Monday, December 8, 2014

Au Naturel

Somehow along the way, I've accumulated a whole bunch of friends who do the natural parenting/prolonged breast feeding/cloth diaper/home birth thing.  It's found it somewhat interesting to read the tons of posts, blogs, and articles from them.  It's amazing to me how someone who does the natural parenting thing can post time after time about how their decision is the best, their method is proven, and everything else out there is damaging/dangerous/wrong.  I've avoided blogging about my opinions, actually, because I haven't wanted to offend.  But I've read one offensive post after another, attacking my stance and what I truly believe to be best for my children.

With home births, there seems to be a badge of honor awarded each time, a sense of arrogance surrounding it.  "I did it, and I needed nothing."  I remember receiving a birth announcement once with the necessary naked baby picture on the front and the stats: "Baby Girl blah blah, 8 lb 4 oz, 21 inches, birthed at home."  Like that was a stat, something so significant it needed to be announced to the world.  I'm just imagining "Warren & Dean, 2 lbs, birthed in OR 2 via emergency cesarean" on my cards.  Does that make me less of a mom?  Does it lessen my bond, to have delivered in a hospital much less via c-section (Gasp).  Surely not.

I often wonder what natural parents think of our birth story, how we conceived with the help of twice daily injections and sterile procedures.  How I stayed pregnant with the help of more drugs and hormones running through my body than I could even remember.  How we delivered through surgery, and I had to be sedated toward the end, so I didn't even get to hear Dean cry.  It was hours before I first saw my children, days before I held Warren.  They survived because of breathing tubes, medications, IV feedings, bili lights, and a whole team of people fighting for them.  Now, I'm not going to take God out of the picture at all.  No one knows more than us how little statistics really mean.  With Reagan, everything looked great until she was gone.  With the boys, everything looked awful and we were told they wouldn't survive from the very beginning.  God proved my entire medical team wrong, proved He is bigger.  And I love that that is part of our story.  But, God used each of those physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and everyone else to help heal their broken bodies.

After Reagan, I would become so angry when I heard about home births.  It seemed, again, like arrogance to think you would never need any sort of medical treatment, that nothing would ever go wrong.  And maybe I would have thought that before my daughter died.  But along the way I've met people who couldn't get to the hospital in time, whose baby aspirated or had a seizure or just quit breathing. No medical treatment was provided because no skilled treatment or equipment was available.  I know women used to do this all the time at home...but they used to die.  Women died in childbirth, babies died in childbirth.  And to think you are above it all is infuriating to someone who has experienced such loss.  While in the NICU, we saw so many full term babies rushed down because of some unforeseen complication.  Now, most babies were fine.  In a hosptial that size, with as many times as I heard the little chime played, most babies were healthy and stayed in the room, no problem.  But I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be one of those women who were wrong.  I love the idea of natural childbirth - no drugs, just breathing through it and feeling the whole thing.  I may or may not choose that if we have other children.  But you can guarantee I'll be doing it from inside a hospital where medical care is available as needed.

I hear the argument, God is in control.  God's plan is already set.  This is true.  Sometimes it's difficult to understand, sometimes God's plan is not mine (often, actually).  But God has given us an ability to learn, to develop medicine, to treat dysfunction and disease.  The fall brought all this awfulness into the world, but God has given each of us certain abilities, including those who discovered ways to treat infants born prematurely, those who are born with what would have once been a life ending illness.  We would not sit by and watch our child or spouse suffer with a life threatening illness and do nothing, stating that this must be God's will.

Some things are a personal choice - breastfeeding vs formula feeding, cloth diapers vs disposables, co sleeping vs baby in a nursery (though baby in your bed is not safe).  We chose one side of each of those because we firmly believed it was best for our family.  I would make the same decisions again.  However, we should not make the other side feel guilty.  I see this most with breastfeeding, something women have become very outspoken about in recent years.  I breastfed my twins and, minus the last 2 weeks in the NICU to get Warren home, they never had a drop of formula.  They are still getting breastmilk at most meals from our freezer stash.  However, formula feeding isn't wrong.  It is perfectly acceptable.  You can still bond with your child.  It's not always a selfish decision.  For me, in the beginning, breastfeeding was the opposite of bonding.  It was awful.  I hated every second.  And we thought many times about quitting and switching to formula, getting Andrew more involved, and taking the stress out of my day.  I felt such guilt over that though, as it was the only thing I could do for them for so long while they were in the NICU.  So we continued.

I do not write this to offend people or to state that I am absolutely right and they are wrong.  We all make decisions because we think we are doing what is best.  I do not know anyone who makes a decision because they think it will harm their child.  But from someone who has seen the ugly side of birth, I encourage all of my "natural" friends to simply consider using your birthing plan in a hospital.   And to not bash those who chose differently.  And to stop posting articles/pictures/blogs about how wonderful breastfeeding is to the detriment of those who chose another option.  We are all learning, all trying to do best by our children.  And we need to support each other.

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