Her body, her birth, her choice,
Just to be clear I told S that if she wants her mom there I will find some way to make peace with that. It was hard to say that. We are doing much better.
Even though I am making the choice to leave the MIL decision up to S, and come from a place of support and love rather than hating my MIL, it is not because I believe that I have no say because it is “her” birth.
“Her body, her birth” is not something I believe, but apparently many people, if not most, do. Over the last 2 days my belief about this, my role in the birth of Pip, and my relationship to her in general is shifting and becoming more clear.
I am aware whenever I ask for honest advice that I am going to hear stuff I don’t like, but I am shocked (why? I should know better by now) by some of the comments I received that first day. Ultimately I am grateful because I am coming to a deeper understanding about my role and what I need to do, but dang folks, despite good intentions some of what you said was harsh.
My favorite insensitive comment was “Get over it, it’s her body, it’s her mom…Even if it sucks for you a little bit.”
So.not.helpful. Hurt my feelings.
It sucks a lot to have MIL there. I need to find a way to be okay with her being there, but “get over it” implies that I am doing something wrong by feeling unsafe around MIL who is, in fact, selfish, inappropriately genetically focussed, and narcissistic.
Silly me, why would I get so upset over such a ‘little’ thing??
Fucking up someone’s birth is serious business, and my nightmare is that MIL will fuck this one up too, either with her narcissism, or by ME and S letting this issue come between us.
In my last post I thought it was clear that this was a very raw, vulnerable topic for me as the non-bio mom and that although I wanted people’s honest opinions, those views should be expressed gently, in such a way that I could hear them even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. And there were a lot of those responses (thank you), but I should have been more explicit! I know better. I should never say sarcastic things like “if there was a vote and everyone said, Charlotte you are being weak and immature and you need to buck up for your wife” because people think I am steely enough to have you tell me, literally, to ‘buck up’. My bad.
In fact, I was needing understanding, and I was feeling very insecure in my role as the non birthing mom. Thank you so much for the comments that really acknowledged my position, my needs, and S’s needs in a way I could really listen to, even when it was hard to hear. Those ones made me cry (in a good way – I’ll send you $90, Chicory), and helped me make a very needed change.
After I told S that I was going to support her decision about her mom during her birth, we were able to enter a different space. We are having some difficult but fruitful talks.
Now onto the rest of the post in which I go on and on about the issue of making decisions about pregnancy and birth, with two moms. This part is not coming from an offended place, maybe a little defensive? Mostly I’m surprised that my opinions are so so different most people’s.
I was shocked that I didn’t hear more about me having a say birth of my next child. Yes S is pushing it out of her vag, but does that mean I have NO say? none? really??!? I must admit that it was hard to hear.
Here is a message I get, in general: the bio mom, from pregnancy through breastfeeding has more say. Her body. Her birth. Her boobs. Her choices. Don’t interfere. Make suggestions, have your own opinions and share them, support her, but ultimately she has all the say and the final say.
I am a bio mom too, and I don’t think this is right.
I think (this is just my opinion) that the”her body = her choice” message is rooted in a reaction to women not having choices. It’s goal is to support women in making decisions about their bodies when historically, legally, in every way, women have been disempowered. Clearly, a husband shouldn’t be able to tell his wife to stop breastfeeding, or demand sex, or demand that his mom be in the room for delivery. I get it. I’m on board with that.
But this is not that issue. I am the mom too. This changes the dynamic. For me, it becomes very NOT black and white.
Just because S is pregnant she does not get to make all the choices or have the final say, per se. Honestly, I don’t have many opinions about Pip’s birth. I am deferring to her about everything (except for the MIL issue). Actually it isn’t even a deferment, it just feels like of course she will make the decisions. How, one might wonder, is that different from someone who says “her body = her choice about who is there for the birth”? It just is. I don’t see it as clearly as most people, I guess.
S wanted her mom there for Smarty’s birth and I said no. S is saying yes this time, and she will probably get what she wants. This looks an awful lot like the birthing person gets what she wants. It is…mostly. But I also think it is crap. Pip’s birth is not just S’s birth. Smarty’s birth was not just my birth, my birth story. Yes I pushed that effer out of me, but S was right there the whole time, exhausted, stunned, helping me, pulling Smarty out of me to lay on my chest, loving him. It was her birth experience too. She needed support too. She needed to feel comfortable. She needed support for herself and so she could fully be there for me.
When he came out it was the most amazing moment of my life. Whenever I think of it, even as I type this, it makes me weep. Weep. In many ways it was my birth, my body, but I also see, call me crazy, that my body was a vessel for our baby, and in that way it was S’s birth experience too giving her rights to make requests, collaborate and even make demands. No, she didn’t push him out of her vag or get a needle in her spine, or spend 36 hours in pain, but she was watching me do all of those things, helping me, not sleeping, attending to me, never complaining, helping our baby be born.
It was the most amazing moment of S’s life too. Her son. His birth. My birth. Her birth. Our birth.
Honestly and truly if she had not wanted my mom there, my mom would not have been there. Period.
I think that the involved, respectful, loving non bio mom should have a voice in the birth, the breastfeeding, all of it. Does that make everything more complicated? Maybe. But to my core I do not think the bio mom should, by some unwritten law, have the final say. For me, it must be a collaboration.
Hopefully there is not any conflict at all.
But should I be able to veto having a toxic person present at the birth? In this case I think I have that right…a veto right, EVEN if it is her mom.
I’m not an dictatorial prick telling my wife what to do. I’m the other mom, and I don’t want the unquestioned assumption of the birth and early infancy of our daughter to be that my voice counts less.
I still think I have the right to exert my wishes about MIL, just as S has the right to exert her wishes about her own mom. Hence the impasse. But I have decided I want to give this one to S. I am willing to make the sacrifice (believe it or not, not in a martyry way). I am willing to put S’s need above mine, but not because this is her birth. Because she is pregnant, and hormonal, and I love her. Because I was shocked into it. Because it is, maddeningly, the right thing to do, for me and for S right now. But I must say, I don’t think it would be right for every nonbio mom.
I know that the idea of deferment to the biomom about all things birth related is not intended to make the other mother or partner feel small. I am also aware that if the other mom defers everything to the bio mom that does not mean that either of them is valuing the nonbio mom less. That is their choice. I just don’t believe (and feel defensive about, can you tell?) the unquestioned assumption that the biomom automatically has the final say about everything.
Jeez. How many ways can I say the same thing? I think I’m done :). Admittedly the reason I’m repeating myself is that I’m scared to be misunderstood. I feel like it is a big deal to say that I believe the birthing mom doesn’t have the inherent right to dictate all the terms of her birth – that the other mom should be able to make requests and even demands – well, it seems unpopular to say the least. Although I am all big talk and opinions here, I’m also always concerned about being different.
I’m curious about other people’s experience with this issue. Sometimes I think that it is such a sensitive topic that it isn’t discussed. And there are so many assumptions. I know that for S and I the bio/nonbio thing feels delicate, and we try to tread lightly around the topic. And for eff’s sake why don’t we have words that are better than “nonbio mom”? Please don’t be afraid to comment. I really grow so much from having a dialog about this stuff.
Dialog is good. Our conflict about MIL surfaced all of our resentments and fears around biology, staying at home, breastfeeding, fairness, taking turns, and equality. Complicated shit. And after being the bio mom 1st, I must admit that this other mother position is kinda hard for me sometimes. Maybe other people seemlessly slide right into this role but I’m struggling with it. At times it is a little invisible and thankless.
I know now that the nonbio mom sometimes (everyone is different) needs *a lot* of support. I knew that before, intellectually, but I didn’t “get” it. I didn’t feel it. I know now that this is not in at all the same situation as a heterosexual couple. At all. I’m not the dad, even though I will be the breadwinner and not the breastfeeder. We are both the mom. We share that role. And sharing that role, for us, means we share other things more intimately too, like the birth. This is our birth and S’s birth, in which my amazing and strong S will, knock on everything, safely push our Pip out. Possibly with my MIL watching.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post, and helped me come to a place, finally, where my Mother In Law no longer has the power to ruin this birth for me, whether she’s there or not because I am the other mother, and that is so much stronger that she is.
**Hmmm. In response to some questions I think that I am partially wrong about the dad thing…I think that Lo is right that dad’s might be effed here too. I think that it is a little different that we are both moms and in this case each giving birth to one kid, but I can’t say why that is so different. Can anyone articulate why it is different? Maybe someone else can explain it better. Ultimately though I will amend this and say if the other partner is respectful, understands in some way (not necessarily through experience) what giving birth means, and has his partner’s best interests at heart, he should have a voice too. Same as a nonbio mom. I think what I was getting at is that my voice and my opinion, in the position I am in, for this birth, are not the same as a clueless dad. But hey a nonbio mom could be just as clueless. Yes, I’m changing what I said because that was just me being defensive and not wanting to be lumped in with clueless dads. See? Dialog is good.
Oh! And I do want to make it VERY clear, despite this ginormous post about how i should have a say, that aside from MIL issue, I defer to S about all other aspects of the birth, and that is totally how I want it to be.