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This morning began with listening as a crying toddler asserted her independence over and over saying "no!" to a variety of nice things from sitting next to mommy while mom was nursing or getting a hug from mom. (I am staying in a separate RV and had gone into their home after breakfast.) The 23 month old was not happy with any of her choices and I eventually took her for a short walk that seemed to help for a minute.

I learned that "no!" in a toddler merely means, "I'm separate!"

Do you want some ice cream?

No! Yes!

(translated: I'm separate from you and I can make my own choices. Yes, I want ice cream!)

Do you want to ride the pony?

No! Yes!

(I am separate from you and I can make my own choices. Yes, I do want to ride the pony!)

My mother-self changed and my kids benefitted in ways they never would have otherwise.

I went to get my head shaved and my toes done after finally finding somewhere to get those things done. (Did you know that more stores are still closed here than open?) The guy who shaved my extremely sensitive head was very kind and gentle and then I moved to have my toes done.

I asked the young woman (she's younger than my kids) if she could do flowers on my toes and she immediately snapped, "no!" I chuckled and thought, "well, alrighty then." An older woman next to her laughed and said she would teach the girl how to do them... that they were easy. I said I could teach her, I've seen it so much.

I went to pick out my color (at home, I always bring my own polish) and around the tops of several display bottles were my favorite kind of toe ring - the kind with the clear elastic, leaving just the glittery flower to decorate the toe. I asked the girl, "How much do you sell these for?" And when she came over and saw what I was asking about, she said, "We don't sell those." I blinked and asked why they were on display then and she shrugged saying she didn't know. The other older woman came over, took one off the bottle and went to ask how much it was - $5 was the answer. Apparently, they were for sale.

Sitting in the chair as she worked on my toes and feet, I thought about how easy it is to say no and how hard saying yes is when it comes to many, if not most circumstances in life.

Can I have a VBAC? No.
I want to let the cord stop pulsing before you cut it. No.
I want a homebirth. Are you nuts? NO!

Saying yes requires thought and work and many people don't like to do either. When a parent says no, the next statement is often because I told you so. If a parent says yes to something, it might require getting off the couch, putting work away, getting in the car, making a project with the child, or just reading a book to him or her. Energy expenditure.

Saying yes to women wanting something different in their birth experiences requires a great deal of energy, the main push of the steam engine being seeing the women as individuals - each as a person with her own mind and needs.

How difficult is it to let (and I use that term loosely) a woman wear her own clothes if she wants to? Why does it often turn into a discussion, a chastising of the messiness of birth and you don't want to get that dirty, do you? Coercing the woman would seem to take far more energy than saying yes, but it really is a roundabout way to say no to the woman in labor.

Saying yes to a woman wearing her own clothes requires the possibility of cutting the gown or shirt off in an emergency. It requires some maneuvering if an IV is hooked up and she wants to keep mobile in her own things. It confuses the staff - who's the patient?

Why not say okay when the father of the baby says don't bathe my baby. Why give him a hard time and make him feel odd (at best) for not wanting to bathe the baby? Why does no mean so much to medical personnel?

Saying okay to not bathing the baby would require the nursery/pediatric staff to use gloves when touching the baby because babies are considered "contaminated" or "dirty" until they are bathed. Of course, if the baby doesn't go away from mom or dad/other mom, then it isn't an issue, right? But that carries its own set of yes's and no's.


When I was 18, I worked at Subway Sandwiches in Winter Park, Florida. I was a damn good sandwich maker. I had a lot to learn about saying yes, though.

Folks would come in and ask me to wash my hands before making their sandwich. What? I had dirty hands?! (This was long before everyone wore gloves in food establishments and sinks were near the front.) I would roll my eyes and sigh and walk to the back to wash my hands. Even when the person kindly explained that I went from sandwich to money to sandwich to money to meat to vegetable, etc., it didn't matter; I was still cranky about it.

When a few people asked me to heat their tuna sandwiches, I was incredulous! Heated tuna with mayonnaise? No way! I would be responsible for giving you salmonella! It was their turn to roll their eyes and shake their heads before paying me and heading out the door to microwave their own sandwiches at home.

Years (and I mean years!) later, I learned of something called a Tuna Melt. I couldn't believe people really did that. And had been doing so for many more years than I'd ever been making sandwiches. Embarrassed at my behavior all those times before, I shook my head and sighed.

It was easier to say no even for me. I am sure it still is, but I work to stay conscious so I think about what is being asked before any knee-jerk reaction I might have. And I have plenty of them.

Perhaps even an adult's no means I'm separate and I can make a decision for myself. It would be great if it was a decision made - not just blurted out.

Listen, think, respond.

I'll follow my own advice.

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Reader Comments (5)


I think I hit back button before the message I just wrote posted, but not sure--so this might be a repeat:

This may be the best post I have read at Navelgazing Midwife.

Your segues and style are being honed and you are such a pleasure to read.



Thank you so very much! I'm sometimes worried things are veering off the midwifery/medical path, but then try to make sure there is an element of the topic at hand in there just because it's part of my life.

I appreciate the feedback very much.


June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

"No" supports the illusion of power and seperation. "Yes" opens one up to limitless possibility and that is risky.

June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

P.S. I think when you "veer" (or zig or zag!) it just adds layers to your writing...and your blog.


Hi, I'm just a lurker here, but I wanted to say what an excellent post this is. Definitely made me think. I've done that many times (said No just to assert my independence, then realised that I wanted what I was being offered) and I have a baby boy who will soon be a toddler trying to assert his own independence. I don't think I'm going to forget your insights here when he says No for the first time. So thank you for posting this.

July 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPhilomytha

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