I've been thinking . . .
People think I'm an expert at Mother's Day because I'm a midwife.
And there's no question that I get to see indescribable power from mothers as they give birth before my eyes, on a regular basis. I know this is the unspeakable strength from whence I came since the beginning of time.
But in the blink of an eye, my mind flashes to so many of the mothers that have imprinted my memory this year.
I think of the client who has been pregnant four times, three of them with me at her side. She has had three losses to trisomies - one of them in the second trimester, IUI, IVF, and one gorgeous, sweet healthy baby after what easily was one of the most rewarding days of my career, and possibly, my life. Hers, too.
And now I'm reminded of the client who has had two miscarriages in a row. She is only 30 and cannot stop thinking about these two. She is coming back to have her IUD placed again, for now.
And the families where there are two moms . . . every midwife I know loves to help families where there are two moms because . . . I mean what could be better than two moms? Moms are the best thing ever and if you're a midwife and you love women, you love families with two moms. I am no exception and my midwife heart grows double.
Mother's day is rich for me.
I asked Josh for tickets to Bruce Springsteen on Broadway. He said, "I feel like you just asked me to buy you an island. I could probably get you an island!"
I'll settle for brunch.
I see you. I see you. Happy Mother's Day.
Get ready for a women's health revolution.
Jenna is starting another round of New Moms Support Groups in Manhattan and Brooklyn this week. Join us.
A.K.A. - Friends, please.
I mean, I had a million friends. . . a few very close ones, too when I had my first baby. I thought my new baby would just fit right into the folds of my life. After all, we waited until we actually had built some kind of life before we had our baby.
My best friend at the time, childless, couldn't wait to meet the baby. Our spontaneous mid-week lunches would now have an adorable addition and my dear friend instantly achieved Uncle status. I had visions of how he would be like a second "cool" father to my son.
But the first time he came over and I had to change a diaper, he said "wow!" and went to get a snack.
And in that same visit when I had to feed the baby, I noticed his eyes looking anywhere else they possibly could.
And when I told him my birth story he said it sounded like the most disgusting thing he had ever heard. But he was happy for me.
And I found pretty quickly that the recent calls saved in my phone were to my new mom friend, the one I met in my Bradley class. We didn't talk too much in class but she seemed like someone I would like. And in our last class, we discovered our maternity leaves were both about to begin the very next day. We made a date.
We went shopping for nursing bras together, had lunch, cookies at Levain (My first time! There was no line back then.) and confessed our secret baby names to each other. Neither of us knew what we were having and we hadn't told anyone what we might name them.
We had nothing else in common in terms of our backgrounds or careers. We had no common friends. I don't know any other way I would have met her.
But we kept calling each other.
She had her baby, told me what it was like. I waited forever and finally had mine. Our husbands became friends. Also, nothing in common. Breastfeeding, sleep, solids, pumping, potty training - our boys grew up together. And now our girls do too. We were at each others' births for the girls.
We've discovered we all like the beach. We have everything in common.
With all I've got!
I wrote this message to the Manhattan Birth Alumni Google Group. It is made up of parents who have taken our Comprehensive Childbirth Class (Bradley) and is a wonderful peer-to-peer support resource for the folks who are on the new parenting journey - a chapter of life. We have over 1000 folks receiving these emails every day.
Today, I felt I needed to address them, and I also wanted to share my message here:
This has nothing to do with presidential politics. And I am coming off a 3 day birth. So there's some jet lag here. If you've ever only slept 2 hours in 3 days you know what I mean. I mean, you are all parents so we have an expert amount of experience with this!
I know you all - some of you very well. Some of you not so well but maybe because I taught you, you feel you know me. And that is sometimes good, because you get me. And that is sometimes bad because I realize I may have been misunderstood, or I've offended someone.
There are many different approaches to life, birth, and parenting.
We do our best at Manhattan Birth to honor these and embrace that different people will do different things. Part of my personal philosophy is that deeper understanding of those who are not like us, who think differently, even about things we feel passionately about, can lead to a more peaceful life. And while I do what I can to speak my truths and help the world, I know my kids need me to show them how to learn in this life.
Some of these divisive topics may be:
I notice rigid beliefs about these things especially with folks who are childless and pregnant. We separate ourselves as childless people - restaurants, places we go are different than those with children. I was once one of those people. And I know, so were all of you. When I was childless I knew so much more than I do now. As parents, our expectations are constantly being redefined.
I notice this rigidity on Facebook, now more than ever in our political climate, but also in groups where parenting is the common interest. I'm sure you see it, too.
But there is a lot more, "I'm right, here's why, and I reject any other kind of thinking. Please unfriend me. And please do not speak to me about this topic I have rejected." This happened to me just today and is the kindling for this message to you.
It's what's happening. It's now. And it's not the election.
I invite you, if you find yourself saying, "I don't understand how people can _________________ their children/their birth/for their health," to then say to yourself - YES. You don't understand, Self. Take a breath. They are doing their best and it's different from what you believe. But we are both doing our best - we are on common ground in this way. This does not threaten you. Ask how you might benefit from a curious, open-minded, and friendly conversation where you don't have to be right at the end or make the person think any way at all. One where you listen and ask questions based on what you hear from them, the fact they believe they are doing their best, and not your pre-rejection of their answers.
Consider you may not know it all, confident as you are, and you may not have everything all figured out. It's safe to do that. Many of us know this is especially true in birth. That is where I first learned it was safe to not have things figured out. To consider what is before me instead of the expectations I knew were correct.
I have always found this list to be a respectful and supportive place, with few exceptions. Those exceptions pull the rug out from under me. I feel misunderstood. I feel like something I knew was true was, to my shock, not true - and no one told me in advance. But then I have to ask myself how I can better understand. What am I blocking or holding to be true that might not be true for everyone? How might I not be right here? God knows I make a lot of mistakes. This could just be another.
But shutting people down or out because you know better than they do, because of your education, your philosophy, or your "rightness" is ultimately harmful to you, our children, and to human progress.
If we don't understand, we don't understand. Try again.
Try not to hold philosophical grudges about what others do or think in birth or parenting. It can be especially hard in these polarizing times, but let's keep things in perspective here.
Let us continue to hold space for life's rich journey here on this list. Keep a tone of kindness. Private message when hot topics come up. Or state what you did or do without personally demonizing a different way. Speak of your own experience.
Let's stop blaming each other if, in fact, we are the ones who lack the ability to see another's perspective. That is how minds can be changed. When we open our own.
With all I've got!
About the Author:
Tanya Wills is a graduate of the midwifery program at Yale School of Nursing, where she received her Master of Science in Nursing and also earned her R.N. (Registered Nurse).