Monday, October 26, 2009

The birthing experience - Does it affect who you are as a mother?

Courtesy: Google Images

I was perusing through the different blogs I follow when I noted a kind of back-and-forth topic going on. I think this topic could be similar to the one about Breastfeeding and guilt and then some. Thank you Hannah Rosin and Fearless Formula Feeder. (I'm not even going to post all the links to those discussions because I'd be here all night) This topic however, centered on birth. On Jan Tritten's blog ,the following impacting statement can be found:

"This is what I want to say to every young woman in the world: your birth is the most important event in shaping your life as a mother. It is imperative that you be properly cared for, nurtured and, in this culture, educated. You need a loving midwife, because the effects of the birth year—positive or negative—will affect your whole life, your baby’s whole life, and indeed society, as your decisions reverberate through her story."

The above mentioned illicited a response from  Sweet Salty which says in part :

"Sometimes, motherhood is destined, and yet the experience of birth is not. Are those women lesser mothers?

Are women who are indifferent to method lesser mothers? Lesser feminists? Or just unenlightened and pitiable, even if they’re content with their experience? ..  Birth is absolutely not the most important event that shapes my life as a mother. It’s just not."

I must say, I do agree with  Stand and Deliver. While I do think that a birth can be a very positive and influencing factor in a woman's life that can build her up or traumatize her (in either subsequent births or other facets of life), I do think that who we are as mothers is constantly being re-defined by our current mentality, actions, standards and many other factors. Even though we may plan our birth to the tee and do our homework and search out all our options, time and unforeseen occurence does befall us and can make all our diligent efforts and planning go awry.

Does settling for an elective c/section make us lesser mothers? Does not looking up alternatives or standing up to our health care providers when our interests conflict make us bad mothers? Does accepting what comes without asking, who, why or how doom as as incompetent moms? I don't think these questions nor their answers are as simple as a "yes" or "no". I consider myself a breastfeeding advocate, but how could I dare tell a mother that she's a bad mother because her doctor said she had to have that c/section and the mom nodded and practically raised her hands saying "I surrender, take me". How can I tell a mother who after having 4 kids with highly unnecessary interventive births that she is incompetent and ignorant for never learning even after having 4 kids! 

Did the highly interventive birth of my daughter make me less of a mother and impact my life as that mom? Not completely. While I wish I had the proverbial "Undo" button, I recognize that, the birth has happened, it has shaped who I am in the sense that it woke me up to get it "right" next time. To do things the polar opposite way. My daughter's birth made me question my "I'll trust you, you're a doctor" mentality and made me see things in a stark contrast. This doesn't always occur. How many women go through childbirth in less than ideal ways and yet see nothing wrong with the way things worked out. How many women see absolutely no problem with social induction or elective c/section. What is the difference between that mother and myself? Is it ignorance? Is it a difference in personality? Is it carelessness? Or maybe a calm acceptance of what was? What role do I personally play in determining the actions of others? None. Personally, I do not feel that it is my place to tell you what sort of mother you are

I like to be in between, I like balance. I recognize that when us advocates start pushing our "ideals" on others who really don't want to ever learn, rather than focusing our attention on those who do want to see things differently, it creates friction. Lots of friction. People start feeling guilty, people start feeling offended and defensive and backed into a corner, on both sides of the "issue". This is not my purpose. I am a childbirth and breastfeeding advocate. Not a hate monger pushing my opinions down someone elses throat. I would much rather spend my time with a mother or mother-to-be , informing, guiding, and explaining to them how they can respectfully stand up for what they want and believe in.

Back to the topic on hand

As we can see, all these things, birth, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, parenting choices and so forth occupy a big place in our mind, and let's face it , who wants to be told that they're a bad mother for letting that doctor induce you when you well knew your body was not ready... Come on... Has it come to the point that we have to belittle others for the informed/uninformed/wise/unwise choices they've made? Does it make us better parents? What line to we draw when our activism becomes detractivism? Although not related the the topic of birth, the principle behind it surely counts. In her article When activism becomes detractivism, Dani Arnold-Mckenny states in part:

Courtesy: Google Images

Everyone has something that they are passionate about. Everyone has a cause that owns a special corner of their heart. Whether its saving the rain forests, freeing Tibet, going "green", equal rights for women, pro abortion, anti abortion, pro capital punishment, anti capital punishment, etc , ........Everyone has at least one thing that they are willing to stand up for, that they will jump into the fray with both (metaphorical) fists swinging, debating their passion till the wee hours of the morning.
Passion burns brightest in the middle of a heated debate. And it can be beautiful in its eloquence, or scarred and ugly in its words of condemnation and accusation. Is the message getting lost because the flame is blinding? Is the message getting lost because the fire it possesses is burning everyone it comes in contact with?
Should I play the part of the Black Knight and tell her that she is wrong, that her decisions were wrong, that her doctors were wrong, that the formula she is using is poisoning her baby and killing our environment?
Or shall I play the part of the Enlightened One. Listening attentively, offering sympathy for the hard road and rocky journey that she has travelled?

It has been my experience that accosting a new mother with facts and figures and recriminations, and railing against the society that has caused the ultimate downfall of civilization through the production of infant formulas, will do nothing more than add to the woman’s justifications and worse, turn her away. It creates the stereotype of the hardcore Lactivist, who preaches damnation to all that succumb to the idolatry of the golden baby bottle.

But by offering my quiet support and sympathy, I create a bond of trust with a new mother. As that bond grows I may yet have the opportunity to explain to her about the misinformation she was fed. and maybe even have the opportunity to explain to her about re-lactation, milk banks, or even prepare her for the birth of her next child .Thus a new mother suffering misery, self-doubt and guilt, becomes assured that failure is not hers to shoulder alone, that there is support and help available to her, whatever the outcome is. Advocacy doesn't have to be spoken words or printed pages. Advocacy can also just mean setting an example. Sitting quietly and nursing your happy healthy baby can be the biggest show of support. Bonds of friendship and trust can grow through quiet acceptance.....which later leads to open conversation. Who knows where those conversations will lead?

Is our activism crossing over into detractivism and actually stifling those who are willing and ready to listen and be enlightened to make better choices the next time around?  I sure hope not... or else.. what good is this blog.....................?


1 comment:

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