'The four words that changed my entire approach to motherhood'

There's no trophy for motherhood.
There's no trophy for motherhood. Photo: AshleyGibson/Facebook

"There's no trophy, Ashley."

They're the four words that changed one US mum's entire perspective on motherhood - and they might just change yours, too.

In a post to Facebook, Ashley Gibson of Fit Mom Next Door, shared that she was in agony while delivering her third child, trying to decide whether to get an epidural, when her husband first uttered the phrase she so desperately needed to hear.

"It put my whole world as a Mum into perspective," she writes. "I had no idea I was already at the very end of my labor and would be pushing Leo out within minutes. All I knew was that I was in pain and couldn't imagine labouring like that for what I thought would be a few more hours."

On the verge of tears and trying to talk between contractions, Ms Gibson says her husband, "lovingly spoke lots of support and some truth into my universe with, 'There's no trophy Ashley'".

They were the same words the Arizona mother-of-three needed to hear when, days later, she was upset about needing to supplement with formula.

And realisation hit.

"As mums in today's world it can feel like we're all competing for a trophy that doesn't exist," she writes. "I literally thought in that delivery room that I would somehow be 'less than' as a mother for tapping out and asking for the drugs. Like there would be a gold medal or AT LEAST a gold sticker on my medical chart for having a natural birth."

When she bought formula to help her little one pass the amniotic fluid he had swallowed, Ms Gibson notes, "I felt like I was letting some invisible committee."

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As she settled into the newborn bubble with her baby, the mum says she's reflected on the invisible trophies we - and society -  create as mums.

"We were made to live in community, not competition," she writes, adding:

  • There's no trophy for delivering naturally vs. opting for an epidural or having a C-section.
  • There's no trophy for breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding.
  • There's no trophy for losing the baby weight the fastest.
  • There's no trophy for cutest delivery gown (FOR THE LOVE, it's okay to look like you just had a baby!!!).
  • There's no trophy for most creative birthday party theme.
  • There's no trophy for how many activities you sign your kids up for

And the list, Ms Gibson admits, could go on forever.

"My husband has no idea how meaningful those words have been allowing me to relax into having a newborn again," she writes. "And I wanted to invite you to relax into motherhood with me.

"Because the only trophy you'll carry through life is the bond you create with your baby. And like I've said before, we all go home from the hospital with a big basket of mesh undies and sanitary pads the size of our newborns no matter how glamorous our Insta pics look."

Ms Gibson told Essential Baby that she's still in shock at the overwhelming reaction to her post, which has now received over 17,000 likes and 46,000 shares. "But beyond the surreal surprise of my story resonating with so many women, I honestly feel a huge sense of gratitude and relief for all of us," she says. "It seems to have given women an opening to celebrate each other."
She continues: "They say raising babies takes a village but I think that's more for our sake as mums because we need the support of community in order to thrive."
Nine years ago, when Ms Gibson had her first baby, she says no one was talking about the raw side of new motherhood on social media, "like the unflattering realness of sore nipples from a baby who is having a hard time latching properly or feeling like a failure when your birth doesn't go as planned. "
This time around, she wanted to change that.
"Now that I get to do this baby thing all over again I wanted to show up on social media with the real story. Not just the perfectly posed newborn pictures."
Dr Nicole Highet Founder and Executive Director of The Centre of Perinatal Excellent (COPE), says Ms Gibson's viral post beautifully represents the high expectations and ideals that come with parenthood.
"As it is always a new experience, there's no reference point," she says. "We don't always hear the truth about people's experiences because they feel that if things didn't go well with conceiving, coping in pregnancy, at birth or with breastfeeding or the many other challenges that we can face, we often feel like we have failed."
And worse still, Dr Highet adds, that we'll be judged not only as individuals but in our new role as mothers.
"There is no trophy," she says. "It's great to see posts like these that show the real experiences, which is important to help us be aware of our expectations, and not judge ourselves too harshly when things don't go to plan.
"We can all just do our best with what we have, and support from others around us can make a huge difference."