Friday, July 20, 2012

It's important that mothers feel bad

When I found out that my wife was pregnant, I had a pretty strong point of view as to what was going to happen when she gave birth to our child.  This is not the kind of thing that one takes lightly, and it was very important to me that she made the right choice - not just when she delivered but what she did immediately afterward with the baby.  So, I made it clear to my wife, in absolutely no uncertain terms, that what was going to happen was as follows:  she was going to make all the decisions, because she was the one who had to get a frikken' human being out of her belly.

I remember having a friendly chat with one of my neighbors.  He and his wife had about sixteen billion children, and he was telling me that his wife delivered their kids naturally - no drugs or nothing.  He encouraged me to talk about it with my wife.  I did just that, and by "talk about it" I mentioned that he said that, but once again I made it clear that she was the one who had to have this baby, and she needed to make the decision for herself.  If I said anything to sway her one way or another, I think that I said that if I had to deliver a baby, I'd want them to shoot me up with as many drugs as humanly possible, as I don't think that I could bear to feel something as intense as that.

What about nursing?  I can tell you that my feelings were pretty strong on THAT one as well.  I made it absolutely clear that my wife was going to have to be the one to make that decision!  Oh no, it sure as hell wasn't going to be me!  (Side note:  we took a class on nursing and I learned that, in theory, it is possible for men to nurse.  I have decided that that's not true.  What evidence do I have to debunk it?  The simple fact that I don't like the idea of it, and that's good enough for me.)  For me, "feeding" somebody means dropping food into a bowl or making extra of what I'm making for myself and putting it on a separate plate.  I wasn't going to make decisions about who got to feed off her like some kind of mammalian mosquito.

Forgive my sudden shift in tone here, but I'm writing about this because I don't think that men always appreciate some of the pressure that's put on women - especially mothers.  It's nothing new, I'm sure, but mothers are always being told what to do, and the implication is that if they do things differently, they're not being good mothers.  My mom told me about how when she had me and my sister that she had decided to nurse us, even though the trend in the U.S. was to NOT do so.  As for my wife, she gave birth when breastfeeding is what's encouraged.

My wife gave it the old college try, and without going into grim details, let's just say that it didn't quite work out, and Logan eventually went to all-formula.  Trust me, if some person, even if it was my own flesh and blood, made things that difficult for me, I'd be switching to formula much quicker than she did.  The thing is, she was feeling really guilty about quitting breastfeeding.  I constantly reassured her that she shouldn't feel bad about it.  What I had said was that I hoped that she'd at least give it a try, but if it was too difficult, then it was her call to make.  As far as I was concerned, she tried, and that was good enough.  (Oddly enough, a friend of mine just told me that the advantages of breastfeeding might be somewhat overblown - obviously this proves nothing, but this friend of mine is one who isn't known to just spew out this kind of info without having done some research first.  Anyway, I'm just throwing that out as an side note for now.)

Some time after giving birth, my wife was watching a documentary on childbirth.  The title and description were a bit misleading, but it basically was a big propaganda piece on doing everything naturally when having a baby.  It went into a whole thing about C-sections, and how they're being performed far too often.  Well, my wife needed a C-section because both she and my son were in danger.  One of the ladies on the documentary went on about how giving birth vaginally gave her a "bond" with her child.  Well, aside from ignoring the fact that her child will be completely unable to defeat Macbeth, what the hell is that supposed to mean?  My wife's bond with my son is somehow lessened because he didn't go out the right way?  What does that say about me?  He wasn't even in my body!  And what the hell does that say about parents who adopt?  They don't bond with their kids?  What a bunch of self-righteous bullcrap.

Here's the thing - there are obviously mothers out there who are "doing it wrong" when it comes to their children.  I'm talking about the ones who drink alcohol while pregnant.  I'm talking about the ones who abuse their kids.  I'm talking about the ones who don't take their kids to the doctor and pray to Jesus instead.  And yeah, I'm talking about the ones who don't vaccinate their kids.  But epidural versus natural?  Breastfeeding versus formula?  How about we let the women make those decisions, and if you're a woman and made a different decision, then how about respecting the fact that not everybody does things the way you would?

1 comment:

Matthew Holderfield said...

You had me nodding my head in agreement until your critique of vaccinations. I agree with your conclusions re vaccination, but I don't think unvaccinated children constitutes bad motherhood/parenthood. It seems to me that if a parent cares enough about their kid to read through all of Jenny McCarthy's gobbledygook and make a stand against vaccination, then they're probably doing a good job in general... just misinformed IMO. Basically, I think if a parent is trying to do the right thing, then they probably are most of the time.

Same goes for drinking while pregnant. You basically have to drink 5 a day to increase risk of FAS. Crack on the other hand has enough literature support to conclusively determine that smoking crack while pregnant constitutes bad motherhood. Short of that, if you care and make an effort then you're probably headed in the right direction.