Wednesday, July 21, 2010


When it comes to things like pregnancy, birth, and parenting, it's important to provide information in a loving and supportive way. But, if at all possible, I also think it's best to do this in the context of relationship.

Now, obviously, for those who blog (like me!) it may not be possible to develop a relationship with everyone who may encounter what we're saying. I'm not suggesting that we should never write about the things that matter to us; I am suggesting that we pursue relationships with people in our real lives. When we do this, we will naturally get to know people whose experiences, circumstances, and choices differ from our own. Understanding issues and choices through the eyes of other people instead of through our own perspective and idealism can go a long way toward helping us approach people in a loving and supportive way (rather than a judgmental or condescending way), both in person and in writing.

When people in our lives make choices that differ from our own, do we attempt to see things through their eyes and understand what's behind the choices they've made, or do we judge them? They're lazy. They care more about their own convenience than what's best for their child. They haven't done any research. They're detached from their kids. Ouch! In the end, are we more committed to our ideals and the issues we're passionate about, or are we more committed to people? Relationship, I think, is the key to loving people more than our pet "issues." And in the context of a true, loving relationship, it is very unlikely that we will simply assume the worst about the other person.

As someone whose choices regarding pregnancy, birth, and parenting have changed drastically from my first child to my second, I can guarantee you that being harshly judged and looked down on by others would never have done anything to change my mind; it would have just hurt my feelings and made me feel bitter. You know what opened my eyes and my heart to other perspectives and choices? Relationships. While my oldest was still quite small, I met and developed relationships with loving, caring people whose choices differed from my own in various ways-- but they didn't try to force their choices on me. They just did their thing with confidence and were willing to talk if I had questions. Some even blogged about their experiences and perspectives, but I never felt judged when I read their posts-- I felt encouraged.

In relationship, we get to know other people and understand where they're coming from, and we let them get to know us and understand where we're coming from. We live life authentically in front of each other, and we all grow and change. It impacts our assumptions, our words, our choices, our understanding. There is so much to be gained from relationships-- and so much to be lost if we overlook their importance.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Love Comes First

I have really been struggling to write lately. There are so many things I passionately believe in; I love to read and talk and write about things like pregnancy, birth, and parenting. So it only makes sense to do so on my blog.

But some other blog posts and articles I've read recently in various places have given me pause. I've been seeing a lot of well-meaning information, research, and thoughts put out there but expressed in such a condescending or judgmental way. And I find this really frustrating.

I think it's so important for parents to be able to access the information needed to make truly informed decisions, and I believe that many OB/GYNs, pediatricians, and parenting publications often provide only one side of the story while telling us it's all we need to know to be fully informed. And so I definitely believe in getting the "other" information out there. The problem is that it's so often done in a way that feels like guilt-tripping and condescension all wrapped up in a pretty package that says, "I'm just trying to help!" Both "sides" use research to support their claims and use language that make people feel like bad parents if they don't measure up to whatever that particular side is saying about that particular issue.

I can hear people saying now, "But you said yourself that people need to have access to information that will allow them to make truly fully informed choices! If we care about the issues and the parents and the babies, we need to speak up!" And I agree-- but in the context of love and support. Unfortunately, a lot of times it feels like people are bombarded with information and expectations in a way that feels less like love and support and more like piling more and more burdens upon people's backs.

But it's a balance that can be hard to find, especially when it's complicated by the very real situations in which people feel judged even if nothing judgmental was said or intended. So some people end up tiptoeing around, afraid to say anything at all out of fear of unintentionally offending someone, and some people end up saying, "Screw it, I'll just say what I think and people can deal with it!" I don't think either approach is all that helpful, though.

My mind keeps coming back to speaking the truth in love. I think it's okay to share research and information and our own thoughts and experiences, but it's so important to pause and ask ourselves if our motivation is really love. If we're saying it in hopes that other people will see how wrong they've been and how right we are, that isn't very loving. If we're saying it as a way to passively-aggressively comment on other people's choices, that isn't very loving. And I'll be honest enough to admit I have said things in the past with a less-than-loving motive, and I am truly sorry. So often when people are passionate about something, it is easy to start caring more about the issue than about people, and I have definitely been guilty of that before.

So in the midst of all the passion and concern and research and information, let's remember that the people around us are real people with unique circumstances and struggles. Instead of bombarding everyone we know (and even people we don't know) with ideals and "shoulds," let's form relationships with people, get to know their situations, love them, and empathize with them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I lay outside looking up at the night sky. Neighbors were shooting fireworks all around, and as I watched them, I felt a strange sense of connection to other people all over the country who were doing the same thing I was right at that moment. In the midst of all the differences we may have, this was a shared experience.

As the fireworks died down, my attention turned to the stars. I lay there on my back and gazed up at them, thinking of the beauty of creation and marveling at the enormity of it all. Again I felt a sense of connection. How many people all over the world throughout history have done just that? We are not so entirely different, even across time and cultures.

My thoughts went to my friend who was in labor with her first child at that moment. Another connection. We women are connected by this amazing ability to carry, birth, and nourish a new life. We divide ourselves over different opinions and choices, but we have such an awesome thing in common!

People share so many experiences. We have more in common than we realize. We are more connected than we know, but too often we let our differences drive us apart. I have been more conscious of it lately than ever, and I am weary of it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Temptations and Boundaries

Lately I've been thinking about weaknesses and temptations. Many people, maybe all people, have their own weakness or temptation that they would almost certainly give in to under the right (or wrong) circumstances. So if you know what your big weakness is, do you take precautions to try to be sure you never reach the point that you cannot resist anymore?

It helps me to think about it in terms of alcohol. (Not my weakness, personally, but it's a familiar enough example that I think it will make sense to most people.) Suppose alcohol was my big temptation, and I found myself all alone in a room with a bottle of it. I still might be able to resist at that point. But suppose I allowed myself to inspect the bottle, touch it, open it. Suddenly it would be much harder to resist. And then if I poured some into a glass? Game over. If that was my weakness, and I let myself go so far as to pour it, could I actually continue to resist taking a sip? No one would ever have to know...

I've heard parents say that in setting boundaries for their children, sometimes they will actually set the boundary a few steps before their kids would ever reach that one thing that drives the parents particularly nuts. For example, you may not mind if your kids run and play loudly in the house, as long as they don't start jumping on the furniture-- but you know your kids well enough to know that once they start running and playing loudly in the house, jumping on the furniture is soon to follow. So rather than setting the boundary right on the edge of the thing you absolutely do not want (no jumping on the furniture), you may decide to set the boundary a few steps back (running and loud play need to happen outside).

But how often do we set these kinds of boundaries for ourselves? If I know what my big temptation or weakness is, do I allow myself to get right to the edge of it and then expect myself to somehow resist? Or do I set the boundary a few steps back, at something that may not seem like that big of a deal, but I know where it could lead me?

I think a lot of times people feel silly setting these kinds of boundaries for themselves because the boundaries seem excessive or ridiculous, especially to other people whose temptations are not the same. You won't go out with friends who are drinking? You won't be alone with the opposite sex? You installed a porn filter on your computer? But sometimes, in order to keep ourselves from reaching that big thing that tempts us, we have to take precautions.

Do you have a temptation or weakness that you're aware of? Have you put boundaries in place to help ensure that you won't reach the point where you can no longer resist?