I had a rather disappointing encounter with a stranger the other day. In noticing I was pregnant, she struck up a conversation with me asking if I was excited and if it was my first. The usual questions. I told her it was my second and that, yes, I was really excited. She then proceeded to tell me that she accompanied her best friend during her first birth last year and it was her first birth experience. Her friend received an epidural and she couldn’t “believe why anyone wouldn’t get one of those!” and that she “doesn’t know anyone you wouldn’t dare get one!” and that “they are amazing!”. I calmly replied, “Um, me.” And went about my business. I received blank stares and “OMG’s!” and all kinds of weird looks. She asked, “we’ll wasn’t it so painful?” and “are you going to do THAT again?” in a way that made me believe that she thought I would be crazy for putting myself through that seemingly hellish torture again. I calmly replied that yes, it was painful, but that it was a good pain. I wasn’t suffering and that at the end of my experience I knew I would be getting the best gift – a baby! and so it was all worth it. I only received a big blank stare and “WOW” in response, but I really hope it was enough to open her eyes and mind a little and plant that little seed that birth can be natural and normal and GASP! not traumatic.
I really struggle with these situations. It is terribly sad to know and encounter young women who have no idea how birth is intended. All they know is what they see on TV which is a terrible depiction of a normal birth or what they hear through friends who have had traumatic birth experiences for whatever reason or perhaps stories from their mothers when things could have been A LOT different (trust me or read my Mom’s birth stories). Normal birth is sadly not normal these days. It makes me want to take on a huge awareness campaign. It’s just frustrating that I actually had this conversation; that young women my age know so very little about birth.
I am not expert by any means but I have done my fair share on reading up on birth and have educated myself on the topic so that I am comfortable and excited to give birth. Yes, excited! I am one of those crazy birth junkies who believes that birth is amazing and beautiful. I love birth. In saying that, I try to stay away from the million facts I could rhyme off. I try not to be judgemental or defensive. I try to be calm and cool and answer questions ever so matter-of-factly. Throwing out stats won’t help me in these situations. Responding as if natural birth is completely normal, hopefully will.
I also try to remember that I was once a childless women who was uneducated on birth and other parenting topics. What would my pre-baby self ask or say in response?
Maybe I came into parenting at an advantage? My mother had natural births and breastfed. I grew up on a farm and birth happened regularly. Running to the barn to see a cow give birth was thrilling, not scary. Watching new kittens nurse was so very cool. I grew up around nature so as an adult I didn’t have reason to think that these things were anything but natural. I never really doubted that natural birth was for me.
Becoming a mother has opened my eyes A LOT and looking back I realize that I used to be very closed-minded on certain topics too. Some of these very stereotypical sayings came out of my mouth.
Co-sleeping and bed sharing? My childless self thought that it was too risky and would foster too much dependence in baby. As a new mother, I soon found out that co-sleeping was one of the best ideas out there, that breastfeeding while lying down in bed just to get even a few more minutes of shut-eye was nothing but heaven-sent and that baby of mine just wanted to be close to me – why would I deny him that?
Breastfeeding? I never understood the benefits of extended breastfeeding until after I weaned my son at 16 months. When I was childless I didn’t understand those who breastfed after GASP! the child could ask for it. How many times do we hear women say that a child is too old to breastfeed if they can ask for it? The truth is, your child has been “asking for it” since they day they were born through cries, grunts, etc. The only difference now is that they can communicate their wants in words, cute little sayings or baby sign language. Tandem nursing was always an unknown to me. Now? I think it is freaking awesome.
It’s amazing how far a little education can go. It’s a beautiful thing when all those trials and errors work and you find what works best for you and your family despite what others may recommend or condemn. And an open mind? It is one of life’s most powerful tools.