’’’

Again, her comment made me think. The way we communicate with each other is so important, especially when the other person is in a vulnerable position, as often happens during pregnancy, birth and post-partum.

Why do we say things like: at least the baby is healthy, it’s just a phase, it was meant to be, this too shall pass. It’s ok, it all worked out for the best?

And why do these ready-made phrases, not only not help, but can actually make us feel worse?

There is something deeper here that I need to understand.

The answer came when I saw this post on Instagram. It was by Emily Flynn.

I read the words Toxic Positivity. I’d never seen the term and didn’t understand it. I then read the captions on the post, and resonated with ALL of it.

That’s why, Emily Flynn, aka Rosewood Repro is this week’s guest! I’m so grateful for this conversation with Emily. It was incredibly educational, in very real and practical way.

In this episode, Emily breaks down the theory and the research behind Toxic Positivity. She goes into why this phenomenon happens, but also how both sides can manage it in practice.

Emily highlights the importance of this subject in the parenting world. She explains how these words, however well-intentioned they may be, can still hurt someone.

This episode will help us on both sides, how to avoid toxic positivity when speaking to someone, and also how to manage is when we’re on the receiving end.

Things we talk about:

  • Toxic Positivity: What it is and what it’s not
  • How to recognise toxic positivity in everyday conversations, especially during pregnancy, pregnancy loss and postpartum.
  • The difference between ‘’happy mother happy baby’’ and ‘’calm mother calm baby’’
  • Society’s messed up expectations of new mothers
  • Our role as listeners and care-givers
  • Advice for people who receive such phrases: how to recognise if it’s toxic positive to you and how respond to it.

Recommended books by Emily

Emily Flynn is a birth and postpartum doula, author, and researcher based in California, USA. She writes about reproductive technologies, maternal mental health, infant sleep, and postpartum fitness. You can find her writing through MUTU System and her substack, Doula Thinking.

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