Pregnancy: You’re doing it right (or wrong). Mama Greenest questions the “right” way to have a baby — and why society deems it so
By Shannon Gallagher
Several weeks ago a dear friend — who is expecting her first baby in January — pointed out that there isn’t much literature out there for women who feel good during pregnancy. Her first trimester was nerve-wracking in part because she didn’t experience many of the typical prego-problems, and everything she read talks about feeling, well... bad (my blogs included, I’m sure). “How about something for the newly pregnant woman who actually feels good?” she asked me. “Do we really need to talk about it only in terms of feeling [bad]?”
She raises an interesting point: What about those so-called outliers? Have we overgeneralized the pregnancy experience to the point of being exclusive? If you don’t have morning sickness or crippling anxiety, is your experience wrong?
Last week, my friend and I got to talking about her birth plans. She explained how a number of people were miffed to learn that she and her husband do not want a homebirth, and that they are not using a midwife. This strong reaction — which she has found completely unhelpful and pretty offensive — had been explained away as surprise; no one thought that they were “the type” of people to have a hospital birth. (Didn’t they know that hospitals and obstetricians are evil?) Here are two people who live consciously in a liberal city — they garden, compost, bike to work, live frugally, spend tons of time outdoors hiking, biking, camping, swimming, and snowboarding. They are well-educated, deliberate people. I guess if there were a “homebirth type,” they’d be it. But they are also two people who really like their obstetrician, and who don’t feel their small home is the right place to give birth (or feel like driving over an hour away to a birth center in the middle of winter). Point being, they have their reasons (operative word being their).
So the gist of my query is this: In the ongoing debates surrounding American birth culture and parenting styles, is it possible to have conviction without being inherently judgmental? Is it possible to separate that which informs our decisions for our family from the experiences of others, even those we feel are “just like us?”
I feel this extends beyond birth to parenting in general. Another friend once pointed out to me that us “Mothering (Magazine) types” may have more success converting those women still on the fence between mainstream (think Huggies, formula, and Ferber) and the alternative (cloth diapers, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting) if we toned it down a few notches. As a self-proclaimed fence sitter, she spoke to being overwhelmed about some of the choices she had to make, but being totally turned off when she sought clarification. For example, when checking out cloth diapers, the salesperson’s conviction left a very counterproductive impression: Cloth diapering is right, and everything else is wrong; therefore, if you do not cloth diaper, you are wrong. So back on the disposable side of the fence my friend dove, intimidated and turned off by the self-righteousness inspired by poop-catchers.
Now, as you clearly know, I’m all about opinions, so don’t get me wrong. It’s good to have opinions. It’s important to have conviction; I think it’s an important thing to model for children. But tolerance, open-mindedness, and respect are also important things. If we want to move from a birth and parenting culture of passive compliance to one of active consciousness, we need to remember it’s about educating and empowering families with information, not laying down judgments. We should encourage each other to make choices that feel right to us as individuals, especially when it comes to our babies and our bodies. “They’ll have theirs, and you’ll have yours, and I’ll have mine, and together we’ll be fine. Because it takes different strokes to move the world, yes it does... ”
In that vein, check out this blog post from the New York Times’ parenting blog Motherlode. I’m curious to know what other mamas out there think...