For as long as people have had opinions they have argued over whose were better and insisted that one choice is "right" while the other is "wrong". You hear it all the time on every topic imaginable. I used to believe that religion and politics were the two biggest hot-button issues for people to debate. And it's true that these certainly are hot-button issues and probably always will be to a large extent, but now that I am becoming more familiar with the choices and opinions surrounding parenthood, I am realizing this is where people can become very staunch and even aggressive when it comes to what they think the "right" decisions are.
Throughout my struggle with infertility and IVF, I was lucky to find that my friends and family supported me and my choices each step of the way and I was lucky enough to discover an even wider support network thanks to twitter and my blog. In the past three years I faced a variety of choices but I found it relatively easy to research the options available, discuss them with Chad and make a decision that felt right to us. Now that motherhood is drawing closer I am faced with new decisions and not only are these more difficult, I feel as if there is more weight on each one.
Every choice is full of so much pressure, not only thinking about how each one will affect and shape my child and the type of life they will have, but also it seems like I would be picking "sides" in the great parenting war. In the first year alone there are so many choices to make, each of them more divisive than the other- breastfeeding vs formula feeding, crib vs co-sleeping, schedule vs. on on-demand, cloth vs disposable diapers, working vs staying home, natural vs medicated childbirth, and for boys circumcision vs not. Truly, I can see the merits of each choice and believe that most parents make each choice out of love for their children and what suits their family best. For some reason though, many people also take their choices many steps further and feel that everyone MUST do it their way and anyone who doesn't is a bad parent.
I myself have yet to decide on many of these issues. I know in my heart that whichever choices I make, my child will feel my love and will be well-taken care of but I am slightly nervous about facing the wrath of other parents whose choice I don't make. I have seen first hand the fervor with which people will fight their position on breastfeeding or circumcision and honestly it breaks my heart. Most parents are just trying to do the best they can with their own unique circumstances and to judge others and bully them for their choices is just cruel. And even without the outright cruelty, you can still just sense other people's disagreement and see the judgment in their eyes when you mention your plans to pursue a natural childbirth or breastfeed exclusively for a full year.
And sometimes agreeing on one thing just isn't enough for people, you have to subscribe to the entire parenting philosophy. If you feed on demand you must also co-sleep, baby carry, cloth diaper and of course have brought your child into the world with no epidural or medical intervention. Likewise, if you schedule your feeding times, you'd better not pick up your child when he cries and of course you'd never consider a messy home birth or leaving your son's foreskin intact. These attitudes make what are already big decisions, that much weightier.
After the very public and hurtful bullying of a fellow blogger on her choice to circumcise her son I am more concerned than ever about making that particular choice. I have long taken the easy way out and told Chad that if we ever have a son the final decision will rest with him since much of the discussion and teaching on potty training and other matters will start with him. It is amazing how impassioned people have become about this particular issue. I even have a friend who does not have kids or any plans to have them in the foreseeable future who has said that I'd better not plan to circumcise any son we have because it is medically unnecessary and unnatural. When did someone else's opinion become a mandate on how I choose to be a parent?
Honestly, even though I don't know the exact course the remainder of my pregnancy or the first year of Snow Pea's life will take, I am confident that whichever choices I make they will be right for me, my husband and our child. I also have a strong suspicion that despite pressures to choose one parenting camp outright, we will probably pick and choose between them to find the best overall approach and there is a good chance those choices will shift as we go along and begin dealing with the realities of parenthood. Nothing in life is one size fits all and parenting is absolutely no exception.
The important thing is for us all to remember that we're all unique and we should support each other despite our differences. I am so grateful to know that I already have so much of that support no matter what choices we make. I hope to continue to support those that support me in any way I can, whether they are deciding between IVF and adoption or between cloth diapers and disposable, I know that when it comes down to it our goals and motives are the same- we all want to be parents and to raise our kids with love. We may choose to take different roads but we're all trying to reach the same destination.