Pampers has created some enlightened campaigns in recent years. They’ve featured same sex couples, included dads, and affirmed the hard work of moms. Their website is chock full of educational resources for families on infant care, developmental milestones and more.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Pampers dropped a new ad. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210506005945/en/Pampers-Launches-%E2%80%9CMillion-Acts-of-Love%E2%80%9D-Initiative-To-Inspire-Remind-Parents-Of-Their-Infinite-Capacity-For-Love

This in itself is not the least bit shocking, but I found the ad somewhat jarring. It’s narrated by what sounds like a baby’s voice… if babies could talk? The surreal squeaky weird voice says something about loving or being loved for a very long time and how loving your baby is what makes you a “real” person. 

I did a little digging about this commercial with the help of a friend, who promptly pointed out that it was based on the sweet book “The Velveteen Rabbit.” Ohhh! Now all of a sudden it makes sense? Nope. “The Velveteen Rabbit” is about a stuffed rabbit being made real by the love of a child. Trying to make it analogous to people falls flat in the same way that Pinocchio can’t really ever be a human boy the way Geppetto wants him to be (and that story did not end well for either). 

Pampers ads are obviously geared toward biological parents of newborns and babies. This campaign, called the #MillionActsOfLove movement was “designed to inspire parents and remind them of their infinite capacity for love,” according to the press release on Businesswire.com. But not every parent who is caring for babies gave birth to them, and not every person who wants a baby can have one. Yes this love is priceless and special- but it’s not always easily found.

Without context, the ad (narrated by the voice of the Velveteen Rabbit?) sends an inadvertent message that people who don’t have kids aren’t “real” or don’t really know love? So those who can’t have, or are struggling to conceive children are somehow not “real”? What about people who don’t want kids. Are they less “real”, less loved?

Perhaps I’m just sensitive to this topic because as an adoptive mom – and infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss survivor – I have been asked many times by adults and children if I am my daughter’s “real mom”. My daughter, in moments of anger, also likes to say “You’re not even my REAL mom!” 

Adoption is borne of loss. I imagine my daughter’s birth mom also has feelings about not parenting the child who binds us together in this unique endeavor called open adoption. She created and carried this child in her body for 9 months, gave birth to her, and made the excruciating decision to place her in my care to mother (verb). I believe we are each no less “real” for either of our experiences, though they are of course different. Our daughter also has to wrestle with feelings about how to love us and her birth family, when she had no say in decisions that impact her sense of belonging, identity and understanding of familial love. No easy task.

I want more people to realize that many families are built in many different ways. Yes biologically-based families are the most common, but there are families with two dads, two moms, blended families, adoptive families, blended biological and adoptive families, blended LBQT families, families built by 3rd party reproduction and surrogacy. There are also extended family members raising kids that may be grandchildren, nieces and nephews etc. These families are REAL families. (And I do commend Pampers for portraying some of them.)

But please don’t let the voice of an imaginary rabbit tell you what it means to be “real”. That messaging is (unintentionally) harmful to the “realities” of people who don’t have children- and especially to those who want them more than anything in the world. 

All writing and images are created by Raina Cowan; and are the intellectual property of Raina Cowan, unless otherwise specified.

Edited with help from http://cyndielliott.com

If you liked this article, please check out: