Siberia

I’ve been warned yet again, by a good friend, about posting links to articles on my facebook page which might cause offence to some people.

polarbear_feeding_cubsI’m not talking about articles that are sexist, racist, or revolting. I tend to post articles that explore, and usually compare, different parenting choices and philosophies, like this, and this, or this . I link to them, because I find them interesting, and they usually reflect something about my own experiences.

So, why do they cause problems? Because people think I’m judging their own choices.

Yet I really don’t think I am. I completely understand that each individual – and I’m talking about every individual in each individual family unit – has their own experiences, knowledge and needs that shape the ‘choices’ they take in parenthood. I use ‘choices’ because I also understand that sometimes they’re not exactly first choices, and sometimes we have them foisted on us by outside forces (i.e. being unable to breastfeed for medical reasons).

It’s just that you don’t seem to be able to state your personal opinions without causing offence. Since when has offence been the first reaction, though? Why can’t we feel free to debate? Are we too scared of being wrong? Every opinion should be available for debate – how else do we actually discuss ideas? An opinion is just that – not a fact, an opinion. Something to be discussed. Mums, especially, seem to be very defensive about choices – when we should feel the right to be matter-of-fact about them. I occasionally tell people that my 4yo still requests boobfeeds. I don’t tell them that to judge what they’re doing. I tell them that because that’s part of my life and I’m finding it challenging at the moment.

On another note, Clever Mama had a guest post about the importance of women supporting each other through life. Now, I’m one of those people who always thinks they get along better with the blokes – I understand their humour, and I like their honesty (to throw in a couple of generalisations) – but the article got me thinking. When I had kids, I knew that I needed to reach out to find other mums to connect to, because it can be lonely. As a shy person, this was (and still is) agonisingly difficult or me to do. But I attended local playgroups, went to ABA meetings, and even organised some get-togethers with other mums who I went to uni with.

It was a rewarding experience, and I loved talking to other mums- especially the ones who I shared a bit of humour, philosophy, history or sleep-deprivation with. But I have always been shy. And I have always doubted that others like me. I realise now that’s connected to the anxiety, but that’s my problem, and something I’m going to have to learn to overcome.

What I’d like others to overcome (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) is the notion that by sharing ideas, opinions and parts of me – who I am – that I’m judging, being spiteful or trying to hurt. That’s just not me.

siberia

So….I’ve gone into exile in terms of facebook. I check it a couple of times a week for messages.

I’ve also gone into exile from life a bit. I’m burying myself in work – which I enjoy, but creates a lot of pressure for the few hours I work – and we don’t seem to visit people anymore. My 4yo asks if we can visit this person or that, and I keep making excuses because I can’t remember if I’ve possibly offended them, so best to stay clear.

I’ll get over it. And myself. But I just need a bit of clear thinking space where I can do a bit of soul-searching.

Ah, the serenity…

Advertisements

Not just lucky, I worked for it

Yeah, yeah, this is a bit of a rant.

Eventually, in all mothers groups, playgroups or vague group of mums, the conversation turns to birth stories. For some reason, the aim of this ritual is to be the mum who suffered the most – well, that’s how it seems sometimes.

When I say that I had wonderful experiences with two natural drug-free births I’m told “well, you’re just very lucky” and then, “I don’t believe people when they say it’s not painful”*.

Two points:

  • Yes, luck certainly played a part, but I also put a helluva lot of work and preparation into giving myself the best chance at a natural birth.
  • When the hell did I say it wasn’t painful?

Me and MLM calmly being lucky.

My high hopes for natural birth were countered by a realistic view, and I prepared myself as best I could – after all, birth is one of the most unpredictable events in the world. This is probably why it spooks so many people – mums-to-be, dads, obstetricians and insurance companies…

I grew up aware that my mother had a horrific experience having me. A 24-hour labour, hospital nuns who had taken a vow of rudeness and an emergency c-section when I refused to emerge – all without the support of her husband (who wasn’t allowed in the ward) and the antagonism of her own mother (who accused her of taking the ‘easy way out’ with a c-section). I had a fear of birth from as early as I remember, and when MLM suggested we have kids I really started to freak out.

Then logic kicked in – haven’t women been giving birth for generations? How did they cope before hospitals? I began researching different views of birth – midwife-lead care, homebirthing, and reading all sorts of viewpoints and counter-arguments. I enjoyed finding out that there were alternatives  – even though I knew I wasn’t going to have a homebirth, I certainly didn’t want a legs-in-stirrups experience.

Being a petite person, I was often told (never by a health professional, funnily enough) that I would probably need a c-section because my hips were small. I researched it myself to see what the facts and statistics were. The Spinning Babies website was an awesome resource for this and I recommend it to all my preggie friends. Basically, there’s a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there about pelvis size and the obstetricians’ favourite line ‘failure to progress’.

The main problem birthing women face is fear.

Everyone drills it into us when we’re pregnant – the horror stories, the misinformation, the lack of trust we have in our bodies.

Plus, everyone’s labour is different. Some are textbook, most are not.

So, to get over my fear of birth, I hired a doula who taught Hypnobirthing. I don’t really know what I expected, but it all made so much sense to me that I went along with it and before I knew it, I was excited about the prospect of going into labour, and felt that I had the loveliest people backing me up: MLM, Rachael (doula), Ellen (sister-in-law) and the wonderful midwives at the Family Birth Centre.

We women need to find time to reclaim our birth experiences. I know that sounds airy-fairy, but it’s true. There’s a lot of pressure on women to eat the right foods, take certain supplements, and be well-behaved walking uteri. Birth is governed a lot by hospital policies, insurance requirements and textbook expectations. There are two individuals who need to be considered, though: mother and baby. Some babies are big, some are small, some are quiet, some are active. Some women have different menstrual cycles which will alter due dates, some women react badly to being induced, and all mums have different ways of coping during the birth. We are all individuals (“Yes, we are all individuals” shout the mob from Monty Python).

The women I know who have had positive birth experiences have had one thing in common: they have overcome their fears of the birth process.

Fear causes labour to stop progressing. It also takes decision-making out of our hands, if we’re panicked and not understanding what is going on. Fear causes muscle tension – which is not what you want in labour. Fear is not just psychological – we take it on in physical form – especially so in labour.

I believe birth is a feminist issue because most women seem to doubt that their bodies are capable of doing it. We’ve been told to doubt our capabilities, or lead to believe it. Yes, there are risks – that’s why hospitals are so good. Yes, there are complications – that’s why obstetricians exist. But we should be giving our bodies the benefit of the doubt before we’re made to feel that we can’t.

I understand that some women want elective c-sections, and that’s fine if they’ve been given enough information to make a truly informed decision.

I understand that c-sections can be life-saving – I’m not questioning individuals about their ‘choice’ in an emergency.

What I want is for women to be given confidence, knowledge and proper information so they can make their own birthing choices to suit their individual and family requirements:

If women want a natural birth, give them information about Calmbirth, Hypnobirthing, etc and get them to watch other births to get used to the idea of how different each birth can be. When I told a GP (not my usual one) that I was hoping to have a natural birth, he all but scoffed. He should have been letting me know where I could access further resources.

Ultimately, what I want is to hear more women telling more positive birthing stories. No matter whether it was natural, with forceps, c-section, it can still be a positive experience. We just need to get over our fears.

*  my second birth wasn’t all that painful – but it was a lot of hard, physical work. I was very proud of myself though – he was a 10 pound whopper!