Wednesday, February 24, 2016

One More Thing

Sometimes I think that we put ideals above people, almost to the point where one might wonder if we've made idols of them.  

I'm not talking about actual moral issues that affect a person's soul.  I'm talking about the choices that I spoke about in my last post, and others of a similar sort.

In the last few days I've read many comments, some compassionate and some... not so compassionate and apparently I haven't yet run out of words.

There are ideals that are rather commonly accepted, at least by many people, as the best choice.  We usually know what these choices are.  We often feel pressure both externally and internally to make these choices work.

And I think it's good to have goals and standards that we want to strive for in these situations.

I've had plenty of goals for what I thought motherhood would be like for me.  One was to breastfeed each of our kids.  Another that was hugely important to me for a time, was to have a natural birth.  One of those worked out really well for me.  The other didn't.

If I'm totally honest, one of the reasons that I felt compelled to write yesterday's post and to speak out when I hear the anti-formula nastiness, is because I've experienced that same nastiness (often times from people who are also virulent in their opposition to formula feeding) because I've delivered all of my children via c-sections.

Oddly enough I love reading articles about natural birth.  Everything having to do with pregnancy and childbirth is fascinating to me.  I am elated for my friends who have successfully had the birth experience of their dreams.

At the same time I've met those who, without knowing my medical history, or what the experience of my first birth was actually like, are willing to tell me that they know, without a doubt that my c-section was absolutely unnecessary and if I'd just opted for a homebirth it wouldn't have happened.

They don't know that I pushed without an epidural for five hours before I went in for the emergency c-section or that I'd injured my spine when I was in college and would later find out when I went to an orthopedic doctor while pregnant with James, that my pelvis was actually twisted from the back injury.

They don't know that a half dozen doctors, from my family doctor who read the report to the on call pediatrician, to the anesthesiologist, to my OB herself, explained that I was most definitely one of those women who would have died in child birth a century earlier and that Sadie would not have survived either.

People who talk about these ideals as absolutes, with no leeway regardless of situation, do damage both to the cause they're promoting and to the people that they're blindly speaking to.

Because having ideas and goals about non-moral issues are wonderful, but I think it can be really helpful to know when it's time to let those dreams go because reality has been stacked too high against a goal.

Earlier today I heard someone claim that of course breastfeeding is a moral choice, because all choices are moral choices to which I say, was it moral choice to decide to wear my favorite long sleeved shirt today instead of my favorite sweater?  I think not.  Was it a moral choice to let Sadie decide to wear her silver snow boots instead of her pink ones?  Not all choice involve moral absolutes and saying so isn't a sign of the moral relativism eating away at our culture.

We live in messy world and come equipped with human frailties.  Sometimes the ideal is, quite literally, impossible for us.  Sometimes we must accept that the best way for us, isn't the way that looks the prettiest or gains the most accolades from the cheering masses.  

If you have never experienced this sort of disappointment, you are very fortunate in this portion of life.  Try to have compassion for those who have experienced this sort of pain, and who have experienced the disapproval of others as a result of a choice they wished they hadn't had to make, instead of calling them "over sensitive" and telling them to grow a thicker skin.  

Empathy would be a step in the right direction, but if you can't manage empathy, if you can't imagine feeling that sort of disappointment and distress, at least attempt to be compassionate.  It's likely they will someday "grow a thicker skin" because our world requires it, but healing from the pain of some of these experiences takes time, especially when you're repeatedly told how very wrong you were when you made the only decision you felt that you could make.

If nothing else this messy business of motherhood has taught me that sometimes the ideals aren't ideal.  Sometimes they aren't the best for the individual.

Sometimes the best thing is the thing that saves a life (or two).  Sometimes it's the thing that stops a tiny baby from losing more weight that it can't afford to lose.

And while those choices aren't the dream that we start with, sometimes they're the reality that we end up with... and having a baby that is healthy and alive, when without these tools, that wouldn't have been possible is the greatest blessing that we could have been given.

Perhaps it would be better to remind us to give thanks to God that we live in a time when these things are possible, rather than suggesting that we should have tried harder to "do what was best."

Looking back I realize that I've found, over this last decade, that it was very seldom the things that went as planned that led me nearer to God.  So often, it has seemed, that God has taken those flaws in the messy, imperfect world that we live in, and used them for my benefit in ways that I never could have imagined.  

Breastfeeding, as I've said, has been pretty easy for me.  It isn't particularly sanctifying.  Having major abdominal surgery every couple years on the other hand is a far greater test of my endurance and sometimes even faith.  For it's often in suffering that God helps us to see how small we are and draws us to himself.

Instead of criticizing others for hardships that aren't our own and that we often can't imagine, let's lift one another up, offering help when it can be given, but also understanding that sometimes what is best for our neighbor is not the good that we wish that we could thrust upon them.  Even if we think it would be for their own good.

God works so often through our brokenness and imperfection in drawing up to Himself.  Let's help one another along instead of talking about how the choices that we made were better, without ever knowing the hardship that can come when walking down a path that isn't our own.


  1. Well said, Cammie. :) Maybe I'm naive, but I can't help but insist on assuming that there is more going on with people's choices about formula feeding and child birth than mere convenience. I consider it an unexpected gift from my unexpected c-section(s) that I'm able to have empathy for women whose dreams of childbirth and breastfeeding are dashed by our fallen nature.

    1. well put Ellen. I agree with you. I wanted to have a vaginal birth, but I ended up having a cesarean with my first child. I opted for a cesarean unless i went into labor before the scheduled date for my second child. While they were removing her from my womb they saw my pelvis was too small anyway. My first child was bigger so that was a huge relief to me to know that i did make the right decision the first time around as well.

  2. I was blessed with two natural births as a young woman. I had NOBODY who breast fed to teach me. I purchased two books on the subject and via trial and error, tears and pain, and shere will power, I learn how to feed my first and then refined it with my second. I can SO understand why someone would give up breast feeding no matter how badly they wanted to do it! You can list all day long all the wonderful benefits of breast and natural childbirth-- but to condemn ANYONE for going another route is just plain WRONG. Prudential decisions are not about morality! We are to love, educate and nurture our children; these are moral issues-- HOW we choose to do this is totally NOT a moral issue! Neither is it a moral issue when unanticipated "stuff" happens and we end up on a path we did not choose. Kindness is important in these situations.

    It is so odd these days that a woman who gives up breastfeeding, or who has a c-section, is roundly condemned but people bend over backwards to avoid saying anything negative to people who are in objective sin-- who are committed to intrinsic evils-- are treated with kid gloves and never told the truth about their actions being sins, and even mortal ones. It seems that a serious moral issue is not to be addressed but a totally NOT MORAL issue is attacked.

    It is a topsy turvy world this century.


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