Jul 10, 2013

You think you are helping, but...

"Go for a walk"
"Castor Oil!"

Anyone who has ever been pregnant and has eagerly anticipated the end of this blessed time has heard these, and more, in the counsel of "how to bring on labor."

In fact, I'd venture, anyone who has ever been pregnant has heard a bevvy of advice on how to handle every symptom in the book, some very useful, some less so.

I am very fond of shared wisdom. I think secrecy, shame, discomfort in the variety of issues that plague our bodies and minds only serves to increase suffering. Likewise, I think, without open exchange of ideas that old cures, commonly used and often very intelligent solutions get lost in the shuffle. Old wives tales exist for a reason, and it is always fun to re learn that chicken soup actually DOES help the common cold every 25 years or so.

So I think advice, when openly solicited, and sorely needed, definitely has its place. I even think, sometimes, we need to help those too shy to help themselves. The world is hard, and it's embarrassing to have problems. Sometimes too embarrassing to ask for help.

So all of THAT being said, I'd like to discuss, just a bit, the way advice can give just as much shame, discomfort, and misguided information as a world of silence.

This week I have heard:
"You need to go to acupuncture"
"Walk more, I walked that baby right out of me"
"A massage will do it! You just need to be relaxed"
...and so on.

 And as I heard more and more of this several thoughts crystalized:

The first was this response....
Most people who were not induced chemically don't know what brought on their labor. Not really. Some people wake up in labor and others find their water breaking in the galleria. You seldom here them proffering advice to go to sleep or go shopping. And if you walked all the time or went to acupuncture a lot you were more likely to go into labor when these things happened. Or maybe it was happenstance. Or maybe not. But mostly you just don't really know. More than likely what brought on your labor was a full gestation period and your baby being ready to rock. I am sure all of these things helped your head space and moved things along a bit. Once the process has started walking is well documented for moving things along. But I know people who tried all of these things. For days. Without results.

But what is the harm right? All of these things have some history of helping and isn't it good to feel empowered, to do healthy things for your body?

Or is it? Because as I heard more and more of this I began to realize something else:
That I was becoming self conscious about NOT going into labor. That the sense that I was going to go into labor "late" was somehow reflecting on me poorly, somehow revealing my own laziness at not walking enough, or being relaxed enough, or not doing all the important holistic things that would let my baby know it was safe enough to come out.

Basically, I began to feel like I had not earned a fast, healthy, timely labor.

And yes, I realize some part of this in an unhealthy internalization of anxiety, and a propensity to take things the wrong way.

But, also, pregnancy is a sensitive time, and I don't think I am alone.

You only have to spend a minimal amount of time on chat boards, informational websites, read books and blogs, to see how much guilt, anxiety and confusion surrounds pregnancy and birth. There are whole c-section help groups online where women go over all the things they feel like they or their provider did wrong to get them to this predicament. And, understand, these aren't women admitting to a drug problem or some other very poorly advised medical practice. These are women wondering if, after two days of labor, they didn't try hard enough, if they didn't ask enough questions, if they somehow did not earn a vaginal birth. And then there are the women who question the multitude of other complications, and not so complicated hurdles that come with carrying a baby into this world.

So I guess what I am saying is: done correctly, information can be powerful. It can empower. But administered in other ways it can carry the flip side of this message: because if there is something you can do to make something happen, and that thing isn't happening, what is that saying about the person who is not achieving? That they didn't try hard enough in some important way?

So look, I am, today, 40 weeks pregnant. This is the average gestation period of a baby. Hopefully she will decide to join us soon, maybe in an hour, maybe in a day, maybe in a week. At this point anything can happen, and I am happy to do what I can to keep myself  and my baby healthy and sane as we wait for that day.

Because the only goal of this, at this point, is to have a healthy baby with the healthiest birth possible. Why else would I walk around for 9-10 months voluntarily feeling this way? And while I really appreciate that you walked your baby right out of you or can guarantee labor followed by the glorious intestinal cramping that castor oil promises, I am skeptical about the true results: having a baby when she is good and healthy and ready. But I won't tell you that. I will congratulate you on a beautiful healthy baby and a job well done.

So I guess the real point is: I have been a bit of a know it all my entire life. Way too invasive, way too prone to share something. And it really is meant with the best intentions: because I really don't want everyone else to have to learn the hard way what it took me embarrassing pains to discover.

But it took this pregnancy to finally realize how damaging and obnoxious that can be.

Because, in the end, you can communicate accidentally much more than just your information. You can communicate judgement and transmit subtle messages of achievement, creating anxiety where none should be found.

So I guess I am saying: if that piece of information is just too great to keep to yourself you might want to sensitively feel out the depth of someone's knowledge and their desire for advice.

But sometimes you just have to trust that intelligent well informed people have access to information, and are already using it, or not using it accordingly.

1 comment:

Snowcap said...