ABC pulled an ad from its broadcast of the Oscars on Sunday — and robbed 30 million people from seeing what childbirth and its aftermath are really like.

The ad, from Frida Mom, a company that sells personal care products for new mothers, shows a woman, exhausted and in pain, struggling to get out of bed and use the bathroom. Her stomach is swollen, and she is wearing mesh underwear with a thick pad. As she finishes, a baby begins to cry in the background.

The ad was rejected, Frida Mom said, because it was “too graphic” to meet the standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“Too graphic,” we suppose, is a matter of opinion.

What’s not up for debate is that the ad contained a realistic portrayal of a woman’s body and life following childbirth. If it was shocking, it’s because it was not the sanitized version usually provided by Madison Avenue.

It would have been perfect if the ad had shown during a break at the Oscars, that celebration of unattainable fantasy. Just like the rest of us will never look like Brad Pitt or have the “right” figure for an evening gown, most women won’t achieve the worry-free and bliss-filled post-childbirth life that Hollywood usually shows.

There, we see celebrities who look great before and immediately after birth. For the rest of us, it sets the bar impossibly high. We don’t see the stylists, trainers and nannies that make it possible, but women are still held — and hold themselves — to that standard.

Even if moms at home can get everything together long enough for a Facebook-ready photo — with mom and baby in matching colors, all smiles and soft light — it is usually fleeting.

Most new moms are tired, worried and in pain, working through enormous changes in their bodies and their lives. Most are excited, too, and hopeful.

The time is defined by a mixture of strong emotions. When those feelings don’t match up to the joyful fantasy women have been sold all their lives, it can leave them feeling guilty, overwhelmed and unworthy — even though their experience is the rule rather than the exception.

And while most new moms have mild feelings of worry, unhappiness and fatigue, for too many those feelings drift into extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion, even anger.

Postpartum depression affects more than 1 in 5 new mothers — it is the most common complication from childbirth. Untreated, postpartum depression is hell on the mother, and makes it hard to connect with their new baby.

Even more so than depression in general, postpartum depression is often undiagnosed and untreated. Mothers not only have to get past their own preconceived notions of what early motherhood should be like — and stop blaming themselves — they often have trouble convincing their families they need help during what everyone thinks should be a happy time.

If our conception of postpartum life was more realistic, new mothers would be more likely to speak up when they don’t feel well. Loved ones would be more likely to notice when something was off.

And maybe an ad showing life how it is wouldn’t be so scary.


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