Like many of us, I grew up believing that reproductive freedom and motherhood were my birthrights. I believed that access to birth control and safe and legal abortion would be available to me should I need them, and that, if I decided to have a child, there would be a clear path toward motherhood. I was wrong.
As a 35-year-old single woman, with no egg freezing plans in sight, my choices around fertility and mothering are more complicated. Motherhood no longer equates to an idyllic post-wedding life stage; it equates to if, how, when, and on what terms I am willing to assume that role. Exploring the options which are (and are not) available to me has been humbling; as have the myriad anecdotes from other women about their respective journeys. One thing, in particular, was clear. We talk a lot about the rewards of becoming a mother. We rarely discuss the risks and realities attached to that outcome.
For example, we don’t talk nearly enough (if at all) about the trauma our bodies endure giving birth; the frequency and consequence of miscarriage; the difficulties of conceiving more broadly; the hardships of nursing; battles with postpartum depression and anxiety; the effects of children on relationships; the toll of children on a woman’s self-esteem; the financial implications of having children; nor the social pressures and judgement that can come with not wanting a family.
How we mother, who we mother, and when we mother looks drastically different than it used to. But, while the institution of motherhood has experienced a seismic shift, the tools, systems, and public conversations necessary for women to navigate it have not. Which is why it’s no surprise that the people ideating, building, and fighting for a more contemporary and inclusive technologies paradigm are women. And why it’s important, now more than ever, that we elevate them.
Included in that cohort are:
- Mother-daughter team Linda and Melissa Hanna, the founders of our first portfolio company Mahmee; a platform that provides personalized, ongoing postpartum support to new moms and their babies.
- Women’s March organizer and entrepreneur, Sarah Sophie Flicker, whose reflections on parenting are a fascinating guide to raising intersectional activists
- HEYMAMA co-founders Katya Libin and Amri Kibbler, who built a platform where working mothers can connect.
And in the spirit of elevating not only the women expanding the role of motherhood through technology but through their lived experience, we bring you a new column, Perspectives—which shares a range of voices of women across the motherhood spectrum—alongside this month’s installment of The Tech of the Town.
It feels important to note, however, that while the advances we feature will afford many women more choice, there are even more women for whom a choice is not an option. For these women, the healthcare, safety, and wellness of their children and themselves continue to be a privilege. Mothers in our country face enormous challenges: our maternal mortality rates are on par with those of the developing world; homicide is a leading cause of death for pregnant women; the costs of IVF, adoption, and even biological parenthood are unattainable for most; we are still the only developed country in the world that doesn’t offer paid leave; the battle over access to safe and legal abortion rages on, and families are being separated at our border. This has to change.
We need to refute the idea that a woman’s right to choose is limited to if and how she becomes a mother, and demand that it encompasses a wider array of choices if and when she does. We need to build systems and cultures that allow women to have children without going into debt; ones that allow them to return to their jobs without compromising their mobility or pay. We need to ensure that our health and well-being are held in as high an esteem as our children. The choices we make—from when and where we breastfeed to how we raise our kids—must be made without fear or shame.
To live full, multidimensional lives, which allow us to mother on our own terms, we must double down on investing in the companies, cultures, products, policies, and services that share our commitment. Our hope is that by curating and connecting you to them, here, we can all move one step closer.
Lindsey Taylor Wood