I’m a super lucky mommy-to-be.
Here’s why: my schedule of baby-baking is timed exactly so that just as the weather grows colder, the belly will be expanding proportionally. Bingo. Extra layer. This means that throughout the entire progress of this winter, I’ll have a perfectly sized personal heater at my disposal.
Do you know how exciting this is?
I don’t know if you remember last winter, but I do. I remember it the way we all remember trauma in our lives: a haze of gray, a chill right down into my shoulders, something about a polar vortex, school out (again) and cars stranded in driveways. Not even Starbucks would have saved us last winter (although I have to admit, something about the Starbucks arriving in Lebanon has made me feel armed for the season in a new way; it’s like I just bought a pair of winter boots).
So here I am, facing the cold season again with a heightened sense of excitement and invincibility. It’s not just that we’re staring down the hallway of autumn into the season of all the best holidays (we are). Not only that, but I’ll be ready to take everything in stride, warmed to the core by the tiny human in my belly.
This pregnancy business is a win-win. Convenient heating system now, new family member later.
But in the meantime, with the weather still in its mildest stages, I am in the middle of apparently life-altering decisions about how to have this baby. It should be a simple decision. In fact, I always naively assumed it was a simple decision: pick a doctor/midwife, pick a hospital, try to get there before the baby comes out, and presto! Baby.
But I underestimated the crushing weight of peer pressure.
Here’s the problem. My mother is a superhuman. She gave birth to seven children without pain medication of any kind; six of them were at home with a midwife. I just read some stats about home births today: apparently only 1 in 75 births are done at home in the western world. My mother did this six times; this means that she is in, at minimum, a 1 in 450 minority (I know, statisticians, I did that wrong; so sue me).
She did all this in the 80s and 90s, before it was cool. But today, with the advent of the organic-food-eating, attachment-parenting soccer mom guilt trip, a home birth is a badge of honor in many circles. What could be more ‘authentic’ than birthing your baby at home with the help of something called a ‘doula’? What, indeed? Except for maybe hosting a dinner party and serving up your own hand pressed guinea hen crostini with free-range mushroom granita and locally sourced wildberry compote? Or adopting a child from an obscure country?
Three of my sisters are young and married, and I can only imagine the game of obstetrical How Low Can You Go? we might get into if we aren’t careful.
One of us may choose to give birth in a hospital with just a little laughing gas, and breast feed for six months; another will go in for the full natural experience, and breast feed for a year. The next will make the proud leap and do a homebirth with a midwife, serving nine-months time on a completely organic diet, upping the ante for us all.
Finally, somebody will fall into this thing that I only heard of for the first time last week when one of my sisters mentioned it at a family gathering: Unassisted Home Birth.
Unassisted Home Birth (UHB) takes it all to the next level. With this jaw-dropping and unbeatably authentic option, a woman gives birth at home without any trained professional nearby. Her husband, if unlucky enough to be present, catches the baby. Or she goes into a quiet place and catches the child herself. Proponents say that this is the best way, because only a woman really knows her body, and she’ll know when it’s time and exactly what to do when it happens.
Today I read stories online about women in the 50s who used to toss back two whiskey highballs, shut themselves in a bedroom for an hour, catch the child, clean the child, cut the umbilical cord, introduce the child to other siblings, and then get immediately back to dusting.
My sister (an artist, so she can get away with this kind of talk) blithely tried to convince her husband that this was a good idea. The rest of us told her flatly that it was not, and then uncomfortably tried to explain why, at the lunch table. Finally, her husband (who’d listened fairly politely, considering) flatly shut her down.
“No, babe,” he said. And that was that. We breathed a sigh of relief.
I just so happen to be the first pregnancy on this side of the family, so I’ll be sort of testing the waters for us all (or breaking the waters, if you will). But something tells me that I’ll have to be careful to set a good mommy-talk example. If the internet is a fierce attacker of women’s parenting decisions, real women in real life can be even worse—though more subtle. I have very dear friends who feed, dress, sleep, train, teeth, and love their children in very different ways, and I have respect for each of them. They are also all (or almost all) extremely gracious in the way they talk about their decisions. No crowing. No guilt-tripping. No back-biting. No(t much) unasked-for-advising.
If motherhood is a competition, I want out. I was never very good at How Low Can You Go anyway. I don’t bend over backwards very well.
Nope… the 2015 Pregnancy Show-off Winter Olympics will have to count me out.
Because parenting isn’t really a competition at all, is it? It’s something much better—and if you want to do so, shoot us a comment below or send me a line in the next few weeks (email@example.com). How is parenting better than a competition?