Me holding a brand new, 10-minutes-old Moira while they stitched me up.
I made a short comment on my Facebook page that I want to elaborate on. I had posted THIS LINK concerning c-sections, and a friend had empathized with me over my own experiences. This is how a short conversation went:
ME: I've had 3, but I do not take this lightly. A sectioned mother's chance of dying in childbirth is 300% greater than women who birth vaginally. I bled so heavily for so long afterwords this time I almost had to have a second surgery to fix it. If you don't absolutely need one, DON'T do it. The "convenience" isn't worth the risk.
Friend: I love you for sharing your experience in the hopes that someone else can think twice. And I'm sorry that you had to go through that. :(
Me: I think the universe put it in motion so that it would humble me. I can be WAY over-fanatical about my ideas sometimes and these c-sections remind me to keep an open heart.
Friend: I hear you. I get those humbling moments at times too, and it's nice. It brings me off my high horse. Otherwise I would be so wrapped up in ideology that I wouldn't have any handle on reality. :P
One of my greatest heartbreaks is that I have never had a normal birth. Each one was incredibly painful, frightening and traumatic. While it's true that I have been blessed with three awesome children, that gratitude is separate from, not in place of, the long-term disappointment and emotional suffering that come from having a body that does not do what it will do for millions of other women all over the world this year and every year. I feel broken, especially when faced with my own support for home birth and natural birth and my disdain for most hospital births.
Right now, my favorite attachment parenting comic is doing a series on how medicalized birth really has not made birth safer. I want to shout a "hell yeah," about these. I want to post them everywhere. I want to still point out to mothers the uselessness of constant fetal monitoring and episiotomies and, as I did with this link, the very real risks of c-sections.
It takes the wind out of my sails to have to add the disclaimer, "but not for me. Medicalized birth did in fact save my life from a failing liver and failing kidneys, twice. It did actually save my child's life. I'm the exception. So listen to me but don't."
I am beginning to think that these births were sent to me to knock me down a notch or two.
There are things out there I'm still stalwart about - there's no such thing as an exception for cry-it-out sleep training, or a circumstance under which spanking is the right choice. Baby scheduling endangers the health and well-being of infants and I will never get behind that.
But, I have also developed sympathy toward the mama who is "selfish enough" to want an epidural, since I experienced such pain as to literally want to commit suicide. I encourage but do not insist on co-sleeping because I have a friend whose child absolutely hated being touched while she was asleep and only slept well when she was by herself. I believe breast milk is the best thing for babies but after having a sister dry up completely just a few days after giving birth (her body reacted to our father's death), I know that for some women they have very little choice beyond some donated breast milk and supplementing with baby formula. And, after having my first born son hate baby carriers until he was about 5 or 6 months old, I know babywearing doesn't work for every situation.
Cloth diapers, organic clothing, non-medicated childbirth, home school, even stay-at-home parenting - I know what the ideals are, and it's good to reach for the ideals, but it is also important to understand the different limitations we all have, within ourselves and within our families. Very few parenting decisions are between "good" and "bad." Many of them are between "good," "better," and "within the realms of our current capabilities."
In response to some criticisms about content in Mothering Magazine, editor Peggy O'Mara wrote the following:
"Recognizing that our ideas, beliefs, and attitudes about our children and ourselves as parents are always in process keeps us from turning our good ideas into dogma. Natural family living is full of good ideas. There's plenty of evidence that responsive parenting works well. And yet ideas, no matter how good they are, must be forged by real-life experiences. We have to learn how to mediate them with the inevitably uncontrollable nature of family life.
Certainly we will feel regret when things turn out different from what we'd hoped. And we all ask the proverbial "Why?" when bad things happen. Too much time spent trying to answer this question, however, can distract us from finding out something even more important: What can I learn from this experience?
A bad experience is like a dive for buried treasure. There is a wreck. Someone has to figure out what happened and remember what to do the next time. Everyone hopes to find the treasure hidden in the wreck, even though many doubt that it's there at all. Like a bad experience, once we mine our regrets for information about what we might have done differently, and what we might do if the same circumstances arise again, we've already discovered a lot of treasure. When the time is right, we can then let the experience go."
-Regrets - A Quiet Place by Peggy O'Mara
So yes, you will see me talk, and even preach, about the things I believe are the best choices for the well-being of children in particular and families as a whole, but very rarely will I follow that up with "and you are completely wrong if you do/don't." I have, in fact, been humbled by my terrible births. That does not make them less painful or disappointing, but it does give them meaning beyond "my body just couldn't and wouldn't."
Not to say I won't get in your face for making what I think are stupid choices, but, you know, rarely.