Thursday, November 1, 2012

Teaching our Daughters

I came to a stark realization a couple weeks ago.

Much of what’s wrong with our maternity care system these days can be attributed to parents. Yep, that’s right. You and me.

Ok, now before you get angry with me and say “Hey, wait a minute….I’m working to FIX the problem, how dare you say that I’m part of the problem?”

Well, here’s why. **And before I start my explanation, let me just say that we are NOT the reason that we got here to begin with…there’s a long, sordid history of why the US maternity care system is where it is today. It’s not because of us, and sometime maybe I’ll go into some of that history for you…now is not that time.**

So, awhile back I was scrolling through my newsfeed on facebook and came across a friend’s post that said something about how her morning had been a barrage of tough questions from her five year old daughter. She said that she “dodged” them pretty well then sent her off to school. One of those questions was “how do babies get out of their mommy’s tummy?” She told her daughter that the Dr decides – but her daughter corrected her. Yes. She said the *doctor* gets to decide. No simple explanation of how a baby really comes out, no education on how sometimes surgery is needed, but normally they come out our vaginas (or whatever their household refers to the female reproductive anatomy as). No – she told her that some other person gets control over mommies’ bodies when they have babies. I have to say that I love that her daughter corrected her, though - J.

Then, imagine my aghast when one of her friends chimes in with a comment saying that she has told all her kids (I don’t know how many) that “the doctor cuts them out under the belly button because for some this is true and it stops their curiosity.”

Wait. What?!?!

Since *when* do we want to stop our children’s curiosity?? Not only that, but since *when* is it acceptable to tell our children that babies are removed from our body via MAJOR abdominal surgery without mention of the real way our bodies are designed?

So, I want to make a disclaimer here that this post and what follows is much more opinionated than I normally am when I write – I’m usually much more diplomatic, but this comment thread has riled me up. I have a serious problem with parents trying to stamp out their kids’ curiosity…how in the world are they supposed to learn if they aren’t curious about things and ask questions? But then on top of it to give a dishonest answer just because the correct answer presumably makes the parents uncomfortable? Let me break it to ya: kids don’t lose their curiosity, they just find other ways to get answers to their questions. No wonder we have such a skewed view of sex, breastfeeding, birth, body image, etc. in our culture today. This goes so much deeper than just birth. It’s about health and life.

Obviously, I’m not a perfect mom…I don’t know a single person who is. However, one thing I think I’m doing right is that I’m always honest with our kids when they ask me questions. They both know the difference between boys and girls – in real words, not just “wee wee” and “hoo ha”, they both know how babies are born (Vienna used to say “they just pop out of mommies’ vaginas” J), and they both know that babies grow in a mommy’s tummy when a mommy and daddy love each other very much. They aren’t old enough to know more than that, but when they are, my husband and I will be honest with them. I’d rather them get the real story from me or their daddy than from some kid on the playground who’s  folks don’t take the time to explain things, so they got their answers from movies, music videos, random Internet sites, or Carl’s Junior commercials.

I think it’s time we as mommies and daddies who care take a stand for honesty and commitment to our kids. I think it’s time we tell them the truth (age appropriately, of course) about sex, birth, breastfeeding, self image, and take the time to explain those truths to them as they can understand it. Surgical birth is NOT the way women’s bodies were designed to give birth. Though we are SO grateful to have it for true emergency situations and medicalreasons, perhaps one of the reasons one in three mamas give birth surgically is because of the mis-information given to young girls that carries through to the rest of their lives.

All because we were “uncomfortable” in telling them the truth.

We can do better.

So, I challenge us all as parents to tell our kids, and especially our daughters, the truth about birth, breastfeeding, etc, etc. We owe it to them to teach them not to be ashamed of their bodies…by demonstrating and talking about how breastfeeding is normal – even in public, to trust that their bodies will work without surgery…demonstrating and talking about how vaginal birth is normal, and most of all that they are beautiful and perfect just the way that God made them.

Because they are. 

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