If you haven’t already, go read this post at Breaking into Blossom. RLG does a very thoughtful analysis of how the ways in which we advocate for natural birth options can cause unintentional harm, to all parents, both those doing the birthing and not.
She makes lots of smart points, but the theme that stands out to me the most, perhaps not surprisingly given our favorite topics around here, is how preparation for, discussion and assumptions around birth, particularly “natural birth”, impact NGPs (non-gestational-parents, here meaning those with pregnant partners as opposed to adoptive parents, though I think much of what she writes in that post is also important for adoptive parents). R writes:
“If we claim this space as entirely female (and birth-mama centric), then NGPs have no role here. This incredible right/journey/privilege is marked as one that birth-moms take alone. And on the surface, this makes sense. I mean, why shouldn’t birthing women claim this power as theirs and theirs alone? They offer life, for Pete’s sake; they offer life-sustaining milk. These facts are used to empower them. Your babies need you much, much more than they need anyone else. But even as it offers empowerment, this rhetoric puts the heavy weight of early parenthood back on women…There’s very little talk in the natural childbirth community about NGP-child bonding because it’s understood to be secondary. It can wait.But can it? Without the benefit of holding these little beings inside of our bodies, isn’t it especially important to attend to NGP-child bonding? If all we carefully cultivate is bonding between women and their (birth) babies, aren’t we relegating them to being the primary parent at six months, too? And at two years? And at five years? Aren’t we contributing to the creation of the very distance between fathers and their children that we simultaneously bemoan?”
Here at FTST we like to think and write about what it’s like to parent a kid your wife birthed. We’re big on NGP’s, particularly lesbian non-bio-moms, finding our own voices and our own solid place in our families. And yeah, we’ve hit on some themes around the early parenting that R writes about above, about choosing to take your place in your child’s life as early as possible, about how the work we need to do to make that connection is both the our central challenge and our greatest strength. But by placing her observations in the context of birth itself, R helped me realize that we’ve never really written about birth as non-gestational-parents, and come to think of it, I’ve read very few birth stories that deeply incorporate the experience of a non-birthing parent.
So R’s post, and the ensuing conversations, have me thinking we need to change this. We need to tell our birth stories as NGPs. I’m still sorting this out, but I don’t think I mean the stories of how our babies were born, the logistics of what happened when, but rather our internal experience, our own transformation as the process unfolded. We need to add our voices to the conversation around birth, and not as secondary voices, not as the last little paragraph or the occasional editorial comment, but strong stories in their own right.
In one of many conversations we’ve had on this post, Gail said the following:
“Birth is scary and wondrous and will freak your shit out…Having experienced it from both sides, I can say that both experiences are intense in completely different ways, but we don’t really attend to the intensity of birth or post-birth from the NGP’s point of view because it’s all the birth mother’s show.”
So, I’d like to attend to that intensity. Let’s tell our stories. Gail and I are still mulling over our contributions, but I wanted to get this up while R’s post was still a bit fresh (well, at least not a million years old).
Have you written your NGP birth story somewhere already (and I’m including dads here!)? If so, would you be willing to send it our way or link back to this post? If you don’t write anywhere publicly, but want to add your voice to the mix, get in touch with us at firsttimesecondtime at gmail. And to be clear, R wrote her post largely inspired by messages in the natural childbirth community, but here I’m thinking beyond that, to our place in birth, any kind of birth.