Please Stop Saying, “All That Matters is a Healthy Baby.”
It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. “All that matters is that he/she is healthy!” And listen, I get it.
It’s a very “look on the bright side, glass half-full, don’t sweat the small stuff” attempt to put things into perspective. And yes, I understand that 9.9999/10 times, it’s NOT meant to be insensitive.
Nevertheless, it’s a phrase that nearly everyone who has endured the miracle that is pregnancy and childbirth has probably heard at least once. It’s a cliche of sorts, the kind of phrase that doesn’t trigger much inside us because we only hear the sentiment, not the actual words being said.
But once you realize what this seemingly innocent phrase implies, it suddenly doesn’t feel so warm and fuzzy.
It’s Dismissive to the Mother.
First things first, when somebody says, “all that matters is a healthy baby,” you are completely dismissing the mother’s experience.
It’s no secret that pregnancy isn’t a cakewalk, but unless you are incredibly close to someone, you probably have no idea what challenges they endured during conception, pregnancy, childbirth and the year postpartum.
From a slew of anxiety-inducing tests to life-threatening medical conditions such as preeclampsia, traumatic birth experiences, PLUS highly stigmatized maternal mental health conditions such as postpartum depression; a LOT can happen on the road from conception to birth and beyond. And glossing over how challenging this process can be? It isn’t doing anyone any favors.
Yes, the health of the baby matters. Of course the health of the baby matters. But let’s make the wellbeing of the mother and honoring her experience a priority as well.
“Unhealthy” Babies Also Matter.
Maybe the baby was diagnosed with a congenital disability, or the expectant parents were told by their care provider they would have to undergo major surgery at the time of their birth to survive. Or perhaps the baby will sustain a birth injury, have a lengthy stay in the NICU, miscarries or is stillborn.
“Healthy” babies are not the only ones that matter. Sick babies matter. Disabled babies matter. Babies that never make it earthside matter. Babies that are granted their wings shortly after birth matter. I would elaborate further, but what else is there to say? Every baby matters, period.
I think what it ultimately boils down to is that this famous phrase is a gross oversimplification of what is probably the most complex human experience. Of course, we all wish for a healthy baby, a smooth pregnancy, easy labor, and a joyful postpartum. But sadly, that’s not always the reality for some parents.
And the phrase “all that matters is a healthy baby”? Well, not only is it deeply ableist- but it also affirms something that we mothers have suspected for a long time: our society absolutely refuses to see and support us in our most raw, vulnerable, and sometimes gut-wrenching moments.
And that small piece of acknowledgment, validation, or even just silent understanding that is missing within the words of that unintentionally dismissive statement?
That. That is what really matters to us mothers, and that is what we all truly need to hear and feel from those around us.
Thank you thank you thank you.
This well-intentioned phrase never sat well with me, even before my second baby was diagnosed with a severe brain malformation sure to a chromosomal anomaly. She mattered every day of my pregnancy with her, all three hours of her short life, and has still mattered every day since. All babies matter, and those with anomalies have a huge and important impact.