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Lifestyle, Mamazine Moment, The Journey

Daphne’s Diary: Demystifying Reproductive Health for the Millennial Age

Daphne Thompson | July 15, 2020

Hi, my name is Daphne. I’m the Head of Content and Partnership for Mama Glow. I’m also a 26-and-single actor/writer/creative living in New York City, until or unless life takes me elsewhere. And I’m thinking about having a baby. No, I do not mean now. Mom and Dad, as far as I’m concerned, grandkids are not in your immediate future. What I mean to say is that the little girl who used to play house and baby doctor with her dolls, who sneakily taught her brother his first steps and how to ride a bike, has grown into a self-sufficient 20-something woman with a whole lot of dreams to fulfill in her lifetime. And one of those dreams is to one day have someone who calls me “Mom.”

I’ll be honest, putting into words with my name attached that I’m thinking about motherhood makes me nervous, in part because our society as a whole hasn’t normalized the kinds of conversations that come with it. It’s the same kind of nervousness I feel when a guy I might be into asks me what I do and I have to figure out how to explain reproductive and maternal health to him without freaking him out with talk of pregnancy and childbirth on the first date. It’s the same kind of nervousness I felt explaining in my last relationship that the books I had on the shelf next to my bed about breastfeeding and fertility were for work, that they did not mean I wanted us to have a baby. And it’s the same kind of nervousness I feel when I realize the very comfortable assertion that “I’d like to have my first kid in 10 years,” is suddenly more like “I can’t totally count out the possibility of a baby being in my 5-year plan.”

I’ve been saying “in 10 years” for every birthday since I turned 16, keeping motherhood at what I determined to be safe, decade-wide distance. As if the eventual title of “mother” will overtake or invalidate all the other things I’ve worked so hard to be. I realize now, as I write this, that 16 plus 10 years puts me exactly where I’m at right now. 26 – the bizarre mid-late 20s period of life when my millennial peers are either embracing our generation’s place as the dominant age demographic of “new parent,” or pushing the notion of parenthood as far away as possible for fear of it being a roadblock on their professional paths. (I’m, of course, speaking specifically of the millennial population who want to have kids in their future. Society’s heteronormative expectation that all women want to reproduce and mother is a topic to dive into in a separate diary entry entirely. The binary notion that we can choose to be “mother” OR “[insert professional title here],” and that one is better than the other depending upon who you ask, is yet another.)

So okay cool, I’ve said it. I want to be a mom. When I said I wanted to be an actor, I joined the school plays and enrolled in acting classes and found an agent who would help me get auditions and a coach who would help me prepare said auditions. When I said I wanted to be a writer, I majored in English and took creative writing classes and wrote two theses so I’d have a portfolio of writing work to share with future employers. When I thought I’d maybe make a good lawyer one day, I took a few pre-law classes and engaged with legal theory and realized I definitely didn’t want to be a lawyer one day. But what measures have we put in place as a society to really prepare people for parenthood before they’re in it? To fully inform them about fertility and pregnancy and birth and postpartum before they’re actively experiencing it? My years babysitting don’t count, nor does the 9th grade health class that taught me what STIs look like and how not to get pregnant. What to expect when I’m expecting has got to be a deeper, longer educational process than one baby book gifted to me once I say “I’m pregnant!”

And yet, I can casually talk to my friends about my favorite baby names or how many kids I want, but if I say I want to get fertility tested to plan ahead and avoid potential financial and emotional devastation when I am ready and desperately wanting to start a family, I might as well be talking with a “SOMEONE PUT A BABY IN ME” sign flashing above my head. Why shouldn’t I and all my fellow childless millennials who fantasize about being a mama one day start preparing, mind/body/spirit, well in advance, the way we would for any other job or dream or life-altering decision? And if we de-stigmatized conversations with one another around our hopes and fears and knowledge and ignorance when it comes to the reproductive continuum before we’re trying to make and keep new life, what good might that do to develop a foundation that will one day help us help ourselves and others through perinatal mood disorders and infertility and family planning and birth equity and breastfeeding and intimacy and the maternal death rate in this country (etc.)?

I’m not sure, but let this diary serve as a place for us to get a little closer to figuring it out, together. If you have a question you want answered, or a topic you’d like me to explore, email me at daphne@mamaglow.com. Demystifying reproductive health and learning to celebrate it depends on us first shattering put-upon cultural expectations that we should keep our experiences and information private for fear of making others uncomfortable. And the future of maternal health pivots upon the affirmation that mothers (past present and future) need support and mothering, too.

And to my future partner-in-life, if ever you’re out there somewhere reading this: My love, I’m going to get us so damn prepared for when we are ready to make and raise a baby. And if reading that freaked you out, I’m sorry but you’re not it.

Daphne Thompson  is Head of Content and Partnership for Mama Glow and a New York City-based actress, writer, and model. Daphne graduated from Amherst College in 2016 with magna cum laude honors and a BA in English and Theater and Dance; in her senior year, she wrote two honors theses – a fictional novella entitled “This is not a pipe.” and a two-act play entitled “Send Him Home” (which was produced by Amherst College in March 2016). After graduating, she moved to New York City to pursue her acting career and also worked as a freelance editor and journalist before joining the Mama Glow team in 2019. This past November, she helped launch Mama Glow’s inaugural Continuum Conference in partnership with The William Vale Hotel, a two-day event centering reproductive health and wellness. Daphne is working to bring more millennial and gen z voices into the Mama Glow community, with the intention of inciting activism for birth justice and de-stigmatizing conversations around maternal health for the next generation of future parents.

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