Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clever Thoughts: Letting Other Mamas Be

On one of the forums I frequent, I am in a Due Date club for women having babies in November. It is a crunchy forum, and the women who post there have a big diversity of views. Some women are planning to give birth at home, some at birthing centers and some in hospitals. Some women are dead set against using any medication during child birth, don't want to be induced and will refuse any interventions unless there is an emergency. I am a little more flexible -- I took pain medication with my first birth, but not with my second, and I gave birth in a hospital because it was impractical for me to give birth at home. One of the topics that has come up is getting angry at women who are choosing to have a birth with more interventions.

I can understand this perspective. I find it hard when I hear other women's birth stories and I can tally in my head the number of un-necessary interventions they underwent, and the resulting difficulties in their birth. I am a little dismayed that a lot of women don't even consider experiencing natural childbirth. I am sad that women didn't do more research when I find out that they are experiencing a lot of physical difficulties after birth because they made a decision to allow an intervention that they later regretted or that had bad side effects.

But then, my first labour was 13 hours, and my second was 3. I was healthy, and did not experience any complications in either of my pregnancies. Neither of my babies were breech or overdue, or experienced any other serious medical conditions during labour and birth. I have had it easy.

In this arena, as in so many other areas of parenting, I have learned to just let others be. So often it is easy to quickly judge a woman by her choices in regards to birth, breastfeeding or parenting. We compare them to our own, and can quickly dismiss her as a friend simply because she has different opinions. But I have found that equally as often, when I hear the full story of why they made their choices, I can understand. I have never been in their place. If I had been in labour for two days with no sleep, I might choose to get an epidural, too. If I was experiencing post-partum depression and had a low milk supply, and very little support or information on how to change the situation, I would likely switch to formula, too. In these and so many other situations, I have learned that what is important is the story that underlies the choice, rather than the choice itself.

Let's try to make a practice of really listening to one another. It is through hearing the stories of other mamas without judging that we come to build true friendships. It is through dialogue, not judgement and derision, that we can share information and experiences that might be invaluable. And you never know: that mama with a completely different parenting style might just teach you something about discipline, or about listening to and nurturing your children, that you wouldn't have known otherwise.


  1. You are so right! There are just too many variables to make blanket statements about how everyone should handle childbirth, raising kids, etc.

    I have 3 children and have very difficult labor and deliveries. I went "natural" with the first, but because of all the issues I seem to have, opted for some interventions with the other two.

    And it is true...I may not always agree with someone's philosophies, but if I remain open, I usually do learn a thing or two. Great post!!

  2. I'm glad you wrote this. I've been getting some weird looks or suggestions when I actually voice my option on what I want to do during labor. I think the next time I'll just direct them to this post. :)




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