Sunday, June 14, 2009

Different Can Be Okay

My brain is all mushy, but I'm going to try to talk about something that has kind of been bothering me for a few weeks. It's nothing big (in the grand scheme of things), but in a way, it's kind of important to talk about.
But I hope my good friend, Ann, forgives me, because I'm going to be using her as my example to get my point across.

See, Ann has experienced this phenomenon as being "different" by choice; but in a way, her reasons for being "different" wasn't so she could be seen as different; she and her husband have made decisions based on prayer and their family's unique circumstances. The irony in this is how their decisions are scoffed at by some members of the Church (obviously not everyone), and even members of their own families --even though Ann and her husband are just a normal Mormon couple who are doing their best. See the irony? Yes? No? Well, anyway, let me be more specific.

Ann (and assume from this point that her husband is a part of this) home-schools her kids. No big deal, right? Well, they decided to become vegetarians, too. And then Ann became an advocate for babywearing and car seat safety. She also cloth-diapers her babies. They like to move within 2-3 years (well, most times it was a necessity) and buy homes they can fix up on their own (it's a hobby). She nurses her babies for about 2 years (unless she gets pregnant sooner than that). She also advocates hypnobirthing and just gave birth to her 5th child at home, in a tub, with a midwife.
No, seriously. She gave birth on Thursday in her bedroom.

Now, after hearing these things (and if you are specifically an LDS woman), what is your knee-jerk reaction? Do you think she's insane? Do you think she is making risky and silly decisions? If you were to meet her in your ward, what would you automatically assume or judge about her and her family when finding these things out?

It's so surprising to me that people assume she's crazy. Having a baby at home automatically equates stupidity in some minds (I'll admit I used to be one of 'em). Homeschooling is crazy. Cloth-diapering is even crazier. How could she be a vegetarian and be nursing her babies? Who would choose to carry their baby around all day in a baby sling?!

And yet, because of Ann, I have learned how to open my mind to things that may be different. Are they bad? No. Just different. Here is what has happened in my life since knowing Ann (over the last 9 years):
*I have safer and more secure car seats in my car. Every child is in a 5-point harness (except #1 --she has a back booster), and will continue to be until they are old enough/tall enough/heavy enough to be in a booster. And it's amazing to me to see how many people think I'm just nuts. The biggest argument? "How inconvenient that must be!" Ummm... yeah. It's inconvenient to make my kids as safe as possible (sorry for the sarcasm).

*I now babywear! Ann introduced me to the Beco, and I have been in LOVE with it ever since. In fact, I still wear #4 on my back! Yep --I'm 8 months pregnant and wear a 2 year old on my back. On Wednesday, we went to the park. A lady with a young child looked at me as I was taking him off so he could play and began a conversation with me that sounded like all the others I've had: "Wow, you must be superwoman!" or "Isn't that dangerous for the fetus?" or "Doesn't that hurt your back?"
I explained that there is a difference between baby "wearing" and baby "carrying." HUGE difference. And if you have the right wrap/carrier, then you don't feel pain, because it puts the weight on the hips and takes it away from the shoulders and the back.
Nobody ever believes me, though.
*I'm not a vegetarian, but Ann and her husband's devotion to health (and they'll be the first to admit that they relapse here and there, just like us!) inspired Brandon and I to lose our weight 2 years ago. The things they taught us have also inspired me to cook with less meat, whole wheat, and try more vegetables. I can't give all the credit to them, but I'd be lying if I didn't give them some of it!

*Hypnobirthing and home-births. Now, I'm not going to be giving birth at home, but Ann and I have had hundreds of conversations regarding the birth of our children. She and I have both experienced such similar things --we started with doctors, then moved to midwives. We both abhor pitocin and invasive birth experiences. We can't stand the protocols that are a "must" in all hospitals because of the .01% chance of something going wrong. We both hate when medical professionals (who are just doing their jobs, bless their hearts) won't listen to us when we try to explain we KNOW our bodies. We hate being told that childbirth is not worth it unless it's pain free and over quickly (thus the pitocin). And we've had time to think about these things because we are both on our fifth children (well, obviously she's had hers, now!), and we are both blessed with the ability to give birth without emergencies (I am very aware that there are those who cannot. My heart goes out to you, but it doesn't change that I can, you know?).
However, we both disagree on only one thing: Home birth.
See, I'm not opposed to giving birth at home (Brandon is, though), and I just may do it next time (#6!!?!?!). But for now, I like giving birth in the hospital --for just a few reasons.
No, it's not safety.
No, it's not medical intervention.
No, it's not the care for my newborn.
It's for the food! And the bonding time with my baby while my other kids are at home. Plus it's a bit cheaper. (Insurance doesn't look happily upon home births like they do hospital births, which makes sense.)
But I don't judge Ann for her choice to deliver at home (this was the first time she has done it). See, she never goes into anything blindly. Ever.

One last thought, too: The previous generation has a hard time with this, I think. Although technology has improved, a lot of women are going "backwards" when it comes to how they raise their families. SAHM's are back in fashion --so are home gardens, nursing babies, less "things", and even the way we give birth (less medical intervention). For some parents/grandparents, I think they see it as a threat. "Wasn't our way good enough?" and "Why would you choose something like this when there's medicine and/or doctors and/or a different way?" It's just hard to understand.
Ooh! Also! It makes me think that our society is so obsessed with being Pain Free, that any type of voluntary pain is seen as just plain silly. Feel pain? Pop a pill! Feel sad? Pop a pill! (and I say this as someone with Depression, just to head off any arguments. I know some things cannot be solved without that Pill, so please know I'm talking in generalizations, okay?). Also, convenience is key --why put forth extra effort? (cloth-diapering)

Anyway, I guess my point is that different is okay. Especially if it's done with prayer and research and deep thought. I will never home school my kids (knock on wood) and I will probably always use disposable diapers --but that doesn't give me the right to judge Ann for her different choices, you know what I mean? Plus, what amazes me the most, is how easy it is to decide for myself after I take a good hard look at both sides first...

What do you think? Do you find yourself judging easily without knowing the whole story? Is your perspective limited to just what you've always known? Have you ever changed your mind about something after seeing both sides?

*please note: I'm talking about things that are of good worth --those things in which either side would probably just be fine. Like Republican or Democrat, BYU or U of U, peas or corn, you know?

(Gotcha, Brandon!)


Julie said...

Great post. As for the baby stuff, I'm pretty whatever with what people do. Okay, I do think it's crazy to do things like Ann has, but it doesn't really bother me and I'd still totally want to be friends with her and do stuff with her. I just wouldn't want the conversations to always be revolving around those issues.

As for other things, YES. Yes Yes Yes. I have experienced the feeling of being looked down on or ostracized even for my views on certain issues -- mostly political lately. I love to discuss issues and ideologies, but it seems that most people in my circle of relations/acquaintances/friends either doggedly disagree to the point of not even being able to have a civilized conversation or just don't care. I'm fine with the not caring -- most of us are just trying to keep up with the laundry (me included most of the time). But when folks won't even discuss issues because they are so dogmatic and convinced that their opinion is the Gospel truth...well, it's just disheartening and frustrating.

Anyway, I love corn and peas and Ohio State.

Mackenzie said...

Tell your friend to move to NY. All of those things are the norm here. And I love it. One thing I love about living here is that the level of open-mindedness is never-ending. It's the way it should be, in my book. But seriously, moving here aside, I know exactly what you mean. I had a similar conversation with my husband the other night late into the night. We all judge, but we should all try to judge less. Everyone is different and aren't we so grateful for that - it keeps life interesting. If we were all exactly the same, what on earth would be talk about and how would we learn anything?

The Jones Family said...

I just happened upon your blog and post and just had say Amen, Amen and Amen. There is only One who can truly and rightly judge our thoughts and actions. We should love, not judge each other. I appreciate your perspective. I may visit your blog again. Your posts are very interesting and thought provoking!

Amy said...

NY sounds the same as Canada. Everything you mentioned is very acceptable and normal here as well. I really think "different" depends on where you live and the people around you. Maybe some open-minded friends will move into her area. :)

I remember visiting a certain State and someone actually went out of their way to tell me they thought it was great that I would
1. nurse my baby and 2. do it in public (the baby was under a nursing shawl... I'm not that liberal). It took me by surprise. I didn't realize there was a hot debate about it.

Good for her for making decisions that she feels are right for her and her family. That's what it's all about right.

Janelle said...

Ann sounds like just the kind of gal I'd invite to book group.

TaLaisa said...

I would hug her!~ And ask her if she's ever used essential oils. Because I've totally done almost all those things. Vegetarianism, homeschooling and homebirthing aside.

I was that girl who used cloth diapers (on my last two boys). I nursed Caleb while pregnant with Elijah. I nursed until they were 2 (at least). I wore my 2 year old whilst pregnant with another baby. (I liked how it balanced me out, with my off center belly). I also tend towards natural and homeopathic remedies for sickness, when I can.

Different is great. It does make me sad to hear other mothers/women/sisters, belittling others for making different choices. Whatever they are about. I've often wondered if those casting stones for a different choice do so because they're not secure in their own choice and the possibility of more than one great alternative is too scary.

There is more than one way to do things and still be a good mom. Let's hope we can be a generation of mothers that teaches our daughters and sons that principle. So they can be great parents by their own definition.

Gio, Judi and Boys said...

I think I know who Ann is...I've only met her once at RS and was very impressed with her and would have liked to get to know her better.
As for judging others...I think that it is something that we all do, even though we don't really mean too!
I know that for me it is something that I'm working on and think that I'm getting better at!
Thanks for your posts Cheryl, they really make me think.
And by the way, I think that everything Ann does is great, except for the cloth diapers (I tried that in Italy and just didn't have the stomache for lasted about 2 days), and for the home school, I couldn't do it just for the fact that I'm not smart enough!
Have a great week!!!

Michelle Walker said...

You know, for a long time I was searching for friends that were just like me--and guess what--I never found them! I find that the diversity that mostly abounds in a friendship makes the similarities all that much more fun to find! I would TOTALLY wear a baby, NOT qualified to homeschool my kids and agree that doctors don't listen enough to us ladies but I think the birthing experience is about the baby, not the mom and I think that medically you err on the side of caution for the child--even though it seems more intimate, etc at home. But I have GOOD no AMAZING friends that can have those experiences in a positive way and I can have a healthy respect for that. I'm different--way different. Most of you guys wouldn't like me, I'm SURE. But I'm cool that my kids watch Spongebob even though I know women who have severed our freindship over that funny little sponge. I had "the talk" with my 6 year old girl--betcha disagree with THAT. It's just that when you pray and receive inspiration individually, we all come out with different answers. Although, there is no revelation involved with spongebob. Sorry cheryl-- ambien's kicking in.

Emily & Co. said...

I have to agree w/the other comments about NY. Living there definitely opened my eyes to home birthing, midwives (where we were everyone had a midwife unless you were high risk), homeschooling, etc. I've tried cloth diapering with two kids...just doesn't work for me and my kids. I cook w/as little meat as I can get away with married to a very carnivorous man. I like having friends that do things differently than me because I'm exposed to thoughts and ways of viewing the world that I wouldn't have otherwise. Then I can try them on for size and make the best decision for me and my family.

hayngrl101 said...

I totally admire the woman who births with a midwife or is able to do a homebirth. Me? My first pregnancy was unremarkable until delivery and my baby had a host of medical problems. (We almost lost her several times during her first year). Since then, my (3) subsequent children have been born via c-section because my birth canal is too narrow (my first baby was 4 lbs) and I've had a second NICU baby. So I am confident in my saying I will always deliver my babies in a hospital. :)

I love the notion of the other things you talked about. Babywearing, cloth diapering, etc. But, I'm a working LDS mom so that is not in my cards.

I think that what is great about you and Ann and the other gals who commented is that there are some of us who embrace each others' differences and can celebrate each of our choices. And find ways to recognize and appreciate the good things without turning a critical eye.

Personally, as an LDS woman and mother, I often feel ostracized because I am not the right size, don't live in the right house, my kids are too close in age, and I am educated and working. Definitely not the cookie cutter trophy wife that are abundant in the area I live. So I am happy to see that there ARE other women of out faith that can see past the stereotypic profile of what a good mormon mom does/eats/practices.

Thank you for your post.

m_and_m said...

I love being able to see different sides of an issue; better when the person/people helping me really believe themselves that different is better.

Example -- people who insist that their personal choices really are the higher law (hot topics include birthing, schooling children, health/WoW issues, environmental issues, etc).

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is NOT to generalize personal revelation. For all the true principles we know as Mormons, there still really is quite a bit of leeway within our beliefs for quite a bit of variety. Sometimes the passion we have for the answers we receive can translate into stepping into someone else's territory where they should be getting the revelation.

Just my two cents on this topic. :)

Cristy said...

None of those things scare me! Most if not all have been done by someone in my family at some point. Then again, my family is weird... :)

Do other people think these things are bad? That surprises me.

Alison Wonderland said...

We're discussed a lot of this in person but I just6 had to applaud your discussion of some people's unwillingness to feel any pain. One of the anesthesiologists that I work with was personally offended when I went back to work after I had the Infantile Delinquent and she found out that I had done so without the aid of pain medication. I just laughed.

One thing I do think is interesting is the numbers of people commenting who have done or do do at least some of the things you mentioned. Basically, I don't think that most of this stuff is really out of the actual mainstream, it's just that our heads are stuck in the mainstream of about 20 years ago.

Cheryl said...

Awesome comments, guys!

I did want to clarify one thing, though, that I forgot to post: Ann doesn't judge me, either. I realized I was making it sound like I was just fabulous in not judging her, when I realized I should point out that she doesn't judge others for their choices, too. Plus, neither of us would ever think a woman with high-risk pregnancies/deliveris is dumb for giving birth in a hospital!

Last thoughts:
Welcome The Jones Family! I hope you do come back...

and MacKenzie! Sooooo good to hear from you. :)

Wasn't that me? (just kidding. I really don't remember)

Wait. You let your kids watch the sponge!??!

Christy said...

I love, love, love that we are all different. I love people who are brave enough to try different things - so that I can have the confidence to follow them if I want to. I am not opposed to anything that someone feels works for them. (i did laugh at my little sister for doing cloth diapers...mostly because she is my sister and I can laugh at her!) ha ha!

Anyway, I don't really care what others think about the things that I do. I think we will all do things that work for us and our own families - but again, I am so grateful that we have diversity in the world...cause would suck if we were all the same :)

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I am not above making mental smart-mouth remarks about other humans in general...but for the most part I think that a parent who makes an informed/thoughtful/prayerful decision for their family is beyond the reach of my sarcasm.

I truly respect the choices of others, and have learned to not rule out things that might originally sound "weird". I think I'm more judgmental of parents who seem overly apathetic. After all, parenting is a full time job, you can't just wait around for other people to do the work for you! :)

But anyway, given the right circumstances I would've done any of the things that you listed about Ann. She's not harming her family, and most importantly, she's proactively looking for the things that fit her. Cause if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. ;)

Ann said...

Cheryl, I don't know whether to be embarrassed or flattered. ;) Thank you for your thoughts and for the awesome friendship we've shared. And I apologize ahead of time because my comments are too long, so I'm posting them in 2 comments.

First of all, I want to thank all the people who left supportive comments. Your readership, Cheryl, is uniquely open-minded. :)

I'm actually going to write a blog post myself in the next few days about my homebirth and why I chose a homebirth this time. I'm feeling the need to defend myself and, at the very least, try to show people that I'm not crazy and that I did NOT put my health or the health of my child in danger (in fact, quite the opposite).

The fact that I even feel the need to defend myself says a lot about the current state of our society (at least here in UT). But the reality is, my "differences" are a lot more accepted outside of UT. I also want to first say that I never push my views on other people. I rarely bring up these topics. But if you get to know me a little bit, you generally find out about them just through watching me.

What I've found when discussing some of these differences with people is that there are generally 2 different reactions. 1) People who tune me out and label me as crazy and 2) People who've done their own research and educated themselves about their options and feel confidence in their decisions because of this. The people who automatically tune me out are generally the people who have done little to no research regarding the decisions they've made for their family. I think they usually feel threatened because, to them, the thought of there being "other" options other than their mainstream ways means that there's a possibility that "their" way might not be the best way. I was in this category myself a few years ago. (Mainstream very well could be the best way for their family, but because they haven't even looked into other options, they're not confident in their decision. The only argument they have is "everybody else does it.")

Ann said...

I'm going to comment on a couple of the above comments. And I hope to not make anybody feel badly by singling them out because this certainly isn't the first time I've heard some of these things.

With regards to homeschooling and the "I'm not qualified" comment.....the ONLY thing that qualifies me to homeschool my children is the fact that I'm their mother and I love them and know them better than any teacher ever will. I can see their different learning styles and I can cater their education to fit that learning style. I choose this way instead of the "one size fits all" education they'd get at public schools. That education obviously works just great for a lot of kids (I'm a product of public schools), but I don't believe it's what's best FOR MY CHILDREN. (This is where people get defensive because they think I'm saying their children are getting a second-rate education. I would never imply that. I don't know your children like you do and I would never assume that public schools aren't what's best for them BECAUSE I'M NOT THEIR MOTHER. That's not my decision to make or judge.)

As far as the homebirthing, Michelle, I have to respond to your comment. Because while I believe you're trying not to judge, there is judgement behind what you're saying, even if you don't mean for there to be. And it's probably just because it's not a topic you've researched (which is just fine.....I didn't do any research about homebirth until the last few years. If you would've asked me 6 or 7 years ago about homebirth I would've been in the "that's crazy" camp myself).

When you say that you'd rather err on the side of caution for the sake of your baby, that's where I take issue. In the research I've done (along with the experiences I've had myself), I believe that FOR ME and MY BABY homebirthing was a much safer option than going to a hospital. People have a hard time understanding this.

For me, hospitals are for sick or injured patients. When I'm pregnant, I'm neither of those. I'm a very healthy pregnant woman. I've never had any issues that could be considered high-risk. Homebirths aren't for everybody, I'd be the first to recognize that. But hospital births are also absolutely NOT necessary for a majority of births. It's overkill, and it's proving dangerous for birthing women. There's just too much medical intervention these days. And if you don't want it, you have to FIGHT for your right to birth the way you feel right (I know from personal experience with baby #4.)

I have experienced 3 births with doctors, 1 with a CNM (certified nurse midwife) at a hospital and now 1 with a homebirth midwife. I have never experienced more expertise, more personal care and knowledge of me, my baby, and my body, and more useful guidance about the laboring/birthing process than from my homebirth midwife. She was there the ENTIRE time. How many doctors do you know that stay in the room with a laboring mother the ENTIRE time? Of course there are none. They don't know about the entire laboring process. They don't know what signs to look for if things are starting to head in an undesirable direction because they've never watched the ENTIRE process OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

Alright, I've gone on way too long and I'm going to go over most of this again in my blog, but I take issue with the implication that I chose something dangerous for my child out of some selfish reason of wanting an "intimate" setting. My baby had an extremely safe entry into this world and IF something would've gone wrong, my midwife came fully prepared (along with a second midwife) to address ANY of the "complications" that could've arisen.

Ok, enough said. Sorry if I stepped on any toes.

Michelle Walker said...

you know, toes were stepped on, Ann. You just can't gaurantee that your baby will be without the need of a NICU right at birth, no matter how many great birth experiences you've had. One of the best obstetricians I know was trained by midwives--they are very knowledgable. Two midwives, no matter how awesome, aren't a pediatric team there to save your baby's life if needs be. There is nothing "research" wise that can prove to me that a person's home is safer than a hospital--IN THE CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, WHICH IS UNPREDICTABLE. I'm sad that you had to single me out with so little grace.

I'm not going to bother reading your rebuttals, either. There is no point in arguing with someone who clearly knows it all. Forgive me and my common sense.

Cheryl said...

Whoah, guys.

Two things:

A: Ann has been told over and over that she is an idiot and will kill her baby if she had it at home. Her research and personal history proved otherwise, as did the birth of her baby on Thursday.

B: Michelle has very HIGH risk pregnancies, as well as other health issues, and if she had been anywhere other than a hospital, not only would her babies have died --but SHE would have died herself.

Very different scenarios, very different outcomes. By two women who have had very different past experiences and opinions.

Michelle Walker said...

Ann, I owe you an apology--I'm sorry for being so harsh. I'm happy that your home birth was a success and that you and your baby are healthy.

Amanda D said...

I must say that just because I wouldn't do something doesn't mean that I think it is crazy.

For me, I wouldn't have a home birth. I like to eat steak once in awhile, although I'm not big on meat in general. I didn't nurse my babies. And, I'm okay with that. And I used an epidural with both deliveries and wouldn't do it any other way. I admit that I'm a wimp, and the pain scares me. I made my choices, and I'm doing the best I can.

We all get judged for things we do, and we all have things we feel we have to defend. The thing we need to remember is that we are all doing the best we can.

Anonymous said...

I think you're crazy for considering a sixth child.

Just kidding!

I think we all worry a little too much about people judging us, when most people really aren't giving us that much thought.

Never A True Aggie said...

Lately, I have been trying to not worry so much about others, or trying to compare myself with others. It's hard, but even in matter of the gospel, we are each given our own individual revelation.

I have thought about homeschooling, but I am ok with public school too. I totally baby wear, although I am using the moby wrap and totally love it. It is a lot easier to shop and do other things with my baby, then trying to juggle a stroller. It also causes me to walk more, which is good. I love nursing and hope to do it for about a year. That is about all I can do. My VT came today and she cloth diapers. She is going to show me her system, which looks pretty good. I make my own wipes and I am going to make my own laundry soap. See, we are all weird.

tamrobot said...

I would love to homebirth, and I would even try it with my first, assuming I don't have any high-risk complications. I watched the Business of Being Born and am totally sold (I think it even convinced my husband). It really didn't take much convincing since hospitals and MRSA and all those super-resistant bugs/infections freak me out.

blogging and bliss~ said...

I just think that it is your own choice. I am fine with hospital birth's. I got to have my last 2 with out the aid of medicine and man don't I wish I could have had some of those good drugs. I on the other hand could see the difference of how fast I recovered from the "natural" births.
I am a huge fan of car seats. When I had just 3 kids we were going for a trip and our car rolled. All of my babies were strapped in nice and snug and not one of them were hurt. Seat belts do save lives.
I would never use cloth diapers. I would end up throwing them all away anyways... I have done that with some toddler underwear...But each of us are individuals and we know what is best for our families. I am rooting for you Cheryl. I know everything will go good for you and your baby.

Michele said...

Ann sounds like the type of woman that I admire very much and strive to be like. I don't think that I will ever be a vegetarian (although I eat very little meat) and I am sure I won't use cloth diapers (out of sheer laziness, even though I like the idea) but when I read through your post, nothing sounds out of the norm to me. Then again, I breastfeed all my babies for over a year, plan on wearing baby on the way, plan on homeschooling my children (i want to give them stability. they have gone to a different school every year since we move so much. i plan on using utah virtual academy) and would love a home birth. My plan right now is to labor at home for as long as possible, while monitored by my husband (a surgical nurse who has worked in L&D for 7+years) and my best friend (a doula) and then only go to the hospital if there is any distress (hospital is 2 minutes from my house). I told my husband if it works out for me, I would love to have our baby in the huge spa tub in our master bath.
But just because I find those things to be perfectly normal does't mean everyone does. My family thinks I'm insane and unqualified to teach my children. Well Heavenly Father gave them to me and I trust Him to lead me in what's best for them. They would also DIE if they knew I was even THINKING about giving birth at home.
I aspire to be a woman like Ann and I hope someday I am.