Friday, January 21, 2011

Making Choices

This blog post has been brewing inside my little noggin for a few weeks. I want to approach it with sensitivity, but I also want to make sure you understand, dear reader, that this is a post meant for anyone with a choice to make. It's not about what those choices are --it's about the actual decision; the act of making a choice.

And it's a tad ranty.

Most of you know my buddy Ann. You are probably aware that she is a vegan (mostly raw), home schools her kids, gives birth at home, uses cloth diapers, champions proper car seats for children, cleans her house with vinegar and baking soda, and nurses well past one year. But most of you probably don't realize that less than 10 years ago she was the opposite of all of it. She gave birth in hospitals with episiotomies and epidurals. She was overweight and ate the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). She used disposable diapers, nursed less than a year, and had every intention of sending her kids to public school.

What changed? What made her (and her husband, Brent) make different decisions?

Mostly, I'm assuming, it was based on experience. They joined Weight Watchers, lost tons of weight, and starting learning about nutrition. The hospital experiences for her were borderline hellacious, and she started looking for better options. Little by little, book by book, experience after experience, they made their choices. They chose what they wanted to do, and they did it with the research and education in their hands.

Does this mean that their choices are the only correct ones out there? Of course not! But what they did, they did with knowledge and experience.

Making choices that most of society doesn't agree with is hard. I imagine that every one of us has made a choice an acquaintance or family member felt was down-right stupid. In the way we dress, raise our kids, treat our spouse, decorate our house, educate ourselves, spend our time, etc. --each is a personal choice, but each is also criticized either publicly (or silently) by those around us. It doesn't matter what the choices are; somebody is going to find something wrong with it.

We judge each other so easily, and lately I've had to stop and ask, "why?" Why are we so ready to jump in and criticize? I'm assuming it's based on three things:
1. Fear
2. Guilt
3. Ignorance

Let's start with the first one. When I mention to people that I'm looking into having my next baby at home with a midwife, the initial reaction is explosive. Ex. Plo. Sive. Everyone has a story to share about how someone died because they weren't at the hospital (never mind the statistics of how many babies die BECAUSE they were in a hospital). To their credit, they are genuinely scared for me. They assume I'm choosing a birthing experience over the safety of my child (you know, the one that doesn't even exist yet because I'm not even pregnant). They are fearful. Usually because they love me.

Now, the second one: Guilt.
When I mention to people that I'm trying to eat a vegan-raw diet, the backlash is more explosive than the birthing thing. I've never seen so many snide remarks about how "crazy" I am. They laugh, they scorn, they think it's impossible. And that's fine. If they think it's crazy or impossible, it's fine. But why do they react this way? Why do they care what I eat? I'm not asking these people to eat like me (at least not anymore). If I mention something awesome I read about nutrition and found an answer to a prayer about it, they act as if I've thrown out all of their food and forced them to eat a plate of kale. But you know what? I used to be the same way. I reacted in the same way towards those "crazy vegans." And part of (obviously not all of it) is because of guilt. We all know we need to eat better. ALL OF US. We know this. And so when we see someone doing it, we tend to lash out because secretly, we wish it was us. This probably isn't true of everyone, but definitely most.

Both of these examples fit perfectly in the third reason: Ignorance.
I told you that Ann and her hubby researched like crazy before making the decisions they've made. Me too, dear reader. Me, too. I've been reading things on nutrition for years. And years. My weight struggle has made me sift through all of the information overload on health to find some semblance of truth. I've also researched and experienced the pros and cons of where to give birth to a child, too. I started with the doctors in the hospitals with the epidurals and episiotomies. I've moved on to the midwives and giving birth unmedicated (which I've done four times now). I'm ready for the next step, I believe. I'm not, not, not going into these things blindly, regardless of what other may think.

When someone comments about an issue they know nothing about in order to criticize somebody's carefully thought-out decision, not only is it obnoxious, it's hurtful. Let me say that again: When someone comments about an issue they know nothing about in order to criticize somebody's carefully thought-out decision, not only is it obnoxious, it's hurtful. What people need when they make tough and life-altering decisions is support, not back-handed comments. We all need love and encouragement, not lectures on how "hippy" we've become.

I respect people who make informed decisions. If it's a different decision than mine? That's okay, too. I mean, I send my kids to public school and I use disposable diapers. Ann doesn't find that offensive. For years when Brandon and I would go out with Ann and Brent; they would have their tofu, we would have our steak. They were never offended; neither were we.

My point, dear reader, is that we all make hard choices every day. It's a process --a continual cycle of learning and changing, learning and changing. Instead of looking for reasons to criticize, let's try to encourage each other and learn from each other --ask yourself, "why is she making this choice?" and read up on something new. Support and love.

Seriously. It's not that hard.


Emily & Co. said...

:) Here's my support and love.

Alison Wonderland said...

Being dismissive and disrespectful of someone's choices is certainly inappropriate but questioning is not (necessarily) nor is positing an alternate view. The problem is that that line is different for everyone.

Sometimes the people asking questions and possibly even those contradicting are really just looking for more information. Why do you feel that way? What research have you done? Because while you may have done a lot you can't have done ALL of it, that's not possible. Maybe that person truly knows something that you don't. Maybe not.

Ultimately, of course, our own decisions are our own decisions and we're the only ones who have to follow them so people who don't like it are just going to have to lump it, but let's ALL keep open minds (both the hearer of the decision and the maker) and be willing to discuss our differences with love.

For the record, I don't approve of home birth but if you're going to have your kid at home that's your business and I'll do whatever I can to help.

Judi said...

Cheryl...i think that most important and moving thing in all of what you wrote is that people love lucky you are to know that people care about you, and your family...
If my comments or questions came out to be hurtful, they weren't meant that way. I'm sure that you have studied everything out. I have no doubt...The vegan thing, more power to you...I like chicken and fish to much to be a vegan, and other things too, but you're right, we all need to eat better.
that is why we have the word or wisdom...moderation in all things, right???
as for the home birthing thing. i guess i always just think of the worst possible things that could happenn and go from much the pesimist and not the optimist. sorry....however, if you and brandon agree on it and think it is the best for you...then do it, but all means. and just have thick skin and don't let things hurt you..because YOU know what you're doing.
And I like Alsion love you and support you.

Kim said...

Hmmmm....I am not sure why people think they have a right to Approve of you having a Home Birth, not really up to them. You aren't forcing the free world to join you! You are simply sharing the information you have gathered and the choices you have made upon reading and searching this information. I know you Cheryl, YOU WOULD NEVER PUT YOUR KIDS IN HARMS WAY! You are a great Mother, wife, friend, daughter and all the other wonderful things you are. Do with what you are comfortable with and forget the nay sayers!!! LOVE YOU!

FoxyJ said...

My mom had four kids at home and we are all perfectly happy, healthy and normal :) If you want a copy of Spiritual Midwifery I will give you mine since I'm done using it. It's an awesome book.

I have also been guilty of criticizing others due to my insecurity or fear. I don't usually do it to their faces, but it's still not nice. I've become more self-aware during the last few years and I try hard not to do it as much.

Angie said...

Here is my support****...I know that we can all receive individual inspiration for our own family's needs. I know that it wasn't by accident that I came across a copy of "pH Miracle" or became friends with the daughter of a highly criticized, but also highly respected doctor and scientist who has reversed cancer and diabetes. I don't think it was by accident that I married a guy who would get type 1 diabetes after a month of being married. And no accident that I was a counselor for 10 years for diabetic kids and worked for Roche Diagnostics; helping mostly new diabetics getting set up with their new meters and calming their fears of this dreaded disease...NO ACCIDENT. I also believe that God put healing herbs and plants on the earth to cure disease. I believe that if we follow the Word of Wisdom and eat meat sparingly (in times of winter and famine) that we will be blessed and disease will pass over us. (That's my interpretation). Thanks for your post... I'm not a highly opinionated individual, but I do have a strong opinion and passion about what we put into our bodies, and it is SO nice and refreshing to actually have friends and family who don't criticize or look down on me for not buying my kids a Happy Meal twice a week...or let them drink Cow's milk every day...or limit the meat they eat...etc, etc, etc. They make me feel like I'm neglecting my family and failing as a mother...for a moment. And then I realize that power that I have and know that this just didn't "happen."
You go girl!

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Amen, Cheryl. Truly.

michelle said...

I sent this to my sister. I know she'll love it.

So I'm going to jump in, though, with a little defense of those who freak out sometimes -- because sometimes it's because there ARE those out there who INSIST that their choices are the BEST and that anyone else is EVIL or at least wrong. We see it in so many fronts -- from politics to health to parenting to product purchasing to store choosing to.... I will confess to sometimes being defensive when I run into stuff like what you are sharing because of baggage of that yuck. Because not only do we have to make decisions based on information, but also based on our own knowledge of ourselves and our personal situations. You and I recently talked about examples of this. ;)

It's great to have choices and it's great to be respectful of what others choose to do. And it's great to learn by experience what feels right and works for us.

I can totally hook you up with my sis who is an expert on homebirth. Me? My perfect picture involves a little bit of everything. ;) Sad that I won't get a chance to try for that perfect birthing experience.

And I am totally with you on the green thing. I'm ready for spring, I am. Very.

michelle said...

I guess another way of saying what I said is that I appreciate how you share what works for you with that caveat that it's what works for you. I just wish there was more of that out there. ;)

michelle said...

OK, one more thing...I'm not wanting to defend defensiveness...part of my point is that if people are being defensive with you, it may be because they've had some bad experiences in the past.

Or maybe they are just afraid of new stuff, like you said.

Cheryl said...

michelle, no worries. :) You explain yourself really well and I know exactly what you mean. <3

Holly said...

I really liked this post. I agree that it's easy to get upset when someone makes a different choice and we start to feel like we need to defend our own choices or criticize theirs. I commented on a homebirth post a bit ago and hopefully it came across the right way. I can appreciate your decision to homebirth, but when you and other commenters start saying that women just don't know what they are missing out on- that says to me that you feel like your choice should be our choice. And like I said, I had a homebirth and was completely unimpressed and much happier with my OB. I'm happy for those who love homebirth and end up with a healthy baby, but it's not for me and I don't like people telling me I just haven't read the studies and I just don't know what I'm missing out on.