The choice of the name Tribeca Maternity and the use of the word maternity throughout our practice was a deliberate, conscientious, and much-discussed decision. We wanted to find a term that would encompass the many emotional experiences around family planning, trying to conceive, infertility, pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting. In our search, we realized that the language hasn’t yet caught up with people’s diverse realities. We understand this lack of inclusive language and the slow development of new terms as yet another example of how stuck the help for individuals, couples, and families is during this time in people’s lives.
Typically, medicalized terms are the relied-upon options. However, we purposefully avoided the medicalized language of maternal mental health, which tends to limit the understanding of these experiences as both specialized and diagnosable. The language of perinatal or postpartum in particular is restricted to a specific period in which emotional stress happens, presuming that once this period is over, so too is the emotional impact.
We also made a conscious effort to avoid the word “Mom” as a simplified blanket term for women. Although a special name a child can call a parent, we find it dehumanizes women when used to refer to a patient, as well as isolates those who are struggling to conceive, are dealing with infertility treatments, had miscarriages, or are deciding to not have children. Similarly, we understand that while we also use the language of ‘women, their partners, and their families,’ this too is limiting. These issues affect trans and non-binary people, and cisgender men, too, may want to raise or are already raising a child on their own or with another cis man. We celebrate all kinds of families and are fluent in the ways these experiences can be unique and challenging for marginalized populations.
In the end we chose maternity. While we recognize that the word is still insufficient to encapsulate every person and every experience we help, until a better term is invented we understand maternity to reference not just women, but gender-nonconforming people, men, and gestational carriers, whether queer individuals or surrogates. We also use the word to represent the entirety of this time in people’s lives, not merely before or after birth. This reflects our approach to therapy by not only addressing what specific event is happening now, but also looking at an individual, couple, or family’s entire lives and relationships.