Whew. Got that out of the way. (Who knew that just by standing up at dinner during our recent vacation to announce the publication of the 2010 family calendar, I'd have everyone eyeing my midsection?)
So the thing is, there are babies everywhere these days. Mostly, babies in an embryonic state. Dear friends Jessica and Anne are both incubating their FIFTH masterpieces. One of my oldest friends recently confided the early stages of a long-hoped-for pregnancy -- no names here, since it's still in the hush-hush phase. An even older friend, the one who always swore her future would be childless, recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the frigid world of coastal Maine. The other night, I dreamed my friend Nicole was telling me she was pregnant, even though her third is only seven months old. (Stranger things have happened.)
And yesterday, it was my distinct and teary honor to support my good friend Grace as she delivered her firstborn, Isaac Nathaniel. We deep-breathed together throughout her amazingly short labor as her husband rubbed her feet and her mom texted her many well-wishers.
Ten years ago, while I prepared for the birth of my own firstborn son, this was my philosophy:
NATURAL CHILDBIRTH IS THE WAY TO GO!!!
These days, my thoughts run more along these lines:
Natural childbirth was the way to go for ME. I believe it's healthy and empowering, and that many women don't realize what they're capable of, but let us be clear, I wouldn't do it for weekend recreation, and during the pushing stage with Caroline, the words, "I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!" blared like a siren through the upstairs bathroom. And when I'm asked to be with a friend at a moment like this, it's not to live vicariously through their moment or to have them validate my own choices by doing things my way. It's to support them in having the experience THEY want.
Let's be honest; mothering is not a competition. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Motherhood works best as a sisterhood, in which each member is automatically assumed to be as wise, and loving, and capable of seeking help when she needs it, as her child needs her to be. Since I haven't run across any reliable checklist out there for good mothering (Sample Harvard application question: Did your parents use cloth diapers or disposables?), can we agree to cut each other some slack on the nonessentials?
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.