A mom I talked to this morning told me she lost her best friend over a c-section.
“When I scheduled my second c-section, my friend said, ‘Don’t you want to experience real childbirth?’ I couldn’t believe she actually said that, she made me feel so bad. This was my best friend!”
A few weeks ago another mom told me that she and her high school BFF have all but come to blows over their opposing ideas about birth. One– the daughter of a high-risk OB/GYN– scheduled c-sections for her three kids and bottle-fed all of them. The other, the mom I know, had two vaginal births and breastfed. When she started to plan for a third birth at home, tension mounted. “It was horrible. My friend said stuff like, ‘I wouldn’t put my baby in that kind of danger.’ We hardly talk anymore,” this mom told me, tears forming in her eyes.
We all know that comments on parenting blogs can get super nasty, super fast. But when the fighting is between you and your best friend, it can feel like the ground is giving way beneath your feet.
What is about birth that can drive a such a flaming stake through the heart of a perfectly good friendship?
So many strands of unique, personal experience go into our feelings about childbirth.
What did your own mother tell you about birth? What image comes to mind when you think of childbirth? Is it glorious? Is it scary? Was this a planned pregnancy? Did it take seven years of IVF and all manner of high-risk maneuverings to get here? Was it easy to get pregnant? How do you feel about your body? Has it been generally good to you? Or does it tend to break-down? Have you had a bad experience with medications? Do you fear needles? Do hospitals make you feel safe? Do hospitals freak you out? Is your body a big part of how you define yourself? What’s your relationship like with your mother? Any history of abuse? Do you like pregnancy? Or has it been one problem or agony or loss after another?
We really want to relate to each other, but sometimes we go about it in the wrong way.
Maybe you’ve been here yourself. You’re disagreeing. But you both forge ahead in the discussion, making a case for your point of view, hoping to arrive, finally at some mutual understanding. But the more you say, the worse it gets: “It’s empowering to give birth without interventions”, “I just want a healthy baby…” This can lead to a productive conversation, but sometimes it just leaves lingering, provocative or even hurtful phrases ringing in your ears.
This is your first step into a big new role and identity; the pressure can be intense.
Becoming a mother is like a second adolescence — there are hormonal changes, identity changes, body changes, moods, ideals and hopes and archetypes to navigate and a whole lot to learn. Once you’re a senior in the high school of motherhood, you may realize those early, angsty fights about “natural childbirth” were perhaps unnecessarily overwrought. (Also, now you’re onto co vs crib sleeping, private vs public school, tiger vs free-range parenting and other fussy topics.) But you’ll likely also remember that the issues around birth felt SO important at the time. Because among other things these are philosophical choices, and in those pre-parenting days they can feel defining.
So what can you do?
Try to remember what you have in common.
Sure you are vehemently opposed when it comes to fetal monitoring… but!
-want so much to relate to one another
- want to get through this with support because it’s scary and new
- want to get it right/fear screwing up
- care very, very much about the baby you’re about to have
- feel somewhere inside a strong voice telling you to listen to you OWN instincts
If you think about how you’re both coming from the same place, you may find it easier– even interesting or productive– to go through the child-birthing years together.
Don’t talk about it all the time.
There are other people you can talk to about your awesome home birth or blissfully planned c-sections. A little healthy avoidance here might be a good idea. As per the tiger vs free range parenthetical above, you’ll be done with this topic soon enough.
Use humor, when appropriate, and don’t be afraid to show that you’re vulnerable.
The other day a formula-feeding best friend of mine– a gay, adoptive father– went off on a rant about how stupid and awful breastfeeding advocacy/nazis can be. Then I told him how much grief I’ve gotten for breastfeeding- he’s too old to nurse, you’ve got issues, you’re screwing him up. He was shocked.
We just looked at each other and I think I said, “talking about breastfeeding is SUCH a nightmare.” And, perhaps because he knows that talking about breastfeeding is literally part of what I do for a living–we both laughed really hard. We could have debated for hours, and even said some slightly mean things but I think we’ve both been at this long enough to know it’s not worth it.
What we have in common– our fear and self-loathing and anxiety and pride, our hopes and dreams and lack of sleep– that’s the real stuff of friendship.
Have you lost a friend over birth or parenting choices? Or do you fear you might?