These female elephants from Disney’s Dumbo were mean and harsh. Sometimes that behavior is mirrored in our own converstations and judgements.
I have been following the Baby Project on NPR–Basically, it is a collection of stories following nine pregnant women of various backrounds. As a prental yoga instructor and mother, I love reading the stories..Everyone’s experiences are so different and I am usually moved. Recently, I read a post that particularly stood out. It was the story of Lateefah Torrence and her broken epidural. While it ended happily–her baby was born healthy–I felt so bad for her. I know first hand how things may not always go as planned! It was an awful experience for Lateefah and it had to take lot for her even share it. She went in with a lot of expectations that just did not come to fruition. As I finished reading, I made the terrible mistake of scrolling through the comments. Wow!!! So much negativity, degradation, ‘I told you so’s “and out and out name calling. Sadly, most of the negativity came from other women. Some of it came from those who are completely anti-conventional birth in the hospital. Some it came from others who just said things like, “Quit your whining.” Still more were from some who seemed to believe that this woman had no right to tell her story and have complaints because their ‘birth story was worse and besides, she came away with a healthy baby.’
Why do we judge each other so harshly? Why were these women being so self-righteous about their own birth experiences and not capable of sharing a little compassion? Why couldn’t this story serve the writer and other women as a lesson in navigating the potential problems in a hospital birth? Isn’t the intention of sharing stores like these a way to educate ourselves and help foster a conversation to improve maternity care in this country? Why cannot we see this? Perhaps, this negativity and criticism would not exist if Lateefah was standing right there in front of some of these people telling her story. Her eyes, her expressions, and gestures would convey much more then the words glowing on a computer screen could. Perhaps, one would bite their tongue, hold back, or even show a little understanding. Maybe it is the result of the distance and safety of our own little keyboards and our glowing screens that help foster judgement and let fly commentary that seemingly comes without consequence. But there is a consequence….names and words do hurt. The yama, Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence. It is not just the physical action. It means not to do harm to others or yourself, in thought, word or deed. Perhaps, before we set out to judge and criticize one another, we should think first, “Will this hurt the other person?”
We all hold opinions and we have a right to express them. When it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, the opinions are especially strong and passionate. There is a way to express our opinions without negativity and judgement. It is not easy, but sometimes,by taking a deep breath and taking a few moments to gather ones’ thoughts and to contemplate another’s perspective, opinions can be expressed in a more constructive way. Sometimes, we need to go outside our personal perceptions and let go, cross the bridges that divide and recognize the value of our of shared experience. Only this will foster a climate of understanding.
Perhaps Atticus Finch said it best: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– spoken by Atticus Finch, by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Namaste and Shanti
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