It's no surprise to anyone that I am a religious person. I'm pretty sure the phrase, "Hate the sin, not the sinner," is common to many Christian religions, not just The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Is that really possible? some people might wonder. Can you really befriend/associate with/love people if you don't approve of what they're doing?
Well, I sure hope so. Because there are an awful lot of people I love, who I consider my dearest friends, who do not share my religion and do not abide by the same precepts I do.
When it comes to pregnancy/birth/baby-raisin', my religion has only so much to say. The Book of Mormon doesn't cover baby sleep habits. Old Testament doesn't give the lowdown on formula vs. breastfeeding. Or birthing positions. So, as a mother, where do I look to make a call on these subjects? Friends and family? My doctor? AAP? ACOG? My own feelings?
None of those things. Maybe it's because I majored in biology and I'm a nerd and I love science, but when I need to make a call about what is best for my children I look to evolution.
Why do I exercise and eat healthy when pregnant? Evolution.
Why do I see midwives instead of OBs? Evolution.
Why do I birth naturally? Evolution.
Why do I co-sleep? Evolution.
Why do I breastfeed exclusively? Evolution.
Why do I extend breastfeeding?
Why do I not use pacifiers?
Why do I not sleep train?
Why do I wear my baby?
Why do I feed my babies hand-mashed bits of foods we eat and never rice cereal or canned baby food?
The human race is God's creation. I believe He guided the way we evolved in general and the way we evolved to raise our young in specific. And unfortunately, the current American way of baby-raising does not coincide with human evolution. So, in my mind, it doesn't coincide with the models God provided us for giving birth and caring for young children. And yes, it does make a difference to our children whether how we treat them matches up with evolution-tested best practices.
The human race is God's creation. I don't believe God gave us broken bodies. Occasionally, yes, there are struggles with the body that individuals have to overcome. On rare occasions, c-sections are truly needed. On equally rare occasions, women can't breastfeed their baby for a true, biological reason. But when you load up a whole cart full of anti-evolution practices (like inductions, epidurals, pacifiers, exclusive crib sleeping...) what you're really buying is a body that can't function the way that it evolved to. A labor that doesn't progress because of drugs and bad positioning. A milk supply that's not enough because it was never stimulated enough. A baby that doesn't gain weight very well because of ill-advised breastfeeding practices. The list goes on and on.
The human race is God's creation. We got to where we are as a species with God's hand. It is utterly laughable to me to think that we, as a small, hairless, toothless, sightless, scentless, clawless, strengthless species with our weak young could have ever hacked it in the animal world without help from God. I don't care how big our brains are or how advanced our tools became. I know human evolution happened, but without God figuring in, it just doesn't make sense at all. That being said, our bodies did not evolve so that women and babies would just die in childbirth left and right. Our bodies did not evolve so that women would require wet nurses all the time until formula was invented. If you believe either of those myths, I refer you to The Politics of Breastfeeding. Evolution didn't make it that way, and God didn't make it that way.
The human race is God's creation. We are individuals and we make our own choices. It's meant to be that way. Reading this blog, especially lately, you might think I am judgmental of other parents. I definitely am judgmental--of parenting practices, not of other parents. "Hate the parenting, not the parent," is a reality for me. I love and admire many fellow moms for a variety of reasons, regardless of whether we make the same choices. I am not a perfect mother, and not all of my choices are perfect. Sometimes, I feel so aware of my weaknesses and inadequacies that it is hard to move. It's hard to go to sleep at night and know that tomorrow I will still be such a horribly flawed mother and wife.
I am not perfect, and I don't expect everyone to do things exactly the same as me. I don't expect everyone to breastfeed for the same amount of time I did. I don't expect everyone to cope with labor the same way I did. But I don't think that all parenting options are equal. I don't think we as moms should just pat each other on the back and say, "We all love our kids and we're all just doing SUCH A GREAT JOB!" If there's anything I can't stand, it's a blog entry by a mom that's full of feelgoodery and don'tfeelguiltyisms that gets reposted on Facebook a thousand times. I think we should feel bad sometimes about our parenting. I think we should feel guilty sometimes. We should pay attention to parenting habits that make us feel bad or guilty, not post on Facebook about what we're doing and expect our friends to swoop in and say, "Oh you're such a good mom! Be strong. Don't give up, crying it out is worth it. You're so awesome. You can do it."
Because guess what? There are things I could do better. There are things you could do better. There are things I'm doing that I want to stop, that I am really trying to stop, because they are not good for my children. There are things you are doing that you should stop, because they are not good for your children. Sometimes, I feel like there is this worship of The Mother as an entity, as if a mother can do no wrong and should only be propped up and given emotional bon-bons. Mothers can and do make mistakes, and the human race didn't get where it is by mothers endlessly complimenting each other and not trying to make positive changes.
While religion, evolution, and scientific studies (and I do mean the actual studies, not "scientific" organizations like AAP and ACOG. They're highly suspect, but I'll address that another time) can't tell us every single thing we should do for our children at every stage, they can tell us certain things not to do. They can tell us certain things that we ought to do. They can provide something more than just our own judgment as a basis for our decisions.