It's boring around here; let's go poke some crunchy moms.
I was at a park with Super Kindergartener, way back in the day when he was 8 months old. I was trying to join a new playgroup and I was chatting with a woman near the swings. She was pretty crunchy and I was cool with that. Most of what prevents me from forging into crunchiness myself is my laziness. I love the earth, but the true joy in tilling it still eludes me. But I was happily chatting with this crunchy mom until her crunchiness took a turn I wasn't expecting. You see, we started swapping birth stories. It is a natural (teehee, natural birth pun!) progression in mom conversation, so I wasn't worried. I happily told her about my recent experience with rock-star-late Super K. (10 days!), my drama with induction, struggle with labor, and eventual C-section. I was about to launch into how dreamy his infancy was, with all-night sleep at 6-weeks, when she threw me a mega-curve ball. "I'm so sorry. Have you adequately mourned your C-section, Erin?" I just kinda stared at her. She asked me again, "You haven't, have you? It's OK. But you really should if you want to move on in your motherhood journey. You are still a real mom even though you haven't really experienced birth." I declared that Super Baby had a need to go down a slide and booked it out of there as fast as I could.
I have had 2 C-sections. Neither was particularly pleasant or experiences that I would volunteer to undertake on a slow Saturday night, but since they resulted in this:
I am not inclined to complain. Nor do I feel that I have anything to mourn.
Super Toddler chose to come to us via Vbac, and while that was certainly a different experience, it was full of its own struggles and unpleasantness. And for the sake of completeness, here:
Now, some of this is just me, but I don't particularly enjoy the being pregnant or the birth parts of getting a baby. I just want the baby and I will go through what I have to go through in order to do that. And despite what my ultra-crunchy near-friend thought that day in the park, I have experienced birth. Everyone who has had a child has experienced birth in the singular and unique way that child chose to come into the world. Everyone who has experienced welcoming a child into the world or their lives has experienced birth.
Because that is the single most important lesson of birth; it isn't yours. You can make all the birth plans you want but at the end of the day, it is their arrival. This baby inside you is coming and she intends to make an entrance. It is a pretty important lesson in parenting; you are not in charge. You are a protector, a guide, and someone to make sure they gain the skills they need to survive life. But they are not little clones of you; they are going to forge their own paths. Starting with how and when they exit your body.
Now, before you come sit me down and force me to watch the Business of Being of Born, I am totally supportive of birthing rights and a myriad of ways to have your baby. Home births, hospital births; do whatever works for you and your coming baby. Use as little or as much medical involvement as you want; I will defend to the death your right to do so because you are my sisters in womanhood. (Told you I was secretly crunchy.) No, my concern here is how we treat one another. Let's be real; not many women decide to have a C-section because it looks fun. We do it because we are concerned about the health and safety of our children. Treating a woman who has experienced a C-section (and who probably doesn't need any of your help in feeling guilty) like she hasn't truly experienced birth or has something to mourn is insulting and it is cruel. It is also inaccurate, unnecessary, and many other adjectives that mean just-don't-do-it that I am too lazy to think of right now.
Swapping birth stories is a mainstay of motherhood. Millions of woman before us have engaged in the time-honored tradition of telling and retelling those magical stories of meeting our children for the first time. It should be a fun, positive experience that binds us together as mothers. My favorite story of my own birth is when my mother laughs and talks about how my father nearly fainted and how the nurses were more concerned with him. Or when my father still calls me Blizzard Baby on my birthday and recalls that awful and yet wonderful day during the Blizzard of 1978 when I decided to make my appearance. I can still see the sleet that was raining sideways out the window as I waited (and waited) for Super K. to show up. I can still remember Awkward Dad merrily announcing that Super Preschooler was "a boy!" I can still feel Super Toddler when they put her on my chest and I could feel her fuzzy hair on my cheek; marveling that this tiny little girl was mine to kiss and hold. I really don't see what there is to mourn here.
Birth is an exciting and thrilling part of our children's lives, but it is merely the first of amazing and fabulous feats that they will accomplish. We are mothers, not birthers. If you are birth-story swapping with a mom and she mentions a C-section, don't tell her you are sorry or that she has anything to mourn. If you do, you are being another B-word entirely. Just don't; you are better than that.
Did I join the playgroup? No, I did not join that playgroup. But I moved to Ann Arbor, so I kinda feel like I did. Kidding! Crunchy moms, you know I love you!