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Jun232012

What Influence?

Tristan, my oldest, healed from a devastating break-up last year, met a girl! I asked if she knew about his crazy family. He said: 

"Mom, before the bread's on the table, I tell her about my lesbian mother, my transman step-mother, let her know she has to attempt a natural birth with a midwife and breastfeed for years. If she's cool with all of that, we have dinner." 

I laughed my butt off. 

And so started the thread on my Navelgazing Midwife Facebook Page. Initially, people laughed and thought it was great, but it deteriorated into an Us vs. Them commentary that disturbed me on several levels. 

First came the whose business is it of mine how my future daughter-in-law birth… the most obnoxious comment seen here: 

“Sad that how a women feeds her own children or birth her own children matters to ANYONE....I honestly hope you future Daughter in law formula feeds and has hospital birth...maybe then you would be more open minded...and realize what is really important in being a mother!!!” 

Then came the thoughts that Tristan having any beliefs about how his wife delivers being any business of his were completely ridiculous. 

 “If any dude I had just met had made such a joke to me, I probably would have shot back – ‘Just so long as you get that vasectomy without pain relief after that last kid, because that's how you get in good with MY mom.’" 

It bothers me enough that so many people are humorless, but can only assume the majority don’t have a clue who I am and wouldn’t know that I, of all people, am not going to command how another woman has her babies or feeds them. While I might have preferences, they are mine. I do have extra education and skill in natural birth and nursing, but that doesn’t mean I’m a birth nazi. 

And then, after thinking about this thread all evening, I got more and more disturbed by how hospital birth and formula feeding were being held as a punishment for a natural birth and breastfeeding comment. I find that incredibly offensive… to hospital birthing and formula feeding mothers! To wish a hospital birth on a midwife is no different than telling a woman who knows she wants an epidural you hope she has a precipitous labor and can’t get anything for pain. How freakin’ rude! 

(And I haven’t even mentioned in the thread my daughter did have a planned hospital birth and I supported it 100%.) 

I find myself going ‘round and ‘round here, knowing there’s something more to what I’m hearing but unable to put all the words to it yet. 

Turning my head a little, I wonder… is it a bad thing to have wishes for your children when it comes to birth? Is it wrong to want my future daughter-in-law to have a (what I consider to be a pretty) great birth? Is it wrong to hope she nurses her babies? Is it wrong to hope they don’t circumcise? Are there aspects I can wish for that aren’t intrusive on her choices? Can’t I be a resource for my children without seeming to try to brainwash them? Wasn’t watching moms labor at home “brainwashing” enough? Wasn’t seeing happy nursing toddlers a lesson on its own? 

Meghann had a hospital birth-turned-cesarean. She struggled with nursing for a few weeks… a nasty case of thrush and then oversupply that mangled her nipples. And while she took some of what I knew, she needed help from outsiders because I didn’t have all the information she needed. On her own, she has found Babywearing and clean eating and La Leche League… and now, it seems, cloth diapers (something I did briefly and hated). She is following in her mother’s footsteps without my saying a word. Is that bad?  

So, how much influence would I have on a daughter-in-law? Probably not a lot beyond what my son already knows is important to him. 

When Tristan was telling me the above quip, he said to me that he really wants kids sooner than later. “I love kids, mom. You made me that way.” 

That’s when my heart melted and everything all those cranky pants are saying just vanishes. 

My kids have taken some of my beliefs on as their own. There is no prouder moment.

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Reader Comments (12)

I think what he said is hilarious! You have an unconventional family with unfortunately unconventional values. He apparently wants a woman who understands them and who wouldnt? Also what mother wouldnt want to see their children have their values and beliefs? To me its the same as wanting your child to have the same religious belief as you.
I am one of 8 girls with a dad who is 6'4" and looks like grizzly adams, a mom who is schitzophrenic, and a step mom who while mildly crazy is fiercely protective. In short I have a crazy family to! When I was dating I could tell the measure of a man just by inviting them to my parents when my family was together. If my sisters could tear him apart he wasnt for me. I married the one man I found who could hold his own with my sisters, dad, mom, and step mom and I havent looked back since. Why? Because if he can handle my crazy family then it means that he has the character, strength, and stamina to stand beside me and weather life's storms together.
I wouldnt blame him a bit if he really did use this as a "screening process" for his dates! Atleast that way he wouldnt waste his time on someone who isnt accepting of those facts that are important to him. I know many single women who would be relieved to date someone who is open and honest about where they stand on things.
I say kudos to you on raising such an amazing man, and Congrats to him I hope she is the one that makes his heart sing and his feet do a jig forever!

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKari

geez barb,
i am sorry that people suck
much love to you.
erika

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentererika

I started a rampage on my own facebook page when I posted my 12 year old sons comment. He said to me, "What do I do if my wife refuses to breastfeed?" I said, You would probably have that conversation before you get married and you would probably not fall in love with someone who has such different ideals then you do. Notice he did not say "What do I do if my wife can't breastfeed?" He said refuses to me there is a big difference. I will admit that if my future daughter in laws refused to even try nursing it would be really hard for me but I would be nothing but encouraging. I have a wonderful mother in law who has taught me how to me one by example so hopefully I will be a great mother in law one day too. I have 5 sons and 2 daughters so I am sure I will have lots of practice. I thought your sons comment was adorable and such a testament to his fantastic upbringing.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

Social media, this medium is not meant for the subtleties of a sense of humor or the intellect that you assume all your readers have. This is not like face to face where you can make an assessment during a conversation with someone and decide will they get you? Will they understand where you're coming from, will they know my kid is being funny in my story telling. What you seem to be doing here is over explaining yourself, having to go into detail about a really funny sitution and joke with your kid for the people who can't grasp the humor!
Let them eat cake!

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

He sounds lovely :) I think it is great to have a sense of humour, the point seems to be he was listing those things with your families other "outlier things" ... he doesn't want to waste time with someone with prejudices for the family he loves. Personally I will be chuffed if my kids grow up and value breastfeeding and natural birth (though they only got one of those themselves!). I assume they'd take from the information a similar stance as myself, and value similar things. But mostly I will just be excited for them to be adults, grown up and working this stuff out and having a joke with their mum about the family quirks :)

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersoleil

Good for you, Barb. Of course, it isn't up to anyone else how someone delivers or feeds her kids. But we are human & this amorphous future woman will be family. Having hopes for the best for her (without the expectations) is very normal & sweet. Best to your whole crazy family... and your crazy FB followers! Lol...

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

Thanks for always being brave enough to speak your mind and put your thoughts out there! I've often wondered what kinds of people my kids will marry or partner with and how I will react to their choices. I think it's so important to remember as parents that they are THEIR choices, as adults, as independent beings, and if they choose things that resonate with us, that will be wonderful, for US, but if they choose things we don't like, that resonate with THEM, we still have a job to do as parents, to be loving and supportive. As far as the "punishments" of hospital birth and formula feeding, I am so sad for those that feel that hospital birth to a homebirther is a punishment. It's just one more example of the natural birth cult/community creating a divide that they claim to want to heal. I had hospital births, then homebirths, then a last hospital birth, and each one was right for me for the situation and time and place I was in my life. I learned something from each. But with my last hospital birth, there were many questions from the NCB friends I had, like "what went wrong?" Well, nothing. I just felt more comfortable in the hospital that time. I wish that more people would open their minds and stop acting like birthing in a hospital is a horrible, tragic thing. This is SUCH a first-world problem. There are women today, who will DIE for lack of a hospital, while in childbirth. They would run, walk, bike, use a pony cart to get to the hospital if there were one available, and they had the money to go. Eschewing the opportunity here in the US is your choice (as it was mine) but denigrating other women who choose the hospital is silly, grossly ignorant and as you said, RUDE.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

That people's comments would degrade into barbs meant to wound in response to your son's pre-dinner "monologue" is ridiculous. It's more a reflection on their on issues and how they feel about you, as indicated from some of the "I hope this 'bad' thing happens so you get hurt, NGM." And I agree w/ you that it's awful to "wish" a hospital birth on someone as some kind of punishment. That's just sick.

I do not think it's wrong, as a mom or a mom-in-law, to have desires for our children. Now, if we take their ability to make choices about how to live their lives away, that's another thing. But to have those desires is not a problem. To express them isn't either. Both my mom and mom-in-law were very concerned when I began preparing for my VBAC. They explained their fears and concerns to me and it engendered a very good conversation about VBACs and the risks. It brought their anxiety levels down and got them comfortable with what we were doing. It also helped them to understand the immense frustration and disappointment we felt when a cesarean became medically necessary. If they'd kept their opinion to themselves, I think that could have impacted by ability to heal emotionally because they would not have been as mindful of their comments after baby's birth.

Finally, I find it telling that he feels he has to bring all of that to the table before he even sits down. How awful that some of the women he's met are so small minded that they leave upon learning about his family. Please tell him I hope he finds a woman who's mind and heart are equally open and full of love.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

I think Tristan's comment to you about what he tells a potential girlfriend is hilarious! And I'm very conservative in almost all ways. I have a keen sense of humor, though, and find many things very funny. Interestingly enough, I am studying to become a CNM and have six daughters. I have thought about your musings somewhat. I think one thought I have is that my daughters will have to make decisions based on the situation that presents, their comfort level, and the preferences of their husbands. I want a safe and "good" birth for each of them every time they have a baby. But with all my births, I know that there were vital lessons I learned with the particularly "bad" ones that helped shape me into the mother and woman (and hopefully nurse) I have become. Those less-than-ideal experiences were very important in the long run. We'll see where my education, career, and mothering experiences take me! Btw, it seems like you raised a gem of a son!

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I think it's pretty much the same as "I want them to have the same religion, and/or lifestyle views as me" kind of thing and I really don't get why people are in a hoopla. If you have a person whose faith is important to them, of course they'd hope/prefer to marry someone who shares that faith. Same goes for lifestyle choices. I'm pretty sure there are only a few guys out there who'd be so hell-bent on pushing natural birth and anti-formula that they'd refuse considering them, and I'm certain your son wouldn't be one of them because 1) doesn't seem like it AT ALL and 2) momma would kick him in the butt, etc. So, that said, why is it such a big deal to some people that he wants to hopefully be with someone who believes (in) the same things he does?

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Barb, you're the most reasonable, middle-ground birth person I follow, and I find it refreshing. Anyone who would make a comment like the ones you posted here obviously does not follow your blog. If they did, they'd know you are the last one to judge a woman's birth choices.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAHodges

I found your son's comments funny because I didn't actually believe he said those things verbatim. You asked him if he told her about his crazy family, and he responded in a funny way that acknowledges your beliefs and interests.

Now, if you're telling us that he really does tell potential partners that he expects them to have natural births, with midwives, and to breastfeed for years...well, let's just say that I take a dim view of women who think they get to tell other women what to do with their bodies. I have zero tolerance for men who think they get to have strong opinions about things they themselves will never have the burden of experiencing.

Is it bad to have wishes for how your children birth? I don't think it's bad, but...I just don't get it. I do find the...attachment, I guess, to how other people birth generally pretty strange. Having an opinion from a public health perspective...cool. Having an emotional desire for your children to birth a certain way is just not something I can relate to at all.

June 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlalala

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