Thursday, June 16, 2011

Making Peace

A very wise friend visited my childbirth class tonight.

Not only is she a wonderful and well-informed advocate for gentle birth and empowered mamas, she is a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital. So she essentially has a foot in both worlds - how we would like it to be, and the reality of how it often is.

Two of the couples who were there tonight are planning home births. The other two are planning to be in the hospital. She gave it to them straight, and it was clear that this bothered them somewhat, but I'm still extremely glad she came.

Sometimes I think that, as natural childbirth teachers, we set our hospital couples up for unrealistic expectations. Yes, you can do this. But will the doctors and hospital let you? That is often a separate question, and one I really can't answer for them, not knowing their individual circumstances. It's important for them to know the culture they may be running into when they arrive at the hospital, and then they have some decisions to make.

"What if my doctor says no to what I want?" was the question of the night.

And the answer was, ultimately, "You need to decide how important it is to you. If it's that important, you fight for it or change doctors. If it's not, you go along with their way - but you make the choice to do that and you take responsibility for that choice."

It's an important step, and an important distinction. And it applies to all the decisions we make, not just those regarding childbirth.

How many times would we like to have it both ways? How often do we put off making a decision until it's too late and the decision is made for us? How often do we make a choice, and then look for ways to pass the responsibility or the blame onto someone else?

By doing this, we can allow ourselves the peace of mind that comes with convincing ourselves that the negative circumstances of our lives are not really our doing. Someone else made me do that. Someone else made me feel that way. Someone else is responsible.

We can allow ourselves to be victims and feel bad for ourselves and ask others to feel bad for us and complain and make snarky comments about the person or persons we hold responsible for our troubles -

- or we can take responsibility for our own choices and decisions and work to create the kind of life we want for ourselves and our families. Without regrets, without giving away our power to anyone else.

Powerlessness is for small children. By a certain age (and I'm certain that this happens younger in our household than in most) people are expected to make decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. I hear myself saying it all the time - "It was your choice to do that." Depriving children of the experience of making their own choices and realizing the natural consequences of those choices teaches them both entitlement and victimhood. Not empowerment. Not responsibility. Not maturity.

I'm writing this to myself as a reminder, as a caution, and as a means of understanding those who would prefer to blame others for their unhappiness rather than make different choices.

With each choice we make, we gain some things and give up others. By choosing one path, we deprive ourselves of what another might have offered. And it's important to be at peace with that.

It's when we recognize that the choices we make are ultimately ours that we can truly feel powerful and in control of our lives. Only then can we truly let go of the envy and resentment we feel toward others who might have chosen a different path, or the blame we might be tempted to shift onto others.

An important distinction between those who would prefer to remain children and those who are ready to grow up.

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