My son loves books. When we are at the library I try to preview most of what we check out, but sometimes books surprise me. Recently, I checked out a book my son asked for that I thought was a standard book about welcoming a new baby into the family. It turned out to be a very realistic and well done book (Hello Baby) about what a homebirth is like for young children. The story is honest and simple and the illustrations are beautiful and specific without being too scary or overwhelming for the very young. In fact, my son was fascinated by them. The book actually brought about one of the coolest conversations I have ever had about birth with anyone. After explaining that the illustration of the baby crowning was not the mama "pooping" out the baby, although I let him know I could understand why he would think that from the angle of the picture, I explained to him that a mother pushes a baby out of her vagina. Instead of being repulsed or shutting down when he heard that word (the way almost every male has reacted my entire life especially in a context about birth), he was awestruck. "That's why mamas have vaginas and not penises? God makes them able to grow babies AND makes a way for the babies to get out into the world? That is so AWESOME."
I forget sometimes what a new culture I am working to build for my sons, but moments like this remind me of why I am so dedicated to it. No matter what he learns from the culture at large as he gets older, no one will ever be able to take away the honest, frank wonder and respect he felt for women that first moment when he realized how a baby is really born and why women are designed differently from men. It's not because women and their reproductive organs are "yucky" or "impolite." It's not because they are just mysteriously "different" just to confuse men. It's because women have to be biologically different for us to procreate. It is what we are designed to do. My son knows from the start that women are designed to birth babies and that a woman birthing is awe inspiring. Imagine how he will feel about the woman who may one day birth his child. Imagine how he will feel about being a birth partner if his initial memory is always one of wonder and not disgust or fear. How much more prepared is he to be a good birth partner than most of our male partners were initially just starting from a place of understanding and respect rather than from ignorance and fear? One day, he can look forward to his child's birth not only to meet the child, but also to see the wonder of his child's mother as a capable birther. He doesn't need to be overwhelmed by any feelings that he does not "belong" there or that birth is scary or a secret that was never shared with him. He can know what many of us didn't know until we were preparing to birth our children: women are made to birth and birth may be powerful and life changing, but it is also beautiful.
Changing birth options and birth choices may be couched in our understanding of women's rights and we may fight for best practices for our daughters to experience birth in a supportive, understanding, and safer environment, but we are also changing things for our sons who will one day support and love our daughters. If I can teach my sons to be able to say the word "vagina" without giggling and to think of birth as natural and wonderful and I can teach my sons that breasts are made for breastfeeding first and sexuality as an additional, lovely bonus, I am normalizing birth and breastfeeding for men and women and creating a more supportive culture for women and men. That's an awesome thing in and of itself.
Thanks for Reading,