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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Standing your Ground

As soon as you announce that you are expecting the advice starts. Everyone wants to tell you what to expect for your pregnancy, your birth and parenting in general. At first you may welcome the comments because you would like to learn as much as you can.

As the weeks go by, you start to form a construct of who you will be as a mother. You will take some advice while completely disregarding other advice that does not fit in with your birth plan or parenting style. Some people have no issue telling others that they disagree, but many new mothers feel that they must listen. They may believe that what they are hearing is true because they have no experience of their own to reference. I am here to tell you that you are the best parenting expert there is regarding your child.

At some point you will encounter people whose positions on birth and parenting you do not agree with. It can happen in a prenatal or playgroup class, or with close family and friends. While you have no obligation to listen to what the people in these classes say, it can be more difficult when the contrary advice comes from your inner circle. It may feel more personal and that makes it more difficult to brush the comments aside.

When facing disagreements, it is always good to be as informed as possible. Information is the first tool we can use to diffuse a disagreement. It makes it easier to explain why you are following the path less traveled. Know your position and the facts around it and you will feel more confident with your choice.
For our parents, it was normal to give a baby a bottle filled with pabulum at bedtime, and put them on their tummies to sleep. It was the best information parents had at the time. We would not do that with our children now. The pediatric advice has changed in 30 years because we know more. So although Grandma may think that they old way is the proven way, we can show her and others that recommendations are not the same now and we can tell them why.

Moms do not need to be defensive or disagreeable. By showing the information in black and white you can get others on board. There are lots of resources in the community for new moms including naturopaths, midwives, and doctors who can all help when talking about food or sleep related issues. There are also parenting books on every topic available at the library. If you are close enough, you can suggest a book to the other person so you can discuss the issue once they have read about it.

The most important thing for a new mom is to find support. Seek out likeminded people who believe in the same ideas that you do. Just having a support network of other moms will do wonders for your own personal convictions. You can find a variety of parenting groups through the Birth Unlimited resource guide or on the Internet. Get out of the house and meet people. You may think that you are the only one who believes in your choices, like vaginal water birth at home with midwives, but that is not the case. There are many, many moms and dads that believe the same things you do. You just have to find them.

Finding your support network will be the first step in to being more confident in your choices. Educating yourself will be the second. If you are confident in the choices that you are making, then people will be less likely to challenge you on them. Have a united front with your partner and keep your cool. Recognize that not all things are or have to be open for discussion. You can tell your friends and family to respect your decisions and that you will not discuss it anymore. Be strong and use your support network to build your confidence.

Remember, your birth and parenting choices primarily affect your immediate family unit. It is not your mother or your mother in law who will be woken up in the middle of the night. It is you. So make decisions that work for your family. Doing what is in your heart as best for your family is all you can do.

You are human and your positions may change as you encounter life changes. The key is to believe in what you are doing and be informed. Never feel guilty for doing your best. Do not stress over every comment sent your way. Your children will love you because you love them. And really isn’t that all that matters in the end?

**originally published in Birthing Magazine Summer 2009


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