Shawn De Vree
Before I had kids, I was the perfect parent. I was going to have those kids like they show in glossy magazines. Happy, smiling, clean and well-dressed kids that would never throw a tantrum in Walmart over a box of Reeses Pieces. In fact they were never even going to have Reeses Pieces. Every meal they ever ate would be home-made whole food, and they’d never wear licensed clothing or cheap shoes, ever. My husband and I would always agree on how we’d parent them, and we wouldn’t have to “give up” anything – kids were made to fit into our lifestyle, not the other way around. Right?
When we were expecting our first child I spent way more time thinking about a nursery than I did about birth. In fact, I buried my head so far in the sand that I was completely unwilling to research my options. I’ll spare the world my birth story, but it was a typical domino effect scenario in which I narrowly escaped an unplanned cesarean section. While I had a beautiful healthy baby, the Mother was suffering - despair over an emotionally traumatic birth, a failed breastfeeding experience and the slow healing of physical scars. It was not even close to what I had imagined.
When I got pregnant with my second child (when my first was only 8 months old….not entirely recommended), I knew things had to be different. I was browsing a bookstore in Sarnia and ran across Dr. Sears The Birth Book (sound familiar Melanie?). Reading it cover to cover not only helped me understand what happened at my first birth, but it also propelled me into self-education for my next.
My daughter’s birth was incredible, and I remember jumping off the bed and exclaiming “I didn’t have an epidural, I can go home right?” I couldn’t get home fast enough. I needed to tell everyone who’d listen that birth can be different. Safe. Empowering. Awesome. Fast forward 2.5 years later, my third child was a planned homebirth.
If you told me before I had kids that having them would completely transform me, the old version of me would have scoffed. They were going to fit into my life remember? While parenting three kids is tiring and often difficult, I am incredibly grateful that I have this amazing opportunity to screw them up. Turns out, I’m not a perfect parent. I have days where I yell at my kids. A lot. My house is a disaster, there are times I argue with my partner, and every meal my kids eat is not ideal and balanced. I’ve done so many things I said I wouldn’t do I’ve lost count, and well, in my books that’s ok.
It’s important to me that support is non-judgmental. It’s not impossible. As parents we all make our own choices and decisions. My job as an educator is not to teach you to do things my way, but to help you do things your way. It’s not just about the birth, the baby and the breastfeeding. It’s also about the mother, she’s pretty important too. The chances are you don’t need me, or a book or your mother-in-law (Hi Cathy!) to tell you how to parent your children, you just need support and the courage to follow your own instincts. There’s room for everyone on this journey, let’s do our best to hold each other up not knock each other down.
I’ve formula fed a child, and I have nursed a child (or two) well beyond two years of age. So far, they are all relatively normal. Did I have regrets? Guilt? You bet. But if I could go back now would I change things? Not a chance.
Oh, also – I really, really, really hate mayonnaise.