By Tracy G. Cassels
I recently posted this piece (click here if you haven’t read it and care to) acknowledging the many ways we have failed families in our society and that we need to stand up and take ownership of this if we’re going to change things. It was well-received by many and yet many others couldn’t stand it. I’ve been called everything from a bully to a sanctimommy. And while I generally don’t care what people think of me, what bothered me is that it screams of another issue that I want to speak about – that we are systematically trying to ignore and strip away the voices of those who don’t conform to what mainstream parenting and birth is today.
I read comment after comment from women who said the piece was crap because they loved their medicated birth. Okay, that’s wonderful. But nowhere did I suggest that (a) women should feel guilt over their births, or (b) that having a medicated birth was bad. I did, however, speak up about the many women who I know – both personally and via EP – who have had horrible birth experiences where they were subjected to interventions they didn’t want, didn’t need, and ultimately caused distress and in some cases, post-partum depression. I’m honestly happy when people are happy with their births! Isn’t that how it should be? That we should be fully armed with all information so we can make the decisions that are right for us and be aware if things go astray what we’re heading into? I know women who have fond memories of their c-sections, of their epidurals, of their inducted births, but in my happiness for them, I don’t ignore the other side. Those who weren’t happy. And so when you comment that stuff like what I wrote is crap because epidurals are great, you’re missing the entire point. Epidurals CAN be great, but they can also cause grief for a lot of women. And it’s THEM I was apologizing to. It’s them who needs a voice in this battle to make sure their next birth – whatever it looks like – is something they can leave feeling happy about. Like you.
I also read comments suggesting it was ironic that I speak out against those who treat baby training books as gospel because isn’t that what I’m doing? Telling parents exactly what they should do? Um… no. If you’ve read the site you should be aware of that. I make no bones about my views on certain things like CIO, but nowhere is there a guide here telling you how you should parent outside of providing information so you can trust yourself and look to your baby as to what is going to work for you. Heck, I’ve written as much. And the fact that of the people who regularly comment on EP here and on FB have such a wide variety of practices tells me most people get this. We have all types of births featured on the site here as birth stories. We have formula families, donor milk families, and breastfeeding families. We have bed-sharers, co-sleepers, and kids in their own room. We have baby wearers and stroller users and those that mix it up. We have all this because people here know it’s about finding what works for a family all while making sure everyone is educated about the choices they make and then fighting for everyone to have both access to this information and the ability to truly make a choice. How can we say families have a real choice to breastfeed if they want when there are so many blocks up against them? Or for a woman to have an unmedicated birth in some hospitals? We can’t. And that’s why we fight and work to provide education.
I also was accused of trying to make women feel guilty. To this I shake my head. If you read anything in this piece suggesting you should feel guilt, then I recommend you look deep inside yourself because you’re projecting whatever is going on in there onto me. In not one spot does it suggest families should feel bad. At all. For the families who used CIO because they were at their wits end? There’s no judgment, but rather a true sadness that our society is so screwed up that you got to that stage to begin with. No one should have to be that sleep deprived and have to work and take care of a child and expect to do it all on their own. They shouldn’t. And that’s exactly the type of sadness I do feel. I am deeply sorry that you want to keep this as the norm so that other families experience the stress of being that tired and having too much to do. I would hope your own experiences would serve to propel you towards wanting to change that.
In some ways I’m really happy to see these negative comments. As one person said, it means something struck a chord. It also gets people talking, which is great. But if you’re ready to jump on and say that your experience negates that of millions of women, please think again. You are entitled to be happy with your choices as a parent. You are entitled to not feel shamed for them. The hope is that everyone can make real choices with information and support so that everyone can feel happy about them. Because right now, a whole lot of people aren’t.
[Image Credit: Nicole Forrester Blog]