Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Thank Your Mother on Your Birthday!

Today is my 27th birthday- I think one teenager had it right when he suggested that you should buy your mother the presents on your own birthday!!! She was the one with the hard job, after all- and that’s not even mentioning all the wonderful sacrifices she made for you as she raised you. That being said, thank you, Mom, for all that you did for me on my birthday back in 1985, and ever since then throughout the years. You rock!



Tempering Passion with Humility

As a birth enthusiast, I love hearing birth stories. I love hearing positive changes in maternity care. I am eager to help women who want more information. I want to encourage women rather than scare them. I’m thrilled and honored whenever I get to attend a birth. I want to help women to get the birth they want. I even love trying to figure out exactly what happened at births.

But there’s an ugly side that sometimes can accompany my passion for birth. It’s a skeptical train of thought that slyly sneaks in… For me, it’s hardly ever voiced aloud. It could go in any number of directions…

Baby born by cesarean? Unnecessary, I’m sure.

Maybe she just took the epidural too soon.

Emergency c-section? Probably a shift change, is more like it!

If only she had read [insert favorite birth book title] beforehand. Then she would have known that [insert most despised intervention] wasn’t really needed.

The doctor probably only did that because it [sped things up/got him more money/got him home to his golf game sooner/etc.].

If only she had hired a doula! Her birth would have been so much smoother.

It’s a poisonous cynicism that is catalyzed by both a broken maternity system and my own pride. I see it all over birth blogs and forums, and quite often I see it in myself too.

What do I think? That I somehow was stronger than another woman for remaining calm throughout my labor? Did I clearly follow the Most Knowledgeable and Highest Path by having a home birth? Did I earn a complication-free birth by doing prenatal yoga and practicing deep relaxation?

What about you? Do you ever find yourself wandering these paths?

Do we really think that we know everything about a woman’s situation before we start talking or thinking through it? We absolutely do not. We don’t know her preparation, her preconceived notions, her level of being informed, her doctor’s viewpoint, her fears, her hopes… We do not know what was told to her or untold. What was performed with full consent, what was proposed as necessary, what was done without permission. What was encouraged, what was discouraged. We do not know the pain of her contractions. The position of her baby. The reason labor stalled or went too fast or whatever else may have happened.

And most of all, none of us can truly control it, and none of us can go back and change it.

We can prepare, we can practice, we can hope, and we can plan for contingencies. And lest you think I’m a willy-nilly, I DO advocate for these actions. I think that in many cases, they can help a birth to stay on track in the first place. They can also help a mother to process better if it goes awry anyhow. But ultimately, none of us can choose exactly how our births will play out. Birth is, by nature, unpredictable (though I do agree that it is usually safe when attended by a qualified caretaker and left well enough alone).

When you add to the unpredictable nature of birth the many layers of convoluted maternity care, mixed messages from friends and family, and the great birth debates across the world, it’s a wonder if any woman makes it through a birth without at least some uncertainty!

When I take a step back from my thoughts, I need to remember to be humble. I don’t need to judge doctors, second-guess decisions, and inject doubt into birth stories I don’t understand fully. My job is not to be the birthy know-it all. When it comes to hindsight, my job is to listen to the mother. Support her. Help her with her and her baby. Be understanding of how she feels. Pray for her and with her. Help her to heal. To be the one who doesn’t tell her what she should or shouldn’t have done.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2

Photo Credit

When The Journey to Motherhood is Painful

I read a humbling and beautiful blog post the other day and had to share it. I think I need not expand on it any more, except to say that I need to remember myself to be grateful for the blessings I have and sensitive to those who struggle. Please read, enjoy, and share.

The Road to Motherhood (Isn’t Always Easy)

Pain Vs. Suffering in Labor

Here is Penny Simkin lending us some great insight on pain vs. suffering in labor. What do you think about her points? Anything you disagree with? Agree with wholeheartedly? Enjoy.

“Your Mileage May Vary”

A reader commented on my recent post, Do Babies Have to Cost a Lot?, reminding me that the unexpected can sometimes happen, causing your frugal intentions to go out the window and to end up spending gobs of money for your baby’s health. This comment was a good reminder that even with the best of intentions and planning, things can sometimes go awry. Hmm, sounds like some other areas in life, right?

The concept reminded me of a lecture by Dr. John Mark Reynolds. The lecture topic was on study skills for young people, and my husband recently watched it with his class of 8th graders.  (Watch the whole lecture here.) What does this have to do with birth, you may ask? Don’t worry, we’ll get there. Dr. Reynolds stated that there are two kinds of knowledge:

1) Laws– Laws are inevitably or necessarily true (e.g., 2+2=4, every single time). Laws are true whether you like them or not- just ask the policeman who pulled you over!

2) Proverbs– Proverbial advice can be best described as “your mileage will vary.” What does Dr. Reynolds mean by this? He discusses the example of vehicle mileage. The dealer will advertise any given vehicle as getting x number of miles to the gallon, but the boastful low numbers is always followed by a small print message that reads, “Your mileage may vary.” Car mileage depends on various factors, such as traffic, speed, etc. Dr. Reynolds says that proverbial knowledge is akin to this concept. You can tell a person that if he shows up to work every day and does his job well he’ll be successful at work. Of course, this may or may not be true depending on various factors (e.g., a stingy or corrupt boss, being laid off due to cut backs, etc.). You get the idea.

Dr. Reynolds says that “Proverbs are what you usually should do, except when you shouldn’t. And knowing when you shouldn’t is part of that virtue called ‘practical wisdom.'”

I promised you I’d tell you how this relates to birth and babies. The fact of the matter is that most of my blog posts fall in the realm of proverbial knowledge. Any illustration given is not a hard and fast rule, but rather a “variable mileage” example.

“If you prepare well for birth, stay healthy throughout your pregnancy, do your kegels and hypnobaby exercises,and labor without any intervention, you’ll end up with a healthy, vaginally birthed baby.” “If you get an epidural, you’ll end up with a c-section and won’t be able to breastfeed.” Are these statements Absolutely Right? Of course this is silly to think that these things will always happen! (And for the record, I think the above statements are gross exaggerations.) We should all know by now that advice given by anyone- your doula, your blogger pals, your caregiver- are all only general rules or proverbial knowledge. No one can guarantee what will happen in labor and birth, and plans definitely can change.

What we can say, however, is this: We know that certain courses of action increase the likelihood of certain results. For instance, the administration of Pitocin (course of action) usually strengthens contractions, making them harder and closer together (likely result). This in and of itself doesn’t say necessarily whether or not you’ll progress well, or whether or not your baby will suffer or thrive under that particular course of action.

We can also still prepare for what we believe we should do for our babies and bodies. (Different folks will have different definitions of what one should do in the realm of birth, but that’s another blog post.) Preparing for the birth we want is a good thing, even if it doesn’t always work out. “When we know better, we do better” is another proverb that works well in this instance. Preparation helps mothers to have a clear picture of the birth they want, and when a woman knows what she wants, she will usually aim for it. This is admirable, regardless of outcomes. Still, striving for the ideal usually makes for a smoother birth, even if it’s not exactly according to plan. Knowing that we have done the very best we can- both in birth preparation and in caring for our children- is often helpful, even in the face of unexpected difficulties.

Perhaps we should endeavor to cultivate that virtue of practical wisdom that Dr. Reynolds talks about- planning on doing what we should do, but also knowing when we shouldn’t- in birth, child rearing, and life.