Monday, November 20, 2006

Judging others

I have been following a very moving story on Homebirth Diaries. The blogger is an experienced mother and childbirth professional. She has given birth at home multiple times and successfully breastfed her children. Unfortunately, her baby was hospitalized for failure to gain weight, and the underlying problem turned out to be a lack of breast milk. The blogger wrote of her anguish and disbelief and her feelings around supplementing with formula. She is a very evocative writer, and her descriptions are eloquent. Her baby is now home and doing very well, and she has a new appreciation for the struggles that other women may have with what is supposed to be a perfectly natural process. It seems to me that this lesson can be applied to birth issues as well. Often women judge other women's choices and struggles unfairly.

From Sunday's post:
"So what's the lesson here? I got to help myself to a great big helping of humble pie. I have to confess that in my heart, when a woman complained about her milk"going away" I dismissed her as lazy or uncommitted. After having my infant hospitalized for 5 days on account of a diminished milk supply, I think I'll have a little bit more compassion."
From Monday's post:
"I fought giving Josiah formula in the hospital for two days. I didn't want to believe the problem was my milk supply. Then my 28 year old visited me and told me not to resist on account of my pride. He was right. I was prideful about being a successful breastfeeding mother, proud that I was the mother of nine and had homebirthed and breastfed 5 previous babies. I was also embarrassed that this was happening to me- the town breastfeeding self-proclaimed guru (chairperson of the breastfeeding committee, yada, yada, yada) People came to me with their breastfeeding problems. Now I was having problems- major problems. It was a blow to my pride to give Josiah formula. I let the nurse give him the first formula bottle- still too proud to do it myself. As the days passed and it became indisputable that my milk supply was the problem, I remembered something I had heard Dr. Newman say at the conference last month. He spoke of formula feeding as a medical intervention. Surely, in this case, that's exactly what it was. I have no intention of abandoning breastfeeding. I'm taking 3 herbals and 1 medication (+ the beer) to boost my milk supply, and using formula in the meantime to increase his caloric intake. My baby needed the food, and if I couldn't supply him with adequate amounts of the best type of food, then the second best will do- for now. The more I saw him plump up as the days passed the more I became committed to supplying him with what he needed. I feel ashamed that I refused the formula at first on account of my pride instead of doing what was best for Josiah."
The author was writing specifically about breastfeeding, but I believe that the lesson can also be applied to birth. Perfectly natural process like breastfeeding and childbirth can and do go wrong. Sometimes medical interventions are the only way to deal with those problems or to prevent serious problems from developing. All women should be compassionate to other women who have different experiences, and they should not assume that women are at fault for "giving in" to pain or accepting medical interventions. Judging others really has no place in discussions about birth.


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