Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

baby hand holding mama handSeveral years ago, when Mikko was but a glimmer in the future, in those pre-child days when I was filled with certainty of how everyone should parent because I'd had the good fortune never to have had to prove it, I met a woman online who was a parent in fact.

It was a sort of random meeting. Sam did a lot of film criticism, so Sam and I watched a lot of movies and talked them over together, and we became involved in a Christian online film forum where it was, at the time, a bunch of guys … and me. I don't remember what movie it was, but talk turned to childbirth and the theology of pain. Being a woman (the only non-lurking woman), I felt a responsibility to tell my gender's side of the story. To me, it wasn't entirely an abstract discussion, as it was to these young guys — it was my future. I would be giving birth, and I was adamant:

  1. I did not like pain.
  2. I would have an epidural.

Theologically speaking, I think I was in the right. I won't go into all that here, but I stand by my arguments that God (at least not a God I'd want to believe in) is not big on making people suffer.

Birth-wise, though, my thoughts were unformed and knee-jerk, based on cultural norms rather than my own research or experience. I knew of two options for birthing:

  1. Natural, i.e., screaming
  2. Epidural, i.e., heaven

I couldn't fathom why anyone wouldn't agree with me on this. I even brought most of the guys to my side (in retrospect, ack) … except for one. He was married and was one of the few parents on the film board. He and his wife had several children, and he told me she had chosen natural birth at a birthing center for all of hers. He convinced her to sign up for an account with the message board so she could chat on the subject.

I was prepared to be skeptical. She was Catholic, so I suspected some sort of religious devotion to suffering. (Any Catholics reading along can roll their eyes at this point; that's fine.)

She talked about how she had wanted a natural birth because of the negative effects epidurals can have on newborns and on the progression of labor and the start of breastfeeding. She talked about how she didn't believe women were intended by God to suffer — and how, indeed, she tried not to through her natural birthing techniques, including water birth. She talked about how much she loved the birthing center and how distraught she was that her state's new laws were threatening the legality of birthing centers and the use of health insurance at them.

What she didn't do was what I was doing back to her. Well, I hope I was at least polite; I'm too afraid to go back and read what I wrote back then. But she didn't talk down to me. She didn't treat me like some sort of freak show. She heard my point of view, agreed with what she agreed with, disagreed with other points politely, and simply told her story. Without fanfare, without trying to persuade me over to her side, without berating me for choosing "wrong," and without any apparent hopelessness that I would ever change, she just laid it out: I had several natural births, she said, and I enjoyed it, and I am going to again.

Fast forward a few years, and I'm researching birth options for myself. If you can't guess, I ended up, somehow, in the natural birth camp. I no longer think of natural birth as being for martyrs and hippies and people who aren't smart enough to know what medical science has to offer. How I got there is a whole 'nother story, for another day, but suffice it to say that now I'm the one who confidently goes around telling other women, Yup, I had a natural birth. Yes, I would do it again.

And I feel like I'm now in that woman's place: often alone, often the only one voicing that opinion in a clamor of people advocating hospitals and interventions and oh, no, the pain.

My parents, for instance, were quite baldly concerned when they heard we were planning a home birth — and my dad told me afterward he was relieved we had ended up transferring to the hospital. It was kindly meant, but it was almost like a slap in the face, when I was grieving the loss of my planned peaceful birth. It also said volumes about his trust in my research and my common sense.

So I'm always wary when I discuss birth options with people around me, which has come up most often in church groups. Pregnant women would swap stories and advice about which hospital has the best birthing suite or which OB is the most sympathetic, and when I'd put in a plug for a midwife or using a birthing tub, I usually got blank stares back, or worse.

I remember awkwardly trying to explain, for instance, why using childbirth hypnosis wasn't anti-Christian and having to correct a misapprehension that Hypnobabies didn't in fact hypnotize the baby but the mother. All right, that one made me chuckle.

So you can imagine my surprise when the same person who thought Hypnobabies was for babies announced to me a few months ago at her baby shower, "Oh, yes, we're having a home birth. I thought you'd like to know, since you were our inspiration for it."

You could have knocked me over with a chux pad.

This friend is an accountant and very logical and ordered. I knew she was health-conscious and that she and her husband were into green living, but I had no idea she was even considering natural birthing options. I wouldn't have expected it. Even though they had asked me some questions about Mikko's cloth diapers and elimination communication and breastfeeding and other topics, I somehow always assumed it was either idle curiosity or, I don't know, ammunition to disagree with me? Which seems very uncharitable in retrospect.

We went over to see the little family, their baby boy now a couple weeks old. The new mother was nursing him when I walked in. As we were talking, she pointed to the corner of the living room and said, "He ended up being born there, in the tub we had set up. I hadn't even planned on that, but it just ended up being right."

So there my story comes full circle. I still don't think of myself as an inspiration. I don't credit my wonderful choices and advocacy for this friend's or anyone's choices, because — well, for one, I'm sure there were a lot of motivations leading to her decision, and, for two, I'm not that vain. But it's funny now to think of that natural-birthing mama on the film board, and how I disparaged her choices all the while they were sneakily planting a seed in my brain. I keep thinking now that if she remembers me at all, she must remember me as the person who was so against natural birth, the person who would never change her mind in a million years. I feel like I need to contact her, to let her know: You were an inspiration to me. You opened up my mind to a new way of thinking, even though it took a few years to bear fruit.

It gives me hope. It makes me humble, too. I don't have to change people's minds. I don't have to railroad them into agreeing with me. I can just live, share my story, be calm and cheerful and confident about my choices, and people might just be attracted. It's not my fault if they aren't, and not my accomplishment if they are. I can be a role model without stressing about it. I am a role model, whether I want to be or not. I hope I can continue making choices with integrity so that I'm pleased whenever anyone wants to follow in a path I've chosen, just as I'm happy to follow those before me.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


mrs green @ littlegreenblog.com said...

You made me cry. That was SUCH a powerful story; thank you so much for your open, honest sharing. For being true to yourself and being so humble with everything you have done. You ARE an inspiration through all you share on your wonderful site.

Big (((HUGS)) to you mama :)

mamapoekie said...

Very beautiful.
Isn't it funny how we can change so much in so little time. Huz often says he would like to meet us as we were four years ago. How different we are now. What would us then think of us now and vice versa. I think we almost went 180 since then. And I so agree... it's the small things that change minds, not the big shouting

Joni Rae said...

This is all kinds of awesome.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Your story is exactly what I wanted to convey today: that our actions, no matter how small or unplanned or inconspicuous, can *plant a seed.* And really, that's all that is often needed. I do love the full circle aspect of this story. Yet another example of the ripple effect I've seen in many of our other writers' stories today. We are the seeds of change, my friend!
And you are an inspiration for me, too. I talked about you and your amazing writing in yesterday's post. I really lucked out finding and partnering with you! :) (p.s. we're still working on that vacay your direction this late summer/early fall - I cannot tell you how giddy with excitement I am that we could meet in person!)

Jamie said...

oh! wonderful! i love the idea that we don't have to mow people down with our ideas to get the point across. just be ourselves, live our lives, and be a positive example.

i was, in just the months before jude's birth, totally creeped out by breastfeeding. WOW the 180° i've done on THAT issue! sometimes you just don't know better until you've been there.

Deb Chitwood said...

What a wonderful story! It’s amazing to think that just living your life will have an influence on many. And your blogging about natural parenting just adds that much more inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what Dionna said. Beautiful story. I hope you feel super proud of how you have inspired your friend and all the people that read your blog cuz we ARE inspired by you!

Recovering Procrastinator said...

That's how I live my faith life and I never thought about it in terms of natural parenting but I guess I do it there too.

I don't evangelize to people about the wonders of cloth diapers of cosleeping unless they ask. I make it known that I do these things by mentioning them in passing as if I were mentioning the fact that I eat pizza.

Maybe making these choices a non-issue is the best way to plant the seeds.

I think you should try to find that woman who inspired you. I know I would love to hear from someone if they had a similar experience with me.

Jessica said...

I had a planned homebirth, but ended up in the hospital, too and there was definitely a mourning period. But try as I might, I couldn't convince my sister to even entertain the idea of a homebirth (or even a doula). I'm still flummoxed on that one: she saw the amazing care that I received from my midwife and how much I trusted her and my body... in that one respect, I wish I'd had a world of influence because she ended up laboring for THREE days, with two THREE trips to the hospital to only finally being admitted the third time. I still wish so badly that she had had a doula with her to help her...

Anyway, I digress - my point is that I am so happy for you that you were able to positively affect one family's, one woman's birthing experience. It's an amazing, powerful thing.

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

What a really great story. I had two kids by very unnatural means (one was even born when I was completely knocked out on general anesthetic) but if it had been possible for us, I think it's the way to go.

Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries said...

Wow, going from thinking hypnobabies hypnotizes the baby (LOL!) to a homebirth - that is so wonderful. I always find great inspiration at your blog Lauren and you and Dionna have fostered a wonderful community of bloggers!

Melodie said...

This post really made me smile. It's so familiar somehow that pre-mom knowing so many of us have. I loved reading your story.

seekingmother said...

A beautiful detailed story. With your wealth of knowlege and conviction, it's amazing to me that you didn't come out of the womb knowing this was the way to go. Thank you for allowing us to see your development and sharing how this has lit the torch for others coming down the road. As always, incredibly rich writing.

Chris (@tessasdad) said...

Wow, you're an incredible writer! Glad I found you :)

Anonymous said...

You never know how what you say will inspire others. I know that there are people who inspired me, and probably have no idea that they did so. I like to think that I may have done the same thing for someone else. I may never know, but all the same I will just keep living my life and setting the best example I can, and hoping that I'm sowing seeds in the process.

Lauren Wayne said...

First, a big thanks to all of YOU for being so inspiring to me! Thank you for writing, reading, commenting, and showing me what natural parenting looks like.

mamapoekie: I've totally wondered the same thing! What would Past Me think about Present Me, and what would Future Me say??

Dionna: Your post where you referenced me is one of many open in my browser that I am meaning to comment on! :) And I am so looking forward to meeting you, too. Hope it all comes together!

The Grumbles: That's inspiring in itself, to go from creeped out to an advocate! It makes a difference when it's no longer abstract, doesn't it? I felt weird about breastfeeding for approximately two awkward seconds after my son was born while everyone was watching us latch and then — it was just normal from there on out.

Recovering Procrastinator: That's a great parallel, and I love the idea of mentioning things "as if I were mentioning the fact that I eat pizza." I will try to track the woman down. I know where I can reach her husband, so I figure he can pass a message along to her! :)

Jessica: Your poor sister! THREE days?? Aren't midwives wonderful? I have trouble breaking through barriers that they're not hippy-dippy non-medical practitioners. I remember my dad saying that he wouldn't have believed Mikko's super-high birth weight if the midwives had weighed Mikko instead of the hospital. And I'm thinking, Um, the midwives use a digital scale (just like the hospital's). I'm picturing his imagination on this front like so: The midwife hefts the baby in one hand and says, "I can feel by his aura that he weighs approximately eleven river rocks and thirteen sparrows." (Not that there's anything wrong with being hippy-dippy! Ha ha!)

Marilyn: Wow! That must have been some emergency if you were completely out. I'm glad you all came through it OK.

Thank you all for your compliments! You know I eat 'em up like sugar. (And, yes, I've been known to eat sugar straight up.) Love you all!

Lisa C said...

I love this post. I like to think I'm planting seeds in other people's minds. I know how there have been many things that I used to disagree with that I now embrace. When you finally have that ah-ha! moment, it's hard not to think that you've discovered the best way...unless you are good about being humble!

Luschka said...

Okay - baby's asleep - so here's the long awaited comment. I loved your post. I was nodding all the way through, and I felt like I was talking to a kindred spirit. After reading it, I wished I could run across the road and give you a big hug. (I'm not a stalker, promise!) It is so amazing to hear that I'm not alone in these thougths and experience (i.e. the negativity towards homebirth from the family- although they have now all changed their minds after an amazing & successful experience). I had a friend email me just this morning following my 'upstream parenting' post to say that she wanted me to know that I am a big influence and I have led her to think differently about things. She said that she is finding motherhood so much easier this time round, doing things the more natural way and that the most recent thing I opened her eyes to is baby led weaning. It is amazing to me that I could be having such a tangable impact on someone's life. I relate so well to the thoughts and feelings this post conveys.

Secondly, and possibly most importantly, it is phenomenal to me to find another naturally parenting parent who is also a Christian. My choices seem to be main stream, blind and Christian, or raising their children in the same way as me, but Pagan. I find that really hard to deal with sometimes. I am all for teaching my daughter about nature and natural healing, but because God created them, not because of the earth goddess or whatever. It is amazing to hear a sister soul speaking words that make me feel less of a social outcast. So yeah. Thank you for that.

Melissa said...

What is it about accountants? Ha ha, another accountant who planned home birth, here. One of my labor mantras was "so many people do this more than once on purpose that it can't be that bad" and it wasn't. I figure sharing how and why I did it can't hurt anyone and could help, especially people who know me and know there's nothing extraordinary about me.

Megan said...

Loved this story! With me, the seed was planted by my high school English teacher, an amazing woman who I really admired (and still do, though we've lost touch). She had a baby part way through my senior year. When she came back from maternity leave, she proudly showed us pictures of her daughter and mentioned that she had been born at home, and that it had been a beautiful experience. I remember thinking she must be insane and that I would definitely be having an epidural if *I* ever had a baby! But the fact that someone I so respected was so openly in favor of homebirth and breastfeeding really stuck with me. Ten years later, when it came time for me to research my options regarding childbirth, I was much more open to the idea of natural childbirth thanks to my teacher's wise words. Bet my 18-year-old self would never have guessed I'd wind up breastfeeding a toddler who was born at home in a birthing pool! ;-)

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