"Why would you NOT want an epidural?"
"I was induced and everything worked out just fine."
"You're electing for a c-section? WHY?!"
"Why do you need a swing? Aren't you always going to wear your baby?"
"You don't need formula. You have exactly what your baby needs."
Oh my goodness. It is constant. EVERYONE has an opinion on what you should eat, how you should birth, what you should feed your baby, how you should parent...
As a soon-to-be parent, you are naturally unsure of the decisions you are making - and rightly so with so many options out there. You may look to your family, friends, co-workers, Facebook, and mommy boards seeking support, guidance, empathy, and stories. However, much of what you are going to be met with is more along the lines of judgment, criticism, or enthusiastic applause. And let me be very clear - none of those are overly helpful responses.
Why aren't more experienced moms helping you find your own way or providing factual advice versus their own, subjective opinions?
Well, the good news is that it has very little to do with you and everything to do with them. The bad news is that it doesn't always feel that way and instead can leave you feeling insecure, disempowered, and even more unsure of your choices.
Let me channel my inner mom and tell you what is most likely going on behind the scenes:
How well we parent is directly tied to our self-esteem. We've made the decision to dedicate our lives to this little person and we feel solely responsible for how they turn out. Every little problem our child has, we question what we did to cause it. Every amazing accomplishment they have, we pat ourselves on the back for doing something right. And when you, soon-to-be mommy, come at us with a different way of parenting or birthing that may lead to a better (aka different) outcome, we can't help but need to justify and defend our own decisions. And if it may lead to a worse (aka unconventional or not what we'd want) outcome, we get a big high off of telling you how we did it better and that you should re-think your decision.
The birth of our child is a one time, priceless experience. We don't always get the perfect birth story. Complications may have arisen that threw our birth plans out the window. We may have made decisions or been put into a situation that later we realize wasn't "right" or "best" but at the time, seemed best. Or maybe we did have an amazing, mind-blowing experience and we want everyone we love to have just as "good" of an experience with their birth. So when you come seeking support for the way you'd like to birth your child, we automatically start comparing your desires with our own and the reality of what we personally went through. We feel the need to defend our decisions or protect you from the pain we experienced. Or we have a pretty detailed prescription for how you too can achieve the ultimate birth experience.
We fear your judgment. The more sure someone is of their way of birthing or parenting, the more we begin questioning our choices. Was there a better way? Did I mess this up? The stakes are so high, the thought that we could have done something better or different and someone knows it is almost too much to bare. So, in our effort to defend our own choices, it can come across as putting you, new mom, down. We are protecting ourselves from feeling judged, incompetent. or imperfect.
NONE OF THESE THINGS HAVE TO DO WITH YOU AND YOUR CHOICES. Bottom line, these feelings exist because no one is the same and everyone has their unique way of going about birth, parenting, and being human. However, we have an instinctual need to judge, compare, and defend. It is just human nature and the way we protect ourselves from emotional pain.
So new mom, what do you do to find that objective guidance, education, support, and empathy you crave?
Taking off my mommy hat and putting on my childbirth educator hat: Find a childbirth education class that looks at all your options and helps you weigh them equally.
Childbirth educators are trained to provide evidence-based information, facts, options, and skills so that you are armed with the information you need to make your own choices and the skills you need to see those choices through.
Even though I am a mommy and can certainly relate to many of the feelings I've described above, as a childbirth educator I know that your choices aren't about me. I've worked through my own insecurities and opinions so I can walk into a classroom objectively and ready to support you in whatever decisions you make. I have fully embraced that this is not my birth or my child and I take great comfort in helping parents navigate their own journey with newly-found confidence and a thick skin against all those opinions out there on Facebook and coming from your friends and family.
A childbirth class can be very helpful if you're facing a lot of uncertainty or little support about your birth or parenting choices. In our classes we look at the evidence for different choices, we discuss how to weigh the benefits, risks, and alternatives, and we talk through your birth preferences so you can be as prepared as possible to see it through.
So remember soon-to-be mommy, all those opinions and defensive remarks are not about you. You are walking your own journey and your story has yet to be written. Get the support you need and not what others want to give you to make themselves feel better.