Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I want my friends to know

I started this blog for a few reasons. One was to take all the doula-, birth-, and breastfeeding-related stuff out of my personal blog and put it in one place, where it would be easier for me to think and write about (and expand on) separately. Another was to have a place for myself to make connections between what I was studying in my MPH and other issues that I care about. It has been a great place to do those things, as well as provided a more unexpected benefit of connecting me to an amazing community of smart, interesting, challenging bloggers who think about the same stuff I do.

But I had another motivation for starting this blog. Yes, I took a lot of my birth-related stuff out of my personal journal - but my hope was that my friends would humor me by adding Public Health Doula to their Google Reader as well, and that maybe I could draw in a few more friends/classmates/relatives. And then, THEN, I could expose those people to all the things I was learning and thinking about birth, maternity care, breastfeeding etc. I don't want to be the Obnoxious Friend bringing it up all the time...or worse, the Obnoxious Friend bringing it up while my friend is actually pregnant or parenting. Once someone is pregnant, I try to offer my services in a low-pressure way, then shut my damn mouth and only bring something up if they bring it up first. (Do I always succeed? No, but I try.) I don't want anyone to feel like I'm judging their choices, even if my intention is only to offer more information or ask questions. This blog is a way to make my thoughts available without forcing them on anyone.

But yet I've been thinking lately about how reading about my feelings on a lot of these issues could make some of you out there in real-world friend land feel judged. Or at the very least, not sure whether or not I would judge you for choices you might make. And let me say, at this stage in my life, it feels like EVeryone I know is having babies. So I am writing this post now, just to say: as a doula, I do not judge my clients for any of the decisions they make. I want them to make educated, supported decisions they feel happy about. God knows I want no less for my friends, and hope I would treat them with no less respect and consideration.

So I thought I would write down the things I do and don't care about, so I can make sure I'm clear:

Here are things I DON'T care about:

-I don't care if you give birth in a hospital
-I don't care if you hire an OB-GYN
-I don't care if you get an epidural
-I don't care if you have an elective induction
-I don't care if you have an elective c-section

Yes - I encourage working with a midwife, taking a childbirth education class, avoiding unnecessary interventions, inductions, and c-sections, breastfeeding, and using a mother- and baby-friendly birthplace.

But I encourage these things NOT because I think they make you a better woman, mother, or person. I encourage these things because I care about you, and through reading the evidence and from personal experience, I think these are your best shots at having a happy healthy birth experience and having a happy healthy baby.

If you decide something else is the best choice for you - it's your body, your baby, your choice. Do I want you to know the risks of an elective induction before you choose it? Yes, which leads me to:

What I DO care about:

- I care that you know enough about birth, and your choices (and RIGHTS) in birth, to make educated decisions and know what your priorities and values are. This is the biggie. I hope you never think "I wish I had known..." or "If only someone had told me..." If I am ever pushy with information, it is with this goal in mind.

- I care that with what you learn about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, you resist the misinformation out there, and refuse to spread it yourself. If one of my friends says, "Once a child's old enough to ask for it, he's too old to breastfeed" ...well, let's just say we'll have to talk.

I also have some hopes - things I cross my fingers that my blog posts are teaching you more about:

- I hope you know that you have many options and variations in terms of maternity care. How one individual care provider practices is not necessarily the gold standard that you cannot question.

- I hope for you not to be frightened of birth, and I want to balance out the voices that might be feeding you fear.

- I hope for you to feel supported in whatever choices you need to make for your health (mental and physical) and your baby's health (mental and physical).

- I hope for you to feel happy and at peace with whatever happens at your birth, and if you don't I am there if you want to process your feelings or want help finding more information. But I never want you to feel like I am playing the "If Only" game with your birth unless you have specifically asked me how I think things could have been different.

So again: no matter what happens during your pregnancy, birth, and parenting - I want you to NEVER EVER feel judged by me for any of the choices you make and if you do, call me on it.

And I am here for you. If there is anything I can do to help you...whether it be troubleshooting breastfeeding at 2 am or just needing to talk through your feelings...I am here for you. And that's the most important thing I want you to know.


Dou-la-la said...

As a fellow sometime Obnoxious Friend, I thoroughly applaud this post. I had semi-similar motivation for starting mine, actually; I can definitely relate. I think it's a good solution. You're being open but not pushy, making the information available, and it's their choice whether to seek it out or not.

I'm still guilty of clogging up my Facebook feed with probably a few too many links on the topic. I have a feeling I've been "hidden" by a few . . .

I also agree entirely with the emphasis on INFORMED choice. This is my basso continuo as well.

Birth Junky said...

Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself. Those are all the reasons I started my blog and this perfectly echos the "no judgment" sentiment I hold. It's all about education and choice. Keep up the great posts :)

Rebecca said...

Thanks to both of you! I have been guilty of cluttering up my Facebook feed and have even engaged in an (ultimately I think productive) discussion with someone who was hurt by some of the stuff I was posting. It's a hard line to walk.

Dou-la-la said...

I had a similar experience with breastfeeding information on Facebook too, actually. A husband of a mom who had had a terrible time with nursing challenges and wound up eventually turning to formula contacted me, explaining how he thought some of the things I was sharing could be hurtful in cases like his wife's. As a result, I was able to respond and explain how I knew all too well just how difficult it can truly be, and how I really did understand why they ultimately went the way they did. From there we actually had a really good exchange about why advocacy is all the more important as a result.

(Hmm, come to think of it, that could be a good post in itself . . .)

Mama to Monkeys said...

Wow. I could have written (most) of this.

Thanks for sharing and keep writing!

Unknown said...

Brilliantly written Rebecca!
It brings a couple of tears to my eyes reading this blog post -
all you are appealing for is logical rational safe healthy decision making by an informed mum-to-be - that's all - simple really isn't it?
But with the politics of normal healthy birth vs the pharma/medical industry backed by fear driven media - we lose friendships, relationships, common sense in our communities.

Well keep up the great work Rebecca - hope you are inspirational to millions of women world wide to join you in influencing their friends, family, communities of feminists.