|At first sight|
It's been months and I don't have an answer. I asked for advice on twitter about it once and received a lot of "she shouldn't have to explain herself!" comments. And I agree with that, but I also understand that this isn't about just explaining or excusing, it's about defending. I met a similar mom in person recently and she looked embarrassed as she pulled a bottle out in a circle of breastfeeding moms. She hurriedly told us the whole story. How hard she tried. How much she pumps. I recognized the defense mechanism immediately, because it's something I do myself.
Maternal apologetics, or the practice of explicating our experiences or self-perceived shortcomings.
We do it to "fit" in. We do it because we don't want to be judged by those we admire. We do it to show we are educated and informed. We do it because we feel like we failed even though we didn't. We do it because we don't want our maternity to be defined by our shortcomings in the eyes of others.
I am a birth apologist. I will tell a stranger walking down the street about my birth stories if they show the slightest interest. This is partially because I'm the world's most open person, but mostly it's a chance at obtaining the validation I so desperately need and can't find in my own analysis of the events.
I hang out in the birth community, because I love birth. I believe in birth. But it sort of exacerbates the problem. A nice woman at a homebirth event on Sunday sat down to sign me up to support a new Friends of Missouri Birth Centers group, and then she pointed to my daughter and asked the million dollar question: Did you homebirth her? Cue my verbal birth saga.
I can't claim to have homebirthed, but I'm a homebirther. I know this in my heart, but it seems ludicrous to say "nope, I had a repeat cesarean" when someone asks me that question. They have to know. I have to explain. I have to defend. I have to validate.
And you know it would be easier for me if I didn't know the assumptions most birthy people would jump to if I said I'd had two cesareans. If I didn't know they were wondering what mistake I made or if I hadn't educated myself or if I could have advocated better - or worst yet, if I chose to have a repeat cesarean.
I know I fought. I know I was educated. I know I didn't fail.
But why do I feel like I did? Why do those unanswered questions outweigh the truth? Why do I have birth story diarrhea?
I suppose because at the end of the day those stories do matter as much as the truth. We can get so caught up in advocacy that all we hear is "couldn't," "formula," "c-section,"..."tried." But us apologists offer a valuable balancing point for advocates. We remind them that there is no cookie-cutter formula to success. We remind them there is still work to be done to promote policy change regarding birth, breastfeeding, and so many other maternal issues. We remind them that advocacy is important but so is every woman's story. We remind them not to be dismissive.
Someday I think I'll be done telling my story. I'll smile and say, "No, I didn't homebirth. She was a cesarean." I'll leave it at that. I'm just not done yet.
I've learned something valuable from my experiences - a deeper, more genuine sense of compassion for a woman's story. I've learned to listen. I've learned to welcome with outstretched arms. I've learned to open my heart.
I'd like to close by thanking those who have listened to my story and who have understood its importance to me, with particular thanks to my midwife, who always refers to me as a homebirther. Your compassion has made all the difference in my story.