Friday, June 4, 2010

Moving Beyond the Mommy Wars

Whether it's breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, cloth vs. disposable diapers, cosleeping vs. independent sleeping, or stay-at-home mom vs. working mom, it's inevitable that people find ways to judge each other in motherhood. Perhaps it is because we tend to define ourselves by our choices, that we tend to take these things so personally.

The judgmental attitudes begin even before we even officially become mothers, during pregnancy and birth. Pejorative rhetoric abounds in comment threads on internet articles and blog posts regarding birth issues such as midwifery, homebirth, VBAC, and high cesarean rates. One term that is often thrown around is selfish. It's "sefish" to try to avoid medical intervention `because it's putting your experience above the safety of the baby, it's "selfish" want pain relief because *that's* putting your experience above the baby's safety, it's "selfish" to want to avoid a c-section out of fear of surgery, it's "selfish" to opt for a c-section out of fear of damage to the vagina, it's "selfish" to have a homebirth because of the risks, it's "selfish" to schedule an elective induction because of the risks, it's "selfish" to go past 40 weeks, it's "selfish" to want a homebirth, it's "selfish" to want a care provider you know at your birth, it's "selfish" to want a VBAc...the list goes on.

The truth is that having a baby is one of the most unselfish things a woman can do. Women usually make their choices based on what they believe is best for their babies and for themselves. There are differences of opinion on what actually is the best choice, but it is never selfish for a woman to want to be involved in decisions that affect her and her baby. It is also not selfish to enjoy the process by which your baby comes into the world. Many women really enjoy natural childbirth and find it empowering and rewarding (and no one should automatically assume they are not one of these women). Other women choose to enjoy their birth using pain medication. I have given birth both ways, and enjoyed each in its own way. Neither was selfish.

Natural childbirthers are often accused of having elitist attitudes. They say that we think we are better than them because we had a natural birth, and seem to think that the only reason we did it was so that we could rub it in their faces that we are superior. Although I do see some of the elitist attitude, I feel our motives for sharing our stories are being misconstrued. It's not meant to be a "look at me, look at me, I'm so awesome because I had a natural birth and you didn't" thing. It's meant to be a "I did this, it was awesome for me, and it can be for you, too" thing. I think it just doesn't come across that way because of knee-jerk defensive reactions, which are then met by more defensiveness, and a bunch of angry name-calling ensues.

As natural childbirth advocates, we are sometimes guilty of labeling everyone who doesn't make the same choice as "uneducated about her options." This is not always true, and even in cases where it is, it is insulting. People don't often listen to things that people who insult them are trying to say. Women who seek to "advocate" for natural childbirth will not get anywhere with name-calling. The more we respond to insult with insult, the more everyone will be insulted. I would like to hope that we can rise above the petty "mommy wars" and share our experiences and information in ways that don't belittle, accuse, or insult.