I always heard other women talking about having baby fever and I never really understood it. When I was younger, I knew I wanted children, but I never really had that desire to have them anytime soon or to really even talk about it. Then I would hear women talking about their internal clock kicking in and I would think, “I’m 27 and it has yet to chime in!” I can’t really tell you when I started really thinking about having children, I think it was during the summer last year. Then I suddenly found myself wanting to read every book , blog post & article I could find on natural pregnancy, natural childbirth, breastfeeding and parenting.
Mind you, I learned a great deal in college about pregnancy, child birth and child development, not only in our culture, but in a variety of cultures around the world. I took a variety of classes in the areas of human growth & development, body modification and child development. I wrote an entire paper about the negative effects of male circumcision! I learned a lot of interesting information both in college and from all the research & reading I have done in the last year and have had many discussions about this information with my husband. I am confident that we are on the same page when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. I have expressed my views and opinions on these topics to friends and family when they come up in conversation. And like I have mentioned in previous blog posts, if my view or opinion doesn’t match theirs, they will tell me it’s wrong or inaccurate and that I couldn’t possibly know because I don’t have children yet.
It seems that in our society, people do a lot of research prior to purchasing a car or even smaller things like appliances or even skin care products, but don’t seem that interested in learning about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or parenting. Sure, if you don’t want to read or learn, I guess you can just wing it, but when I witness certain things, it makes me wonder how much better a child’s life might be if the parents had decided to do a bit of research prior to having that child. Many of my views and opinions on these topics stem from the fact that I have a degree in Anthropology, as mentioned previously and although I focused on Physical Anthropology during my undergrad, I took a huge amount of classes in the areas of Cultural Anthropology and Global & International Studies. Our culture, or lack there of, in the United States has taken things like breastfeeding and turned them completely on their head to the point where many women are so uncomfortable that they won’t even consider breastfeeding. Or they only breastfeed for 6 months, not understanding that a child truly benefits in so many ways if you extend breastfeeding for at least 1.5-2 years, if not longer. The World Health Organization & UNICEF have recommended for the last decade that women breastfeed for at least 2 years. WHO recommends breastfeeding until between 2-7 years, with the world wide weaning average to be around 4 years. In the United States, women typically stop breastfeeding by the age of 6 months and then begin giving their child breast-milk from a cow, which is not only absurd when you really think about (which I will discuss in an entirely different blog post). This of course is information I learned 5 years ago in school, but have just recently begun to read more about as I started thinking about how I truly wanted to parent and raise my children. When I brought this up to people in my life who have children, they all reacted in a surprisingly negative way, which made me drop the topic of breastfeeding. Our society has made women feel that breastfeeding a toddler is wrong or gross, when in reality, if women would take 10 minutes to do some reading, they would find out that the complete opposite is true. I can understand not wanting to breastfeed to the age of 4, however you could pump and bottle feed after a certain point. I plan to breastfeed until at least 2 years and then see how it goes from there. I plan on having 2 children fairly close together and am not sure tandem breastfeeding is something I want to do.
I knew all of this information years ago when I was studying other cultures in school, but never really started to think about it until recently. The same goes for topics such as co-sleeping (although I am more comfortable with the idea of a co-sleeper next to the bed, not the child in bed with me, unless they are in a co-sleeper in the bed), baby wearing, the introduction of solid foods, schooling, etc. Putting an infant in a huge crib in a dark room separate from its mother is only something that has been happening in “modern” times; co-sleeping has always been the norm. The idea of putting an infant, who is completely dependent on its parents, alone in a dark room and letting the baby “cry it out” is one of the most barbaric things I can imagine doing. And research now shows how these things have a deep impact on a child’s future well being and mental health. I have had a hard time talking about these things with family and friends, who look at me like they think I am completely stupid. When in reality, all of the modern and well researched books on the topics recommend extended breastfeeding, safe co-sleeping, baby wearing, not doing “cry it out”, etc. But try explaining this to someone who gave birth to a child during a time when doctors didn’t even really encourage their pregnant patients to quite smoking and see how far you get. The same goes for diet; I am a vegetarian and eat very little dairy (organic, very few chemicals or processed foods) and I plan on feeding my children the same diet. The idea of ever giving my children fast food, milk or a bag of chemically processed snacks seems ludicrous to me.
I also believe in natural childbirth. A women’s body was meant to grow and birth babies. No one said that childbirth wasn’t going to be painful, it will be, but there is a purpose to that pain. I honestly don’t know a single person who has given birth naturally, even the ones who are very into natural living and that is really odd to me. We live in a culture where anytime there is even a hint of pain, we try to medicate ourselves out of it and its just not right. And before anyone thinks it or says it, I actually have had contractions before. I’ve had to have my uterus biopsied several times prior to having surgery for cervical cancer and have had 3-4 contractions each time with no pain medication or numbing. There were painful. But they serve a purpose and I think women who birth naturally are beautiful and brave. Obviously, I know things sometimes don’t go as planned and that’s alright. Not to mention that epidurals come with a lot of risks and side effects, both for the woman and the baby. And while we are on that topic, I’ve also previously had a spinal tap, which was an extremely unpleasant procedure that I don’t see myself wanting in the future. I’m not completely ruling out the fact that I may one day have an epidural if I had to have a C-section because of my past problems with endometrosis and my cervix, but I will try my best to do things as naturally as possible. I certainly don’t judge anyone for the choices they make, but I also expect the same respect in return about my choices and opinions.
Maybe we will have a child and some of these ideas won’t work for us and that’s fine. But like everything else in life, I think it’s a very good idea to be as informed as possible about everything and especially something as important as this. I am hoping to write an individual blog post on each of these topics and what I have learned from my research, reading and talking to moms thus far. And as always, I am always thankful for positive birth stories or experiences with any of these topics and love connecting with women who share similar values and beliefs as myself.