So with babe number two only a few months away I'm starting the process of getting myself pumped up again. For me, since I find the child birthing process amazing and have a toe in the hippie pond this involves reading lots of Ina May Gaskin, and looking at pictures of women giving birth in a plastic blow up tub in their living room. This sort of thing is encouraging to me, it makes me excited. The other day I was looking through a bunch of beautiful birth and breastfeeding photos on facebook and I "liked" several of them. Then I freaked out cause I'm a mega people pleaser and I didn't know if by "liking" these photos they'd pop up in your news feed and somehow offend you. Maybe you had a c-section. Maybe you wanted to breastfeed your baby and you couldn't. And seeing those photos was a painful reminder. Maybe you're 17 and all this stuff is freaking you out. Or maybe, and what I think is often the case, by seeing me "like" those photos you immediately feel a judgement being placed on you by me, or a collective group, or something even more abstract because I, we, it made different choices than you. And People Pleaser Meg does not want you to feel judged because I want us all to gather round the campfire of motherhood and snuggle. But I also don't want you to feel judged because I'm not judging you! I don't actually spend any energy thinking about the decisions other mother's make for their labor and delivery unless they are a friend and have invited me into that decision making process. And I hope and pray that my life and words and actions reflect that. But I have lots of momma friends that I only interact with on facebook. Who may only see the Granola Hippie Earth Momma pictures I've "liked" and that's the whole of their impression. Which is then filed away with all the other positive or negative interactions they've had from that camp. Or vice versa.
I'm feeling a mixture of sadness and frustration over this phenomenon, particularly in the realm of social media. I do realize that there are actual battles worth waging for women's rights in birthing and I'm thankful that there are people out there to fight them but I'm just the girl over here wanting all the momma's I know to calm to heck down a little when speaking to one another. Cause I think our words to one another as mothers are some of the post powerful tools of support or discouragement available to us. And people have strong words and strong opinions about this stuff. You have people staging breastfeeding flash mobs that actually do involve a great deal of intentionally flashing as a reaction to the people who hunted down my sweet momma while she was breastfeeding me in a dark corner with a cover to make sure she knew they thought what she was doing was disgusting. You probably all justly think both these scenarios are a bit ridiculous, but these are the stories that make it onto ecards with witty blanket statements and a dramatic photo and that's how we form our opinion of nursing publicly.
I have been very blessed to have felt nothing but love, support and helpfulness from the mother's in my community who have a variety of perspectives and experiences regarding child birth. It was because of this support that helped me make the decisions I did about my birthing experience, which was a good one. I've shared that story in an earlier post, but I'd like to share the journey to getting there.
I had never even heard of "natural childbirth" until the year before I got pregnant. I didn't know that you had the option to have a baby without being hooked up to anything, that is was possible to just do it with your body. What I did know is that an epidural was a giant needle inserted into your spine which rendered you committed to a bed for unknown hours. I hate needles more than anything in the world, and if you've spent more than 5 mins with me you know I am the most fidgety person alive. So the thought of having to deal with a needle in my back, an IV in my hand and maybe some tubes up my pee pee hole all the while not being able to move sounded like my own personal version of hell. But I didn't know I didn't have to do it that way. Thankfully the first nautral birthing momma I met is maybe the most laid back lady on the planet and simply let me ask questions and explained to me why she wanted to have a natural birth and I did not feel stress or pressure or judgement of any kind. What may have also been helpful is that I was not pregnant at the time, nor was I thinking about being pregnant anytime soon so that relieved a layer of pressure as well. I'm thankful I was able to start thinking through these decisions and learning about the birthing process well before conceiving a child. When I first learned the work involved in having a natural child birth I didn't think I could do it. It sounded kind of like torture that you only survived if you mastered meditating while standing on your head on an excersize ball, or were really good at yoga or something. But being stuck in a bed sounded equally awful. Ok, so I get to choose between two terrible options. awesome. But the more I talked to women about birth I heard the excitement and joy in their voices when telling their stories. Even through the hard parts. That it was work and painful and exhausting but it was good and fulfilling work. I don't like working hard. I like the easiest means to an accomplishment. So breaking down some of my fear issues was a really good and healthy process for me to take in regards to childbirth. It helped me grow in other areas of my life. It was the right choice for me, and I had a great birthing experience. I also gave birth in a hospital with an obstetrician. I think midwives are the bomb but my insurance and the state of Kentucky prevent me from using a midwife so I decided to find a really awesome supportive ob. And I did. She is my hero. So when I hear people talking about all ob's like they're evil scalpel hungry control freaks I get really upset cause have you met every ob in the history of the world? I didn't think so. I also get mad when people think of midwives as being uneducated or inexperienced, which is equally ignorant. I chose a hospital over a home birth, not because I think home births are inherently dangerous but because frankly, I'd like my blood clots and amniotic fluid to fall on someone else's floor. I was thankful to have the postpartum care at the hospital (even though they are loud, unattractive and you have to deal with an occasional mean nurse) and return to my clean cozy home. Now a birthing center? That would be my jam right there. Sigh, one day I hope!
Similarly with breast feeding I had not only an awesome lactation consultant and awesome helpful nurses but I had mom friends calling and texting me every day for the first several weeks asking me how I was doing and if I had any questions. I had friends come over and watch me nurse and help me find a good position and watch to see if my daughter was latching correctly. And telling me I was doing a great job. I needed that every day!!!
While I have been amazingly blessed by encouragement, I have also experienced the sting of hurtful words as well.
"oh, you're giving birth at Norton Suburban? Oh gosh...well, I mean you know everyone is going to be really awful to you since you're going natural right?"
"you're going natural? that's so crazy, you know how bad that's going to hurt and how miserable you'll be afterward that you wont even want to hold your baby right?"
"I mean, that's great you wanna breastfeed but you know your boobs will be gross when you're done and you'll probably never enjoy your husband touching them again."
Talk about someone popping your balloon. Thankfully I had enough knowledge and support to combat these negative thoughts, but many people don't.
So, I bring to you my quandry. I feel passionately about this stuff. I don't feel as passionate about who you vote for frankly, but I feel passionate about mothers being empowered to make choices regarding their births because they had education and support. I want to show you these pictures of a mom's face finally seeing her baby after 27 hours of labor and say look how beautiful that is!! And not have all this grouchy subtext of you wondering if she had an epidural or not before you decide its beautiful. But lately I've been driven to hold my tongue more often because I'm afraid of offending someone. And like I said, I'm no activist. I'm not going to call any hospital CEOs (are there CEOs at hospitals? I don't even care) or my senator to try and do a thing. But I care about the way we talk to each other. As mothers. Because that's powerful. As someone who is pro-natural birth I want to be able to dialogue with expectant mothers who invite me to about what their options are. I want to tell them that the woman's body is this incredible life giving vessel that was created by God to bear children and that they can go into their labor with that mindset and be at peace regardless of what medical intervention is or isn't used. And while these bodies we have are amazing, they are also affected by the curse and because of that, birth is not always this beautiful experience we want it to be. Sometimes it is survival and thank God it is 2013 and there are life saving procedures we now have access to.
How does our desire to educate and support turn into prideful combative mommy wars? How can we better serve the expectant mothers in our community? How can we be honest and bold with our passion for childbirth and still be sensitive to women who have either chosen to, or had to have medicated or surgical births? What have you found helpful and hurtful? This is me opening the dialogue.
Tell your story.
Ask your questions.
Share a fart joke so we can all lighten up.
Encourage a sister.