A lot of mom’s have expressed to me over the years that their family members or friends have not been supportive of their birth and parenting choices. They voice frustration over having to defend themselves to their loved ones and even worse off, to strangers. It seems that in our era of encouraging free speech and diversification, its now become OK to openly criticize strangers. I’m not sure which is the easier obstacle to over come, your mother or the man at the bus stop.
I myself have had to discuss my personal choices and the reasons for them with friends, family members co-workers and strangers. It seems the world now feels its OK to openly share their negative opinions with anyone they so choose simply because it is their right to do so. I speak of my experience in returning to work from my first maternity leave as a labour and delivery nurse. I must have heard a hundred times “why did you have your baby at home? Don’t you know what could go wrong? You’re a NURSE”!
In experiencing this I’ve learned to censor my own thoughts and opinions of others birth and parenting choices. For who am I to judge? Or for that matter, who is ANYONE to judge another. As long as decisions are made by utilizing good evidence based information and not hearsay or Dr. Google. People generally don’t choose to do dangerous things to themselves or their families.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
I’ve had mom’s share with me that their families are not supportive of their choice to have a Registered Midwife care for them instead of an Obstetrician. Their families state that they fear that they won’t get the medical care they need. Midwives are licensed medical professionals, governed by a College that holds them strictly accountable for their actions, in the exact same manner that Doctors and Nurses are. If a mom is healthy and her pregnancy is uncomplicated a Midwife is a great choice in Ontario and it covered by OHIP!
I’ve had moms tell me they feel judged for having a home birth and not a hospital birth. To drive the same point home as above, a midwife would not offer a home birth to a mother if it was not considered to be a safe and healthy choice for her and her baby.
I think everyone has heard a story of someone who felt judged for breastfeeding, or bottle feeding or formula feeding. Come on! How a baby is fed is a deeply personal choice. Obviously I am a breastfeeding advocate, but I also understand that not every situation is ideal and we are lucky to have access to alternative methods to feed our baby’s if need be.
Speaking from experience myself in all three of the above situations. I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Here are some tips to follow when you feel the need to defend your choices.
- Ask yourself who is questioning or criticizing you? Are they important to you? Co-workers and strangers can easily give opinions that are hurtful. However, at the end of the day do their opinions matter to you?
- Alternatively, if it is someone important to you, explore if their criticism is actually coming from a place of love and genuine concern? Do they need a little respectfully delivered education on the pros and cons of your choice? If you don’t feel comfortable sharing them yourself, you can always drop an email or Facebook message with a link to a good source of information to help better their understanding of your choice.
- Be prepared to smile and nod. You don’t have to go on the offensive and list off every well researched fact on why you may have chosen to breastfeed or not. Politely smile while internally throwing a pie at them in the face.
- If you do choose to respond to a face to face interaction, make sure to keep your emotions in check. The last thing you want is to have to apologize to Aunt Mary for snapping at her over Thanksgiving dinner when she told you “your too soft” or your baby needs to “cry it out”.
- Find like minded friends. Its always helpful to build a mama tribe that shares your beliefs and values, so that you can lift each other up and support one another. It is so important that you feel valued in your decision making.
Always remember your choices are just that. YOUR choices and no one else’s. You should never be made to feel guilty for doing what you have felt was right for you and your family. As long as you have done your research well and chosen the appropriate resources, the rest of the world can go to you know where…
Maggie Hilton RN, BScN, is a Registered Nurse with 6 years of experience in Childbirth Nursing and 4 years of experience as a Childbirth Educator in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Maggie is a part time instructor at Conestoga College where she teaches maternity nursing courses to Nurses looking to further their careers in the maternal-child field. She has a great passion for childbirth education, especially in regards to pain management during labour. Maggie is the mother of two young children, one of whom was born at home and one of whom was born in hospital.