Monday, June 18, 2012

Moving My Blog

Thanks to all who check in regularly.  I've decided to move my blog to Wordpress because it's just so much more awesome than blogger, and I have another blog with them so it just makes sense.  Please visit me at my new blog!

Intentional Living

Friday, June 15, 2012

Think for a moment about the last time you learned a great lesson, changed your mind, or experienced significant growth because someone condescended to you or made you feel shamed and judged.


Nothing?  Me neither.

I've been learning this difficult lesson lately... I'm calling myself out more than anything.

About 9 months ago, I wrote about my decision to pursue a career as a nurse-midwife.  Then, finding out how much time, money, and schooling it would take, I decided to set my sights on a goal more achievable for where I am in life right now.  I know I'll put "CNM" behind my name someday, but for right now I'm gaining invaluable experience as a labor doula.

The biggest thing I've learned since I started this journey isn't any fact about the birth industry, medical intervention, hospital policy, stages of labor, birthing positions, or any other practical aspect of my job (although I've learned volumes of practical stuff)... my biggest lesson has been this:

The best advice, the most sound information in the whole world, when offered not in love but out of a desire to manipulate or to impose my own values, can never be effective.  You could be completely right, but no one will listen because the way we share information is so much more important that the information itself.  Presentation trumps principles, and if you present the principles in an alienating and offensive way, you lose people.

Going through my training, I've realized how many strong biases I have about the birth industry.  How quickly I give my opinion without being asked.  How little it takes to set me off on a statistics rant.  How easily I judge someone for making a decision that I wouldn't.

I already know how much I hate dealing with these behaviors in other people.  We all have friends who share their opinions in such a loud, militant, black-and-white way.  We all know people who we feel judged by.  After a while, we become so turned off that we begin to dismiss them as fanatics of this-or-that and simply ignore them.

This is the first time I'm seeing myself this way.  Truthfully, I have the very best intentions.  I want so much for women to have birth experiences that allow them to walk away feeling positive and empowered that I often come off as adversarial and insensitive in my effort to educate them.  I've realized that positive and empowering birth experiences are greatly varied for different women and that my very positive natural birth experience isn't the ideal for each of my clients.  Now, I'm learning how to set aside the emotions connected with my ideals and just help women have their best birth... whatever it looks like.

When I present a choice as incontrovertibly right or wrong, I am imposing my choices, my values over yours, instead of sharing my opinion and allowing you to decide what is best for you.  Condescension, shame, and guilt are very poor ways of helping people see things from your viewpoint.  Likewise, refusing to consider any viewpoint but your own is a great way to isolate yourself.

"There's a difference between loving to speak the truth and speaking the truth in love." -Kris Vallotton

When I first read that quote, I was horrified to find myself squarely in the former group.  Now, I'm learning to be more merciful in the way I share my opinions on all those things that divide like birth and parenting and politics and theology.  I'm trying my best to share my passions in a way that says, "This is what I do and why I do it..." without implying (overtly or otherwise) "...and if you don't, you're wrong, wrong, wrong."  I still get caught up in the need to be right, and it's then that I remind myself: presentation trumps principles.  I'll never foster true, open discussion if all I want to do is talk about how right I am.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Starting Fresh

Isabella woke up sort of angry today.  I don't know why, maybe she's just having one of those days.  I woke up pretty happy but it didn't take long for me to catch her mood and soon we were both grumpy.  I'm having one of those very-busy, cleaning-the-house, putting-dishes-away, please-can-you-just-play-by-yourself-like-you-did-yesterday kind of days.  But Isabella is having one of those I-need-you-to-hold-me-every-second-of-my-life-forever-but-I-also-want-you-to-put-me-down kind of days.  We are just not on the same page.

She signed "eat" so I sat her in her high chair and cut up some cherries for her.  She eagerly gobbled up every last one of them and signed "more."  I cut up a whole bunch more and went back to washing dishes.  She threw her cherries on the ground (on the carpet), reached her arms out toward me, and with the saddest most piteous look on her face, began to wail.  At this point, we'd already had many, many of these moments, I'd listened to so much whining, been followed around and grabbed at and cried at all morning.  I, hands wet and soapy, threw the cup I was cleaning into the sink, yanked her out of her seat, and plopped her on the ground.  "FINE.  If you don't want to eat, DON'T EAT. Just SIT THERE."

If you've ever thrown a fit back at a toddler who is throwing a fit, you know how super helpful it is.  As I cleaned up her cherries, finished the last of the dishes, and dried my hands, she cried louder and louder.  At this point it was obvious that she wasn't just frustrated that I had inexplicably given her the additional cherries she asked for.  I had treated her and spoken to her without love, I had become angry for a stupid reason, after little frustrations from the whole morning had built and built and built.  I could see so clearly in her face that I had really hurt her feelings.  My heart softened immediately.

"We've both had a hard morning.  Let's hit the reset button."

I set everything else aside and gently gathered her up.  We sat down on the couch together and she nursed and I could feel the tension draining from our muscles.  I talked to her as she nursed and told her how sorry I was for being angry and overreacting, for not being patient, and for not giving her grace.  I apologized for putting things and chores ahead of her needs, because the dishes will be there.  The laundry will be there.  But she will grow and change and these moments, these days when she craves my attention are precious.

She looked up at me, just looking into my eyes and me into hers, one of my most favorite things about breastfeeding.  She signed "nurse" and smiled and everything went back to being ok.

It's easy for me to let a bad few hours stick with me and before I know it the whole day has been horrible.  But not today.