I’m a member of a Facebook mom’s group that’s based in another city. Part of their mission statement is that their intent is to be a “safe place” for discussion about pregnancy and birth. Just this past week I witnessed a situation play out that felt like an 8th grade playground brawl over the topic of circumcision. I reported the bully to the group admins and they handled it very professionally. Bravo!
Why do these kinds of things even have to happen with grown women, though?
This mom knew she was making herself vulnerable by even asking a question about after care, so she prefaced her question with “Please, no negative comments, as we’ve already made our decision”. There’s always that one person who is only motivated by the controversy and just has to say something demeaning, disrespectful and down right mean.
What is it that motivates those women to prey on other moms who choose to respectfully disagree? Were they bullied themselves and are working through their own resentment? Are they on a power trip? Is it their own insecurity of past decisions they have made for their own children?
Even less obvious disdain for someone else’s decisions for their children can be so painful. Those passive aggressive comments about epidurals or formula or disposable diapers or conventional produce sting, especially for a mama who is already jacked up on pregnancy hormones and crying about everything. If she didn’t ask for your opinion, then she probably doesn’t want it…and trust me, I’m a very opinionated mama, so I understand the challenge that is keeping my own mouth shut. When I’m tempted to open it, though, I remember how I felt as a senior in college, a member of the Baptist Student Union and knocked up. Nobody asked about the circumstances of the conception or where or who the father was. They just assumed the worst and I was shunned by many of those closest to me.
Then, I chose to deliver my baby at home with a midwife. In 2001, in a tiny little town, wayyyy before it was the “cool” thing to do. I wasn’t just a slut; I was also a nutcase!
I also had the audacity to use cloth diapers, breastfeed and…gasp!…not vaccinate! I was so terrified I would be turned in to CPS that only my birth team knew about my decision to not vaccinate. I’m still not even sure my own mother knows. Although, I guess since my son is now 13 and healthy as an ox, I probably don’t have much to worry about. Thirteen years ago, it had just become legal in Texas to elect to not vaccinate for “reasons of conscience” and not just because you were a religious fanatic nutcase. You were just a nutcase by choice.
When I had my son, there was lots of shaming going on about all of those choices and there still is. I’ve learned to have a thick skin and not let it bother me. For many women, though, judgment and shaming are very painful and can even impact mental health.
I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t want what was best for her baby. Not. One. Each of us make our decisions about these (often controversial) topics based on what we believe is best for our children. Some of us are less equipped for conflict or are more trusting of the traditional medical community and some of us have louder voices with which to express our opinions. We all want what is best for our babies, though, and we try to make those choices the best way we know how. With that in mind, can we please put down our rocks and mud and just stop slinging them at each other? Can we just love each other for doing the best we know how? This mom gig is hard enough work, especially with the world of Facebook and Pinterest that continually flaunts just how far we are from hitting the mark. The struggle with mama guilt is real and we perpetrate it on each other with so many of those “casual mentions” and posts we share in social media, even when we don’t mean to.
Can we all make a conscious choice to celebrate motherhood and our children? Can we intentionally move in the direction of supporting each other for all the daily decisions we have to make? I promise you that encouraging a mom about what you think she’s doing right will make you feel so much better than passive aggressive (or downright aggressive) remarks ever could.
Consider also, (and here’s the rub), whether cramming your own agenda down the throats of people who haven’t asked for your opinion is actually an effective way to convince anybody that your stance is worthy of consideration? Spoiler alert: It’s probably not. In fact, you’re likely to be accomplishing the opposite thing. The other party is not receptive to you if they didn’t ask for your views, and particularly if they’re angrily presented. You aren’t going to convince anybody of anything via internet vitriol. In fact, you’re probably turning that mama off from your point of view all together and reinforcing her idea that she’s making the right choice. After all, if women who choose what you chose are such angry people, why would she entertain the thought? You will end up more frustrated because you didn’t convince her of your righteousness and she will be more frustrated because you’re giving her advice she didn’t ask for. You’ll be filed away in the same part of her brain that her super annoying mother-in-law is. Just stop. Let her make her own choice.
Aren’t we all own worst enemies anyway? No matter how calculated or educated our decisions for our children are, don’t we all second guess and criticize ourselves enough to make up for all of the playground bullies we could ever imagine? None of us even need Pinterest to remind us how imperfect we really are. Seriously, we’re already aware of it.
So here’s our challenge to you:
Reach out to a mama who has made different parenting choices then you and tell her she’s doing a fantastic job. She is loving her baby the best way she knows how. Send her an encouraging card. Post on her Facebook page. Give her a hug. Bring her a meal. You’ll feel amazing about it and you’ll bring a smile to her already exhausted face. You’ll lift her up. Isn’t that what we all need more of in our lives?
Yvette is a local photographer whose business, Yvette Michelle Portraits is one of our WMC Community Partners. Yvette is a transplant to SETX from Tomball, TX who delivered her 9 ½ pound son at home with a midwife and doula in 2001. Her love for home birth has translated into her love for birth photography of all kinds. She’s a natural mama who advocates breast feeding, cloth diapering and holistic medicine but she is careful to be sensitive to every mother’s decisions for her babies.