Going Against the Grain: Pregnancy

by Alissa on October 18, 2010

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I wrote here about the struggles that arise when your parents disagree with your parenting.  The feedback was overwhelming and I have decided to share my own story of going against the grain and my path to attachment parenting.  I do this in the hopes that you will take a few minutes to share your stories about overcoming prejudice, digging deep to make wise decisions, and sometimes defending those decisions.  In a world where many moms and dads (including me) live far away from most of their extended family, in a world where attachment parenting seems radical, stories and advice from people like you are what inspired me, encouraged me, and ultimately kept me from pulling all my hair out.  Let’s collect stories and be a tribe of support and encouragement to one another.

I am a researcher, a soul searcher, and a believer in the power of intuition.  My husband teases me that my motto is “If you don’t know, look it up until you do know.”  So when I found out I was pregnant, I took one of the Attachment Parenting principles seriously: Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care.

I immediately started doing research, listening to my gut, figuring things out.  There are so many decisions to be made when you are expecting!  Triple screen or no triple screen?  Ultrasound or no ultrasound?  Hospital delivery or home delivery?  How do I feel about epidurals?  How long do I want to labor at home?  What if I go past 40 weeks?  On and on and on with the questions.

Every woman has to make these decisions for herself.  I made these decisions based on research and intuition.  A lot of these decisions were the exact opposite of what everyone in my family wanted me to decide.  A lot of decisions were scary.  Maybe my family is just nuts, but I think everyone’s family is a little nuts.  I wanted my family (and close friends) to agree with me.  I wanted their admiration and respect.  I wanted them to be on board.  But in the end I just had to stop listening to everyone and start listening to myself.  It was just draining having to defend myself and explain over and over.  But I wanted to include my family as much as I could even though they thought I was crazy.

Maybe my process would have been easier if I had more support, if I had been raised in an environment that celebrated birth.  But I didn’t have that kind of support.

When I found out I was pregnant I called my mom first.  My mother said: “Have you scheduled your C-section yet?” No joke.

When I decided that I didn’t want an epidural my mom said: “Well you just have such low pain tolerance, and really, what’s the point to going through all that pain if you could just have the epidural and relax and watch TV?”  (My point is not really about the epidural, I am not violently opposed to epidurals.  I just think that when your daughter tells you she’s been doing all this research and has decided that an epidural is not the right choice for her, you should respond with support and encouragement, not try to talk her out of it and undermine her determination.)

When I chose to deliver with a midwife my family thought I was putting my unborn child in grave danger.

Me, 7 months pregnant with Solomon

I struggled, you guys.  I struggled with every little decision that I made.  And that was before my little man was even here!  In my next post I’m going to talk about my labor and delivery, and the first couple days of Solomon’s life.  But for now can we just talk about pregnancy and going against the grain?

I try to think about my kids growing up and having kids.  What will be the norm to them?  What new history am I writing for them?  And that encourages me.  You are writing a new history for the next generation.  What kind of history are you writing for them?  Were some of your decisions during pregnancy difficult to make?  Did you feel supported?  How did you deal with critics?  Do you come from an Attachment Parenting kind of family? We have a lot of wisdom here in the API Speaks readership.  Share your wisdom with us!

Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and her one year old son, Solomon.

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Alissa (15 Posts)

Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and her almost two year old son, Solomon.


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa October 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

Awesome post. So many of the struggles and experiences you have described really resonated with me, especially the ‘research it until you do know’ mentality. I was lucky to have uninformed but mostly uncritical family, which sounds like a different story from yours. Mostly what I get with my crunchy approach is a lot of “But why would you?” questions. Still, my mom breastfed her kids past six months in the eighties and did natural childbirth, so when I am practicing extended nursing, cosleeping and baby wearing, I feel like I am just taking the next steps down a path she started on, and that helps, even when she doesn’t understand why I would choose to nurse past age 2.

I hope you grow to be surrounded by people who admire and support your parenting choices.

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Jessica October 18, 2010 at 11:34 am

Good for you!! I’ve encountered a lot of the same thing! Many times I am questioned for my choices but I just keep on trucking! In the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks but you and your family! I’ve made the decision to deliver my next baby at a birth center, after much research and soul searching. I am prepared for all the questions and judgement because above all else, I am confident in my choices as a mom! My daughter coslept until she was ready to leave our bed (and still spends the occasional night with us when she feels she needs it), was worn often, and nursed past her first year! And, she is an extremely bright, well behaved, toddler! I can’t tell you how many compliments I get on her behavior and vocabulary. I know it’s because of the “unconventional” choices that I made and I am proud that my husband and I went with our instincts instead of allowing others to persuade us to do things the conventional way! I wouldn’t change a thing!!

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Gina October 18, 2010 at 11:53 am

My family definitely did not agree with a lot of my decisions. They were convinced I was putting my baby’s life at risk for choosing a midwife and oh boy, when they found out I was planning a home birth! When I had to transfer to the hospital after 60 hours my mom’s first question was “if you had gone to the hospital earlier wouldn’t it have been faster” and now she tells everyone I put his life at risk by staying at home even though this was far from the truth. She was also not impressed when she found out I was leaving my little guy intact even though all her reasons have been proven to not be true. It is sad that part of me is relieved that my family lives farther away so that they are not around to always criticize my choices. As you can probably guess I did not come from an attachment parenting home, my childhood was probably the exact opposite.

All my decisions throughout pregnancy and now raising my child are not necessarily mainstream but they are what feels right to me. They are all very different from how I was raised and hard for my family to understand. But I realized that the only people I have to make happy are me, my hubby and my child. When people criticized me I would simply let them know that I had put a lot of effort into all of my decisions and have gone with what feels right to me. I’ve often had to remind them that he is my child and not theirs as they tend to blur this line.

During pregnancy the support from my doula was fantastic! Now I am trying to connect with other parents with similar values as me although I am finding this tough.

Fortunately my hubby has been incredibly supportive and open to so many things! I don’t know what I would have done without his support. I know from all the decisions I’ve made and things that are important to me that our family is not going to be considered the norm but I wish it was. I hope that I am writing a new history for our family that my son will carry with him!

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Jennifer October 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to pregnancy and child rearing. it can be quite discouraging. Every mother deserves a support system around her. I think that looking at the pros and cons of your decisions is so imperative and necessary and I applaud you for doing the research and sticking with what you knew to be right for you and your baby versus going with what society or family think. I also hope you have that encouragement around you through the parenting years.

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Molly Lemen October 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm

When I said the word ‘homebirth’ to ANYONE I got a host of horror stories that always ended the same ‘and if i hadn’t of been at the hospital my baby would of DIED’ :/

even AFTER my very successful home unassisted birth after cesarean I still revived comments such as
“congrats, you still should of had him at the hospital” <— real comment on my birth announcement post

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Melissa October 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

It can be so hard to go against the grain. I remember my dad (both of whose children were born at home!!!!) telling me to “Just go get a doctor like your sister did” and even offering to pay for an ambulance to stand by while I labored and birthed at home. I found it much harder to shake off the concerns (albeit ill-informed) of loving family members than those of nosy strangers/acquaintances.

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Jessie October 18, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Honestly? The first time someone bristled at the news that I was using midwives, NOT an OB, my first instinct was to get defensive and offended. After I had calmed down, I realized 1.) that person was a single guy with no children, and 2.) I was the one in that conversation who actually knew what she was talking about. When you’ve done the research and spent time deciding what you’re going to do, you’re right. Because honestly, that’s more than most people do when they make decisions about this kind of thing. You’re the one who knows what you’re talking about. It’s still hard, because it’s never fun to be the person who everyone else thinks is crazy. But take comfort in the fact that, in all likelihood, you know A LOT more about the subject than they do. (I suppose that sounds snobby, but it’s TRUE. You just don’t necessarily have to say it out loud.) :-)

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Britin October 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I have been there! I found a good answer is “This is what works for us” (otherwise, arguing ensues). We’re going to NC to see family for the first time in two years next week and I’m already blanching at the thought of questions about the fact that I’m still breastfeeding an almost 4 year old. She’s just not ready yet to let go and that’s fine with me, but family still manages to make me feel ashamed of our agreement.

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Yvonne October 18, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Thanks for your post. I too struggle with ‘no support’ regarding my parenting style. I found it especially difficult in terms of ‘discipline’ (aka punishment) and cosleeping. We actually kept co-sleeping a sercret for awhile, for the first child. I tried developing a support group, but ended up being the only one at the meeting. I continue to depend on research/books as my sole source of support. Best of luck to you. I hope you have a joyous birthing experience

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Laurie October 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Hi Alissa,

Wow…your words were powerful. I think you’re right….we don’t really get in arguments about epidurals or midwives…..there is a deeper fear here that plays out in families. I was raised in a family that was pretty close to attachment parenting and there were still decisions I made that upset my mother. I have the luxury of having older children and some of the things my parents and friends questioned are moot now. My girls are loving and wonderful. Some people will even admit that they are ok in spite of what I did. I can chuckle at that now.

The best payback is watching your child parent. My oldest just had her first baby and the decisions were much easier for her. I encouraged her to research (we are researchers, too) and to find out what she thought would work for her. She didn’t choose everything I’d chose (knowing what I know now….) but I realized my job as a mother now is to encourage and support HER choices, as I’ve done all her life.

I hope you can find peace with the judgment you feel from others. What they are saying is really about them and their fears and our silly attitudes about birth and attachment in our country. When all else fails cuddle up with your family and remember what’s important.

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Diana October 18, 2010 at 4:39 pm

When I was preg. with my son (in 2009) as was “label” as “high risk preg.”, the specialist wanted to put me on insulin right away (which I didn’t allowed) and told me that homebirths were dangerous specially in my case with Gestacional diabetes and a low laying placenta and that a C-section shold be considered. I did what I supposed to do…..researched and found out that a low lying placenta like mine is not uncommon that early in preg. and after writting a “diary” of everything I ate and monitoring my blood sugar levels before and after every single meal/snack for 4 weeks and not showing ANY abnormal numbers, the Diabetes Center (where I was also refered to) told me I didn’t have to come back any more. My midwifes were confident to go ahead with my homebirth but my family (which is in another country) was very worry specially when I said my baby will be born at home in water.
Also I had family members telling me that my daughters will be shock for life if I let them watch me laboring and birthing my baby, they don’t know my daughters, they only see them every year when we go down, their opionion didn’t matter to me at all. My daugthers are used to see me naked, also they’ve been unschooled=which means they choose when, how and what they want to learn, and for that year WE learned what happens with the female body, from conception to birth.
My pregnancy was a lot of fun for my 12 and 10 year old daughters, and birthing our son at home in water was an experienced none of “us” wanted to missed. My husband and daughters, and 2 midwifes on stand by, I’m glad I had the right support team by my side.

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amanda October 18, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I feel like I just read my own story;-) Thanks for sharing.

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Patricia October 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm

My first pregnancy I did a lot of the “normal” things, I used an OB she was born at a hospital and everything was good. The only thing we did kind of against again the grain was to not get another ultrasound when we could figure out what we were having at 20 wks. We got a lot of flack for that, but my mom never had any ultrasounds so she was supportive.

This pregnancy we opted for a home birth we had a good experience the first time, but after a lot of research and realizing how lucky we were with the right team the first time we decided we liked the idea of a home birth and having our daughter present. You would think I had gone completely crazy, I swear my family wants to lock me up in an insane assylum for this choice. We have chosen to flat out not tell my in-laws because they would go nuts on us. After a few months and my mom being reassured that I am getting really good pre-natal care that includes all the normal medical procedures and reminding her that I live 7min. at most from the nearest hospital she has finally “relaxed” somewhat at least she doesn’t comment anymore and is respecting my choice.

We chose not to say anything to any friends, because we know it’s against the grain and a lot of people think home birth is nuts. I have been surprised though how many people have actually asked me if we were having a home birth. I had somebody say just the other day, “You’re not doing a home birth right” but it was in such an inquisitive way not judging at all and when I said we were she was so excited and telling me how she always thought that was the best way to go, and wish she had done that.

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MamanADroit October 18, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I’ve thought about the legacy I’ll leave my kids, esp if I have any daughters. That’s part of why I’m determined to attempt a VBAC next time I’m pregnant. My mom had all c-sections (tried for natural birth but had complications) and I had a c-section after complications, so it makes me worried that I’m not physically able to birth naturally even though there’s absolutely no medical indication that’s true. If I’m successful in my VBAC, my daughters won’t feel like they come from a long line of women who can’t give birth naturally, which is kind of what I feel like. I hope I don’t leave them with that!

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middle-road January 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Wow, I don’t feel completely alone in my decisions any longer…. I just wish you were all here beside me and I beside you…. How is it that we have to turn to the internet these days to find like minded people…. Most who don’t even live in the same country.
I definitely did not grow up with the values I believe today, nor did my husband. I find it interesting that one little “thought” seed that was planted so long ago has transformed me into to who I am today.

My husband and I have been married for 5 1/2 years coming up in 3 days. We were not planning on having children for a few more years, but life decided differently for us.

We were lucky enough to have watched several friends and relatives all have babies, most have two now and some are working on their third. We have been able to sit back and take notes on things that we like, and don’t like…. Most people say it changes when you have your own so be prepared to throw those notes out the window…. thank you for that advice :)

The one thing all of our friends and family have in common is that they are all raising their children the “conventional” way for todays standards… hospital births, epidurals, disposable diapers, bottle feeding (some combined breast & bottle), processed foods, creams full of harmful chemicals, immunizations, ice cream for breakfast, fashion first…. the list goes on…

So when we found out we were pregnant, a lot of thought and anixety arose. We eat as much organic food now because nobody knows what the outcome of pesticides are…. I feel like everyother day there is a medication or a toy recall on the news…. that our lettuce and meat are consistantly being tainted and people are getting sick…
I don’t take medications, I have trusted my body’s ability to heal itself… and for that I have been rewarded with rarely getting sick. I trust my local butcher and farmers market when in season…
Normally these thing don’t pertain to us. But when you are pregnant for some reason what you do is everybody’s business and everyone seems to have an opinion…. Really exhausting some days!!!

But lets be honest, I judge them too!

I think to myself, if only you knew what you were doing when you let your child use antibacterial gels… or yikes, what the hell are you letting your kid ingest…. how do you think kraft dinner is even remotely ok for lunch or dinner????
I scratch my head at the lack of thought and research my friends and family seem to not care about…. ONLY IF THEY KNEW!!!

I hear the whispers behind my back, I see that they want to say something to me, but keep their mouths closed (most of the time)… I STILL FEEL JUDGE TOO!!! I feel like the biggest outsider ever, and all I want is to be supported!

Is there a middle ground, is there a common road??? I have no idea… I want more than anything not to judge others, and not to feel judged…. I repeat to myself over and over again that everyone has a different path in life and that we cannot know what is best for someone else…. but if people knew the horrific things they put into their bodies on a daily bases… to save a few dollars today… would they still make those choices?

I guess it comes down to being ok and confident in the decision you make with the research and intuition that you feel you should follow…. It is the hardest thing.

We have chosen a home birth with water…. We have said no to many interventions based on my risk factors throughout this pregnancy, because I feel I have done more research that the people who are prescribing these interventions.

We have chosen to co-sleep (despite my cousins comment if you co-sleep I will dis-own you)…
We have chosen to baby wear and breast feed…. we are due in a few weeks and haven’t even purchased a back up bottle or breast pump … no matter how many people tell me I need these things!
We have committed to cloth diapering and only letting our new born wear as chemical free clothing as possible…

We are going on a family vacation with my parents, brothers & sisters 2 months after the baby is due…. and people think we are crazy for not bringing disposable diapers…. seriously what is wrong with washing by hand and hanging to dry a few times while on vacation… we’ll still get to enjoy the sun and beautiful weather! And to not have a bottle is super inconvenient in most peoples eyes…. really, lets think about that one!

All in all, I am happy to know there ARE others out there that go against the grain and fight for their right to do so!

I only wish the best to you all, and hope one day I can truly stop judging others… and maybe I wont feel so judged…. I just am not there yet.

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