As a female, there is nothing I hate more than the hundreds of topics that pit women against women, mothers against mothers. As if there isn’t enough going against us that we need to turn on each other. It’s insane to me, the amount of conflict we create just to prove we are right, or more importantly that everyone else is wrong.
When I had my first child, a nurse came into the hospital room to discharge me and offered one piece of advice that has stayed with me longer than anything else. She said “My professional opinion is that nothing anybody offers you will be relevant unless you know that it will work for you and your family.”
Done. No friend, no article, no doctor, no midwife has said a word to me that has meant anything unless it struck a chord deep inside that I knew was the truth for me. It’s tempting to read those magazines and gobble up all the expert tips from around the world, and it’s alluring to pen down all the tricks that worked for your bestie or your sister – but unless they have your body, your headspace, your child, your neighbours – none of it is relevant. When it comes to the life task of birthing children, raising them and maintaining a life, my humble opinion is that the onus is on you. You have to be the one to educate yourself through conversation, reading material and anything that will expose you to those gems of truth that resonate with you. Otherwise you are blindly following somebody else’s path and one day you will wake up and rage against the choices you felt were done to you.
This is what happened when women woke up to the fact that the medical profession had duped us into limited options for childbirth. Rage rage rage, we took back the night and decided to get out as much material as possible about natural childbirth out there, if only to level the playing field. And why not? Such tremendous strides in medicine are to be celebrated and have saved countless lives, but if there are other options period, we deserved to know. And so began the fervour of advocating for natural childbirth.
Yet another topic to fight about.
But don’t. Don’t waste your time, because nothing you say is right. There have been countless successful C-sections and there have been countless failed ones. One person praises the success of natural childbirth and another punches them in the face with statistics about natural births gone wrong. In the latest reading this morning by the blogger Jezebel, I agree that the baby is the end to a means. Who cares how it gets out, as long as the baby is out and you get to call yourself ‘mother’. But almost everything she says is another example of winning over an audience and it leaves a taste in my mouth that sparks not a debate, but a warning and a pleading to keep your opinions to yourself. Share your experience because it leaves a mark on people and your experience could be the thing that somebody needs to hear to further investigate a topic and find their own path. The minute you try to win over a crowd because your experience somehow outweighs others is the minute you start wasting my time and I think it’s misleading, dangerous and unhelpful.
Working mom vs Stay at Home mom. Organic vs. Processed. Nanny vs Daycare. Breast vs. Bottle. Home vs. Hospital. All of it means something to you and if you have kids and I understand the feeling of wanting to change people’s minds if you think they are making the wrong choice. But more important than being right, (because you’re not right if it’s not you) is changing your language and sharing your experience instead of asserting your opinion. Your opinion divides us, separates us and that is the last thing we need. We need community, support and an understanding that choices made by others were good for them, and don’t change your own actions. You haven’t been personally attacked when your natural childbirth is compared by a woman’s hospital birth. You aren’t being forced to breastfeed when your best friend decides to bottle feed. It’s important to have different people making different decisions because it expands our knowledge.
It’s sad that mommy circles still hold a moment of shame when a mother is doing something she thinks is un-trendy. Jezebel, coming up with an answer for her planned C-section helps no-one. The truth in her post does, as we see some women choose to go that route, and that will strike a chord with some women looking to make birthing plan. Writing an article titled “My Unnatural Birth Should be considered Natural” is dumb. Your natural childbirth was natural, and your medically aided birth was um, medically aided. Do we have to argue about it? Would winning over 100 women satisfy you and make you feel better about your choice? How about 1000 women? Is there a moment in time that you would stop asserting your opinion or will you just keep going until everyone does it your way?
We all have our little secrets. I put my kids to sleep on their stomachs because they looked uncomfortable on their backs and because I was a baby sleeping on my stomach and it wasn’t right for either of my kids. I was the only mom in the circle with a baby that had hair on the back of its head. I started to tell people the truth on my first day of circle group because one of the moms looked about 1 hour away from a breakdown and I thought my secret would at least give her an option. Maybe she tried putting her colicky baby to sleep on its front, maybe she wondered if my kids were in the right hands, but that day I stopped keeping my story silent, and I never asserted my way as the right way. It simply worked for me.
So the next time you feel strongly about something go ahead and share your experience. Why do you feel strongly about it? Because it was successful? Awesome. Now do you have space in your brain to hear about why my experience was successful too? If you do, then together we are building a network and community of mothers and women who support each other. If you don’t have space to hear about why my experience worked for me, then you are part of the problem and you should think about why you keep getting into arguments with people or why your friends don’t call you when they need support for something you don’t agree with. I’m including the Jezebel post as a reference. I know she’s a fancy blogger and I can barely add a link but since I referred to it I thought it important to include. Her post in response to feeling shamed and tired of hiding her C-section choice. I think it’s about time to stop the shaming entirely and just start sharing.