"He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living hand to mouth."
~ Goethe


Saturday, May 17, 2008

In the Beginning, There Was Woman ~ Affirmation for my Sisters

One of the enormous benefits of retiring from a profession ostensibly devoted to "women" and "babies" and "choice" and "freedom" is that I now get to live alongside those terms in totality instead of within the limited context of a job description.  In short, I get to actually devote myself to a wholistic understanding of women and their lives and not to the narrow, devisive and combative wilderness known, in variable terms as the "mommy wars" and "midwifery" and "homebirth"; adjectives often used as though they are synonymous but which, in fact, denote very different experiences and values.

It is an enormous relief to no longer have to sit quietly by while women gather in tight little groups, usually divided neatly along lines of birth choice, infant feeding choice, work-or-stay-home choice or overall reproductive choice; and listen respectfully while they endeavor to maintain their version of "right womanhood" to the exclusion and derision of anyone outside the charmed circle.  It's a breath of fresh air to be able to listen to women who've made all kinds of choices about their lives speak freely, on this blog, and in person,  and have the satisfaction of knowing that they won't be hammered, at least not in my hearing, for living their lives, birthing their childen, feeding and raising them on their own terms.  I know that before there were so many "choices" there were women.........

Someone e mailed me a few days ago to ask me a question that she feared, literally feared, asking me by posting a comment on my blog.  She is a new mother with a 5 week nursing baby, and a two year old.  Her husband is in the Army and is deployed overseas; she hasn't seen him in more than 5 months.  He has the opportunity to spend some time in Germany over the next 3 weeks and he wants her to fly over there for a weeks' visit and she very much wants to go. Her mother and mother in law are encouraging her to go and have both offered to take care of the little ones'; she knows she will have to put the baby on formula temporarily but, she really feels that it's important for them to have this time together but now she wonders if she is just being "selfish".   She told me that she posted her question on another "message board" and was roundly criticized for even considering "abandoning" her baby and toddler and was told, in sometimes vague but often, quite stark terms, that she obviously "cares" more about having a good time with her husband than in caring for and nurturing her children!  There was the usual round of "armchair psychology" with questioning why she feels she "needs" to "get away" from her babies and "doesn't her husband understand that these early weeks are crucial for attachment and bonding?" and then the statements from on high: "Nursing your baby is more important than any trip to Europe" and "The marriage will still be there when the babies are older and don't need you so much".    She said she felt literally chased off the site and, when she returned to try to further explain her situation; found that, in her absence, women were coming in droves to label her everything from a "sicko" a "psycho" and of course, "selfish" and "so sad".  This is followed, of course, by the several rounds of self-congratulation and group reassurance
 that they are, of course, the "real mothers" of the Universe who sacrifice everything for their babies, never leave them with anyone, homebirth, homeschool, co sleep and the entire package now roundly accepted as the new "norm" for avoiding the still-feared label of "bad mother".

She crawled away into the dark and quietly e mailed me to ask me "what do you think I should do?"

I told her to buy that plane ticket and have a wonderful time!

In the beginning, there was woman.......

I wish someone could tell me how, in this post-modern, post-feminist culture; we have recreated a mosaic of Victorian and 1950's "Leave it to Beaver" blended up with a dose of Freud that catapults motherhood back into the gilded cage of "shoulds" and "oughts" and competitive, driven, neurotic and isolated Stepford Wives who live the "Feminine Mystique" of Betty Friedan but won't even dare to rediscover the "problem which has no name" because they don't even know how to ask the question!

How did the midwifery and homebirth culture of the late 60's and 70's evolve into promoting a parenting ideology that is so essentially anti woman and anti freedom?  It didn't start out this way.  When Ina May and Stephen Gaskin created the Farm Community, it was an egalitarian and democratic culture that placed enormous value on birth, babies, breastfeeding and bonding but had an almost diametrically opposed position on how to attain those goals than the current "natural parenting" community does.  This was a commune, remember.  Communitarian values were the esssential core of the Farm ethic.  Everyone on the Farm had a job within the community and so they created a really viable and flexible child-care system so that everyone could work!  Some of the Farm jobs were the "kid care teams"!  None of those women were "staying home" with their nursing babies!  They took them to work or they left them with other women in the community, sometimes utilizing a "wet nurse" model and sharing even the breastfeeding relationship amongst themselves.  There was a lot more freedom and support for the women to be their own, unique, individual selves! 

When I first began having children, 20 years ago, it never occured to me to try to find a group of "like minded" parents!  I knew, before I even considered a pregnancy, what my  birth choices would entail ( being a midwife made narrowing that down pretty easy ) and I intended to breastfeed and I also knew that I wanted to homeschool my kids, as did my husband.  Even among the midwives and homebirth families I knew; there was little discussion about these things and I honestly never heard anyone criticized for doing something else.  When a planned homebirth ended up in transport, there was concern for the mom and baby, hope that all was, or would be, well, but no comment, critique or wondering who was to 'blame'.  When an occasional bottle of formula needed to be given, for whatever reason, well....no one ever knew, really, because no one thought anyone would care!  It didn't seem like a big deal and parents hired baby sitters, usually sometime within the baby's first few months, to go out to dinner, or to a family event and there was no idea that anyone's "bonding" would be disrupted or that the woman who went "out" and "away" from her baby for whatever reason should now be the topic of some kind of psychological torture or battering.  If I wanted to go do something, I did it!  I took one baby to a wedding at 6 weeks.  Another, I left with my mother in law to attend a funeral.  I left my baby, Emma, and 3 and a half year old Stephen with my mother when I went to the Farm, actually, to do some midwifery workshops and wanted my husband to go with me; we had a fantastic time!  Emma, by the way, is now nearly 17 and a completely delightful, responsible and bright beam and she and I have an unusually close relationship; she has, for the last 3 years, been my "right hand" at births and has always eagerly helped my client families with babysitting, postpartum help and encouragement!  Kids' are resilient and much smarter than we give them credit for; children know when they are loved and valued and I can assure every mother reading this that it has not one thing to do with birth choice or experience, feeding or sleeping arrangements or type of baby carrier!   It has to do with an authentic capacity to appreciate and value another human being and that capacity is not represented by a breast any better than with a bottle! 

 I breastfed all of my children into toddlerhood except for Samuel, who was never able to get beyond being gavage fed high-protein/high calorie formula.  Samuel was born through a classical incision into my womb as was proper for him; he was too fragile to have survived a normal birth.   I have come to love the tiny remnant of scar on my belly that reminds me that Samuel was born.  I have painful adhesions throughout my pelvis that cause me considerable discomfort at times but, I  choose to think of them ( along with my hot flashes! ) as "power surges" remembering the stalwart soul that came into the world with so little hope of survival and yet, brought so much love and compassion into my life.  Samuel was, and is,  a darling of my heart, even now, nearly 3 years after his death.  We never did any kind of "bonding" of the sort that my midwifery and natural parenting community holds to be so essential yet, he remains my "sweet boy" and my muse.  We were soul mates, Samuel and I.  Neither birth, nor breast, nor life nor death impacted our relationship; it existed and still exists, because that is the true nature of "bonding and attachment"--two souls brought together for a purpose beyond either of their ability to comprehend.  Breastfeeding my healthy children was a delight; feeding Samuel through a gavage tube was an act of will that, at some point, I realized, represented a kind of loving and devotion I had never had the opportunity to experience.  It gave me the same sense of doing my best for my child as breastfeeding ever did because I knew that for Samuel; there was no other way to nourish him.  He had no muscle tone and was prone to aspiration so, it was critically important that he be held in a very upright position on a lap while holding aloft this tubed feeding apparatus. He could only take a few cc's a time without refluxing all of it back up so, feeding him took close to an hour each time and he was fed every three hours around the clock.  At some point during the feeding, he would lean his soft little body into whoever was feeding him and then he would tip his head back and look up into the face above him; Samuel was blind so, whatever he saw, he viewed through the eyes of faith and love.  Breastfeeding was wonderful; feeding Samuel through that tube: transcendent!

Being a mother is about being a mother........We give birth.  We do our best each and every time.  That's enough; just being who and  what we are and loving what we do; is enough.

Prior to the 1950's, it was highly unusual for mothers' to spend the kind of time and attention now lavished on children and yet, for all the "attachement parenting" going on in the last 20 years; the level of behavioral, emotional and social dysfunction in children has skyrocketed and more young women and mothers are on anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications than at any time in the last two generations!   The last time an entire demographic of mothers were, in large numbers, being prescribed psychiatric medications was back in the late 50's and 60's -- remember "Mother's Little Helper?" 

The idea that "bonding" and "attachment" are delicate, sensitive arrangements that happen only in ideal circumstances, or only with great difficulty if anything imposes on those precious, irreplaceable few hours after birth is nonsense.

Yes, that IS what I said ~ Nonsense!

Bonding and attachment happen, for most women, during pregnancy.  If we didn't arrive at birth already attached to our infants; we would not have the ability to assume their care immediately and we do have that capacity!  The instinct that enables, in fact, drives a woman to reach for her newly born baby as it emerges from her body is the instinctive awareness of primal relationship to this small, helpless person she is hormonally, psychologically and emotionally primed, during pregnancy, to learn to know and care for, her hidden child!
 We have evolved from women who would have given birth in potentially dangerous or threatening environments.  To ensure the safety and life of the infant; the mother must have an immediate attachment that enables her to act on behalf of her offspring in order to protect it's life.  If our bonding to our children were as delicate an endeavor as we in the "natural parenting" community have manipulated women into believing; the entire species would be extinct!

Over the last 20 years, the "natural parenting" movement that grew out of Midwifery has had the bewildering side effect of polarizing women against women and mothers against mothers.  There is a definite generational divide, in my readership, between women older than 45 who may have opted for "midwifery" attended birth in home or hospital/birth center, and who happily breastfed but who, for the most part, worked outside the home in some capacity, possibly homeschooled but in a very open, communitarian way; helping their children establish learning and social experiences across a broad spectrum of neighborhood and society.  They maintained very active and diverse contacts within their respective communities and families. The women who are 35 and under who are making the same basic parenting choices but seem, in large numbers, to have embraced a kind of moral and emotional zealotry that is essentially fundamentalist!  There is a strict code for "good mothering" that holds that homebirth, attended or unattended with the "supermother" edge given to those who birth unassisted, extended breastfeeding, co sleeping,  no separation of mother and baby for any reason at any time well into toddlerhood, and homeschooling that is far more isolationist, in terms of the broader culture, than what we embraced back in the late 80's and early 90's.  The kids seem to spend most days alone, at home, with mom and the social contacts are limited largely to planned activities with other homeschooling families.  There seem to be more issues with extended family over these choices and I think it may be because of what looks like a kind of "separatist" nature to the lifestyle choices, as opposed to the more "community" oriented goals of the earlier decades.

What I am finding increasingly disturbing is the viciousness of the attacks!  The name calling!  I honestly thought that once people were past, say, High School, the labeling and negating of someone by verbally assaulting them or questioning everything from their character to their sanity, just kind of went by the wayside but, on many of the blogs and forums; there is a veritable tsunami of ugly and  cruel taunting, slurs and character assassination.  Women, like the mother who wrote to me, are called "insane" and "freak" and "loser" and I can't even bring them all to mind.  And why?

Because a woman who happens to be a mother wants to do something for herself that doesn't involve her new baby.

In the beginning, there was woman.

Before a woman is a mother; she is a woman.

Before a woman is a mother, she is someone's partner and lover.

A woman is more than her mothering; more than her birth and parenting choices. 

A woman should be a free agent; encouraged and empowered by her sisters to make her own best choices in all areas.

A woman who gives birth is a mother; regardless of how.

A woman who feeds her child is a good mother; regardless of how.

A woman who takes care of her primary relationship is a good mother because the relationship between the parents' is the foundation for that child's life.  Without the example of loving partnership set by the parents; the child has no ability to create or sustain relationships in his own life.  

A woman who is honest about her needs and who knows how to get those needs met; is a good mother.  A woman who knows her limits, chooses freely, each day, what is needed for that days life, sets an example of flexibility, openness to new ideas and creativity.  Sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end, conversing with a bunch of strangers on a forum instead of going out into the world and establishing real relationships and working through the inevitable issues of genuine, human contact and connection; teaches children to be afraid and to avoid confrontation with the world, leaving them without the skills to establish genuine community. 

Robotically conforming to a predigested, limited palette of parenting choices out of fear of rejection by the same, computer-generated non-relationships permeating the ether is a form of self-neglecting and self-hate that no mother should model for her children; even if they are sitting on her lap breastfeeding while she does it! 

It is not about home/hospital/breast/bottle/stay home/go out/love mate/love child/follow the rules/rage against the machine/.........it's about being real people and about finding, and being, the true self.  When a woman makes choices from her own, interior sense of what is right for her; with due consideration to the health and safety of her mate, children and community; she sets the right example for showing others what true autonomy is and how one lives life "close to the root" of one's own values.

When women develop more expansive personalities; the anxiety and fears go away!  When women begin to respond to the desire to live more truly connected to their own souls and to acknowledge the need for real friendship, companionship and community; they begin to grow and to mother their children with real ferocity that moves outside the box of  "parenting theories", ideals and ideology, to something fluid, relaxed, truly affirming and respectful.  Children need mothers who are women!  Women first........women who have lives and interests and options and creative approaches to problem solving that their children can learn from and emulate!   Children need to see their mothers engaged in real friendship; with actual humans that come and go.  They need to hear voices in conversation and even those raised in furious and fair debate and to see action, consequence and grief, healing and joy!  These things only happen in community and relationship, with others.  

A woman should not be shamed for prioritizing her marriage!  A woman should not even feel that she needs to poll a Universe of strangers for such a personal decision; she should not feel that coming to me, another stranger, was the only safe option after being beaten up by women who themselves have largely insulated and isolated lives, glued to a computer for companionship much of the day and night! 

I left midwifery largely because I will not stand by one more day while women are lied to, broken down and divided up into groups to conquer by the so-called "health care professions".  I will not participate in conversations about birth or parenting choices that don't start with the simple question to the woman in front of me:  "What do YOU want to do?" followed by "What do YOU need to do to be a 'good mother' in your own mind and heart?"  Good mothering is not about a collection of options for birth and infant feeding or baby carriers or homeschooling.   
Good mothering is about being a whole person who has chosen to bring other people into the world to give them a shot at being whole people too.  If a woman is mothering out of a lack of options or if she is making mothering choices out of a belief that options, like breastfeeding or birthing in bliss at home, will allow her to feel powerful and important when she has done nothing else in her life to give her that affirmation; she will not be a good mother because all will be done "on empty"......on fumes.  A good mother doesn't care one bit what "other mothers" are doing.  She makes friends with other mothers' because they have kids in common.  A good mother knows that her kids are watching and that every rejection made on grounds of "choices" and "lifestyle" teaches her children to make similar decisions; contributing one more generation of people who divide and segregate and separate and maintain prejudicial attitudes and judgements.  We end up with another generation of War..........

Peaceful, gentle parenting is not about "choices"; none of them are inherently better than the others ( yes, really ).  It's about modeling self-respect, autonomy and the freedom to be a unique individual with an intact sense of self and an appreciation for one's own creativity and abilities.  It is setting the example of an open-minded attitude about differences; finding them only interesting and not a point of departure or rejection.  If we are to raise our children in the hope of creating a more peaceful world; we then have an obligation to model, for them, peaceful behavior.  We must, as Ghandi said; "Be the change we want to see in the world".   We have to be willing, and become skilled, at the art of peaceful conflict resolution and show a real willingness to understand that there are many ways to skin a cat....and raise a child, and most of those 'ways' will work just fine.  I think that we often assume that because we restrain our judgments and criticism  to something that happens out in the ether; casting our aspersions beyond the computer screens and therefore ( so we assume ) out of the reach of our children, it doesn't matter.  It does matter.  What we communicate out into the world matters; the hurt and pain we inflict always matters and when it's done to other women, treading on the tender ground of their mothering; it contributes to the destruction of that which should make for a better world:  Mothers who are strong, supported, cared for and valued.  Mothers who are affirmed and validated for their strengths and for the hard work they do, every day, to take care of their children.  To attack another mother is to attack oneself, at the core, and the ripple effect of self-hatred always comes back to shore;  often on waves of depression, anxiety and isolation.

Leaving Midwifery, oddly enough, has given me a stronger voice for women!  I no longer have to answer to the needs of a "profession" over the needs of the women and children.  I am free, now, as Wendell Berry puts it "to set aside the fear that one will, in the end, not be radical enough".   I am, and will be, radical enough...... I will never again have to endure the restriction on my own personal freedom in listening to one mother call another mother "sick" or "crazy" or "freak" because she goes on a date with her husband or to a family party or takes a day off alone to regroup instead of dutifully staying at the side of her breastfeeding infant even when her own heart is breaking and her own needs are beckoning her to self-awareness and self-care!  I will never again avoid confronting this "mob" mentality of women who affirm their mothering based solely on never admitting to, or acting on , a need independent of the needs/wants of their young children!  It's not healthy.  It's not good parenting and women deserve better.  A women shutting down her own voice and needs to capitulate to the group dynamic is not "empowered"; she is coerced.  A woman who can't make a free choice about her day because it might mean giving a baby a bottle is a slave, not an autonomous adult person!

In the beginning, there was woman and she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and even though it got her thrown out of the garden; she was empowered with wisdom and truth and she knew who she was!  

This is a blog for women.....about women.......all women.........all mothers..........sisters.........friends.

No more mommy wars.  No more "us against them".  We are all One.

We are women first.

Your Kneelingwoman

91 comments:

amanda said...

Tears are literally running down my face as I read this. Thank YOU, Kneelingwoman, for putting into words so beautifully what I have tried and failed to express so many time. Thank you.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Amanda: Thank you for commenting! I am so glad that this post resonates for you; it works for me too. I am so grateful to have finally "outed" myself as the now former midwife who actually, honestly believes that women are more than their birth and parenting choices. That "birth is as birth does" meaning, as it did when my grandmother used to say to me "smart is as smart does" or "pretty is as pretty does".....we are more than the sum of our component "parts" and experiences! Women should be sisters and should be working towards common goals that protect the inherent human rights of all while encouraging each woman to mother her children according to the precepts and movements of her own soul. Yes, there are women who are abusive or neglectful but when they are, it is because they too, have been unloved and neglected. Those women need our help and support, not to follow some narrow, canned theory of motherhood but in finding the way forward to a life of meaning connected to other people who care about them; good mothering will flow naturally out of that as the river runs out to the ocean!

I am here to use this blog to write women's lives; all lives. No "just us" unless "all of us".

Please keep reading and commenting here; thank you again!

Amy said...

That poor woman! I wonder how many of those critical women have husbands serving in the war? How many have wondered "Is this the last time I will see my husband alive?" I am a military wife by the way . . .
I am constantly amazed at how just plain mean people can be to one another.
And we teach our kids to play nice and fair . . .
Great post. Love your blog
Amy

Rebekah said...

Yes yes yes! And thank you! I have two little children and have felt pressure from all kinds of different people regarding some of my own birth and child raising choices. I appreciate the community that goes into raising my children and generally welcome their input, but sometimes you just need to hear that you should do what's best for you and your family as a whole. Being so early in my journey as a mother, it's hard to feel confident in some of my own choices even when I honestly believe them to be the best given my own personal circumstances.

Alex said...

KW,

Astoundingly beautiful,and apt commentary on modern mothering. Thank you for putting your words out there. This brought me to tears. You have such a clear and eloquent voice, and your writing has made a great impact on this mother. You are a gift to the midwifery community, and I pray they will choose to hear your wise words, and learn from them.

RN2CNM said...

Thank you Kneelingwoman, for putting so eloquently what so many of us think and feel but have difficulty expressing.

There are times when I am just ashamed at the way people act towards one another and the hurtful things they say, all in the name of "good mothering".

I was appalled that someone commented to that poor mother "The marriage will still be there when the babies are older and don't need you so much".
What if the marriage isn't there? What if she neglects the marriage and makes the children her first priority? Who is going to be by her side to hold her hand and share her sadness when the children "don't need" her so much or share the joy when they are older and give her the gift of grandchildren? Sometimes we focus so much on "nurturing" our children and "growing" them that we make them the center of our universe, to their detriment.
Women must also "nurture" and "grow" their marriages in order for them to flourish and thrive.

I always tell the couples (married or not) in my childbirth classes that the most important thing they can do for their child, besides love them, is to love their other parent and foster that relationship. It provides security and stability for children when the parents love, respect, and enjoy one another. Otherwise, how will these children ever learn how to establish their own intimate relationships and keep them strong?

Susan said...

You have amazing insight and wisdom. Thanks for the sharing what you have learned and sharing so eloquently.

estherar said...

Absolutely beautiful, KW.

With your permission, I'm sending some blog traffic your way. This should be read by all mothers.

dura femina said...

What a lovely post, with many good points. I enjoyed reading it.
I have a couple thoughts.

First, you might wish to note that your audience is narrow. Mothers in the US, or perhaps industrialized nations, we realize are a tiny segment of the population of mothers, to most of which words like "Good mothering is about being a whole person who has chosen to bring other people into the world to give them a shot at being whole people too." sounds like so much abstract blathering.


You say “A woman who takes care of her primary relationship is a good mother because the relationship between the parents' is the foundation for that child's life. Without the example of loving partnership set by the parents; the child has no ability to create or sustain relationships in his own life.”

And RN2CNM says “ What if she neglects the marriage and makes the children her first priority? Who is going to be by her side to hold her hand and share her sadness when the children "don't need" her so much or share the joy when they are older and give her the gift of grandchildren?”

What absolute rubbish. “Primary” relationship? Your anglo-judeo-christian bias is showing. Of course I realize it is not your intent to say single mothers (by choice or circumstance) cannot be good mothers. And consider this, not everyone considers the sexual/reproductive relationship to be the primary one. Nor is it the one best way to view the relationship. Of course, for those who share your belief system, you may be right. Those who would be lost without a man to ‘hold her hand’ in later years should probably work to make sure they are not left without. But honestly now, you can see that many of us right here in the US, your intended audience, would not wish to elevate the sexual relationship above that of being a mother, right? Even within your assumed demographic not everyone fits this narrow focus.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hello Dura Femina: The "axis" around which this particular post revolves has to do with a young mother who was expatriated due to her desire to spend time, without her infant, with her husband overseas where he is stationed in the military. I am very aware that there are single mothers, lesbian mothers, and mothers from other cultures who will not find this post relevant. I don't think that constitutes "bias" necessarily.

As to guarding and maintaing one's primary relationship; I stand by my statements whether that relationship is one of marriage or other "partnership". Most adults desire, if not need, a relevant, primary "pair bonding" with another adult and most family structures involve that type of pair bonding ( I do have academic background in developmental psychology; I'm not pulling this out of the air ) although, you are absolutely correct, that doesn't necessarily mean a conventionally understood heterosexual marriage/nuclear family arrangment. I believe absolutely that maintaining one's primary adult relationship is crucial to good parenting over the long haul! Part of that has to do with the unmet needs of the parents that often get projected onto the children. Kids are not able to substitute for parents adult relational needs. I don't think anyone is suggesting that women are unable to get through their "golden years" without a man at their side but, I think that if you value your partnership and want it to continue; you have to invest in it just as you do any other relationship.

I don't think it's reasonable to expect that I can cover everyone's particular circumstance in a single post and, again, my illustrative example was one young married woman with a baby who needed some support and help. Actually, my readership has been quite varied and this is not a "mothering" blog per se....it's a human being blog with today's topic being the experience of some mothers in our culture and some thoughts on how these things are viewed by them, and me, right now......

Kneelingwoman said...

And to Rn2CNM and Amanda and Amy and Rebakah and ALL: Thank you for writing and I'm glad the post had something in it for you. I'm hoping to explore these issues more closely as time goes on and I want you all to feel free to suggest avenues of exploration at any time! I'm very open.....

My central thesis is that I want to see women, all women, dealing with motherhood as one more stage of life, a season, that can be just as invested with the woman's own, individual creative potential as any other stage of life or life work. I'm trying to encourage freedom and liberty in motherhood, as well as in all areas of women's lives. I'm deeply concerned about the fact that so many young women, are burdened with the idea that they are defined by how they mother their children; including how they give birth to them, feed them etc. It isn't a question of how or what but who. Who is the person mothering this child? While I respect "dura femina's" comment that talking about "whole person" of parent or child seems like "abstract blathering" it is, in fact, very concrete and very necessary and it is the goal of almost every political, social, religious and philosophical system in every culture throughout recorded history! Cicero and Aeschylus wrote extensively on the "good life" and on the nature of friendship, relationships with family and community and on the role of parents in childhood development!

When we talk about various social justice issues that center on poverty, for instance, we are saying that we recognize that the goal of human life is a "whole" life and that when people are subjected to extreme poverty and it's attendant "ills" of lack of food, shelter, education and healthcare; we are saying that we recognize that these impoverishments prevent people from seeking after becoming "whole". I maintain that our collective goal should be "whole people who want to bring other people into the world to give them a shot at being whole people too" and that it is a good, universal and realizable objective!

That's what we're all doing here; please join in!

Li said...

Bravo! Thank you so much for this essay. I agree with Esther that every young mother should read it. I was especially moved by this:

"I will never again have to endure the restriction on my own personal freedom in listening to one mother call another mother "sick" or "crazy" or "freak" because she goes on a date with her husband or to a family party or takes a day off alone to regroup instead of dutifully staying at the side of her breastfeeding infant even when her own heart is breaking and her own needs are beckoning her to self-awareness and self-care! I will never again avoid confronting this "mob" mentality of women who affirm their mothering based solely on never admitting to, or acting on , a need independent of the needs/wants of their young children! It's not healthy. It's not good parenting and women deserve better. A women shutting down her own voice and needs to capitulate to the group dynamic is not "empowered"; she is coerced. A woman who can't make a free choice about her day because it might mean giving a baby a bottle is a slave, not an autonomous adult person!"

It's a shame, but I find myself avoiding most new mothers because I can't bear the anxiety, self-doubts, self-loathing and judgments. The mothers I enjoy most are those whose children are teens or adults. I feel that I benefit from their wisdom and that they don't have an agenda to push. They also seem much more compassionate than the women with young children who feel they have to denigrate other mothers in order to validate their own parenting.

Finally, I wanted to address the young mother whose husband is in Germany: Go! I would go in a heartbeat. Don't listen to those vicious, disgusting harpies who breastfeed their children but are completely lacking in empathy.

My husband and I have a weekly date night, and it's been absolutely essential to helping us weather baby boot camp and all of the strains of parenthood. Not only does it not hurt our child, it's actually good for him because what he gets in return are relaxed and happy parents who are ready to take care of him because they've taken care of themselves.

KW, I'm so glad you're writing. Bless you.

amanda said...

I know that my mother did not do hours of research into every parenting decision she made. She did not wring her hands and stay awake at night pondering whether taking us to our grandparents house for w eek so she and my father could go on an adult vacation would damage our psyches. She did not wonder if sending us the hospital nursery would forever damage her bind with us. When I eavesdropped on her and her friends, they did not talk about how they gave birth, how they fed their babies, whether they wore their babies, or whether they circumcised their sons. They talked about tv shows they liked, how things at work were going, husbands, etc.

It really seems to me as if motherhood has become a competitive sport. I don't know what has caused it, but it so counterproductive and crazy making. I had people online question my love for my son because I gave birth to him in a "germy hospital" and allowed him to "tortured and mutilated" (circumcised). I had some call me selfish when I shared my decision to stop breastfeeding him when, at 7 months of age, I found out that he had several food allergies that were causing his severe eczema. They said that if I weren't so selfish, I would cut those foods out of my diet and continue to breastfeed. I tried doing that and found myself miserable. Nursing went from a happy, serene thing I shared with my baby to something I resented. So I stopped, and they still bring it up 3 months later if I comment to a post having to do with what brand of humidifier everyone uses.

The people who perpetrate that sort of abuse aren't doing it to help or enlighten anyone. They are only doing it to tear others down and look bigger by comparison. No better than schoolyard bullies.

Kimberly said...

Enjoyed the post and also the comments! I feel the same about some "natural" groups these days - they can be just as zealful as uber-conservative (and/or fundamentalist) groups and just as exclusionary. I believe it is just a symptom of a group lacking a full spectrum of necessary and vocal personalities to make it work. Often it seems as though the chronically loud voices are critical, devisive, and exclusive. This behavior tends to drive away people who may have been interested in exploring a "new" way of thinking.

Well, I pontificate unnecessarily! It was interesting to read about the different way of constructing community in the 60s and 70s. Thank you again for the lovely post.
~ Kimberly
http://labortrials.wordpress.com

Danielle said...

What a wonderful post! I completely agree with you. There is one thing I take exception to, though. I don't think the majority of women practice "attachment parenting". You talk about what dysfunctional children we have despite all of the natural mothering/attachment parenting hoopla. Only 11% of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months and among those I'm not sure how many would even consider themselves "AP" parents. So, I don't think we can lay the blame at the feet of attachment parenting. Although I don't believe the converse is true either. I think much of the dysfunction is due to things that are happening later in childhood (for example, divorce).

Anyway, bravo on the post! I am a mother who homebirths, breastfeeds, co-sleeps, blah blah blah, but I have never felt like I completely fit in with the natural mothering crowd.

Navywifeandmom said...

You know, I'm probably a more "natural parent", but do you ever wonder if perhaps the natural parents group together because THEY are sick unto death of criticism themselves from everyone?

When my first child was born, I had so many other so-called "Christians" telling me that I needed to leave my baby daughter with a sitter. Or that I was turning her into a selfish brat by co-sleeping with her (at age seven she has been sleeping in her own bed just fine since she was three).

I finally gave in and let another mom from our church babysit my daughter even though it did not feel right. And my husband did not want to leave her, either. My dh and I have never been big "date people" and we prefer to do things together as a family yet no one seems to understand this. To this day I regret letting those so-called Christian women bully me into leaving my daughter with them.

Same thing happened again with my second daughter, who was later diagnosed with autism. I was told so often, again by "church women" that I needed to paddle her, that she was just being bad, blah, blah. I knew deep down something wasn't right when she would just throw herself down for NO REASON WHATSOEVER and scream until her little body was exhausted. Of course, I suppose because I was one of those "natural parents" they probably thought my daughter was just a spoiled brat.

I have yet to have anyone criticize me for a non-crunchy choice I have made. I had to put my fourth child on formula at four months of age when she was failing to thrive and no one once criticized me for that. I also left all four of my children and did an overnighter with dh when my youngest child was 8 months old and it was our tenth anniversary and I was never criticized for that, either. Everyone I talked to said "Oh, I wish" or "good for you, that must have been so nice".

I guess what I am trying to say is that you make it sound like mainstream women are these poor, picked on little girls and that all the natural parents and the like are just these big bad meanies waiting to pick on them and tear them to pieces. I am telling you, in MY LIFE'S EXPERIENCE, it has been the opposite. No one has EVER criticized me for a non-crunchy choice that I have made, but I've taken plenty of criticism over the crunchy ones. "Mainstream mommies" are not these innocent, blameless women either.

Maybe some of these crunchy women you see on Internet forums are so sick of crap like the above that I have endured that they decide to band together. Who knows? The Internet is NOT LIKE real life whatsoever. It just isn't.

And as far as church goes, I've pretty much given up on it. I will not be going back. I cannot afford to deal with that kind of crap again when I am flailing myself just trying to hold me and my four, soon to be five, children together while my dh is out at sea. I love God, but honestly most of the time I cannot stand half His people.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi navywifeandmom: I am not even close to saying that "mainstream" women are picked on and "crunchy" moms are all angry bullies--please remember that I come to all of this from the perspective of a homebirth midwife AND crunchy mom whenever it was my free option ( as I've written; I have given birth to 3 children with serious disabilities; two have died ). As I said to "dura femina"; this post was written in direct response to one military mom's dilemma and experience and my own experience, over the last few years, of seeing a real change in the way that "natural parenting" culture berates and negates women who don't, or can't make the same choices. I'm taking a clear position on the "mommy wars" from whichever direction but, on this particular day and post, it happens to be coming from the more "mainstream" culture posed to me as a question about her particular circumstance.

I'm know that the Church situation can be difficult and hard to manage: I was, for many years, a homebirth midwife in a parish literally top loaded with Physicians and Lawyers! I have heard all the criticism of "crunchy" birth and parenting choices and then some.....I do understand.

But, I don't think that the "excuse" that parents who espouse a "loving, gentle" parenting life yet find it acceptable to call other women obnoxious an ugly names to be compatible with that ethic; if we go out on a limb and say that we're "all about gentle, peaceful parenting" and then behave with violence towards others who may disagree ( and may even be equally noxious in their behavior towards us ) it seems to make our positions disingenuous at best!

We have to "be the change we want to see in the world" to quote Ghandi. I'm proposing, and if you read through my entire blog you will see the trend, that we come to the table, this blog, as women first and work towards making our differences only interesting and not devisive.

I am criticizing "my own" because that is what a "prophet" does; calls one's own community to account. I am not, and have not been, a typically "mainstream" anything, let alone mom so, I do feel that my own community can stand, and needs to hear, some "gentle correction" about how we live out the principles we insist we believe in.

I hope that makes more sense to you and please, keep reading and posting your comments; I enjoy being challenged on my positions and it helps me think more clearly and honestly about them. Again, I can only cover "one" issue and side of an issue at any one time; I responded to what came my way. Peace.

Kneelingwoman said...

HI Danielle: I agree with you that the "attachment parenting" is not the problem but I think that a misinterpretation of AP might be. When the original book was published, Jean Leidloff's 'Continuum Concept' it was picked up on in part by various parenting experts ( including Dr. Sears ) and kind of morphed into something that doesn't even come close to what Ms. Leidloff was observing ( in the Yaqui tribe she was working alongside ) or proposing. She was describing a type of parenting, in a dangerous and risky physical environment, of keeping children "in arms" of a caregiver ( not always the mother; very often other caregivers ) until the child wanted to creep and crawl, approximately 6-9 months at which point, the babies are free to follow around their adult careproviders, learning and growing alongside them while they do the work they need to do. THis was a highly communitarian society with children and adults living and working together so the women have a great deal of help and support from the other women,and extended family, in their culture. This is not the model that has been practiced here in the last 10 years or so. My midwifery practice has been made up, predominantly, of young women who spend most of their days in a single, family home with babies and young children, alone. They are often stressed, isolated and have very little help from family or friends. Most of their "friendships" seem to be online or in small groups of "like minded" women but, they still seemed to lack sufficient help at crucial moments, like birth and early parenting, when such help is truly needed.

They wear their babies almost none stop, or carry them. They often object to even the fathers having significant care of the children, insisting that they are "nursing" and the baby needs "them". Their marriages and partnerships suffer enormous strain because their is no private time or energy given to sustain the relationships. The parents are often at odds with extended family because their parenting choices seem "hostile" to the dynamic of others. I have watched this play out over and over and over and when I have suggested that Jean Leidloff did not, in fact, espouse this as a parenting template AT ALL, I am met with everything from outrage to relief....those who express relief usually go and actually read the book and then understand that no "expert" ever suggested that they live with a baby strapped to them for 3 years without a break.

My issue with all of this is that we, in the midwifery community, have put a lot of pressure on women to embrace this lifestyle and many, many of the young women doing so are suffering because of it and don't feel that they can talk about how truly difficult this lifestyle is. They also don't feel that they easily do anything different without losing the support of the "group" for vacillating or deciding to give the occasional bottle or get a baby sitter for a needed break in the action. I don't think people are supposed to live that way! I think women and children deserve better and I think "balanced" is better!

Tricia said...

I've never read your blog before, but I found this post through estherar. THANK YOU - I wish I'd read this two years ago as a new mother; it might have saved me a lot of heartache. I'm definitely closer to the mainstream side of the spectrum, and it's nice to see that not everyone who has chosen differently has contempt for people like me.

Beautiful post - I'll be following your blog from now on. Also, I'm so sorry for the children you lost - having been there, I know how painful that is.

Nine (+) Texans and friends... said...

wow. just....wow!
brava!
you have written what I have felt for a long, long time and have never expressed well.

Have you ever read 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'?


This excerpt resonated with me the very first time I read it and I've never forgotten it.

"Most women had one thing in common: they had great pain when they gave birth to their children. This should make a bond that held them all together; it should make them love and protect each other against the man-world. But it was not so. It seemed like their great birth pains shrunk their hearts and souls. they stuck together for only one thing; to trample on other women...whether it was by throwing stones or mean gossip. It was the only kind of loyalty they seemed to have."

I don't have any angst against men, I am not a 'feminist' in the popular sense of the word. I am a feminist in the sense that women have a lot to offer their children, their families, society and each other as women, individuals with strengths and talents, not trying to be something they aren't.

I parent. Period. No labels please. I don't even parent all my children the same way. My husband and I make decisions together, based on what is best for that child and the family at that particular time.

And oh YES, the marriage is important just as important as mothering. Without a strong marriage, strong family, happy parents...without that foundation where are you?? The marriage will be there when the kids are older? No it won't if you don't nurture and care for it when they are young.

yes, i am a mother. i am also a wife, daughter. friend, neighbor....

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Nine+Texans and friends and Tricia and all new folks to my blog: Welcome! I'm glad you are finding something for you here. And yes, what this blog is about is "women" and their lives and family and community and what needs doing in the world to make it a good place for everyone......I love the excerpt from "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" I read the book years ago but had forgotten that undercurrent in the story! Thank you and yes, exactly what we're talking about here. I know that a few of my readers are "hearing" that I am taking the side of "mainstream" over "crunchy" but, I'm not. The truth is, what I am advocating is that there be no "sides" but that we find our common lives together is women, whether we are mothering or not, and whether we are making any particular one of the million choices we have to make about our births, infant feeding, discipline, education....what I'm after is "FREEDOM" ( imagine William Wallace in Braveheart! ) from the "tyranny of the shoulds, oughts and musts" of parenting media and experts. I think that we are all more precious, special, unique and able, competent and smart than to have to accept a predigested palette of options with a boatload of attitude and judgement thrown in. I'm encouraging a more expansive and joyful way of living our lives and and parenting journey that allow us to engage and dialogue with other women and not have to contend with so much baggage. There are too many things we hold in common to let minor differences in "choice" divide us and "part one" of that is getting our collective heads around the fact that "good mothering" is not a one size fits all ( even, as one of you pointed out, within the same family ) silly putty that can be wrapped around everything.

Breastfeeding, co sleeping, babywearing, homebirth, homeschool can all be good, wise and caring parenting choices but they do NOT make anyone a better parent by default. Parents who choose some, none or all of the above, if they are doing so freely, noncoercively and with a sense of joy are being "good parents". Any choice, made out of sense of obligation to a "group norm" or because one is striving to be "better than" someone else; including one's own mother or family of origin, is not going to be "good parenting" because it's all going to lack a "strong center"; it becomes parenting by reaction, not choice. Anyone, on either side of the "choice" continuum, can easily end up in that place and I believe, very strongly, that all the anger, hostility and rage evidenced when people start savaging each other over these issues is because too many are doing their parenting reactively and not freely which, of course, makes people feel anxious, defensive and sets them up to want to blame someone, or something, "out there" for something that's really happening "in here".

It's about searching our own hearts and minds and finding our own truth and living it out in freedom; that's what allows us to live peaceably with others because we get past the need to "defend" our choices and just live them confidently.

That's what we're here for and writing about and sharing. Thank you all.

Nine (+) Texans and friends... said...

None of this is about 'crunchy vs. mainstream'.
I believe the majority of mothers do not fall so easily into a category but do try and fit themselves into a mold (or let others label them) and there is where the trouble begins.
So many of us who fall in the middle find that we don't 'fit in' with any 'group'. I'm Ok with that now but it was hard as a young mother, trying to find my way.

Take the mom who aspires to the 'attachment parenting' model but say she has to work, or take a medication contraindicated for breastfeeding or finds co-sleeping miserable or her baby doesn't LIKE to be worn....she now has to defend her 'mainstream' parenting choice to others and herself of bottle feeding or crib sleeping or using an exersaucer....
same with the 'mainstream' mamma who finds herself with a perfectly decorated yet empty nursery as she has found co-sleeping works for her, or breastfeeding is going GREAT so she continues past a year....again more guilt, more justification....
it breaks my heart that mothers can't make simple choices that work for them, live those choices, own them and go forward, happy and confident.

Navywifeandmom said...

Honestly, for the most part, I do take the middle road and I don't feel like I fit in anywhere. If you tally everything up, I'm definitely more "crunchy", probably, but I've actually done a little differently with each child. I've co-slept with some, but not all, some for longer than others, I've breastfed for the most part with the exception of formula for my fourth child. Had one hospital birth; three homebirths.

One thing I NEVER bought into was the whole "gentle discipline" thingy; I still spank and use time-outs and always will; with four children under seven I really do not have time to implement all the positive parenting strategies.

I guess I shouldn't say I've never been criticized for any "mainstream" parenting choice I make; I HAVE been criticized for believing in spanking. I remember a few years ago when I had three children under three and my firstborn was so strong-willed. I really hated Dr. Sears and the attachment parenting folks at that time because spanking was really all that would work for her and of course all you read or hear from that crowd is that spanking is abuse and parents who do it deserve to have their kids taken away, blah, blah.

Now I'm at another stage in my life where I am leaning back towards the more "natural" stuff in part because I have a dd with autism who I want to try some biomedical stuff with her. I delay vaccines now and I did not used to do that. I do not think that in my daughter's case that her autism was vaccine induced; she was always kind of "off", it isn't like she had a shot and then changed overnight, but I do not think it was genetic, either as there is ZERO family history on either sides of our family for autistic disorders so I am being extremely careful with my other children.

So guess what I get to log on message boards and read about now? I get to read about what a lousy parent I am because I delay my children's vaccines and how what I do should be illegal and I should have them taken. Worse yet, I get to read about how hey, even if autism is caused by vaccines, that's okay, because autism isn't that bad, it's just a little bit of extra school and the child will probably grow up to be a savant, so parents of children affected by the disorder need to just get over it (yes, I have actually seen these kinds of things written about us on parenting message boards). Mostly from the "mainstream" crowd this time. So I am really starting to resent them now the way I resented the AP parents about four years ago. It's weird how at different stages in my life, even though I'm middle of the road, I've found myself disliking one crowd far more than the other because the things they are saying happen to be critical of what I feel I must do to help one of my children at that particular point in my life. I really feel like I cannot win.

Regardless of what any side feels, I don't think I deserve to have my children taken away. I just want to say give me a break. Spanking and not vaccinating are not abuse. Some people have a pretty warped idea of what child abuse really is.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi again, Navywifeandmom: I too, have always tended toward pretty "centrist" positions and my oldest sister once said to me "Do you know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road?" I responded with a blank look, I guess....."They get run over!" she chortled gleefully in the direction of my bemused expression.

It IS hard. What I'm aiming at, for you, for all of us, is peace of mind. Peace with our decisions and choices and also the freedom to not feel obliged to run our potential decisions at a world of strangers for vetting! We don't have to do that! Claiming your privacy and your right to do what you need to do is not something you need to ask permission for!

When I first had children, in fact my first 3, there was no internet around, at least no in my world. We got our first computer in 1998 when Hugh was 4 years old and before we had the last 3 babies that had so many problems. I don't know what I would have done with the whole concept of "message boards" and "forums" etc. but, I think it's likely that I wouldn't have signed on. I've never been one to ask for a lot of input or advice, and it never occurred to me to ask anyone about my birth or parenting choices beforehand, or after the fact! I put myself through college and left home at 18. I moved away from family and friends to homestead in the northwoods when I was 21 and I lived and worked amonst very independent-minded hippies and homesteaders who never asked me what I thought so, I took the hint and never asked them! My family relationships were hit and miss but, as they weren't paying my bills at any time; they respected my adulthood and basically, left me alone. I didn't have children until I was nearly 30 and by that time, I was long established as an adult person so, I didn't have to deal with any second guessing of my decidedly "crunchy" and "natural" parenting choices! I was LUUUCCKY....I know.

But what I did have, that I really hear and understand that many young women don't, for a variety of reasons, was truly supportive and open friends and Church folk and involvement in various communities that provided real, concrete, and hands on help when I did need something! We've lived in the same funky old neighborhood for nearly 17 years now, with pretty much the same folks around us. We have a community and we have always had people dropping by, staying for dinner, hanging out....company. I see too many young mothers with not much more than a computer for a pal and that's just not a good thing!

I know that circumstances prevent many women, such as yourself and your family who are serving our country and giving up so much; from having any kind of real, ongoing friendship. I don't know if you read my response to you on one of my earlier posts ( a couple back I think ) but, please, if you like, feel free to e mail me at my regular e mail address: Kneelingwoman@wowway.com and I'll be happy to be your ongoing "pen pal" so that you can have someone to go back and forth with while you're having to move so frequently and continue to read and post here; there are just wonderful people writing and thinking about all these things and you are such a welcome addition!

Aidan's mom said...

Wow KW. Just amazing. It is really hard sometimes to remember that being mom isn't my only identity. Now that my son is 2 1/2 I find myself yearning for some of me back. Some of the woman I used to be. I love what motherhood has done for me in many aspects, but also miss my old self.

I am really going to go out on a dangerous limb here, but I wonder how many women *really* give consideration to their husband's feelings and thoughts on huge parenting choices such as cosleeping, etc. Now I understand that many women view the primary responsibility for child rearing to be theirs and that if their husband has ideas they object to, then they will do it their way.

I just find myself wondering how many women let their relationships silently wither by squeezing their husbands out of the picture. Not intentionally of course, but it happens all the same.

It has just been interesting to me to find that balance between the needs of our child, myself, and the needs of my husband and our relationship with each other.

We are finally going to go away for a whole weekend without my son later this summer. I have a bit of apprehension about it, but I am also excited at the idea of being just husband and wife again for a couple of days.

Wonderful post!

CY said...

Dear KW,
Hello from a fellow centrist and one with a background very (scarily) similar to your own. First let me join others in saying thank you! Judging from what is out there on the web (and I am certainly not the one to ask as I have only just discovered the women’s blog world) I was beginning to wonder if I had imagined the community oriented, supportive, encouraging and nonjudgmental environment in which I birthed and raised my kids in the 80’s and 90’s and to whom I still turn, now that most of our children are grown, for connection – we have endured births and deaths and everything in between - together. Thank you for giving voice to my experience and helping to define some of the differences between yesterday and today’s NB mom. I too have observed the isolation experienced by many new moms today.

As you mentioned, today’s environment seems to be an unintended consequence of the NB and midwifery movement of our day, or as I have come to think of it: natural childbirth gone bad! However, on behalf of the NBAs I would argue that this debate is only possible because of the positive effects NBAs had on the medical establishment that many mainstream women enjoy presently; women didn’t always have the choice they do today. But why are women at each other’s throats and how did we get here? They would no doubt blame each other. I have been absent from the birthing scene for about two years, and I must say that in that short time there has been an enormous shift, one that I find most difficult to understand.

In view of the current climate of competition between women, I am interested in your opinion on how this relates to feminism and women’s issues. I feel that in this debate there exists a significant anti-feminist thread – on both sides. It is part of the backlash I presume. Specifically I find it interesting that women come to this issue of birth choices, for example, with a curiously varied perspective on the role of feminism. Both mainstream and natural moms (although I loath the use of these labels, I will employ them just to illustrate my point) feel their position is most “empowering” (another loaded word I would rather avoid!) for a woman from a feminist perspective.

Mainstream moms assert that the embracing the use of medical technology, highly trained obstetricians and the acceptance of pain medication serve to ease the pain of birth, increase the chance of a healthy baby and provide for a birth that is most enjoyable, more liberating and less animalistic making birth a more evolved, modern and empowering experience. Natural moms feel that there is inherent value in the experience and pain of birth and are concerned that turning ones body over to modern medical practices can be dehumanizing and in some cases dangerous and thus distinctly dis-empowering; they seek empowerment by retaining their autonomy in birth by being an active participant and accepting only those intervention they deem necessary for the life and well-being of themselves and their baby. Obviously both positions are true.

And yet both the mainstream moms and natural moms reject much about the feminist era that preceded them. They object to either the “embrace your womanhood” message, or to the opposite view of “a man wouldn’t be expected to suffer in childbirth, why should a woman?” How do today’s moms reconcile this within a contemporary, cohesive feminist view? Where are we in the cycle of feminism and where are we going? (Amy has an interesting post on this Feb. 07 entitled “Natural Childbirth and Utopian Theory”)

IMO you cannot, and should not, argue with someone’s personal experience. You shouldn’t expect the woman who had a pain-free joyous birth not to extol the virtues of an epidural just as you shouldn’t expect that a woman who had a wonderful natural birth not to want to share her exuberance. What about the women who were truly disempowered by their birth experience, the ones who were mistreated or who truly suffered from a healthcare system under strain? Or what of the women who had difficult births of any variety, those who didn’t get that perfect baby or whose bodies were permanently altered by the experience? Who can argue with the experience of my older friends, now in their 80’s, when they tell of the indignities suffered by birthing women of their era, being told to shut up, be a good girl while they were shot up with scopolamine and the bars on their beds were raised like prison walls. Absent in the current discourse is the respect for all women’s experiences and an appreciation for the individuality of this most feminine experience.

Has this generation of women, currently in their childbearing years, lost their connection to each other and why? Is this the fault of our generation? Is it due to a narcissism bread out of the “child centered” parenting of the 80’s? Why the outrage and frustration towards other women?

Nine (+) Texans and friends... said...

navywife.
finding your way in this day and age without a consistent support network is hard, doing it with an autistic child is even harder.
if people think the whole AP vs. mainstream parenting is contentious with neurotypical children, try straddling these worlds with an autistic one.
(((HUGS))) to you from another mom, been there, done that, doing that.

Kneelingwoman said...

Dear CY: I was just reading your last comment to me on an earlier post and feeling so grateful for your comments and hoped you post on this one! And here you are......wonderful. There is little I can add to what you've said; all are questions that amend this post and need to be answered. I too, see a real want of historical perspective in the current milieu. It is very helpful to me to note that you too, have seen a real shift and difference over the last several years in the "natural parenting" communities with the move towards more mistrust, anger, frustration and hostility leveled at almost anyone who isn't a very partisan member of a certain group or package of 'certainties'.

I am quite convinced that some of it has to do with the internet and the various "forums" and "yahoo-type" groups that so successfully segregate and protect members from having to deal directly with any kind of confrontation to the end of having a real conversation or dialogue. One of the concerns I have about our increasing involvement with all of this ( blogs included, frankly ) is that no one has to "stay in" the dialogue and work towards finding common ground. As soon as there is disagreement or a recognition of "otherness"; the conversations come to an abrupt ( and often, angry ) halt. People are not held accountable for the name calling or character or personal attacks; we are all, literally, hidden behind a screen....any one of us can be the Wizard of Oz with no one realizing that, behind the curtain, there is just another uncertain, scared but hopeful human being; looking for another person to connect with!

We are permitted to encourage the lesser angels of our nature because it is so easy to do so. The internet does not promote civility or a genuine, democratic debate about any issues, although it certainly could and should ( which is what I'm trying to do here ).

I think, as I gather you may, that women in their 20's and 30's have had some of the worst parenting in their family of origin than we've seen in a long time; not universally, of course, but in my own practice, the level of family dysfunction, horrible relationships between mother and daughter etc. has been the "norm" rather than the exception and it causes all kinds of problems not the least of which is an extraordinary level of anger and depression both, resulting in difficult relationships with both peers and care providers ( projection being such a powerful tool for externalizing issues ). Pregnant women, as you know, are very vulnerable and I've more than once made the mistake of failing to consider, deeply enough, the woman's previous experiences of being "cared for" ( or, more likely, not cared for ) by an "older, mother-archetype, woman/Midwife". I have, at least half a dozen times, stepped on some very sharp rocks navigating those choppy waters and it's very difficult and painful for everyone when it happens.

I think that some women feel very criticized and not accepted by their mothers and so find themselves both compelled to seek out the approval of other women and then to react very, very strongly and badly when the approval doesn't come, or turns around and "feels" like criticism.

I had a client a few years back who worked really, really hard on this issue during her pregnancy. She and I kept having these horrific communication breakdowns and we just weren't getting anywhere, to the point where I wasn't sure we could continue working together although, just bringing the subject up with this young woman caused her to just panic at the thought of what she perceived as potential abandonment. It was one of the most "stuck" client relationships I had ever been in! I once had the opportunity, though, to be with her and her mother for a prenatal and boy oh boy, did things get clear for both of us as a result! We both saw, and had a wonderful moment during the transaction of sharing that realization "eye to eye", that she was totally projecting that relationship onto her relationship with me. She ended up getting into therapy immediately which made a world of difference for her in her life; just magic! She had a wonderful birth with me and we are still terrifically good friends.....a side story but, very much a part of this set of issues, I think.

And Feminist history....last night, I spent an extrordinary amount of time reading some of Elizaebeth Cady Stantons' essays on Motherhood etc. and trying to find a way to bring that to the table here; we seem to be sharing our minds across the ether and yes, we do need to go there; I quite agree. There is a lot of backlash happening as well as the same kind of extreme polarization we're seeing in our politics and social constructs across the board; a very good place to take things here I think!

Feel free to keep throwing things out for me to grapple with; it's just wonderful!

Cy, I don't know who you are, or where you are, but I hope you'll keep reading and writing here; I feel that we are funny little soul mates somehow ( you would enjoy "liz" who comments here too; I hope she turns up soon ). Thank you for helping me to continue my thinking on this topic and for your wonderful comments and insight. Blessings!

Kneelingwoman said...

HI Aidans' mom and all: I'm trying to get to everyone; so many good comments but, like all of you, I have to go make dinner! I'll be back on later. Thank you all for writing!

Mommy Dearest said...

This is so eloquent, so beautifully written, and so true. You put into words what so many women feel. Thank you so much for this blog.

Alexis said...

I think that so many mothers today--on both sides--feel incredibly pressured about their parenting choices. They relate to all the parenting debates in a very personal way. They aren't just defending their beliefs; they're defending themselves, and when their choices are criticised it's taken (and sometimes meant) as criticism of THEM, and their identity as mothers. I think in some ways it's worse in the NFL/AP community, because of the way "motherhood" is put on a pedestal and held out to be the core of a woman's identity.

Kneelingwoman said...

Alexis--hi. And why is that happening in the NFL/AP community do you think? This is what CY and I are trying to sort out. Why has "mothering" become so central to their identities? I'm not saying this is a 'bad' thing, in and of itself, but there is a ferocity and anxiety or a self-conciousness about it that I find hard to comprehend.

I've had a lot of these young women in my practice over the last few years and I frankly, don't understand what's fueling any of it; maybe you can shine some light on it? Thank you.

Navywifeandmom said...

Ironically enough, it was my dh's idea to co-sleep! I didn't want anything to do with it at first, but when I realized just how much a nursling eats during the night, I jumped all over it.

Dh was the one who was raised more "crunchy", I actually wasn't. Most of my parenting style comes from my dh. It was his idea to not circ our son, he really wanted me to at least TRY breastfeeding (and that was something I ALWAYS knew I wanted to do even though I never grew up around it; I always thought feeding a baby straight from your body was pretty cool), he wouldn't have forced me to have a natural birth but he encouraged me to at least research it. My MIL was a LLL Leader in the 70s back before the Internet existed and had all natural births and one homebirth and found out by the time her last son was born in '81 that no, you do not HAVE to circ a baby boy, that a boy can survive just fine with a foreskin and it isn't a big deal to have one. So two of her sons were circed and the last one wasn't. So it wasn't like I found all my ideas through parenting forums; most of them came from my dh talking about how he was raised and I found parenting forums after the fact.

I also kind of disagree that "mommy wars" haven't always existed, I do think that to some extent they have, it is just that in the last 10 years or so the Internet has amplified them. The only reason my mother didn't breastfeed, sadly, is because it wasn't the "thing to do" in the Midwest in the 1970s. She WAS interested in breastfeeding, but when she brought it up to all her friends her age that had children, they all told her "Oh, you don't want to do that, that's nasty, your husband will resent you, you'll never have time to yourself again" and she gave into peer pressure and bottlefed us. She said that maybe if the Internet HAD been around and she could have found other moms (like my MIL) who actually HAD and WERE breastfeeding children to see what it was really like instead of relying on what all her friends, who had never actually breastfed in their lives, had to say about it. She has told me that that is her one biggest regret is not nursing my brother and I. She would have been the perfect candidate, too, we lived out in the country and never went anywhere and money was very tight because we were farmers. And while I was a very healthy bottlefed child, my brother was not at all. He couldn't tolerate milk or a lot of formulas, he was constantly sick with ear infections and snotty noses; he had adenoids out, tubes in the ears, one hospitalization for a virus that he couldn't shake, and we did not have very good health insurance so nursing would not only have been very doable for her, it would have saved my parents a lot of money and possibly improved my younger brother's overall health. Yet she didn't do it because her friends all told her it was bad and it was too hard and she believed them. Same with circumcision; in the Midwest in 1980, it was just what you did when you had a boy, no questions asked. She never considered not doing it because of course, all her friends and doctors at that time said it was bad not to do it, that you have to clean under it constantly, that an intact boy stinks and gets constant infections, you know, all the usual reasons given for doing it. Now she has an intact grandson and can see for herself just how it really is NOT a big deal, my son does not stink, I do not have to peel him back and clean him three times a day and he has never had an infection. Again, she says she wishes she could have logged on and spoken to real parents of uncirced little boys to find out what it was really like instead of relying on people's horror tales of how bad it was not to do it. So while the Internet has been a curse, it has also been a blessing to lots of women who may not have considered that there might be another way to do things. My mom said she didn't really figure out until she was about 35 years old that you can say "no" to a doctor or that your friends' experiences might not be relevant to your situation, but at that point, she was almost done raising us (we were born when she was 22 and 24).

My grandma, who had children between the years of 1947 and 1967, also said that when she was a mother, the big "mommy war" was all about potty training. If you didn't have your kid out of diapers by 24 months, you were a BAAAAAD mother. I remember asking her "so were your children ALL out of diapers by age two" (she had 11 total) and she said NO! That some trained very easily before age two, and some were closer to age four before they got it down. She said that nowadays the potty-training wars seem to have relaxed a bit and been replaced by other things.

Nine texans, I know what you mean by the "autistic mommy wars". I don't attend any support groups because I found myself fearing the future way too much when I left them. I do have a forum online that I go to on occasion that is just for moms of autistic children that isn't so bad; a lot of moms do the biomedical and supplements but some do not and sometimes parents butt heads over that stuff as well and it gets ugly.

I will say, however, I am to the point where I have little patience for parents of neurotypical children who act like they know what parents like me should or shouldn't do, and quite recently I found myself saying some pretty nasty things to a few of those people that I never dreamed would fly out of my mouth.

For example, I get sick of people telling me that because "doctors say autism is genetic, then your daughter's is, too, so you need to learn to accept that". Then I tell them that we have searched both our family histories back to seven generations and found NOTHING even resembling Aspberger's. And then they tell me "Well, you just didn't look hard enough and you are in denial". DO NOT freaking tell me I didn't look hard enough; I know my family tree, you don't, so shut up. My brother-in-law (my dh's brother) recently chastised me because I am pregnant again with our fifth child (this was NOT a planned pregnancy). He told me I need to quit having children because doctors say it is genetic so I am going to end up with another one if I don't knock it off. He then told me that "also, the genes must be in YOUR family, because there is NOTHING like this in ours" I tried to hold in my fury, as I repeated for the umpteenth time, that NO, there is NO AUTISM IN MY FAMILY HISTORY, and then he said "Well, there must be, you just aren't looking hard enough". I am so dang sick of people like him saying things like that. You know, now I know how people who say they couldn't breastfeed and people dismiss them and say "yes, you could have" must feel.

And truth be known, I do fear having another autistic child to an extent, but in my dd's case, I really do NOT think it was genetics, I think it was something environmental. Also, the fact that we have a GIRL with autism with no family history is odd as it is three times more common in boys. I have four children total so far, my dd is my second child and the only one with autism so far and the other three are as NT as can be, so I am praying that this one will be, also.

amanda said...

What drives me crazy about all of this is that men have no such pressure put on them. Any guy who who sticks around, or even just pays child support is a "good dad". To be a "good mom" you are expected to put yourself last in every little thing and research the hell out of even the smallest decisions.

Having my son is the the greatest thing I have ever done. He has changed me in ways I never could have foreseen. Still, I was a woman before he was here and I will still be that same woman when he is grown and gone. I am learning that part of being a "good mom" is setting a good example. That is why I'm going to nursing school, even though it means "abandoning" the poor baby to the care of his father for a few hours a day. He can bill me for his therapy in 20 years if need be ;)

Alexis said...

KW - I wouldn't call myself an expert on this by any means, but this is how I see it. AP is a very mother-centred philosophy, particularly in its more militant forms. Not only does it emphasise a strong attachment to the primary caregiver, the centrality of breastfeeding means that's usually the mother. It's more than that, but it's not easy to explain without a stack of quotes. The way so-called AP "experts" often relate to women and their role can make me uneasy. it places a huge stack of responsibility on mothers, and the attendant guilt--if things don't turn out right, it's because YOU did it wrong. Every step in the process becomes fraught with anxiety. Birth isn't just a normal physiological experience (which, i think, is what midwifery was meant to be about!) but some kind of transformative experience that sets the path for all your parenting choices. Breastfeeding isn't just about feeding your baby; it's your link to your child and something that only you can do.

So, you start with that, and then the attendant pressure to SAHM, so you can be truly attached and giving to your children. You're setting up a situation where a woman's identity is completely bound up with being a mother.

CY said...

I just had a bad blog experience – I lost the whole post I just wrote. I hate that!

I will try to reconstruct…. I can appreciate what navymom is saying, there have always been mommy wars. I guess I thought, or rather hoped, that us moms of the 70’s and 80’s had made some changes in that dynamic. We had modeled a different parenting style one of warmth and love, engaged and involved fathers, individualized care for each unique child, educated and many times working moms – or SAHM that were intensely involved with their children’s lives and schooling. However, I do think we were also guilty of modeling an unrealistic lifestyle and a narrative of “women, you can have it all,” which of course was a fallacy. Remember, "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let you forget whose the man - cuz I'm a woman W-O-MAN!"

Our intentions were noble, we were aiming to improve upon our mother’s experience of parenting in the 50’s and 60’s when many women felt trapped at home, unable to make choices for themselves, which bred resentment and frustration. Dads in those days were distant or all together absent; my father completely missed all five of his kids’ childhoods and he so regretted it. This was typical. I think we succeeded in changing the basic assumptions of male and female roles; we redefined parenting as a cooperative and loving endeavor and made efforts toward redefining families to include single moms, dual moms and dual dads. However, somewhere things took a turn and suddenly some moms aren’t as good as others because of xyz. (BTW – to be fair and in an effort not to generalize, my daughter does not seem to have this problem in her group of mom friends, where everyone seems to accept others differences without judgment.)

Perhaps today’s pressure and competition is some sort of hybrid collision of the ‘you must be your child’s everything and they come first always’ dictum and the “you can have it all” fallacy. I’m grasping straws here, but I am stumped. I do, however, believe that this discourse and the current generation of moms do represent, in some positive and but painful ways, a process of evolving a better way to do all of this. Static is certainly not a word you could attach to reproduction and parenting in our western world; it is always changing and moving forward (well, one step forward and two steps back does still constitute forward motion).

I do not intend to be critical of young moms today. I do think the pressure is extreme and I am here to say, relax. So much of what you think is important now turns out not to be, and unfortunately some of the things you thought weren’t end up being vital. Thus is the world. Enjoy the kids while they’re young; as they say – small kids, small problems, big kids, big problems. Life has a way of kicking our butts, all of us. So telling your neighbor that the wonderful birth she experienced is no great achievement, or being angry because someone wanted to extol the virtues of an epidural to you knowing full well you are having a homebirth denies women the simple joys of life. Growing and birthing a baby is a uniquely feminine experience and not one, as women supporting women, we should be so quick to dismiss as just another biological function, IMHO. We should be constantly aware of how unbelievably lucky most of us are in this part of the world – we are fed, we are housed, our babies have a good chance of survival (no matter what the birth method) – in most of the world this is not case.

I hate to see women jousting with each other over such trivial differences. What a terrific waste of energy.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Cy and all and yes, I am also hear to say 'relax' to all of you lovely young moms'; you are all doing a great job with your kids and it will all be o.k.....and I agree with navywifeandmom and Cy et al. that the "mommy wars' have been around for a very long time. Back in the mid 19th century, when women's magazines first turned up ( and, of course, only available to middle and upper class white women ) there turned up an entire 'science' around mothering, housekeeping etc. with more and more emphasis placed on the mother's role and responsibility for ensuring that her "offspring" turned out to be a credit to their......father. Then came Freud and I don't know HOW that man didn't end up with someone killing him!

But, I do think that the rhetoric and volume have gone up several notches and that the confusion and anger have deepened and become somewhat entrenched. "Back in the day" women would put pressure on themselves to, as you point out, potty train by 2 or feed solids by 3 months but, Dr. Spock's influence, at that time, was fairly universal and most women in the 50's and 60's were parenting their children in a very homogenous way that we aren't seeing now; there really were not the "camps" of one philosophy or another and women didn't tend to fight each other over parenting choices; most women in a given community or neighborhood were doing pretty much the same, exact things. I think there was less to compete over in that arena at that time.

I agree, too, that we're seeing a backlash in terms of men's involvement and responsibility in parenting children. When I was living in the woods around all the hippies and homesteaders; the real issue in parenting was about involving fathers! Everyone was experimenting with job sharing between parents and one of the "bad things" to say had to do with describing a father caring for his children as "babysitting" as though he was doing the mom a big favor instead of just something that was also "his job". All our life's a circle.......

I have to go to bed ladies....I am grateful beyond measure for your comments and energy here. I hope to read more tomorrow and get around to answering everyone; thank you, thank you.

Danielle said...

Wow! What a wonderful conversation. KW, I do have a question. Are you sure you aren't seeing the "good old days" through rose colored glasses with regards to the mommy wars or the vitriol that women can spew at each other? I don't know that our recollections of the past are always accurate. I think many people tend to magnify the emotions associated with the past, either positive or negative.

I think one thing that happens as we become older is that we become more accepting. Perhaps women of your generation were not quite so accepting when they were young mothers, but changed and evolved for the better with time and experience. I tend to think that young mothers, no matter the generation, are much more insecure and some sort of a tribal identity particularly important to them.

I'm still relatively young (I think) at 33, but I've been a mom for 11 years and have four children now. I have been through alot. I feel much more secure and comfortable in my own skin now. The criticisms don't bother me as much as they used to. For example, last school year we put my oldest boy into school after homeschooling through the third grade. For a variety of reasons I thought he would do better in a school setting, and I was right! He had a beautiful school year this past year. I am still involved in a homeschool group because I am homeschooling my younger children. I periodically hear comments to the effect that school is universally a horrible place, or some such similar comment. A few years back, such a comment would have really bothered me. But now, I just figure that they have no real insight into our family's situation and I see the comment as a minor annoyance.

A couple of other comments on some things that have been brought up... I love the Continuum Concept and I've always felt that it emphasizes independence in a way that many in the AP crowd tend to miss. And on the issue of marriage, my mom always advised me that I needed to put my marriage first... children will grow up and leave, but your husband (God willing) will be with you for the rest of your life. And a healthy marriage is a necessary source of security for children. (By the way this is my religious perspective and I fully acknowledge that.)

Anyway, those are some of my rambling thoughts at this late hour. Thank you, thank you, thank you KW for such a real and needed conversation!

Meredith said...

I enjoyed this discussion.

As someone who does a little bit of this, a little bit of that--it is very freeing to have someone point out the flaws of both the Stepford wives and the Attachment group.

It makes me question times when I have internally judged other mothers, from either of these positions.

I think the core issue is that mothering is SO hard in this age of isolation, that we end up clinging to rigid philosophy as a way of feeling less alone.

Yehudit said...

Another fantastic commentary on all of this stuff is Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels, The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women (2004)

To quote a few lines...

"...like so much else on the Internet, mom Web sites have become increasingly partitioned into identity niches: African American SAHMs (ASSAHMs), Christian SAHMs, home-schooling SAHMs, valley SAHMs, organic SAHMs, metroSAHMs, and so forth. Lots of mom Web sites function, then, as virtual clubhouses..Only those that share the same product preferences, religious affiliation, demographic niche or parenting styles (or prejudices) will be comfortable logging on. Within these narrow like-minded congregations, self-righteousness and myopia flourish,"

HopewellMomSchool said...

Possibly the best blog post I've ever read anywhere. I hope the nasties who flamed and personally attacked me for one comment on Washington Post parenting blog site will read this. I did not birth my children. I did not cause the harm that led to their troubles. But I am their Mother. Bonding is much, much more than brestfeeding and an obssessive smothering of children's independence. My chidlren are securely bonded BOTH to me and, shockingly when you read what went on, to their birth mother! Co-sleeping and babywearing anywhere else in the world are a matter of NECESSITY and POVERTY. The mother's in 3rd world that I knew as a Peace Corps volunteer dreamed of disposable diapers, decent, affordable formula, a second bedroom etc so they could have a BREAK. I have an acquaintence who has nearly driven her very decent hubby away by obsessively focusing on her daughters and ignoring her husband--and her true self! Not good, ladies, not good.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hey, Good Morning Everyone! I see that the conversation carried on overnight while I was busy NOT sleeping because of my neighbor's barking dogs! I almost got up and rejoined the chat here but, opted to keep trying to sleep past the woof-woof.....

Danielle: I honestly never, ever experienced, in my young mothering years, the level of hostility and polarization we're seeing now! This, in spite of the fact that I was a midwife, breastfeeding, homeschooling--the works! Those were my choices and I made them because I thought they were the best "fit" between my and my husbands' values and ideas about how to be married and a family. I never asked anyone for input and I never received any. Again, I did not have the internet! It was a very different experience in the sense that I lived and worked in a community with great diversity, racially, ethnically, and attitudinally. Our small city is nestled in the "inner ring" of a large, urban center. While I had "midwife" friends; they were older than I, and also had very different ideas about midwifery and parenting than the younger midwives and "Natural Family Living" folks' do now. Dr. Sears was just beginning to make a name for himself back in the early 90's and I bought one of his "sling" type baby carriers because it looked like a good help for me--Wow.....hands free to do something while carrying a baby on my hip! I didn't think of it as something "required" or even think anyone else would be using such a thing. The first time I wore it, and baby Emma in it, to a midwifery conference; everyone was interested and for the same reason I was, namely, convenience! Not one midwife said "Oh....now you can "wear" your baby and she'll be more secure, bonded etc." Akin to what someone else here said; one of the midwives who had spent time in Peace Corps in Africa said " Most of the women overseas use something like this.....nice." That's as far as the commentary went!

BUT, over the next few years ( we're talking between 1989-1999 or so, things changed. Suddenly, the internet exploded and then the chat rooms and "forums" and all. Women began forming these various groups which quickly became, not inclusive, cozy bastions of female solidarity, but something more akin to high school cliques with spoken ( and unspoken ) rules, regulations and very specific requirements for affinity, acceptance and retention! And very narrow in all parameters, it seems to me.

I think that my perspective changed enormously after I gave birth to two children who died in infancy and one who lives with a serious disability. Two were born by c section after very normal, straightforward births. I found my relationships with my clients much altered; for one thing. I had one client who told me she didn't think she could have a midwife who had "willingly" had a c section! She absolutely viewed it as a failure of both my "womanhood" and certainly my "midwifery" chops! If I could have a c section and not be "devastated" by it; then I wasn't a true believer! And I wasn't devastated. I was pretty upset, at the time, that I had a little girl with a very large hole in her spine but I was very grateful that I did not live in the Third World where both of us would have died without the skill of an obstetric surgeon and I second the concern expressed here that we in the West are overly focused on "choices" that don't even exist in much of the rest of the world; women and babies are dying in very large, almost incomprehensible numbers, for want of the most rudimentary health care, in many cases. I think that's a perspective we need to always keep in front of us ( and talk about in later conversations as we move along ).

I am just so happy to see this conversation unfolding and taking shape here and most wonderful of all---such kindness and civility in spite of some differences of opinon and variable points of view....no one chased away. Everyone still feeling safe and welcome! Congratulations and thank you, each and every one!

Elizabeth said...

I don't have time to comment upon everything in this post, but I do want to mention that I personally have experienced a huge difference in my online interactions vs real life relationships. Across the board, positions taken, opinions endorsed, adviced doled out is more black/white on messageboards and online forums than what I have experienced IRL. I do think that messageboards that are trying to define their "identity" as natural or pro-AP have a way of becoming very defensive and engaging in group think.

I had a homebirth in Michigan and had many friends in the Ann Arbor area who shared natural parenting ideals. These ladies did often chose homebirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc but I didn't encounter the same kind of rhetoric or "peer pressure" that I did in an online community I was part of at the same time.

I do think it's much easier to be an expert on everyone else's life on a messageboard. But IRL I received so much support and encouragement and healthy doses of "realism" in the sense that people did talk about when it was hard and when we needed more support.

Danielle said...

It is interesting to hear your perspective on how things used to be, KW. I am now interested in talking to my mother about how she saw things. She is your age (if I remember correctly, you have said you are 55?) She was a LLL leader in the 80's and raised us with "natural" mothering. My memory of growing up is that her friends were like her, and she spent alot of time with them. There were always lots of nursing babies around and never ever any bread that wasn't whole grain ;-)! One of the main questions I will have for her is how she and her friends felt about women who didn't mother like them. I'm also going to ask her what it was like if one of them deviated from their sub-cultural norm. I think even then there wasn't a great deal of tolerance for certain things... like she got resistance when she wanted to lead an evening meeting to make it possible for working moms to attend. I think that her friends became more diverse as all of us got older, but when she had babies and toddlers I think she needed to be around other women who were doing the same things as her. This is what I suspect, but again, I'm going to ask her for her perspective.

I do think things are greatly magnified on message boards and blogs. In real life, women don't seem to speak in the same black and white terms and with such (sometimes) harshness.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Danielle and all: I'm headed off to my classes in a few minutes but, wanted to check in. I am 48, Danielle, but, the generational difference between your mother and myself is probably negligable. I think it's important to say here, if I haven't already, that I was probably a "strange bird" in the sense of being very independent in my thinking. I was also an "older" first time mom ( a couple of months from 30 ) who had also been working alongside new mothers since the age of 21 so, I had a very unique perspective that may not be representative of the "typical" experience. But, even so, within the communities of which I was a part, I remember no name calling or judgements in terms of "so and so is a terrible or deficient mother because she does, or doesn't whatever". I never thought about what other mothers might be doing or thinking. I was busy and happy and what I was doing worked for me but, again, I'm an odd duck that way.......I had friends and we talked about whatever friends talk about. Some of my friends had kids, others didn't. In summary, I'm probably a lousy test case for anyone's theories of the "good old days" because I don't think I'm a good representational sample LOL. I'm off to school....I'll be back.

Katie said...

Thanks so much for this post, KW! I'm crunchy leaning (I call myself soggy) but I do what I feel is best for myself, my family, and my children. While I don't always like or agree with the choices other mothers make, almost all of the moms I know are good women who love their children (and the ones who aren't have serious mental health and/or drug issues). One of the most dedicated mothers I know voluntarily formula fed all 4 of her children, and while it's not the choice I would make (and I'm a LLL Leader!) it in no way invalidates the love she has for her children and the fact that she busts her ass to provide for them. I don't live her life and she doesn't live mine and we don't judge each other, even though we made basically none of the same choices. We're mothers who love our children, and that's what I care about, that's what we have in common.

The older I get, the less I care about what other people think of me and the choices I make. I'll get judged on one side for leaving a breastfed one year old for a night to get out with my husband, I'll get judged on the other side for nursing a 2.5 year old. That's life! I do what's best for US, and if other people don't like it, that's their issue.

Liz said...

KW

I read your original post with a lot of admiration – I think it is really a tour de force. And I have read the comments with interest, too. I have wanted to join in the positive responses - but was not sure how, as I think this is such a huge topic that I have not really been sure of what I think or what to say. I think I believe that the perspective of a mother whose children are grown up is always going to be very different from those who are still living in the hot-house heat of mothering infants and very small children. I have to say, though, that I do think that things are very different now than in the past. Like you, I am very disappointed that the “promise” of feminist perspectives which HAVE improved so much in the lives of modern women have never really paid that much heed to the central problem of how to be a good mother in a world which is, still, largely defined by the needs of men. One thing I am absolutely certain of is that you CAN’T have it all. SAHM or working mother, once you have children your choices are circumscribed by their needs. That mothers themselves should set about making it even more difficult than it is already grieves me.

I realise now that I have been interested, in abstract terms, in questions of child rearing all my life – long before I had children of my own. I do believe that bringing up a child, shaping that child’s view of the world, is THE most important job – but that doesn’t mean that it has to be 24/7, and definitely not to the exclusion of all else.. I would say it is probably true that mothers have always found it tough on occasions, felt insecure about they myriad choices, and, maybe, on occasions, have always compared and judged their own ways with those of other people, not always charitably. What seems to me different now is the number of woman who, far from feeling insecure, seem rather arrogantly certain that there is only one way to bring up children - and it is their way. Coming rather late to some of these conversations, and merely as a spectator, I have been absolutely astonished at some of the conversations and practices I have learned about. Like you, I regarded a baby sling as a rather practical way of dealing with a baby who liked to be held rather more than was compatible with doing anything else. I can remember my glee when I realised I could vacuum the carpet and pacify my babe at the same time. That it has now become some kind of Article of Faith and strollers the sign of a Bad Mother seems to me highly comic, to be honest.

I’m not sure that AP has had a huge impact on this side of the Atlantic. I think it is still the SAHM/working mother that is the hot issue. The prevailing myth seems to be that a baby is something you have in your lunch hour, and scarcely let it interfere one jot with your attack on the “glass ceiling” of advancement at work. And the government here reinforces that view, being much more inclined to put forward “policies” that get women back into the work force with little regard for who is actually bringing up the children. Possibly AP is a backlash against this, making mothering as competitive and status conscious as any career woman could wish.

What I remember from my own days is being profoundly depressed when I read Bowlby on attachment at the weight of all that responsibility for absolutely everything, and very relieved when I came across the rather less oppressive concept of the Good Enough Mother.

pinky said...

Thank YOu. That was a great post. And you thought you needed suggestions? Looks like your doing just fine thinking up posts.

bree said...

Amen, and thank you.

CY said...

I have really been considering what my challenges were when my children were small. Guilt was certainly a prevailing feeling, but it was not imposed by other women, it was more of an incessant internal dialogue. I was a working mom, a business woman – self employed (which equals obsessive mountains of time at work, although many times my kids were with me) – I had a constant nagging feeling that I was not doing anything well. The tug between job and home was enormous and yet I was equally committed to both. My husband was a true co-parent but somehow the undone laundry, the unpaid bills, the unbalanced checkbook, the unkept kitchen or the filthy floors, these things never bothered him like they did me. I suppose I was not the liberated woman I had hoped and that in the end I still felt responsible for the housework when it was undone. And then what did I do? I took on my friend’s childbirth practice as something for myself!!!! The next 20+ years would see me serving the needs of other women and their families too, in addition to my own and my business. Oy-vie! I really was an overachiever. I do remember thinking that I would wake up one day, my kids would be grown and I would truly have no idea how I accomplished all that I did in a day back when my kids and my business’ were young. And you know what? I was right! I used to knock off a list of 20 items, now I’m lucky if I can remember what to put on the list in the first place.

This is why I do not believe this notion that women can have it all. IMO Everything suffers when you divide yourself in so many pieces. But I was a part of my generation and today’s woman will be a part of hers. There is no getting off the train, as they say, because it is moving and you are on it. There were many times my husband and I fantasized about alternative lifestyles (which I, like KW, lived as a young woman) and considered opting out of the whole American game -‘work like a dog so your kids can play sports and be well educated thing,’ but ultimately we were never ballsy enough, nor rich enough, to make a major transition. However, I, unlike others who embraced the essentially mainstream ideals, admire those who took the road less traveled, who home schooled their kids, grew a garden and lived a more authentic life. But perhaps there is certain regret in whatever path you choose.

I just hate to see the animosity between women who choose a different road than their own; this need to homogenize everything, what is that about? I find people and their choices in life fascinating. I find it curious that others see the world and its opportunities so differently than myself? Don’t others wonder what it would be like to take their kids out of school and whisk them off to sail around the world for a year, or take them for a two year jaunt in the peacecorps instead of sending them for yet another utterly boring, repetitive year in high school? These are the most interesting people among us, why would we want to suppress their spirit or quibble with them over birth methods? These are the risk takers, they are the ones who shake the chi and give movement to all that is stagnant. Don’t these seekers of adventure and alternatives; those that are passionate about whatever – birth, food, travel, history, English, mathematics, Science, literature, etc. give the rest of us pause to consider what is really possible in life? Sure, passionate, obsessive people can be annoying (believe me, I live with a couple) but must we all agree on everything? Must we all be pregnant, birth and parent in the same way?

The idea that AP is a backlash is an interesting one. I suspect you are right, because every new movement seems to be a reaction to something. I do think that ultimately the fanatics on either side help to bring most of us to the more reasonable middle – moderation is the key isn’t it?

However, I fear that currently we have passed on a heavy load to this next generation, in more ways than one and I hope they can find enough middle ground and/or mutual respect for those different from themselves to deal with the complexities that they will be faced with.

Mary the Birth Goddess said...

KW, another wonderful post, thank you for sharing your wisdom.
A few years back I read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's "A Midwife's Tale" and am now reading "Good Wives" and it is amazing to see how American women's lives have changed so dramatically in recent history. All of the birth stories mentioned in the books are a gathering of between 5 to 10 or more women. Surely women utilized their time together to work toward common goals. The books describe a women's "world" of sewing, harvesting herbs and vegetables, cooking, cleaning, rearing the children- it certainly didn't leave any time for self-congratulating!
When I chose to homebirth or breastfeed, it never entered my mind to compare myself to other women, or to choose to feel superior over another woman. I think it is a terrible shame that some women who might call themselves "natural" are actually using something as unique and central to feminity as birth and nurturing choices to then denigrate other women- shocking!

I do believe it is the exception rather than the norm. Perhaps I am just seeing positives? Or maybe I am just too darn busy to visit MDC!!

Liz said...

The difficulty I am having with this thread is that it encompasses so many different strands – the supposed opposition between “crunchy” and “mainstream”, the women of the 50s, 60s and 70s compared with those of today, the role of feminism, the influence of the internet, and hidden in there somewhere, the conflicts between mothers and daughters. And it is interesting to see that the topics raised in the “other mothers” thread are showing up here as well. Where to start?

KW, I am not sure I agree with you about the internet. (Literally not sure.) I came to it late. Much of it is trivial, tedious and frustrating. However, as an “other mother”, I have found myself thinking that I wish I could have had access to it when my children were small – particularly my disabled child. Of course being fully involved in a community is preferable - but not always possible. The very facelessness and anonymity of the internet makes possible forms of communication that would be much more difficult face to face. What is written can be misleading, but it can also be a lot more intimate and considered – and it does cross barriers to an amazing degree. It seems to me that modern life, especially in large cities, is becoming dangerously fragmented and isolated. When my children were small, I happily sought out the company of other young mothers, of all kinds and approaches. In a way, it was part of the pleasure of those years – the sharing of common experiences and difficulties. Now, it seems to be more on the basis of “like me” and “not like me” – does the internet create this, or reflect it?

If you are looking for topics, I think there is probably quite a lot to be said on the subject of mothers and daughters, and how it shapes us. So much of what we do as parents is influenced by our own feelings about our own upbringing. I do wonder – what happens to these very attached mothers when the time comes for letting go? If you have devoted all your time, love and attention to raising children, what is left of you when they are grown? (And though it seems endless at the time, there is rather a lot of life left at the end of child-rearing.) I can remember thinking that a very devoted, self sacrificing mother might actually be something of a problem to an adult child. Gratitude and resentment can get awfully tangled in this relationship – on both sides. And another thing I learned along the way is how easily we can turn into our mothers – despite our best efforts! Those words you swore you would never say do tend to find themselves on your lips on occasions! Maybe that is another thing which has changed – the breaking of the links between generations? Though I suspect that may be an illusion rather than real – the rejection of the link that, in reality, cannot ever really be broken. Last night, I watched a programme made by a woman in her fifties about her 80-year old mother who had Alzheimmer’s. It was fascinating to watch as the daughter became the mother and carer of a mother who was reverting to a child – and to see the frustrated need for the love and approval of a mother in the grown woman. Powerful creatures, mothers! A lot more to it than whether you use cloth nappies!

estherar said...

I'm wondering if the original sin, as it were, was the attempt to wed APers' favorite parenting preferences to science. The discovery of the myriad benefits of breastfeeding (some valid, some vastly overblown) led to Jay Belsky's "aggressive preschoolers", Michel Odent's "hormonal love cocktail" that supposedly only happens during a certain type of birth, and Dr. Sears' "AP makes kids smarter and more sensitive". Never mind the science for this is either inconclusive or mere hypothesis; all of a sudden, APers could claim (or attempt to claim) their method was proven superior.

When mainstream parents criticize APers, they usually accuse them of being martyrs or overindulgent. When the reverse happens, the accusation is now one of child abuse, or something akin to it. I see a world of difference between the two.

Heather said...

Hi Kneeling Woman,

This is such a great post. Can you tell me what your email address is? I would love to email you for some more information, but I couldn't find your address.

Basically, I never even knew home birth still existed in this day and age, until my sister-in-law had a horrible hospital birth experience, and my father-in-law said, "this is why woman should give up their romantic notions of homebirth." That is what got me looking into homebirth, and I admit that I got sucked into the MDC community for a bit. I've read "Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First." I've also read Dr. Amy's posts. I am hoping maybe you can give me some advice on how to plan the best birth for me, because I'm a little confused now, and you seem so knowledgable. I don't want to ignorantly (and arrogantly) follow unscientific advice. There's more to say, but I will wait until you give me your email address.

Kneelingwoman said...

Liz! THERE you are! And hello everyone. So many good points; I can't really add much to any of them. Liz, I agree that this "thread" has been moving around a lot but, I think it's fine; it's a wonderful, open conversation and I think people are getting to know oneanother. The thing that is really jumping out at me here is that everyone is being so warm, kind and I haven't heard one, disageeable comment from anyone, in spite of the small disagreements of opinion voiced here and there and this, more than anything, has been my hope for this blog. I wanted to create a little "home on the web" where all women would feel welcome to bring their experiences and lives here to share; what potential for learning and growth when we can give each other the benefit of our lives as we've known and lived them! Thank you all for that.

Liz, I also agree with your comment about the internet and I was in no way trying to say that I think it's been a bad thing; only that it had little to do with my early mothering because I just didn't have it! I think, like anything, that it can be used for good or ill and, like you, I found it enormously helpful when we had Mary as it enabled me to find two of our finest resources in helping her: The Spinal Cord Injury Program at Washington University, St. Louis, where the actor Christopher Reeve made such strides ( Mary shares both Dr's and Physical Therapst with the late Mr. Reeve which she loves to brag about....having the same Doctors as Superman! ) and Cathie Snow and Disability is Natural which became a source of real sanity for me as Cathie's attitude towards disability is that we are all "People First" and our various disabilities second; her book is a powerhouse of information on how to help children with disabilities live whole lives out in the world, instead of existing in the small, closet of space she labels "disability world" full of special services, schools, and attitudes that made the disability more important the the child living with it! Wonderful stuff! So, yes, the internet can be an enormous benefit but, as we've been seeing, it has it's down side.

I really appreciate the comments about how the internet/web group "relationships" as so different from real life and, of course they are. I think it's a big part of the whole "dark" side to the issue. Having a computer screen to hide behind allows people to say things in ways they never would if they were face to face with someone; I know I have certainly been guilty, from time to time, of taking too much advantage of the protection afforded by sitting safely within the confines of this room and expressing ideas and feelings ordinarily finding a home only in my private journals! I think we've all had those moments and it's SO unforgiving too, isn't it? We throw something out there at someone and then there's the 'oops' moment and it just doesn't erase and it can, indeed, be hurtful and damaging so, we all have to respect this amazing technology along with it's power to work for, or against, our better intentions and natures. End of Sermon.........

Kneelingwoman said...

Oh, and Heather ( in fact anyone who's interested ) my regular e mail address is Kneelingwoman@wowway.com

I'm happy to hear from anyone who cares to write!

CY said...

KW, I did not want to let this post end before commenting on the loss of your dear babies and your ongoing love and concern over your child with disabilities. It is these experiences that make you such a wise and compassionate person. Where others may shut them out, it seems you have come to embrace these experiences and integrate them into the fabric of your life and work. I assume that many in your community, like us visiting your blog, can sense that although you have endured the most painful event – twice – that any parent can imagine you have not been diminished by it; yes, you have been humbled by the power of natural occurrences but this has only deepened your understanding of the human experience.

I too have a daughter who is compromised, although as an epileptic well controlled by meds she is able to live a very normal life at this point. But I understand that while life does goes on, and we all seem to manage what is handed us, the concerns for children with disabilities is a level of parenting not addressed in most books or “methods”.

I think this is another area of interest and discussion that is obviously overlooked and underserved in our society. I have always found it very difficult to find other parents to talk with about my daughters struggles and in this way my friends, whom I love and cherish, have not been the best support. In fact no one has, not my family, not my husband’s family, no one. People seem to think you want to forget about it or pretend it doesn’t exist, where in reality it would be really nice if some of my friends or family would check in once in awhile about my daughter’s condition and thereby open the doors of communication that would make me feel less isolated as her parent.

Oh, and yes! what a wonderful, civil, interesting and honest discussion we are having here. Thanks again.

Kneelingwoman said...

HI everyone-- I keep popping back on in between doing laundry, listening to Mary read and telling Hugh that the History book is the one that says "History" on the cover.....homeschooling a 13 year old is it's own blog altogether! Cy, thank you for your kind words; I do hope that I've been able to make some good use of the losses I've endured. I've always been the kind of person to look for the "silver lining" not so much in the sense of getting things back to a cheery 'norm' but in taking what I'm given and trying to learn from it and make what I've learned useful for someone else; I think it has been my North Star, in many ways as quite difficult losses started for me very early in my life. What started out as, perhaps, a mere coping mechanism, kind of turned into my true life's work; that of being what I call a "knowledgeable companion" especially for heading down those paths none of us would prefer to step out on, but sometimes aren't given a choice. I don't know if you read the post I did a few back entitled "Silent Mothering...." but, it was my "opening" to what I hope will be on ongoing discussion of how we experience the birth and life of children with disabilities of all kinds; how we experience being those "other mothers" as I describe it in my post. You might find something there for you and yes, we will continue on that topic.

At some point today, I'll get back to acknowledge everyone--I'm really so honored and pleased to meet so many of you; I'm a bit overwhelmbed, actually. Thank you all and feel free to carry on....I'll probably leave this post up another day or two and then write something new but related by the weekend or so.

Kneelingwoman said...

Oh...that's "overwhelmed" in a good way; I'm just so surprised at such a wonderful 'turnout' for this post; I'm very grateful.

Susan said...

Kneelingwoman,

I so agree about the computer screen being such a barrier in human communication. It's for some people like how they behave badly in their car in a way they never would face to face? Sort of an analogy.

I have to admit when I was new to posting I might have started with a tendency to forget the human being that might be the recipient of my words. Maybe it was when I was the recipient of unkind words myself and realized how REAL the effect on my life and mood was.

There is so much in face to face communication. You see fear, uncertainty, empathy, anxiety...in the body language of who you are communicating with. I know now I make an effort to try to communicate with the kindness I normally would. Though I remember once on Dr. Amy's board getting called on that I wasn't posting with the "tone" I usually do..and I looked back, and I wasn't...I don't know why...I apologized.

There is so much room for being misunderstood on the web.

And I am thinking now about a post a local midwife made on a mommy advice board...which was essentially when your gut tells you one thing...and logic and reason tell you another..go with your gut. ( She may not have realized how dangerous what she was saying could be...or she might have meant it...I didn't respond to the post)

I totally agree with you that the lay midwives I met in Miami in the early eighties thought more like you. And they also were strong women and politically savvy and really changed Florida law. And even if I don't agree with them on homebirth, I still have a sort of awe that I saw that in its infancy and what these women were able to do politically. Also, the whole UC thing was nothing I had heard of then. And so much you say resonates with me. I don't have a lot of contact with real life homebirthing moms now. Once in a while a transport. And a midwife I talked to her ICAN group. But I feel like I don't really "know" today's homebirth choosing moms. I am not sure I count, in fact I don't count, most of what I read on the web as knowing. The closest I come are the moms I meet at the hospital that prefer natural birthing type things. And yes, I see a real difference between people that come in with hostility and fear ( and so often it seems to to be the very person that doesn't have the labor or birth she dreamed of ) and the ones that come in with a quiet determination...its so hard to describe the attitude. But I can tell you I see it in MANY hispanic moms, who don't want drugs and just well, do it without them. Sometimes it doesn't work out for them either. But there is something I can't find the words for in the attitudinal difference. It certainly doesn't universally correlate with success at their goals, but to a degree I think it does.

As I have said many times though, when I watch a new mom who had an epidural crying with joy and bliss "this is the most beautiful baby in the whole world". I see it ALL the time, the same joy...I really don't believe all this hormones of labor deplete the joy. C/S moms cry with joy too.

I really appreciate your posts. I am 46. My first was born in 1979, my second 1982 ( at home with CNMs) and third in 1998 in the hospital where I work. So a lot like you in being in this birth world and watching it change. It makes your posts SO fascinating to me.

Katie said...

KW, what is the title of the book you mentioned? My middle daughter is disabled (massive prenatal stroke), I'd love to check it out.

Katie said...

Nevermind, i think I found it (had the name spelled wrong) -
http://www.amazon.com/Disability-Natural-Revolutionary-Successful-Disabilities/dp/0970763662/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211399005&sr=1-2

I work off and on in supported living services, we had those disability is natural posters up in our office. I love that slogan, so simple, yet so true!

clara said...

There are so many great points here and many things to comment on.

I can relate to you, KW, as a mom whose entire mothering experience deviated from the plans I had. Due to a fatal shoulder dystocia with my 2nd natural birth I am now c/s only, and the fact that i am here and alive and able to be pregnant at all makes my c/s births unbelievably joyful. I can see both sides of birth and I would never judge any mother who chooses any type of birth.

I can also see how sometimes our marriages need to take priority. As a LLL leader I always try to tell moms that they know their babies best and that only they know what makes them feel best as a mom & woman. Sometimes that could mean meeting your husband in Europe.

Personally, AP has always worked for us and I see the mother-centricness of it as part of normal biology, just fitting in with the mammals. I love babywearing b/c I know the cuddles of a baby are short lived in the big picture and co-sleeping is easy for all of us. I accept other parents choices, but circumcision to me makes no sense. A good case could be made for most things in parenting, but altering a perfectly formed body without permission and exposing it to infection,adhesions and loss of sensation: boys deserve the same respect as little baby girls. Going home pain free and whole.

I appreciate you being so open about all of this. I don't think it was easier in the 80's, I think now we can mix it up a little. Some AP, some mainstream approaches. I love that the info is out there, and I do think some of the most severe judgement is on the internet only.

Kneelingwoman said...

HI Clara: Yes, I made the same parenting choices did, overall. I was "anti circ" before I ever knew that anyone else was; it just never made sense to me but, I have also had Jewish clients and others' who feel strongly about it in the other direction and I never felt a need to "educate" them about not doing it; I frankly didn't think it was any of my business. If they asked me; I gave them the best information I could but, I really trust parents about their own kids.

I think that what I found out, as I went along, and had parenting experiences that, born out of necessity, meant that certain things could no longer be done ie. Mary couldn't be carried in a sling because of her spina bifida and Samuel coudn't breastfeed......it made no difference in my relationship to them. I think that the concern many of us " old timers" have is with the belief, often so fervently held, that the choices, and the enactment and living out of the choices; makes substantial difference in how children 'turn out'. As our children have grown up, and as the children of more mainstream children grow up; we see more similarities and far few differences than many young AP parents want to believe will exist. My younger sister, for instance, had very medicalized births that she was entirely happy with. She bottle fed all 4 boys and they were all circumsized etc. They attend public school etc. Her boys' are just wonderful, secure, optimistic, kind young men! I can discern no difference in their attachment, self-esteem or curiosity and openness to life and other people, than I find in my own kids or those of other parents who, like me, more "crunchy" in their approach.

I would like to see young women 'relax' more and make decisions based on what they truly want/need to be doing on any given day rather than sticking to a "theory" of parenting that seeks to, ultimately, turn parenting into a "project" and children into the "product" of an experience. It's a universal problem, and has been seen in one form or another throughout many decades but, what all the "parenting" theories have ultimately proven is only that each child and parent diad is a unique combination and needs an equally unique and individual approach. I think many, if not most, parents end up doing this quite naturally anyway, but I think a sizeable proportion end up feeling guilty or going into "hiding" if they think they aren't doing it "right" by someone elses standard. Thank you so much for writing!

clara said...

I think what makes some AP people so hardcore and harsh in judgement is that in reality it really is still not the cultural norm. With my first I had to believe fervently that what I was doing was the right thing and therefore others had to be wrong--only b/c I only knew what I read and what my instincts said. I had never actually seen any AP parented children that i was aware of. Early on I could see that some of the formula fed, circed and crib sleeping babies were also happy and secure and that we were all trying as moms to do the best we could. When I spent 7 weeks in NICU with my dying son my attitude really changed and I became more accepting, and I credit my son for my shift. It was a blessing from a horrible tragedy.

I was witness to so many many families, all of us with sick kids, all of us doing our best. I relaxed a lot with my surviving son and I would never have been able to help so many moms as a volunteer LC unless I could be accepting & open to everyone. I agree completely that new mothers need to do what makes them feel best on any given day.

My oldest friend wanted to wear her baby, she wanted to breastfeed, she wanted to stay at home. Her baby was born with biliary atresia and she was in the NICU/PICU for 4 months. When she got home, she never could breastfeed at the breast, she never could be worn in a sling b/c of the pressure on her abdomen and my friend went back to work b/c she had the better health insurance. They did co-sleep to be aware of her needs at night(she had an NG tube). This little girl is now 2 and is the most amazingly happy and attached child and her health is almost perfect. I think great love and closeness can be shared between mother and child, even if mom works, even if mom never nurses. I agree, its so much more than that. Those of us who had tougher experiences I think have the security that we can mix it up and still have things work out well.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Clara; I'm sorry about the loss of your baby; I know how very hard that is and I agree with you, the NICU experience changes so much about our perceptions of what it means to "mother" and "parent" our babies. I saw every possible "style" of parenting in the NICU but, I would place all of it under the more generous umbrella of "wonderful and loving and heroic" parenting and I will never regret the experience of sharing that time with them. I am glad your friend's baby is doing so well; we live in remarkable times. My oldest sister, who would now be 62 years old; died of biliary atresia when she was 10 months old back when there was, quite simply, nothing at all they could do for her. Thank you so much for posting; Blessings!

Rebecca said...

Thank you, thank you for this. It's wonderful. I am so grateful that you took the time to say all of this - some of which I've been thinking - and put it out there in the world.

Jen said...

Kneelingwoman, you are a gem, a truly wise woman. I am blown away both by your post and by all these comments. I have felt so buffetted and battered in these "mommy wars" and it is a huge gift to have you bear witness, as well as others here. Thank you for being a voice of compassion and balance.

I am really struck by the disintegration of community that I've observed in American culture. That and the dissociation induced by the Internet. I have suffered greatly from these things. I am trying hard to build community in my real life as well as online and it is incredibly difficult, both because of what I bring to it (fear, shyness, difficulty trusting) and what the larger culture offers (a handful of authentic souls willing to engage, but more often huge streaks of isolationism and/or hostility). But I am tremendously motivated because I want my 13-month-old daughter to experience her mother as a woman who faced her fears and tried to create a sane, balanced life.

There is so much more I want to say but I'm just too exhausted. I will try to read more of your blog, KW, because your voice speaks powerfully to me. Thank you.

Molly said...

I'm feeling a little hesitant about sharing my own "bad" feelings here, but I'm going to because your post resonated with me deeply. I haven't finished reading it yet because it is so long that I've printed it out to read completely instead. However, reading your words has made me want to put into words some things that have been floating around in my consciousness for some time as a "crunchy mama":

1. Feeling disillusioned with the "promises" of AP or that I, myself, am helping to perpetuate an illusion of "perfect parenting."

2. The uncomfortable feeling that sometimes I am involved with a "movement" that sometimes feels like it seriously contributes to the OPPRESSION of women.

3. That I want to support ALL women not just those that make the "right" choices--there are very few 100% "right" choices. And, never wanting to hold myself out as someone who knows more about the correct way to parent than someone else.

4. The lurking feeling that I really want to write an article called "Putting the 'Cult' in Subculture" in order to explore some of these issues (but not wanting to be "outed" as not a full and true "believer"...). And, the honest feeling sometimes that the parenting ideas I'm drawn to and publications, etc. I read sometimes have a "cultish" feel and a deliberate (if unconscious) muffling or suppression of feelings and ideas that don't properly fit into the mold.

5. The panel of invisible judging "good mothers" in my head who let me know whenever I've messed up and am not gentle discipliny or AP "enough." This imaginary panel is composed of a composite group of online forum posters, real people, book authors, etc.

6. The observation that in real life kids turn out how they turn out and that there is NO guarantee that you'll get the perfectly adjusted, securely attached, fabulously well-rounded "product" out of your years of intensive "total reality" motherwork. I ham in the somewhat rare position of being a "second generation" attachment parent and have thus seen many AP kids who are now grown up who are very average and/or unimpressive (or even totally messed up and loserish to be honest!). But, in general, no better or worse or smarter or dumber or more or less messed up that all the "mainstream" kids who were "detachment parented," (poor things....)

7. The secret dislike for the phrase or idea that how we're raising our children is the most important thing we can do because our children may someday change the world. HELLO! Maybe we should change the world *ourselves* instead of just adding more people to it and then not pursuing anything else because we're absorbed by getting someone else ready to change the world "someday" instead!

8. The observation that it for many people it seems to be more fun to hang out with "cool," "good mothers" online and bemoan the fact that everyone around them in real life is "not crunchy enough" (and they have 9,000 individual posts on a message board and you have to wonder...)

Okay, those are my random "confessions" of disillusionment and occasional sense of suffocation and or being under a gag order in a way. I'll probably be sorry I posted all this in the morning! LOL!

Best wishes,

Molly

Molly said...

Oops! Two more thoughts. One is that a couple of years ago I enjoyed reading a book called The Paradox of Natural Mothering that explores some of these issues (though not in the context of the internet so much). And two, that most people I know in real life are much less "harsh" or black and white than those I've observed online (online does not bring out the best in people). Though I've also heard them say some very dismissive and shortsighted things about those "other mothers." One of my favorite things to say when I see my group of "like minded" friends (who I value very, very much!) heading into "that bad, mainstream mom..." territory is, "women's lives are complicated and it is hard for us to ever see the complete story or to get a real picture of someone's life." I've also been guilty of being judgmental, but I usually catch myself and give myself the same reminder above.

Oops, three, sorry I just kind of jumped into the middle of a conversation. I didn't read all the comments before posting (or the whole blog post even!).

I am 29 and have two young children and think the pressure from within the AP community is INTENSE (I am probably the same type of person you referenced often seeing in your practice).

I meant to say in my previous comment that I "am" (not "ham," LOL!) in the position of being a second generation AP mother with a homebirthing, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, co-sleeping, non-circing, non-spanking, homeschooling mother who I love deeply and am very, very attached to. However, she is such a great person I think I would still be attached regardless of whether or not she had me at home and so forth. I'm attached because she is great overall, not because she did specific things that right way or not.

Molly

Molly said...

Oh my goodness. Here I am posting AGAIN to say I forgot one more observation I wanted to share. I read an article recently in Utne magazine called "Tear Down the White Picket Fence: Instead of segregating ourselves into 'communities' we need to reengage." The point was made within it (in regard to politics though, not parenting) that "...groupthink doesn't just shape opinions; it exacerbates them as members prove their allegiance to the group by upping the extremity of their views. 'It's counterintuitive...but people grow more extreme within homogeneous groups as a way to conform."

And how. This really rung true for me. I've told my friends sometimes how sometimes it is good to get out into the "real world" instead of just being in an "echo chamber" that validates my own beliefs and choices (and/or makes me feel trapped and suffocated depending on the day! ;-)

Another article that takes a look at this sort of topic is one from Brain, Child called "Online, Offkilter." http://www.brainchildmag.com/essays/winter2008_eis.asp I loved it. (I adore Brain, Child more than any other magazine!)

Okay, that's all from me. I read your blog regularly, but have never commented before this sort of extreme tidal wave of opinion! It's good to get some of this stuff off my chest!

Molly

Kneelingwoman said...

HI Molly; I'm glad you wrote and if it makes you feel better; I often leave 3, 4 or more comments on a blog as my "wheels" keep spinning and I one idea spills over into another; I enjoy it when I see other people sparking ideas in themselves too, so, please don't worry about writing more than once; I do it all the time!

I hear what you're saying about the 'cultishness' of some of what is going on and, taking the 'evil' sound out of the word "cult", I think it might be a reasonable descriptive given that there is so much structure and compliance demanded of people within the groups; the requirement of almost complete conformity to group norms, is, indeed, part of "cult" behavior. I really think, though, that some of the more "rabid" behavior is coming out of something far more basic and deserving of our kindness and understanding and that is "fear". Fear of not being "perfect mothers'" in a culture that seems devoted, 24/7 to conveying the message that such a thing is desirable and necessary to something. I also think it's very, very hard for young women today, who want to stay home and raise their children, to "justify" that decision to other people. As a consequence, I think many of them have to put some kind of psychological theory in place that supports the "necessity" of their being home, instead of out pursuing careers. I think they all deserve more freedom and respect for choosing to stay home, because it is a reasonable thing to want to do and just as valid as any other choice but, not "MORE" valid and women who don't make that choice don't have something "wrong" with them either. Your mom, who is probably roughly my age or a little older ( 50's? I'm guessing ) almost certainly made her choices as an individual response to her own "leanings" rather than out of feeling that these were choices that "had" to be made to ensure a particular parenting "outcome"? I was part of the "second wave" of hippie counterculturals back in the 70's and early 80's and I lived in an area, up in the Northwoods, that had drawn many of the "first wave" to live off the land, back to Nature etc. and that was really the guiding set of principles for us. We chose midwifery ( and I chose it as a vocation ) and homebirth and breastfeeding etc. out of a lifestyle that certainly existed in opposition to the mainstream but, we didn't have "factions" in our own ranks or expectations of conformity. We took our ideas into what became the modern homeschooling movement but, for most of us, it was about living and working alongside our children and having them learn about the "real" world by watching us live in it! My kids never belonged to a "homeschool" group, even though there were/are lots of them around; they hung out with the neighborhood children, and old people, and people in town, at church, wherever we happened to find "people" which, of course, is everwhere. It was a much more communitarian and relaxed approach.

I think you should write your views and stand strong in them. What we want, I think, is freedom...for women, mothers, kids-- everyone! Thank you again, for writing and I hope we keep hearing from you!

CocoaBean said...

I so much enjoyed reading your blog. I am a young mom to a beautiful and clever 6 week old girl and am trying to navigate a sea of choices. Our daughter is the first baby on either side of the family to be breastfed and my friends could not understand why on earth I would refuse an epidural or share a bed with my baby. Yet, the community where I live is much more the sort you describe. The other day at my local new mom's group I was worried to admit that I will indeed immunize my children! So with pressures on both sides, I just try to go with my heart and listen to my baby telling me which way to go. Your essay gave me strength to do so. Thank you!

I am also lucky to have an extremely supportive husband who is every bit my partner in loving and attending to our creation. Your comments and those of aidan's mom cause me to stop and appreciate/consider his thoughts on the choices we are making about our daughter, too. I say this because he has been very respectful of the choices I made throughout pregnancy, birth, and these early parenting weeks and I wish to honor that by making time to nurture our relationship.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Cocoabean, and welcome! Congratulations on your new baby! It sounds like you're making a beautifully smooth, thoughtful and caring transition through "new mother" land! And you are right; a supportive and tender husband is worth his weight in gold! My husband, too, is and always has been, just the best man! He has loved our kids' and he loves their mother and there is no better combination in the world. I'm glad that you are managing to wade through the myriad decisions with good humor and strong principles--good for you! Thank you for writing and I hope you'll keep stopping by to see us.

Jac said...

I really enjoyed your thoughtful post. Thank you. I'd love to hear your thoughts on improving the isolation that seems to trap many AP mamas not living in a communal setting. It seems the very structure of our culture creates a challenging situation for healthy, natural parenting. But what to do?

Jackie said...

Thank you, KW, for this post. I am new to your blog, but have been a mother for nine wonderful years. I, too, live in the middle (even though most of my choices to homebirth, breastfeed, co-sleep, etc. would fall squarely under the AP category) for the very reason you have so eloquently expounded upon: I love women for who they are, not their individual choices, and this is an unpopular stance when part of any parenting group.

As a new mother I read The Continuum Concept and then joined the e-group. I was so dismayed by the 'militarized' opinions and advice given by the members that I had to quit. The sheer lack of respect for anyone who differed in any small respect, or even for anyone who was trying their best but still not succeeding to be the 'perfect model of CC parent', was completely unbelievable. Many, many mothers were berated for the smallest of details.

At the same time, I have been hurt by more mainstream mothers who think I was irresponsible for homebirthing, and that I'm just plain weird for co-sleeping or for breastfeeding beyond the sanctioned 1 year.

It is a sad day when mothers cannot find refuge with other mothers. We desperately need each other's support and understanding when we are faltering, frustrated or just plain tired.

I applaud you for your excellent post, your thoughtfulness, and for your acceptance of all types of mothers.....and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for accepting us as we are: imperfect women who love our families, are trying to do what's best for them while preserving our sense of self.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Jac and Jackie: Thank you for writing! I think that one of the things that perhaps needs to happen is to simply throw out the "category" idea altogether! When I was a young mom, 20 years ago ( not really that long but, boy, have things changed ) it didn't occur to me to look for a "group" of likeminded parents to "belong" to and even though, as a Midwife, breastfeeding, homeschooling mother, I didn't look for other women as friends based on parenting choices. Mostly, quite honestly, it didn't come up. Women didn't ask me and I didn't ask them. There might be something to the idea that we simply don't feel that we ( and others ) have a right to privacy anymore. Our media and culture seem to have vanquished the idea that some things don't have to be talked about--like our births, our choices about feeding and educating our children. I understand that, as parents, our children and things about our children are obvious topics of conversation but, I also think that we sometimes "push" it....we either bring up our own choices or ask others about theirs ( someone must be doing something of this sort or the problems wouldn't come up ) and perhaps, just perhaps, some of the isolation you refer to, Jac, comes of making the decision that we have to find people who think like us, or not have any friends. I think that's where the "judgements" come in.

My husband and I decided to homeschool because we honestly believed that the "world" outside, with real people ( all kinds of people, not just other homechoolers ) and real experiences, combined with the kind of intellectual "richness" we ourselves enjoyed in our lives; was a clearer path to the truly "liberal arts" education we wanted our kids to have. As a consequence, we kind of threw them out into the world. They made friends with the other neighborhood children, the adults who run shops and organizations in town. They attended our very urban, culturally, ethnically, racially and politically diverse Church and made friends there....in short, we made no attempt whatsoever to find other people "just like us" to hang out with. We never joined any homeschool groups and any homeschooling families we became friends with happened because some of m clients' were homeschoolers and, if the kids met and got along, we formed friendships. ( This is all probably going to show up on a new blog post so, bear with me....). One of the major reasons we, and many people of our generation, chose homeschooling was because we felt that herding children into a room with others from the same basic background, race, politics etc. was not diverse enough! It's been an interesting observation to see that most homeschooling parents now want to narrow the options down to only socializing with those who think they same way they do. Very different. I think, as well, that perhaps finding a way for women, all women, to find a common focus...like a cultural or civic or charitable "quilting bee" would go along way towards bringing women together for a common purpose that transcends issues of parenting choice ( and yes, I'm working on it ). What great questions and comments you guys. Thank you...keep 'em coming!

Judit said...

Michelle!!!
Confession: I didn't read this post when it was fresh because it looked waaay tooo long, LOL!!! Silly me. Now I have 77 comments to browse through too, but not before I say Hi, you're so cool, and you remind me (in a nice way!) of a mom having a heart-to-heart talk with kids who'd been quarreling too much -- I guess that would make the younger generations in mom blogosphere all your unruly daughters, are ya ready? LOL. Now that's a supermom. I do I do mean that in the noblest sense.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hey Judit! How are you doing? LTNH ( long time no hear..I just made that up ) It is a long post but, boy oh boy, did it resonate! I'm working on a follow up post on the need, as I see it, to take all this wonderful community we're building here and turn it into something that helps other mom's around the world in in our own communities; I'm hoping to start a little "movement" off this blog...stay tuned. I'm very pleased, as well, to note on our mutual friends' blog that folks' are continueing to support and encourage; that has been a load off my mind and thank you for your part in that. Thanks again, for reading and commenting and yes, I do feel that I'm becoming a "Mother" to a lot of terrific young women and I hope I can serve them well. All the best to you. M.

Christie CC said...

Kneelingwoman,

I finally finished a blogpost reply to your very thought-provoking post.

Please forgive the formatting errors, I'm new to blogging.

I hope you enjoy reading of my response. Here is the link: http://catskillcarters.blogspot.com/

Warmly,

Christie

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Christie: I tried several different ways to access your blog but I couldn't get it to come up? I'd love to read your post so if there is some other information you can give me to find it; please do! Thank you for writing.

Christie CC said...

I was able to get it to work by copying it into a new window, *if* I did not include the last backslash.

A couple of posts down, I also discuss horizontal violence in the birth community.

Ultimately, I will separate our family blogstuff, but for now, I can't think of a name for mine! I have so many passions irt to birth--breech, birth trauma, and informed consent to name a few!

I hope that works.

Warmly,

Christie

Judit said...

Oh, Christie!!!
are you the Christie who was helping me find a last minute breech attendant, oh, about 14 months ago?? Hi there!!!!

CNH said...

Before I posted my birth story last night, I had mused for weeks about the choice to share or not. I knew that writing the story of a twin footling breech home birth and sharing with the Internet at large was going to open me up to being torn apart. Just weeks ago Dr. Amy held a woman I know up as an example of why not to give birth at home even though (apparently unbeknownst to her) the situation that led to the death had literally nothing to do with the planned place of birth. I had to think long and hard about whether or not I was going to be emotionally OK with that kind of scrutiny at barely 3 weeks postpartum. This particular mother was NOT ok when she stumbled upon Amy's post. But then she no longer has her babe in her arms. I think I am strong enough today, but I would not always have been. What happened the night the twins came would be labeled "dangerous" and "irresponsible" by some and I'm sure before it's over one person or another will say I should have my children taken away. It wouldn't be the first time such an accusation has been leveled at me for certain parenting choices (on both sides of the fence, mind you).

I've gotten pigeonholed as this ubercrunchy, radical mother who's living on the edge. A pariah to other crunchy moms. And perhaps (or rather, certainly) I helped create that and it's not who I am. Not truly. And yet, the night of the birth NONE OF THAT was in play. No one was being a hero or acting foolishly so we could make history. We made the choices we felt were best based on the situation at the time. It was a minute by minute, contraction by contraction decision making process. I'm glad it turned out the way it did but I'm disconcerted by people congratulating me on getting "the birth I wanted". Yes, I wanted to avoid surgery for some really personal reasons, but the birth I wanted was the one my babies needed to get here as safely as possible. I believe that to be the birth I had. Others would disagree, I'm sure.

I've been on the other side. I've been the woman calling other people names and being hurtful. For me personally, it came from a place of deep insecurity in the (not popular and often publicly maligned) choices I was making. Choices that worked for me and seemed so right. So if they were right for me, they had to be RIGHT, right? I was caught up in this idea that I could perfect mothering and indeed that my children NEEDED me to do so. I felt sorry for women who couldn't nurse because they had to work, who didn't like to baby wear, who didn't know about the superiority of soft shoes (no, I'm not kidding), who didn't feel the need to use cloth diapers. I eventually hit this sort of glass "crunchy ceiling" and then began to back off and REALLY make the choices that worked for us and let the rest go. I started to grow up a little both as a person and as a mother. I realized that I didn't have to go down the "crunchy checklist" and mark off each thing if that wasn't what was working for us at the time. And as I evolved I changed how I parented my children AND how I posted online.

I wonder if the women drawn to the Internet communities themselves tend to be a certain sort of personality? Perhaps that's why we see this kind of thing more often online than in real life? I stay off "mixed" boards as much as possible because of the hatred and debate that always breaks out. In fact, I only belong to one such community that seems to have found a way to transcend that sort of blathering (most of the time). I think it's mostly due to the fact that it's a local community and we actually have to face these same women in person at some point. Hard to be nasty to the woman who's going to be at next week's play date if you know what I mean?

I know I'm late to this conversation but it interests me so much because of the debate in my head about whether or not to share my birth story. Why do I fear what a bunch of faceless women on the Internet think of my choices? What does that say about me as a woman? As a person? Interesting things to ponder on.

I still think that some of my choices are "better" I just no longer feel the need to shove it down people's throats. I wholeheartedly believe it's important to keep as many chemicals as possible off and out of our children's bodies and our earth. I think childhood vaccines can be harmful rather than helpful in some situations. I believe human milk to be superior and preferable to formula and I think those that can, should. I think vaginal birth is better for baby and mother. Etc, etc. What's changed the most, in my own outlook, is that I realized that while these choices are important and to be made thoughtfully they do not define me as a mother. And further, Motherhood does not define me as a person. Lastly, that I can't perfect motherhood because it's a fluid state that changes constantly. Their needs, my needs, the needs of their father, etc change from day to day and even from hour to hour.

Thanks again Michelle for making me think, as always!

CNH said...

Holy Cow, I should have just read Molly's three posts and said "yeah that". Much more cohesive and comprehensive and RIGHT ON than my deranged ramblings! :-P

Judit said...

CNH, over a year ago I posted my birth story (nothing controversial, just a plain old singleton home birth) and for some random reason I am now being criticized/laughed out of town for it on some forum I'm not a member of as I write this. It took me about a day to get used to the idea that others are appropriating my words for their own purposes. I am okay with it now; I have no control over others. I did my part by being honest and thoughtful.

As did you. I love your birth story because it shows the outcome as a result of the particular and unique combination of your experience, preparedness, circumstances, beliefs, abilities, support system, labor pattern, luck, etc. It does not in any way come across as normative. There is not the slightest hint of 'activism' in your narrative, no judgement implied, no sensationalism. I can't stick a label on anything you exemplified or proved because you didn't. It's just a story of you staying focused on doing YOUR best.

Kneelingwoman said...

Hi Chantel--Hi Judit: And, Chantel, I think your babies are just beauties; both of them! I took, found nothing provocative in your birthstory but, that's probably beside the point. I think one of the things that is so different for me, and for women my age, is the idea that seems to be internalized for so many that their birth stories ( or other personal stories ) "must" be told. I'm not sure I even have a clear idea in my own mind what I mean by that. I think that one of the enormous drawbacks to this medium is that we don't have the kind of boundaries available to us that "real life" provides more easily. When we "blog", in particular, there is a sense that we "owe" our readers parts of our lives and experiences that I'm not sure we should be sharing ( "should" in the sense of maybe it isn't healthy....or good for us in some way; I don't mean "should" as a moral issue ) outside of our immediate "tribe" of family/friends. There seems to be an accepted norm of obligation for people; I wonder what would happen if someone had a baby and just said " I had a baby---it was a boy--weight--length--mother and baby are doing well. Like the old days. It never would have occured to most people to ask beyond that or certainly, to expect that anyone would "tell the tale".

I honestly think there is some unspoken discomfort around all of this that maybe needs conversation. I've noticed, in several places in the last few months; how many young women seem to feel that they have to explain, if not apologize for, their births! Adult women do NOT have to explain anything to anyone! That's not freedom; it's bondage and obligation and some kind of very unhealthy "herding" and conformity.

It's like everything on the internet (and out in the world ). The technology has outpaced our ability to create humane and civil ways of interacting with it. The idea of a blog, or an internet forum, invites the largely unexamined notion that one is obligated to "tell all" if not "show all". I am not convinced that we're better off for it!

And Chantel, about Dr. Amy's posts: I think I may know which story you are talking about. Was this a baby death? I have taken Amy to task several times for using these tragedies to spin her stuff with. She wrote about a couple of deaths and, in responding to both; I admonished her to just "knock it off" and suggested that it was beneath her dignity to hit so below the belt. I must say though, that I am simply shocked at the number of baby deaths on MDC over the last two years and heartsick over the fallacies and misguided decisions made that have resulted in some of those deaths! It's just really hard for me to read that stuff. The idea that birth is "safe" simply because it's "birth" is just not true or reliable. Birth is like everything else the human body does; most of the time, it goes pretty well but, it is impossible, absolutely impossible, to predict risk. A "low risk" pregnancy is just another statistical probability. Almost all of my major complications at births have occured completely out of the blue; no warning. No particular risks. The worst shoulder dystocia I ever had to deal with was in a 7 lb. baby! The mom's previous baby had been over 8 lbs and no problem. Why that little guy entered the pelvis oblique; I'll never know but he was stuck but good. Still, most births go well. Most bodies stay healthy; but some people get cancer and many had no "risk factors" for that either. It's just life.

So, somewhere in all of this is the core of the dialogue which, to me, centers around whether and how much, we need to give away. If it sets someone up for abuse and attack and they aren't willing to endure that; the easy answer is " don't put it out there ". I think it's hard for people to really own that their lives are personal property; we don't have to share when we aren't ready, or comfortable.

In terms of the "parenting" choices; I've really come full circle with all of that. Part of it is having grown children and seeing friends' children grow up too. We all did different things; some did "crunchy" things, some didn't....and you can't "tell" it by the kids, now young adults! Really. Some of the crunchiest parented kids I know are totally messed up and unhealthy and some of the really conventionally raised "McKids" are just wonderful, strong, healthy people. What I have found makes the difference is the outlook and attitude of the parents. If they are truly secure and comfortable with their choices; it will go pretty well. If there is a lot of anger, frustration, confusion, and a lack of authenticity or if the parents are dogmatic about their parenting choices; it messes with the kids, no matter which side the "dogma" is on. I just think we're too focused, in this country, on "choices" and "freedoms" and when so many women and babies are dying in developing countries for lack of proper care and poverty; it just seems like too much to be spending so much time worrying about what we do, how we do it and whether it's "better" than what someone else might be doing. If children are fed, clothed, sheltered, loved, eduated....they'll be fine. The details, in the end, are not as important as the spirit of the thing!

Kneelingwoman said...

And Chantel.....rest, rest and rest. Drink lots of water. Rest some more! Nooo....don't go after the dust bunnies under the couch; let them live! Go back and lie down ( this is my postpartum mantra......LOL ). Rest, rest, rest......enjoy your babies!

CNH said...

No rest for me tonight! Both babies are sick with a cold (as am I and dear husband) and need to be rocked/nursed constantly. NOW is when I'm glad I have a delightful Moby wrap and know all about baby wearing! ;-)

I didn't mind sharing my story or feel pressured to do so in any way. I just wanted to be sure with myself that I was going to be OK if it got picked up and run with by 'the home birth haters'. I have a history of postpartum anxiety disorder and things can get really out of kilter for me very quickly. Silly things cause me the worst angst! Thankfully, so far, I'm not suffering from this disorder this time.

And yes, it involved a baby's death. It's a local woman, a client of my preceptor/midwife and the death had literally nothing to do with the planned place of birth. It was SROM before active labor with terribly cord prolapse. Unless Mom had been literally standing in a hospital for some random reason there was nothing that could have been done. She wouldn't have been in L&D yet even if she'd been planning a hospital birth. Amy picked it up off of a friend of this woman's blog and ran with it as "another baby dies because of home birth". So I knew if she'd do that she'd happily have a field day with my birth. LOL

But I think that's something we don't plan on when we "share" parts of ourselves online in blogs and on forums. If you put it out there it's OUT there. I've seen Amy pull cached things off of Google after blogs have been taken to private. Unfortunately because of her and others attacks some of my favorite midwives blogs are no longer accessible. I was terribly worried you were going to do the same thing at a couple of point Michelle. It's hard to navigate this new way of communicating without a map!

And thanks for your thought Judit. I didn't want to be some sort of breech advocate. We just did what we thought was best given all the circumstances at the time. We knew Claire was at least 2 pounds smaller than my largest baby (and actually was almost 3 pounds smaller) so I wasn't really all that worried about her not fitting in my pelvis. I do believe birth to be safe. But I also think driving in a car is relatively safe and I've still got a shot at dying every time I get in and take off. I choose to make the ride as safe as possible without getting overly freaked out. I wear my seat belt but I haven't retrofitted my car for a 5 point race car harness, if you get my meaning.

Judit said...

KW, I'm tickled by your questioning of my generation's conventions around public birth stories. Would make a well commented topic for a separate post. I'm curious what others would have to say. I'd have a lot to say, but I would prefer to save it for a fresh thread ;-)

Kneelingwoman said...

HI Judit: I hope you didn't hear it as a criticism; it isn't. I just know that there are expectations on you all that weren't on "us" 20 years ago! I didn't talk to anyone about my births and I was a MIdwife! At midwifery conferences, sometimes people would tell birth stories if something out of the ordinary happened but, it wasn't much of a topic overall. I think it would be in interesting post sometime though....all this new media is so bewilderingly without a formal "etiquette" in the sense that no one quite knows what they "have" to tell or not tell......I get the sense, from some of the young women who've commented here at various times that they feel obligated to "tell my story" on a blog or a forum; when they write me, there is often the preface that "I knew I was going to regret telling my birth story but....." and then, often, they do regret it. I just think it's an interesting place to go! I think it's part of the whole thing I'm writing about on this particular thread: there is a lot of expectation for moms within the various groups; a lot of unspoken norms and "rules" that don't get questioned or considered in the light of the need for privacy, perhaps, or whether, down the road, there is regret for what I truly do think is sometimes, simple "overexposure" of a family, a woman, a child.....I think it's worth a conversation anyway.