A Quiet Example

Posted on May 9, 2010 in Birthing, Childbirth Options, Featured, Maternity Care Options | 13 comments

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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In 2005, we had a baby.

We used midwifery care. We had a home birth. We had a son and we did not circumcise him. We used a cloth diaper service. We breastfed.

Aaron and I were the first in our group of friends to have kids. At first it was kind of strange and we felt like outsiders among them. Life had changed in that instant, punch-in-the-face kind of way that seems normal among first time parents, and we found ourselves withdrawing from our childless friends. Out of necessity, we hunkered in and learned to parent. Along the way, one-by-one our friends joined us in parenthood. Five years later, nine of the couples that we regularly associated with back then either have kids or are pregnant.

In this group of nine couples, seven used (or are using) midwifery care. The two couples that didn’t were pregnant with twins. Only one birth was by cesarean (and it was one of the twin births). Two couples had their babies at home and two more couples are currently planning home births.

Surrounded by these people, I often make the mistake of thinking that midwifery care and home birth are more widespread than they are. But when you look at the data, a different picture emerges. According to the most recent reports from the BC Perinatal Health Program, only 5.8% of births in BC were attended by a midwife (versus 78% in our friends), and 29.3% of births were by cesarean section (versus 14% in our friends). In 2007/2008, there were 671 home births out of a total 43,505 births which gives us a home birth rate of 1.5%. If all goes as planned, the home birth rate among our friends will be 44%.

Why is it that our group of friends has this vastly different set of statistics for their births?

I suppose it is partly demographic. Perhaps we share similar mentalities that would predispose us towards these kinds of choices: cloth diapering, eating organic, and so on. We are friends for a reason. But it’s not like our friends are hippies. Overall, most of our friends are regular people, professionals, home owners. Aaron and I were probably closest to the home birth “type” – you know, living in a bus and sporting dreads and all.

When I look at the numbers though and realize how different our group is from the rest of the province, I would like to think that maybe we were a positive example to our friends. I tried not to be preachy but I answered questions when they came our way. I only remember a few conversations and no one has ever said that we influenced them. I don’t take credit for their decisions. After all, I don’t think anyone chooses home birth because their friends did. You have to make that choice for yourself and you don’t make it lightly. You ask questions. You read. You talk to your caregiver. Yet, even knowing one person who has actually had a home birth can demystify it for you.

Every single person who uses a midwife or has a baby at home helps to normalize birth options for everyone they know. Even if you never really talk about it you become a shining example that there is another way, that there are choices.

So in some small way, I like to think that we did have a role to play, that we were a positive influence among our friends.

Maybe when they walked into their first appointment with a midwife and she offered them a choice of birth place, they didn’t brush it off as quickly as they might have if they didn’t actually know a family who had experienced a home birth. Maybe they started thinking about midwifery care before they even got pregnant because they knew someone who had been really happy with her prenatal care.

It wasn’t just us. I’m sure they had other friends who did these things or who suggested books or who asked a good question to get them thinking. We all help. Every one of us makes a difference when we tell a positive birth story.

Some mothers are lactivists and they go to nurse-ins. Others are La Leche League leaders or they run chapters of ICAN. Some women become doulas, childbirth educators or lactation consultants. Some mamas homeschool four kids. These women are inspiring. They are role models and they are easy to admire.

But we don’t have to be outstanding or energetic or really vocal to inspire others with our natural parenting. We can inspire people just by living as a positive example and by normalising choices that, for now, are outside the mainstream. Even little things we do can make a big difference in a quiet way.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

13 Comments

  1. In my group of local friends we too all parent very similarly and against the mainstream. It’s something we have to remind ourselves when we’re shocked that someone chose a c-section birth or chose to formula feed or even chose a doctor over a midwife. We are not the majority, they are. But when all your friends do the same as you it is easy to think the larger world is the same. Even surrounding oneself with like-minded moms in the blogosphere can be deceiving. But that being said, I remember when we met our friend Amy, who was passionate about breastfeeding but had never considered any other natural parenting methods. Due to us other four who had all had home births her third birth was planned and done at home and she plans to have her fourth child at home too. So I guess it’s possible to even inspire the like-minded moms. Because we are unique in some way. Great post as usual. :)
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..Inspiration Goes Both Ways =-.
    Twitter:

  2. I’ve been reading around the entries for the carnival and I think all of us have felt it was really hard to think of ourselves as role models. But as you wrote “we don’t have to be outstanding or energetic or really vocal to inspire others with our natural parenting. We can inspire people just by living as a positive example and by normalising choices that, for now, are outside the mainstream. ”

    I love this, and think you have captured the essence of being a ‘role model’ perfectly. It’s not about flashing lights, autographs and picture shoots, it’s simply about living an authentic life.myzer
    .-= Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com´s last blog ..You want me to ditch prepared frozen meals? =-.
    Twitter:

  3. Actions are SO much louder than words. We can yap all day long about what we think are good decisions, but if we don’t live them, all we are is hypocrites. You are living what you believe, and that automatically makes you an inspiration to me, and I’m sure all of your friends also respect you for that.

  4. What a beautiful statement – I know many people in my local AP group that have told me they could never write about their parenting choices. The implication in their words is that they will never “spread the word” – but we can’t help sharing NP principles simply by living! The statistics you cite are an amazing testament to the power of quiet inspiration. Thank you for sharing!
    .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last blog ..The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler #5 =-.
    Twitter:

  5. I really love this! It’s true that just being a certain way is in itself a testimony to those around us. We do help normalize home birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering — just by showing that it’s natural to us. Love your perspective!

    We also were (are still) in a group of friends where we’re the pioneer parents, and it’s kind of lonely. Finally, three years later, a few of our friends are starting to have babies. But you’re right — one of the things I did appreciate about that long waiting period was that we had three years to talk about our parenting choices and perhaps be a positive influence on people still forming their ideas about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. It didn’t even need to be a preachy thing, just talking about I had a midwife appointment the other day, casually changing a cloth diaper when a friend’s looking on, or breastfeeding my baby at a get-together. It all helps!
    .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last blog ..May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model =-.
    Twitter:

  6. I totally agree with Mrs. Green (and you) that role modeling isn’t about shouting it from the rooftops, it’s about living a successful life. Everyone wants to know the secret. In this case, it happens to be natural, gentle parenting. Which, also happens to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever endeavored to do :)
    .-= Jessica – This is Worthwhile´s last blog ..Paving the way =-.

  7. I definitely think that the choices your friends make can play a role. For me, attending LLL meetings and seeing other parents making less than ‘mainstream’ choices was freeing. It empowered me to follow my instincts in ways I’m not sure I would have if no one else around me was.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Paying it Forward =-.
    Twitter:

  8. Your friends are lucky to have you! We don’t really have any friends with kids yet and it’s tough not having anyone to ask about their experiences as you are trying to decide for yourself how you want to parent. I’m sure they love having you as an example to see how different practices work in real life!
    .-= Maman A Droit´s last blog ..No, Thank You! =-.

  9. I have to admit, I am SO jealous you have such a great local community!

    You are an amazing parent, leading by example put that little seed of knowledge in your community!
    .-= Sarah @ OneStarryNight´s last blog ..I’m a Parenting Inspiration, Who Knew! =-.
    Twitter:

  10. Like Sarah, I also have to admit that I am jealous you have such a great local community. I am actually one of the last people in my group of friends to have a baby, and all of them are very mainstream – epidurals, c-sections, formula. It wasn’t until I went to Bradley Method classes for natural childbirth that I met people who were more like-minded in how we wanted to parent. Two years later, I still keep in touch with some of them. So, yes, I see how important it is to surround myself with people who support and inspire me, and who “get me” on a level my older (and still very dear) friends do.
    .-= Shana´s last blog ..Making a Difference For Mamas =-.

  11. What a lovely post. I’m thankful for your example, even if I don’t know you in person. I didn’t get the homebirth I’d planned for and that raised some eyebrows amongst the doubters around me. So it’s very nice to hear that you and your friends are out there, successfully able to show that it is indead a valid, safe choice. I love to hear about births and am happy that is something you’ve been able to share with others.

  12. I wholeheartedly agree that simply living our lives and making things normal is just as important as being at the forefront of a movement.
    .-= NavelgazingBajan´s last blog ..That Little Thing =-.

  13. Thank you on behalf of all those babies whose births you helped make normal and gentle. Just beautiful!
    .-= Janet´s last blog ..The real birth wars =-.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  3. Paying it Forward - [...] A Quiet Example — Alison at BluebirdMama was one of the first parents in her group of friends — ...
  4. Inspiration Goes Both Ways | Breastfeeding Moms Unite - [...] A Quiet Example — Alison at BluebirdMama was one of the first parents in her group of friends — ...
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