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Maria's Place
Mother's Day Essay 1999

When I was pregnant with my son Ryan, born August 1998, I was fortunate enough to find ivillage.com, and, specifically, ParentsPlace, as I looked for pregnancy and parenting information on the Web. I quickly became immersed in the ParentsPlace community, following several bulletin boards that assisted me in finding answers to questions about my pregnancy concerns and complications, including Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH or pre-eclampsia.)

One of the bulletin boards that I found most invaluable was the Pregnancy After a Loss board, since my first pregnancy had ended in miscarriage. The women on the PAL board knew all about the roller coaster of emotions a pregnancy following a miscarriage can bring; the excitement and joy of being pregnant combined with the awful fear that something could go wrong again. These women were what we, the PAL board group, called the little babies we lost and never got to meet: ANGELS. They were a constant source of support and encouragement, and I felt so lucky to be among them. I developed email friendships with several women that were due to deliver around the same time I was due. This was my first experience in communicating with others online about pregnancy and parenting issues, and I think I prematurely (and erroneously) came to the conclusion that ALL of the information and communication I'd experience online regarding these matters would be offered in a kind, supportive manner.

I WAS WRONG!

I'd always been surprised and a little taken back by the whole debate of natural childbirth vs. pain relief during labor. I never thought that people would be very interested in what a complete stranger decided to do during labor, firmly believing myself that it is each individual's decision, and strongly supporting every woman's right to determine what was best for her. The online debates about this issue bothered me, but I pretty much shook it off, since I was never really exposed to any major disagreements or resistance about my beliefs and/or my intentions for the birth of my son. Going into labor, I was very open to utilizing pain medication, but since this was my first born, I had no previous experience to draw from. I decided I'd see what happened during labor and how I reacted to it, and make a decision about medication at that time. As things turned out, I ended up having an epidural, and it was wonderful for me! I can't imagine going through labor again without one; in fact, I'm thinking of asking for one the next time I go to the dentist!!! ;-)

In any case, the natural childbirth vs. pain relief debate didn't bother me too much. But was I ever in for a surprise for all the debates that came after the baby was born.

Circumcise or not? Vaccinate or don't? Cloth diapers vs. disposable? These, of course, are some of the early choices we make for our babies. But there are countless others as they grow older. TV or no/limited TV? Barney or no Barney? Spanking or not? You get the idea.

Of course, the biggest debate is probably breastfeed or bottlefeed. (Notice I did not use "vs." in that comparison. I specifically avoided doing that because I refuse to think of this as a "vs." situation. Those, like me, who use formula/bottlefeed should not feel, or be made to feel, that we are in a fight or a competition with those that breastfeed.) All through my pregnancy I'd planned to breastfeed, but a few days after Ryan's birth it became clear that it was not for me. I became involved in many online debates about this decision, "meeting" some that thought I'd made a very selfish choice. I firmly believe that it is not selfish to try to be the best mother I could be, and in my case, that meant putting a halt to breastfeeding. When I was breastfeeding, I was an exhausted, miserable, depressed, frustrated mother who quickly grew to hate the process of feeding my son, and began to resent him for it. After I stopped, I was relaxed and happy, and could enjoy feeding times and bonding with my son. I was a better mother because I was a happier mother.

But who knew that so many people, who know nothing about me, would blast me for my decision? Several breastfeeding advocates (the ones who are so pro-breastfeeding they can only be described as Breastfeeding Nazis, and who cast shadows on those who simply strongly believe in breastfeeding and try to offer support to those who experience difficulty with it) would post nasty things on the Bottlefeeding bulletin board I'd started to follow. They would go out of their way to come to a forum that was intended to support those that bottlefed (whether it be formula, expressed breastmilk, or a combination of both) to bash us. I do not know what their purpose was, or what enjoyment they got out of this. Their viewpoint was that breastmilk was best, and some of them also felt strongly about avoiding circumcision for their sons, and not vaccinating because of risks it could bring. It was amusing in a very sad sense; many of these mothers professed that their decisions were based on what was best (not simply for them, but for anyone), yet they didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with bashing other parents for the decisions they had made. They didn?t seem to think that what they were doing (blasting complete strangers simply for making different parenting choices) was setting a bad example for their children.

Now that Ryan is 9 months old, I try not to let the breastfeeding and bottlefeeding debate bother me too much anymore, but my annoyance level does flare up every now and then when I see how angry and mean-spirited people can be.

I keep asking myself WHY? Why do we have to poke our noses into other people's business, and/or argue with them about the fact that out views and beliefs are different? Who gets to decide what is the best way to do something?

I think the answer is simple. We do. We get to decide what is best for US and us alone. I think communicating with others about our beliefs should continue, but that we should do it with kindness and respect.

So, in honor of Mother's Day 1999, I ask all of you that have read this to vow to be supportive of ALL mothers, all parents, even those that have views extremely opposite of yours. After all, we are all in the same boat, simply trying to do the best for our kids.

If you'd like to share comments about my essay, please sign my guestbook or send me an email.

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