Dinner and drinks with some girlfriends last night led to some very interesting, and passionate, discussion of….everything. I am blessed to know the sistas I do, and while we don’t always agree, we absorb one another’s perspectives with mutual respect, all while pointing out the spinach and/or sangria fruit in the others’ teeth.
When the conversation turned to mothering, as in, “to be or not to be”, it was the little details that differentiated us. We could agree that “choice” was what it’s all about- that’s
what “real” feminism is, right? All hovering on the borders of our mid-twenties, the question of whether or not to have kids is suddenly a very pertinent one, even if that decision doesn’t come for another decade. We are all subject to the media (“Mommy Wars“? Really?), the various moral arguments, the potential pressure from our families to make such decisions. One friend shared that older women often react to her assured belief that she will not have children with, “Oh you’ll see, in a few years…”, as if a hormonal peak will shoot off a series of radically different notions in her unassuming head.
And it may be so- a family friend, walking back to her car after suggesting this book, turned around and said, quite non-chalantly, “You know, sometimes I think we all [my mother and her friends] got pregnant just because we had done a lot and were bored.” Maybe, at a certain point, when you feel you have gotten your assets and asanas in order, mastered getting off and getting to work on time, or had one too many late night take-out dinners, you just suddenly feel ready and eager to parent. I think I want kids, but who is my 24-year-old self to know what I’ll want in five, or ten, years?
My real question developed as we bounced thoughts across the bar. How would I, as a care provider, react when confronted with a woman whose choice to parent challenged my personal values? I constantly struggle with the paradox of wanting to provide better health care for women and families, while also recognizing an environmental need for more modest population levels. Less abstractly, what if someone who was a serious addict or had other mental health issues came to me for their pregnancy, seemingly not functioning enough to parent? Or if a strong, healthy, evangelist mother of 10 showed up asking if I’d help deliver the next member of her army for God? Would I turn them away? Refer them to someone else? Throw tomatoes? It is not my place to judge these people, but that doesn’t mean I won’t – at least internally – even if I try to resist. Will I really be able to stand by and just be present for a woman through delivery, all the while knowing she gives her toddler soda for breakfast, or that her husband is putting the boys through militia training?
Perhaps this is why midwiving, really being with women, is so important today. Among the overwhelming diversity of parenting styles and reasoning, women are deciding why and how they will parent. They are deciding between now and then, home or hospital, single or married, medicating or meditating. Some of them, I suspect, are swept up, or even coerced, into playing a role expected of them their whole lives. Others face daunting health complications and yet are determined to be a mom. The attitudes of others will shape their decisions in both subtle and dramatic ways. It is up to midwives to stand by these women and support them- not their values, or their politics, or their recycling habits, but their whole person-as-mother. My eco-conscious reasoning for having just two kids (one adopted?) may not jive with your heartfelt and anything-but-ironic chorus of “Every Sperm is Sacred“, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the best possible treatment. Wouldn’t refusing care to someone because I thought they already had enough kids make me just like the pharmacists who refuse to sell the morning after pill? Okay, okay, I admit my bias is founded in scientific research and genuine concerns about the viability of future generations, but it’s no big deal. I’ll just provide educational pamphlets on resource management, to read between contractions. They’ll love it! Seriously though, if it is all about “choice”, then the “real feminist” thing to do would be to stand by your sister, and let them deal with the consequences.
UPDATE: Came across this article touching on “baby fever”…..enjoy!