Deciding to have a child is certainly one of the biggest decisions that a person will ever make in their lifetime. Few, if any, decisions have the same impact on your life that bringing a child into the world does. But deciding to have a child is only the beginning of the decisions and uncertainties that will come along in the next few years. I was thirty when I got pregnant the first time. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to tell everyone. I knew everyone would be happy for me and they were. What I didn’t expect was that whereas before I went on my way making decisions all the time for myself with no comments from anyone, suddenly every decision I made went under a microscope. And everyone knew what was going to be best for my baby and myself. How confusing everything became when people started giving advice! No one had the same idea of what I should be doing. Some said caffeine was okay. Some said it was harmful. Some said I should be planning on having an epidural as soon as possible. Others said it would harm the baby. My favorite comments would come from my mother-in-law, who would say something against what I was doing and then would say "Oh…well…I guess you know best." If she really thought so, then why the comments? What is a new mommy to do? I did what most moms in this day and age do, I went online and looked up information for myself. Even when I made my own decisions that I thought would be best, sometimes other circumstances would arise and I would find myself having to go in a totally different direction than what I was hoping for.
I personally wanted a home birth. I liked the idea of having my baby in a relaxed environment. Even my husband thought I was crazy to want to have a baby at home. "Babies should be born in the hospital where they belong." I soon found that my natural desire to have as little medical interference as possible wasn’t going to be fulfilled when complications set in. Suddenly I found myself on bed rest with preeclampsia and going to the hospital twice a week to be given non-stress tests to make sure that the baby was doing okay. All at once my home birth idea had to be put to rest because I would need monitoring during labor to check my blood pressure. Then when my water broke, I felt my head-down baby flip around and end up in the transverse position. Now instead of a home birth, I found myself in the operating room being prepped for a cesarean. Everyone told me "See? What would have happened if you hadn’t listened to us?" As though my baby, sensing my desire for a home birth, decided to turn sideways just to spite me!
I was determined to breastfeed immediately after birth. I had read about how babies will seek out the breast and actually attempt to crawl up the mother to find the colostrum. My baby went to the NICU due to breathing difficulties and must have missed the crawling instinct because when he came out of the NICU, he didn’t want to latch on at all. My mother told me that some babies don’t nurse and that formula would be okay, too. Way to be supportive mom! My milk came in with a flood at two days postpartum and with a lot of work from a lactation consultant, I finally started nursing him fully a week after his birth. I was so proud to be finally breastfeeding and wasn’t prepared for people’s reactions. Some people told me that my baby wouldn’t get enough from my milk. Others told me that they only needed my milk for the first six weeks. Immediately the uncertainties came back and I started to doubt myself. And when he got reflux and seemed to be spitting up all the milk he drank, I really wondered if I was doing the right thing.
I was going to breastfeed for at least a year, but found my milk supply almost disappear overnight. I went from oversupply to no supply. Someone suggested I take a pregnancy test and sure enough, that’s why I had no milk. Apparently some women lose their milk when they get pregnant. After a week of pumping like a woman possessed, I finally accepted that my milk was gone and went to formula. Of course, some people said that eight months was more than enough to nurse my son anyway, and others said I should have tried harder to keep nursing, after all, they nursed when they were pregnant, so if I wanted to bad enough……
When my doctor and I discussed how we would deliver my second child, we both decided that for me, a vbac delivery would be too dangerous. When I told people I was going to have a repeat cesarean, most of them thought I shouldn’t do a cesarean. They all knew someone who had had a cesarean and went on to have successful vaginal births, and the recovery was so easy! I always felt strange when they would say that. Do I tell them about all my personal complications? I doubted that anyone really wanted my medical history. Or do I just ignore them? I found myself justifying my decision to perfect strangers, who really had no business making a judgement anyway. When I went into labor on my own at 37 weeks, I was actually tempted to go through the vbac, even though I knew it would be dangerous, just so that these people wouldn’t make such judgements about me. Luckily my doctor and husband brought me to a more rational frame of mind.
I am coming to the conclusion that I need to stop listening so hard to other people. If I breastfeed my daughter until she is two or older, it is only me that is doing it so no one else should be able to decide whether or not I wean. If I have a cesarean, no one else will go through the recovery but me. I have decided that I am the one that knows my child the best and I am doing a good job, even if some of the things I do may not be the same things that other people might choose to do. At the same time, I pray that I am becoming less judgemental myself of the choices that other parents make and more sympathetic to the struggles that they go through as they also make decisions about how they will raise their own families. I have come to realize that listening to everyone else doesn’t make us good parents. We are not good parents when we decide to have a medication free birth, breastfeed, or make our own organic baby food. We are good parents when our decisions are made with love and concern and the desire to do our best for our children and our family. Even if our moms or the stranger in the grocery store line may not agree.