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Saturday
Jun302007

Shame

While many of us profess to not be influenced by society or our friends or even our partners when it comes to what we do with our bodies. The reality is, many of us are. I see it every day.

“Let me check with my husband.”

“My friends all swear by fill-in-the-blank book.”

“My boyfriend won’t let me do that.”

“The doctor said I can’t.”

Our friends become a gauge for our actions… are we nursing long enough? Do we do Elimination Communication with them? Or do we use cloth diapers? If I use disposables, will I be ostracized? What if I can’t nurse? What if I don’t go to the hospital they all use, have an epidural like they do, use the same doctor?

Many women struggle with these issues. If a woman uses her mind, she is often punished, even shamed into submission. Or at least, they attempt to shame her into submission. If the woman is strong enough, she plows on and often, in the process, she loses those friends and finds a new circle of friends that support her in her new hopes, dreams and desires. Not enough women have the option of finding support outside their circle of friends, but with the Net, at least it’s a little better, but you can’t always depend on cyber-friends to bolster you when real-life people are smacking you in the face.

But, what if it’s your partner that’s using psychological warfare? How do you work through the issues of circumcision, extended breastfeeding, VBAC, the family bed and homebirth if your husband is adamantly against what you so strongly believe in?

What if your partner says your breasts will droop and be saggy if you nurse past six weeks? What do you know? You’ve never nursed, you don’t know anyone else who’s ever nursed; all you know is what you’ve read on-line and in books and that issue isn’t addressed head on. Is he right? Is he telling you he won’t want your breasts/you anymore if you nurse after six weeks postpartum? Is it a threat? Do you even bother nursing at all?

I hear similar stories all the time. Partners can be the mom’s biggest allies, but they can also be the biggest antagonists.

- Mom is nursing a few-month old child and goes to the baby, who sleeps in another room, once or twice in the night, to soothe her with a pacifier or, sometimes, a short nursing. The dad, who barely awakens at night, rages during the day about mom losing sleep, howling that she immediately throw out the pacifier and quit going to the baby in the night. He brings home “How to Sleep” books and videos constantly and tells mom how to mother the infant. Mom swears she never complains about being tired and has no problem at all with waking with the child, two or ten times a night. The marriage is suffering.

- Mom realized during the pregnancy that she would never circumcise her son if she had one. Her husband, Jewish, but not Observant, insists that circumcision is required in their family and that’s it. When the baby is born, it is, indeed, a boy and the issue turns into an immediate fireball when in-laws, the family’s Rabbi and literature all descend on the newly postpartum mom, who still refuses to allow “her” son to be circumcised, using all the heated language she can – making the topic more and more inflamed. When I met mom, the baby was intact and she was in the middle of a divorce.

Who’s right? Is mom always right? Does she always have the Right o