So this afternoon I was surfing around facebook. It’s where I like to surf because A- I would probably drown if I tried to surf for real and B- there are no sharks. Well, not the literal fishy kind anyhow. But I digress (as usual). This afternoon I saw something that just… kinda… itched. You know, when you see/read/watch something and then try to just go on and ignore it but it keeps on mentally itching and you think about it. Then you try to put it out of your mind but it starts itching again and you turn it over and over a bit more before putting it out of your mind but no matter what you do it just itches.
What I read was this quote : “Any woman can give birth, but not just any woman would attempt or even go through with an all natural childbirth.” ~Anonymous
That makes sense right? Very I am woman, watch me deliver this child with no medication and roar my triumph when I succeed. Which is a worthy accomplishment, I think we can all agree- that’s awesome.
But…um, what about the woman who reads that and remembers how after 29 hours of natural un-medicated and, frankly, hellish back labor she opted for drugs and now feels like a failure forever after? She had a birth plan and was so excited to see it through, she knew just knew exactly how it was going to happen and she was going to feel SO empowered and triumphant after…. only… it didn’t happen like that. And now when she reads something like the quote above she just wants to cry. Is her birth experience somehow a failure rather than a triumph? Yes, she took home a healthy baby, but she has no bragging rights now… unless it’s just that she survived the 29 hours. (No small feat in my eyes)
Or the woman who decided to schedule a c-section? Is she somehow inferior because she chose not to have a natural or un-medicated birth?
How about the woman who knows from the very beginning she will have an epidural. Will she forever have to come up with some reason or excuse that makes it ok when she is gathered in a circle of women telling birth stories? Will she have to be defensive of her choice? Should she?
What about the woman struggling with infertility who reads that and thinks about the fact that she can’t give birth naturally or otherwise? Does she feel like less of a woman for just a moment? What about the step-mothers, who get all the struggles of raising children and teens but none of the accolades? Or the woman who has chosen not to have children? When she is surrounded by mothers does she feel the pressure to come up with a ‘valid’ enough reason to have chosen otherwise? I don’t know, but my heart hurts just thinking about it.
Why do we do this to ourselves and to others? We do it in so many areas of womanhood and motherhood. Children/no children, Birth choices, attachment parenting/CIO, breastfeeding /formula feeding, vaccinated/non-vaccinated, cloth diapering/disposables, co-sleeping/crib, working/stay at home parenting, homeschooling/public or private schooling, the number of children you have, the list goes on and on. And on.
I love that women feel amazing about natural childbirth, it just makes me sad when that comes out or is expressed in a way where any woman who doesn’t ‘attempt or go through with it’ will feel badly about herself. We struggle with mommy guilt enough, no matter our choices. We need to cut one another a break! Natural or medicated if you give birth you have accomplished something beautiful. And as someone who has both had natural and medicated births I will loudly say there is NO way better than another. Not natural, not medicated. You do what you need to do and I will loudly proclaim that you triumphed! Even if you *gasp* schedule a c-section for purely elective reasons.
That’s right. I said it. I said if you schedule a PURELY ELECTIVE c-section I salute you. Because you are a woman. If you choose not to have children and pursue a career instead, not because you can’t have children but because you choose not to- I salute you. Because you are a woman. You are my sister. If you choose to formula feed your baby without ever attempting to breastfeed for whatever reason, I salute you. You are amazing. Yes, you are an amazing woman. If you go back to work and take your kids to day-care because you love your job and you want to work, you don’t have to make any apologies to me. That’s awesome, your kids are lucky to have you, I bet you are a great mom and love them with all your heart.
Did that rankle some of you a bit? Would it have made you feel better if there was some excuse attached to those choices, the currently un-popular, non-politically-correct-among-women choices? Why?
Would it have made it easier to digest, somehow, if the first woman had a c-section because it was a medical emergency, the formula-feeding mother just could not produce any milk no matter how she tried, the next didn’t have children because though she tried she couldn’t conceive, and the last wanted to stay home but simply couldn’t afford it?
Why is there this mentality among us women, this judgmental mindset that there is this one series of choices, one List of options that are the right choices? These change from decade to decade and vary from one geographical location to another but The List lives on in one form or another. We all live and work and play in different cultural bubbles. So we all have a List that’s slightly different but I bet you could name at least 10 items on it right now without much effort.
I’m about to get all We-Are-Women-Hear-Us-Roar on you now, but instead of burning bras (which would be a shame given how expensive they are and since they give us such nice perkiness) can we burn these stupid lists?
Please? Can we set aside our own opinions about what is the best way to do something and just for a second acknowledge that maybe, just maybe a different choice might be the RIGHT choice for another woman? Does it just fry your mental grid to even try to let yourself think that there is nothing inherently superior about staying at home OR working? About having 1 child, 2 children, 4 children or none. About formula feeding or breast feeding. Can we/I/you wrap your head around the idea that there is NOTHING inherently superior about having a child with no drugs than getting an epidural? But but BUT…
Oh my goodness, is this just killing you? If so, I feel you- because there are things I have strong strong opinions on. ANYone who knows me will tell you that I am crazy opinionated. And that’s why it needs to be very clear that I’m not attacking the completely amazing person who posted that quote that started this whole line of thought. Because I have said/thought/felt things like that too. But I’ve been starting to question my own assumptions, my own List and this crazy little notion that perhaps the things that are the absolute right decisions for my life and family are not necessarily the right thing for every woman and family is growing within me…. And it rocks my world. Because there are things that make NO sense to me and I am utterly convinced that the way I am doing them are the way they ought to be done. Maybe I am completely correct AND completely wrong at the same time. Maybe there are things I am doing which are exactly the right things for my family, my children, my life and myself AND are the exact opposite of what the exact right thing for another family/person/life are. I am terribly afraid that makes no sense whatsoever but there it is.
I have given birth with no pain-killers and I have given birth with an epidural. Someone said to me I should be so proud of having had a natural delivery- that it was such an accomplishment. And they are right, but you know what? I feel no more pride or accomplishment about that than my other births. I got the same prize at the end- a beautiful baby. The way I got my prize matters very little really. Every birth was an accomplishment to be celebrated equally.
What if I cheered you on and roared for you from where I am: the stay-at-home mom of soon-to-be four children, formerly disposable diapering currently cloth diapering, semi-CIOing, from-scratch cooking, breastfeeding, sometimes homeschooling/sometimes public schooling, crib sleeping, vaccinating, did-natural-birth-once-and-now-LOVE-my-epidural-ing kinda of mama even though you might be a career woman, go back to work, formula feeding, take-out chef extraordinaire, scheduled c-section, private schooling, manicures-twice-a-week kind of mama and give you a big
You rock motherhood. You wear womanhood like a perfectly tailored dress (or perfectly fitting skinny jeans if that is more your preference ) and I salute you!“
What if you did the same for me even though with this next baby I am going to start formula supplementing from the very beginning and I make no apologies and will give you no justification for my choice?
What if your neighbor gave you a big salute even though you are hard-core attachment parenting and she believes in CIO?!
What if your sister gave you a big enthusiastic salute for going all natural during your birth even though she thinks epidurals are God’s gift to women?
What if we actually supported one another?!
I know, wishful thinking, but if we can’t all get there just yet can we at least begin by not being so outwardly judgemental of each other and tearing one another down constantly? it would be a start… a really good one. If we could just let go of our certainty that what is right for us is right for every other woman on the face of this planet unless she has a really good excuse for settling.
Because you, yes YOU are an ah-mazing woman. Regardless of what’s on your list and which items you have crossed off or never will, regardless of what’s on my list and whether you have lived by it; simply because you are a woman, a precious & beloved child of God-
I salute you.
April 29, 2012: Let me add that everything I said I feel applies equally for those who go for natural birth- i think it’s totally awesome, and I Salute them as well! I thought I worked that in and it was pretty clear but I am realizing more and more that some unmedicated birthing mamas have felt the same judgment the non medicating mamas feel….the whole point of the blog is how we all feel judged because as women we tend to judge!
So this was never intended to be one sided and I purposely shied away from adding my personal reasons for choosing to go natural the first birth then for epidurals thereafter as well as my reasons for the other choices I listed. Which I only listed to emphasize how I really want those who live in a totally different manner to know that I’m not just cheering them on and supporting them if they are doing what I am doing- Mamas- You ROCK what is right for you and your family and I will be waving my virtual poms for you from where I stand!
My heart is just to say that whatever way you choose for birth or raising your children or living your life (even with no children or one child or ten) I applaud you, support you and stand behind you simply because you are a woman and I think women are pretty darn nifty!