Stop making assumptions about birth!

I met a homebirther the other day and we got to talking about birth as birth nerds often do. We discussed local doctors and midwives, she told me about her home birth and I mentioned that I had an amazing hospital birth.

Stop right there. You understand what I just said, right? I had an amazing hospital birth. I had an amazing birth!

She gave me a disbelieving look that said, "Yeah, right". As if having a great birth experience in a hospital means that I either don't know what a great birth is or that I'm deceiving myself into believing that my hospital birth (which was surely full of horrible interventions) wasn't as horrid as it must have really been.

I kid you not. She actually made this expression.

I quickly began trying to explain that despite the location of my birth, it was, in fact, a wonderful, peaceful experience. And by "wonderful experience", I guess what I really mean is a experience which met the requirements for approval among the natural birth community. Apparently how I felt about my birth wasn't enough to label it as "good".

I get it though, I do. I use to be a bit of an extremist birth nerd, believing that all hospital births were hellish and all home births were heavenly. I really did see it as being that black and white, and of course one answer was right for everyone. But I grew up and life taught me differently. Man I was such a judgmental moron.

No one should have to justify their experience. There isn't a checklist that guarantees a satisfying birth. I have a friend who had a great induction and another friend who had a terrible homebirth. If someone says that they had a great birth, just say "that's great!". It doesn't matter if you approve of their birth choices; your opinion doesn't change how they feel about their experience. And honestly, you just come off as a judgmental know-it-all bitch when you act like your narrow view of birth is the gold standard of assessing birth experiences. So if you don't want to alienate yourself as being the holier-than-thou crunchy birth goddess then I suggest you take my advice and be a bit more understanding of your fellow mamas.

A few tips for debating online

Because these days every blog post needs an image.
I have a tendency to get involved in online debates, usually about parenting. These debates can get very heated very quickly (I know my blood pressure rises at just the mention of "sleep training"), and a heated debate does no good. I'm not claiming to be an expert on debate (because I'm very much not an expert!) but I want to share some things that help me debate effectively.

You can help someone understand but you can't make them agree. Remembering this takes a lot of the stress out of a debate for me. Of course I'd like my opponent to agree with me but that's probably not going to happen during the debate. Throwing out that goal really helps me stay calm. I can make sure they understand my argument but I can't make them agree.

Remember the people who are reading but not participating. This is my mantra while debating online. I usually assume that my opponent is a lost cause so when I respond I'm really speaking to the silent bystanders. This helps me address my opponent's arguments without getting heated.

No personal attacks and no correcting grammar or spelling. As soon as you deviate from the topic to attack something unrelated, you've lost. I always assume that when my opponent points out a spelling error they are out of relevant responses. Pointing out grammar and spelling should be saved for when you're making fun of your opponent in a private group (what? You know you do it).

Obviously, you need to know what you're talking about. I like to provide links to mainstream-friendly articles which back me up. If you're debating with an atheist, you wouldn't use links from a Catholic website, right? No, you'd use secular links. By the same token (my dad always uses that phrase), if you're debating circumcision you shouldn't link to an anti-circ site at first. There are articles on Yahoo! News and The Washington Post that make your point, and they would be better received than a link from an anti-circ site. Now, if someone is genuinely interested in learning more about genital mutilation, then of course send them to The WHOLE Network! But if they're currently in favor of genital mutilation then sending them to a site that is against it will be ineffective.

Type what you want to say then delete it and type what you should say
. Get that venting out of the way so your emotion doesn't overshadow your argument. Or yell at the computer, take a breath, and calmly compose a response - just don't go off on your opponent. For a debate to be effective it should be a discussion, not a fight.

And a quick message to silent bystanders - If an online debate has made you think or convinced you to change your mind, please let the debater know! Hearing that I've made a difference for even one person is what keeps me going. There have been several times where I have been on the verge of burning out when suddenly I receive a private message thanking me for what I've said in some debate. It gives me a second wind and I can't express how much I appreciate those messages. So if you like what someone says, let 'em know!

I need to unplug.

I don't like who I've become. The computer, the gadgets, have taken over my mind. I can't just sit and be in the moment - I have to check Facebook or play a stupid game or watch a show. I can't sit idle, I can't be in the silence. I can't even take a relaxing bath without reading in the tub! That's not right. Our minds aren't meant to be constantly stimulated by outside sources. It's busywork for my brain, and it's distracting me from life. It's disabling my ability to think and to be comfortable with myself. - just myself, without a computer to entertain me.

This is how I'm starting to feel.

I don't like what I see in our society. I don't like how we've lost our community. If we removed our walls there would be perfect strangers living their lives just a few feet apart yet completely oblivious to each other.

Driving is weird. I sit at a stop light, just a few feet away from strangers coming and going, separated by some metal, taking no notice of each other. We don't even wave! People use to wave.

I feel so disconnected and disassociated anymore. Sometimes it feels like I'm not even a person, like none of us are people. It's like we're mindless drones, rushing about, doing meaningless tasks, plugging our brains in to electronics. Life is passing us by. We're going to look back on our lives and remember our kids growing up so fast while we were watching TV or looking at pictures on Facebook.

Facebook. I love and hate Facebook. It is great for meeting local mama friends, and for connecting with likeminded people across the world. It's great for "finding your tribe" and for learning what's going on everywhere. But, ultimately, my Facebook friends are meaningless in my life. Don't get me wrong, I care a lot about several of them, but for the most part, they are pictures and words that I interact with while my mind is plugged in to a computer. They're not a part of my life, they're a part of my sedentary, distracted mind. I do value the connections I've made on Facebook, but, like I said, it's ultimately meaningless. Also, it's kinda unnatural to keep in contact with people I went to elementary school with but with whom I have not maintained a friendship. People are supposed to come and go in your life, and with Facebook it's like I'm collecting everyone I've ever interacted with. But you know what? People change. The people I went to school with are different people now, and let's be honest - we're only Facebook friends so we can stalk each others photos and compare ourselves. Lame.
I recommend this book.

And it's not just Facebook, it's craigslist, it's my RSS reader, it's my e-mail, it's Netflix, it's all this stupid crap that I keep up with. I subscribe to a blog because I like it, but then it becomes almost a burden having to keep up with it. My RSS reader has over 300 unread posts right now, despite me checking it daily. It's ridiculous. And do I really need to be reading all this? Yes, The Bloggess is freaking hilarious, and yes I like looking at stupid duckface pics, but ultimately it's all meaningless (I keep saying that - "ultimately it's all meaningless" - because it is, it's all meaningless!). Sure, I read craft blogs and birthy blogs, but ya know what? I'm pretty creative on my own and I'm done having kids. I'm enough of a birth nerd to enlighten mamas on the birth industry without keeping up with what all the birth bloggers are up to. If something crazy huge happens in the birth community, I'm positive news of it will trickle down to me. 

I watched a documentary on the Amish last night and it was perfect timing for me. They put into words a lot of what I've been feeling lately. They resist technological progress because they don't want it to interfere with their process and their community. And they're so right! The easier things become, the more separated we become. We've lost our community. We no longer need to harvest together or sew together, there are very few real skills that are still being passed along. There's not that community bond between us anymore. We're so isolated. There's a saying about life being about the journey, not the destination, and I think it relates here. Life isn't about microwaving a quick meal, it's about growing, harvesting, and cooking it together. It's about LIVING, not just handing your mind over to gadgets!

So here's what I'm going to do. In my local mama group on Facebook, I'm going to make someone else an admin so they can add people and I'm going to post my phone number so we can still keep in touch. I'm going to set up a bunch of playdates and start being social. (Side note: I'm going to stop worrying about keeping my house spotless for playdates - We have kids and it's obvious that life is happening here. I always have a ton of projects going, and it's totally normal. I think it's healthy for us mamas to see each other's homes in their actual states. Very few of us keep perfectly tidy homes all the time, and seeing other REAL homes that are really being lived in is good for us! It shows us that we're all people and that it's normal to live in a house that looks lived in). I'm going to have Zach change my Facebook password and I'm making a goal of staying off the computer for a whole 31-day month. I've "tried" taking breaks from Facebook before and have failed pretty quickly, but this time I have a real motivation. I WANT to do this. I NEED to do this. I'm going to go out more and try to connect to humanity and nature more. I'm tired of feeling so disconnected. This isn't how life is supposed to be.

I feel like I've been asleep for the past few years, like I've missed out on my early 20's. I'm waking up now, I'm unplugging, and I'm going to go LIVE! It's not just about what I am doing online, but what I'm not doing when I'm online. I feel like my body and brain are slowly decaying while I sit on my increasingly fat ass staring at this bright screen.

Wish me luck! I'm expecting to be irritable for the first few days while I adjust to actually thinking again. I plan to fix my sewing machine, to crochet, to finish some of my home improvement projects, to play with my kids more, to visit friends and family more, to go on more walks, to read non-fiction books, and to rediscover the bright, bubbly, friendly, confident, fun person I use to be. And I bet anyone $5 I'll lose some weight during this break from busy, stimulated mindlessness.