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:
- Breastfeeding/formula feeding
- Sleep training
- Nutrition for older babies/children
- Birth practices (long list - birth place, care provider, medications, and more)
- Holistic health (another wide range of things)
- Alternative modalities of healthcare and wellness
- Discipline practices for older children
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!