Momview: Starring Victoria Capitanelli
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
My name is Victoria and I am a certified Postpartum & Pediatric Massage Therapist living in Vermont, where I also have an herb farm and grow aromatic/medicinal plants for the purpose of making safe topical products. I am a mother to two awesome children, and we live on the same road my husband grew up on and where we got married.
How did your motherhood journey start?
It was brutal. I expected a smooth journey and I ended up with the opposite and came close to losing my life during the birth of my second child. Within the past 8 years I experienced: two years of infertility, one miscarriage, unexplained bleeding during my first pregnancy, coercive care during my first birth, baby in the NICU, more coercive care during my second birth resulting in uterine rupture that required an emergency hysterectomy. My kids are 6 and 4 so we are all good now, but phew, it was a traumatizing journey.
What was your birthing experience(s) like?
I opted for hospital births because of a few different reasons that I now regret. My birth plans firmly stated no Pitocin, only for it to be administered against my wishes anyway. That began a cascade of interventions that landed my first baby in the NICU for 5 days for low blood sugar. Due to that awful experience, I firmly advocated against Pitocin my entire pregnancy, only to be coerced once again. They offered me no other options and said it would be only a “whff” but that whiff of Pitocin ended up rupturing my uterus so bad that I needed an emergency hysterectomy and blood transfusion. It was all so devastating.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had as a mom? Do you think some of them, or all of them, could have been avoided or lessened if we had a more supportive maternal culture in America?
Yes, absolutely. Feelings of confusion and isolation were huge challenges for me, especially after such trauma. I felt so alone. It wasn’t until I started opening up about everything that I realized so many of us are suffering. That vulnerability ended up being incredibly healing for me but I recognize how difficult, if not near impossible, it is for people to open up vulnerably. Access to proper care needs to be addressed in America, the system that is in place is failing us. Only one 6-week appointment? No requirement for mental health screening? Resources like PT and counseling being very hard to access? We need to do so much better than this.
In your opinion, how do we evoke and incite a sisterhood of motherhood?
Letting go of all preconceived ideas of motherhood, ESPECIALLY when we are not quite mothers yet but approaching motherhood. We tend to glorify having babies and think we will do this awesome job and everything will be perfect only to be completely blindsided when it’s not that way at all. I think it should all start even before motherhood. It’s is crucial for us to let go of shame within ourselves, just as much as we need to let go of judgement towards others. Bottle fed vs breastfed is one example. I see SO MANY topics debated that at the end of the day, who cares? They drive a wedge where there shouldn’t be, and its all saturation in shame and judgement. Our differences make the world go ‘round and we’d go very far if we just accept it.
We’re well aware that deep inequality exists among moms in America. How do you think we help amplify all mom’s voices?
I’ve noticed something interesting as a white woman who cares deeply for the protection of black women and mothers. Not only are they dying 4x the rate during childbirth and postpartum, they also continue to face racism every single day. In my quest to learn and understand more, I’ve noticed a trend in white women suggesting and recommending the wisdom of other white women who talk about racism but I actually disagree with this approach entirely and find many of these folks to be very problematic. So instead, I began following, messaging, and becoming friends with – surprise surprise – black women. Black mothers. They are who we need to be listening to and learning from. And I’ve been forming relationships with these women which in turn is helping me to amplify their voices, especially on my Instagram account.
Speaking of maternal inequality, how do you think we go about encouraging moms to care about other mom’s problems, even if they aren’t shared problems?
I spoke to this earlier. This is about a deep journey we all have to take inward. We are responsible for unlearning the toxic systems within us. I think we are obsessed with competition and some warped version of success, and it is all deeply rooted in capitalism and patriarchy. I think once we realize that maternal inequality is actually a form of patriarchy we can begin to dismantle and untangle ourselves from that ideology. Because who wants to perpetuate the systems that are causing us harm?? Not me!!
If you could create a new maternal culture tomorrow, what would it look like?
Community and social care centering around mothers. Where the elders use their wisdom to nurture us and pass down their traditions, and the ‘maidens’ use their energy and resourcefulness to tend to us. We need all hands-on deck. Plus, I think women who are yet to become mothers (aka ‘maidens’) can gain a perspective that will be very important if they decide to become mothers themselves.
We talk about how you can’t put the maternal social policy cart before the maternal connection and equality horse. Do you agree with that?
What maternal social policies do you think the U.S. should have? And why?
PAID LEAVE!!!!!! Specialized insurance for all necessary services, from lactation consultants to doulas to massage therapists. Prioritize social and community care.