Natural childbirth and lactivism reflect our deepest fears and prejudices

Word Fear spelled from single dice letters, with reflection on bottom

You must read Heather Kirn Lanier’s extraordinarily beautiful, haunting essay about giving birth to a child with an unexpected disability, SuperBabies Don’t Cry.

Although it is long, I encourage you to read it in full. The writing is lyrical, the emotions are raw and the love of a mother for her child infuses nearly every sentence. The reason that I am writing about it, though, is that Lanier explores the ways in which natural childbirth and lactivism reflect our deepest fears and prejudices.

Natural childbirth and lactivism are based on fear of anything less than perfection.

Lanier’s experience puts flesh on the bones of many major themes I have explored in my own writing about childbirth and natural parenting.

Natural childbirth and lactivism are concerned with creating a perfect product, not a person.

When I was pregnant, I tried to make a SuperBaby. I did not realize I was doing this… But looking back, my goal was clear. I ate 100 grams of protein a day. I swallowed capsules of mercury-free DHA. I gave up wheat for reasons I forget… I spoke to my SuperBaby, welcoming it into my body so that it would feel loved and supported. I avoided finding out my SuperBaby’s sex so I wouldn’t project gender roles onto her/him/them. I slept on my left side because I’d read it was best for my baby’s and my circulation…

Natural childbirth promotes magical thinking.

Preparing for an unmedicated waterbirth, Lanier used Hypnobabies.

My baby will be born healthy and at the perfect time, a woman’s voice uttered as I descended into a dreamy soup of electronica chords and affirmations. My body is made to give birth nice and easy. I look forward to giving birth with happiness. My baby is developing normally and is healthy and strong. The words were supposed to become lodged into my subconscious. I see my bubble of peace around me at all times now. I focus on all going right…

But magical thinking doesn’t work.

It was immediately apparent to healthcare providers that there was something wrong with Lanier’s 4 pound 12 oz daughter Fiona.

Too tired from my 36 hours of unmedicated natural easy comfortable excruciating childbirth, I didn’t concern myself.

I focus on all going right…

My baby is developing normally and is healthy and strong.

But after a shift change, when a new nurse entered my room (someone who hadn’t just seen me squeeze a person from my vagina without medication), she asked a question that felt like a slap: “Did you take drugs while pregnant?”

No, nurse, I wanted to say. I took superfoods. I took reiki. I took electronica chords and affirmations.

This is the moment when I realized perhaps I hadn’t made a SuperBaby after all….

Fiona has a serious chromosomal abnormality.

Lanier is an insightful person and she reflects on why she had thought she could produced a SuperBaby. She notes that her stepfather was a chiropractor:

When one of my family members became ill, we consulted Louise Hay’s little blue book, Heal Your Body: The Mental Causes for Physical Illnesses and the Metaphysical Way to Overcome Them. “Both the good in our lives and the dis-ease are the results of mental thought patterns that form our experiences,” Hay writes… “We’ve learned,” Hay writes, “that for every effect in our lives, there’s a thought-pattern that precedes and maintains it.” The bulk of Heal Your Life is a list of ailments in alphabetical order. You can find everything from hemorrhoids to tuberculosis to AIDS, and beside each ailment is an emotional cause.

Lanier thought she had already come to grips with the fact that physical diseases aren’t caused by psychological problems when her stepfather died of melanoma that failed to respond to all of her stepfather’s beliefs. But, she notes, the “culture of pregnancy,” which encourages women to believe that if they follow the right rules and think the right thoughts, they will be rewarded with a SuperBaby. Fiona’s birth disabused her of that thinking once and for all.

Natural childbirth and lactivism are ableist.

With my woo-woo belief that the mind could control the body, I’d pushed disability away. I’d done this by subscribing to the belief that disability always had an avoidable cause. I’d believed I could control the body because I could not stomach the truth: that the body is fragile, ephemeral.

Natural childbirth and lactivism are based on fear … of anything “less” than perfection.

I had not realized this about myself. I had not realized this about my parents. I did not see our adamant devotion to vitamins and affirmations and organics as fear-based, as an attempt to control the uncontrollable. I also did not see it as political. I saw it as morally good. I was making a SuperHuman. What was wrong with that?

By insisting on the perfection of bodily processes, natural childbirth and lactivism reflexively blame women for anything that goes wrong.

Here’s the thing. If you buy into a false narrative that the body is controllable, that illness can always be prevented, then by proxy you are left with a disturbing, damaging, erroneous conclusion: the belief that a person’s disability is their fault.

But there is another choice:

The world is a terrifying place. We manage it by believing we can control it. And when it hasn’t been controlled—when it doesn’t bend to our wills—we either look for something to blame, or we surrender.

Instead of pretending that childbirth is inherently safe and easily controlled with birth affirmations, we ought to surrender to the fact that it is inherently dangerous.

Instead of believing that our thoughts have the power to deliver a healthy baby, we should accept the necessity of medical interventions.

Instead of pretending that breastfeeding is inherently perfect and that claims of insufficient breastmilk or other difficulties are just ways for lazy mothers, brainwashed by the formula industry to justify their selfishness, we should accept the necessity that formula feeding is the best and healthiest choice for many infants.

Instead of pretending that our job as new mothers is to guarantee SuperBabies, we should surrender to the fact that our job as new mothers is to love our babies — not as perfect products — but as new, unique, possibly flawed people.

  • Marf

    Lanier’s piece was definitely moving and made many important point that you point out. Although at points toward the end it seemed like things were tilting a little too far beyond acceptance of suffering that already exists and entered into exalting suffering.

    Suffering in general is inevitable. Pema Chodron’s book “Things Fall Apart” is an excellent book to help people who are dealing with suffering that is happening already. However, much suffering can be and has been reduced or eliminated through all sorts of methods. And that is something to strive for. Otherwise, hell, I guess we could just not have laws that require hospitals to treat patients with emergency medical situations but who cannot pay. We’d have an excuse as a society to not do anything to help people we don’t know or personally care for because after all, can’t have joy without suffering!

    Woo ways of thinking about disease and illness and suffering might be based in fear, but the problem with them isn’t the fear. The problem is that they are wrong and that they make people blame themselves for crap they didn’t do and spend money they might not be able to afford on crap that doesn’t help.

    As far as fear and suffering goes, we need to strike a balance where we accept that suffering is indeed part of life, the body is indeed fragile, illness and disease indeed aren’t something we can stop, but that doesn’t mean we are totally powerless and shouldn’t try our hardest to reduce or eliminate the suffering that we can.

    She also brought up Peter Singer, and I hate when people who aren’t any sort of academic engaged with that field bring up Singer (granted that’s largely Singer’s fault for deliberately engaging the public with ideas that are easily misunderstood and don’t translate well into a mainstream audience) and condemned him over his ideas about when the cut-off for termination of developing humans with certain diseases and disorders should be. This drives me nuts because people get all aghast as if we don’t do this already. It’s done whenever a woman who has done a genetic screening of her fetus decides to have an abortion because of some abnormality found. Singer is a philosopher and his damn job is to thinking about these sort of ethical questions and then have discussions and debates with other intellectuals about it. People talk about him as if he’s some sort of monster who thinks disabled people living full lives should be killed, which is just ignorant. And I say this as someone who has plenty of disagreements with Singer’s ideas.

  • Very OT: https://goo.gl/m9jefj
    I’m curious what people think about this.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      I’m having some trouble relating, since my mother and mother-in-law both raised feminist boys. It wasn’t a big deal to have a boy. We’re more worried about how to teach both kids about understanding other groups’ issues and why they are frustrated with the dominant culture, while not dissing the culture we cannot help but giving them. (Bear with me, this is a thought that has been expressed more in emotion than in words in my head) That and making sure they have tools to deal with a depression that may be another inheritance.

      • Charybdis

        I agree with this. I think the author of the piece is being pretentious and humble-bragging about her feminist self having a *GASP* SON to rear. How she is going to go out of her way to ingrain, at every opportunity, how her son should be simultaneously (a) grateful that he was born a white boy and (b)feel guilty that he was born a white boy. And that everything in society is slanted in his favor, so he must do his best, at all times, to NEVER FORGET that he is privileged, that his life is SO MUCH BETTER than other’s lives and that any struggle he has is simply peanuts when compared with others whom she deems to have Real Struggles With Life/Society/Acceptance/whatever. Being born a white male is NOT a sin nor is it a crime against society. White boys have issues as well, but they do not seem to be taken seriously, because of all their “privilege”. It infuriates me for someone to insinuate that my son, who was the victim of some relentless, vicious emotional, verbal and cyberbullying and will be scarred by that experience for the rest of his life, that his suffering and anguish doesn’t count, because he is a white male. Because privilege: no matter how bad it was, it cannot compare to the myriad suffering of other groups. And he should realize that and accept that his issues don’t matter as much as others’ do.
        You rear your children as best you can. You teach them to be kind, develop empathy for others and their problems, help when they can, use their gifts and talents well, think of others before themselves, listen well, work hard, say “Please” and “Thank You”, have some manners and use them often, be respectful of others and their property, don’t put their elbows on the table, say “Excuse me”, and, if you are so inclined, toss in some religion/religious beliefs if it is important to you. You do your best to turn out a decent, productive member of society and not go crazy in the process. You give them experiences, skills and the pearls of wisdom you have slowly and painfully garnered over your lifetime, along with steeping them in the culture/s you yourself enjoy/embrace/belong to. But children are their own beings. They are not a carbon copy of you/your partner. Sometimes kids grow up to be the antithesis of their parents and there is nothing you can do about it.

        • Heidi_storage

          Yes. I have no problem with parents trying to indoctrinate their children into a way of thinking–I am trying to do that myself–but I worry that the author will let her son’s membership in a group subsume his identity as the unique little child that he is. He is not “a white male,” but her child, and within her power until he grows up. She wants to point out institutional privilege or whatever, that’s her right, as long as she makes her son feel valued, loved, and safe.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            My son and our dear leader are both blond, nominally christian, males. I have hopes we can teach the 3 year old how to be empathetic and to not throw tantrums. There’s no hope for the 70 yo racist grandpa.

    • Merrie

      I mean, of course you want to raise your son to be aware of the struggles of other groups and not think he’s the center of the world…? Having privilege doesn’t mean you can’t also have problems. I think that since my spouse and I are not bigots and we consistently work on our awareness of our own privilege and of what’s going on in the world, we will teach these values to our kids over time too. The article seems kind of superficial.

  • moto_librarian

    I just fucking can’t with the NCB bullshit right now. A dear friend from childhood is in the ICU right now. She lost her much-wanted son at 36 weeks due to acute fatty liver of pregnancy. Her liver and kidney functions are stabilizing, but she’s still critically ill. I had better not hear anyone say a damned thing to her about how this is her fault or I will probably need bail money. I’m just heartbroken for her and her husband.

    • Spamamander, pro fun ruiner

      I’ll start the fund. Because Dog knows those people are out there, tone-deaf and sanctimonious.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Oh, heavens. That poor family.

    • myrewyn

      I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss.

    • BeatriceC

      I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss. I’ll donate to the bail money fund. That’s a pretty darned good cause if you ask me.

  • myrewyn

    OT sorry… I had my 36 week appointment today (actually 35+5) and it was noted that my blood pressure was higher than it’s been but not scary (135/78 I think). Just now I got the automated email that my urine dipstick results were in and under protein it says “trace”. Last week we talked about my weight gain being a little high but again not scary (38 pounds total but I started at the low end of normal bmi) I imagine I’ll get a call in the morning when they’ve had a chance to review the dipstick results but with the three soft symptoms is this early pre eclampsia? My only risk factor is being AMA. I have another growth ultrasound scheduled Thursday so we will get to take another look then if nothing else.

    • MI Dawn

      Maybe, maybe not. It’s early to tell for sure. The usual thing would be watchful waiting and rechecking in a few days unless something happens before then. I was “mildly” pre-eclamptic with my first child, and just watched for a few weeks (induced at 37 weeks because if I had to spend another week on home rest I’d be hospitalized because I went nuts)

      • myrewyn

        Only about 3 hours until the office opens now so not much longer to wait to talk to her. I’m not really worried, just impatient to know what’s next. I’ve never been good at waiting! I do know it was already in the back of her mind because she asked me to call if I got a headache.

    • lawyer jane

      They might do a 24-hour urine check as a next step. Google the HYPITAT trial to learn about the evidence for how to manage mild gestational hypertension. My BPs were right around yours at 36 weeks and I ended up being induced at 39 weeks for the BP (although probably could/should have been a week or two before.) Everything went smoothly (in that a healthy baby and mother were produced). I did start to develop mild pre-e in labor. G/L!

      • myrewyn

        Thanks for the info. I did google the trial just now and it seems outcomes were best with induction at 37 weeks even for mild blood pressure elevation like mine, if I’m reading correctly. I’m already scheduled for induction at 39 weeks due to AMA so I know that’s the latest they will let me go but 37 would be ok with me if it’s indicated. I’ve been reading about pre eclampsia while I wait for my doctor’s office to be open and I’m also having nausea and upper abdominal pain (which I had dismissed because pain and nausea are part of pregnancy) so it does seem I am maybe pre pre eclamptic. Hooray for prenatal care and weekly visits that catch these things before they’re emergencies.

        • guest

          My 5 month old, born at 37 weeks due to pre-eclampsia, is wailing and cooing in the next room over while my husband plays with her. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, but catching pre-e this early is a great way to have a good outcome. You’re going to do great, and are being diligent in the care you’re seeking for you and your kid.

          They’ll likely have you do a protein creatinine ratio instead of a 24 hour collection, much faster and no toting around a jug of pee. That’s how they found mine, I never had elevated protein or any pain, just high BP and reduced creatinine showing reduced kidney function.

          Good luck!

          • myrewyn

            Thanks! Apparently the levels are all so borderline at this point they’re perfectly happy to wait until the next time they see me so I’m taking that as a good sign — but also I’m prepared to call again if I feel like things are getting worse before then.

          • lawyer jane

            Sounds good! No, I did not have any liver pain. By the time I actually had high liver enzyme levels I was in labor and epidural-ized, so no pain. But keep an eye on your pain and don’t hesitate to bug your doc if it gets worse. That is what they are for!

      • myrewyn

        Question for you — did you have abdominal pain? I had just been assuming it was muscles stretching or a baby foot lodged under my ribs and was living with it but now that I know it’s likely my liver it’s become suddenly unbearable. 😛 Anything I can do for the pain?? I’ve got a cold pack on it now; that seemed safer for the baby than trying heat.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      *hugs* That’s scary. It’s a good sign that you weren’t called in after hours (and mine will when they feel it’s necessary). Baby Wyn is now about the age that Isaac Newton was born at.

      • myrewyn

        Thank you. 15 minutes until I can chat with my doctor. In the meantime I think I’ll go make sure my hospital things are ready to go in the car, just in case my blood pressure decides to spike and they move things up. It’s something to keep me busy anyway…

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          Not a bad idea. I didn’t bring much when Boybard jumped on my pregnant belly and the L&D folks decided my bp was too high and asked if I minded getting induced that night. (I did have a couple things in the diaperbag)

    • myrewyn

      Well… they’re not concerned at all. Maybe because they know they’ll see me Thursday for an ultrasound and again on Monday for the next routine visit. I guess we will know by then if the borderline signs are going up.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Most pre-eclampsia happens in low risk people. If you have a headache or otherwise feel that something’s wrong, go to the ER. Do not pass go, do not ask yourself whether you’re being a hypochondriac, just get there! This may be nothing, but it may blossom into something very quickly.

      • myrewyn

        I definitely will. They were very sure on the phone this morning that my levels are not worrisome. If I feel unwell before my Thursday appointment I will definitely go in.

  • Dr Kitty

    As one of the people to whom bad stuff happened, personally, I have never been interested in the why.

    That bad things happen to good people, that illness, accident and death have random components which cannot be controlled, I, personally, have never found this a difficult concept.
    My sister died when she was a day old, I have a wonky spine, my parents are good people and sometimes shit happens- those were self evident truths to me from when I was tiny.

    All of these attempts to control the uncontrollable are defence mechanisms, and like all defence mechanisms, eventually they stop working and cause problems for the people who employ them.

    Heather Kirk Lanier’s piece is beautiful, her journey to understand that the world is uncertain and random and outside of her control and to accept that through loving her daughter, who sounds like a wonderful child, is timely and necessary.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      At one point in my life, I decided to accept the fact that, sometimes, shit happens for no reason at all.

      It was so liberating that I have made it the motto on which I live my life. I crept that there are things over which I have no control, and all I can do is put myself in the best place to deal with what comes.

      I’ve stopped worryingredients about every little thing and have set about enjoying life regardless what comes my way. I got my wife and kids. I’m happy.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        Yep. My mother (for very good reason) was pretty paranoid about all the bad things that could happen, and as a result NEVER took the time to enjoy things. As an adult I have finally somewhat made my peace with the fact that a whole lot of life is out of my control. I try to take reasonable precautions (vaccinations, boosters, seatbelts, don’t use hand me down baby equipment if possible, no squishy toys and no blankets in the crib) and enjoy my life.

    • MaineJen

      I think part of the problem is privilege. Some people and families are just…really lucky. They’ve never had any major illnesses or unexpected tragedies. But instead of recognizing and being grateful for that ‘dumb luck,’ they lord it over those who have had bad luck, figuring the latter must have done something to bring this on, like not ‘taking care of yourself’ or ‘eating right,’ whatever that means.

      • kilda

        right, because otherwise they have to recognize that their luck could end. If bad things only happen to people who do something wrong, don’t eat right, whatever, then they are safe from ever having to deal with health issues or tragedies.

        • MaineJen

          I think ‘eating right’ is the modern version of wearing a talisman against the Evil Eye.

          • SporkParade

            Yeah, I’d rather put my faith in talismans against the evil eye, tfu tfu tfu.

          • myrewyn

            It’s all magical thinking.

          • Christy

            That reminds me of an online conversation I had. When I stated that since my son was going to be born in winter I was worried about him being exposed to the flu, they responded that instead of getting vaccinated while pregnant I should simply eat right and relax.

          • Roadstergal

            Ugh, ‘flu vax rejection is such a huge status symbol amongst the middle-to-upper class people in my geographic area. It drives me nuts.

            For all that a certain type of woo-er raves about the magical antibodies in breastmilk, they really don’t like the idea of poking your memory cells to make systemic antibody that will actually be passed to the fetus in the womb…

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            Of course they also have pretty much no actual clue how antibodies in breast milk work either…

  • Spamamander, pro fun ruiner

    I’m reminded again of the woman who asked me what I “did” during my pregnancy to cause my daughter’s Down syndrome, after I explained what was “wrong with her eyes” at about 18 months. I was never invested in a mindset where I could control the narrative, where I could make everything perfect by following the script, but there was and is still guilt and even somehow shame after 21 years at my body “betraying” me. This essay is so powerful.

    • BeatriceC

      I’ve been told I did all kinds of things wrong to cause my boys’ bone disease. It’s a gene their father carries, so they only thing I “did wrong” was have sex with my then-husband.

      • Heidi_storage

        Why? Why would someone think it was even remotely acceptable to tell you such a thing?

        • BeatriceC

          Because people are morons. Honestly, that’s not even the worst. I grew up with fundamentalist Catholic parents. I’m atheist now. There’s a reason for that.

          • Heidi_storage

            Ugh. That’s awful. I’m sorry.

        • Eater of Worlds

          People asked my mom what she did to have a deaf kid, but it was her fault. Caused a fractured relationship with me before I was old enough to crap in a toilet.

      • Spamamander, pro fun ruiner

        You terrible woman, having relations with your husband. :eyeroll:

  • Steph858

    This essay so beautifully explains the dark side of hippy-style mind-over-matter woo. One argument in defence of woo is:

    What’s the harm? If it prevents people from getting effective medical treatment then yes, of course that’s a problem. But responsible alt-med practitioners (I know that’s an oxymoron, but c’mon, even you must agree that some alt-med practitioners are worse than others – conversely, some practitioners must be not as bad as the rest) don’t present themselves as an alternative to conventional medicine; they present themselves as complements to it. That’s what the acronym CAM means: complementary when conventional medicine is required, alternative only when it’s not (e.g. treating a common cold). Anyway, what’s the harm if a patient chooses to use hypnotherapy or whatever to increase the pain relief offered by their GP? Surely it’s better for someone to combine paracetamol with homeopathy than with addictive opiates if both options provide equal relief for that patient?

    This essay counters that argument by exposing the reality of the all-natural all-you-need-is-love mentality; when it doesn’t work, the patient is blamed for its ineffectiveness. Following the latest fad diet didn’t cure your cancer? Must be because all your negative thinking prevented your body from effectively using the MagiVits (TM) to fight the cancer off. Hypnotherapy didn’t make giving birth painless? You didn’t believe enough. Caught the flu despite taking mega-doses of Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea religiously? No, of course you shouldn’t have gotten the vaccine back in November; you should have added a half-hour meditation session to your regime to keep your thinking positive.

    It’s like a medical version of The Secret (TM): if you believe hard enough then the world is your oyster; fail to obtain what you desire and you can’t have believed enough.

    • Jules B

      Agreed. I have a rare, chronic balance disorder. I just woke up with it one day just before my 30th birthday. It has no cure and no effective treatment but it can go in to spontaneous remission. I was passed along from doctor to doctor for nearly two years, and I tried every conventional and alternative treatment imaginable from powerful anti-sea sickness drugs to antidepressants to chiropractic to floating in a sensory deprivation pod – none of it made any difference whatsoever. Eventually, I found myself in the office of a leading balance disorder experts/researcher. He did a few quick balance tests and asked me some questions – then before he told me the bad news (that what I had was not treatable and chronic), he said something very powerful to me: “I bet people have told you that it’s all in your head, right? That if you just engaged in more positive thinking, that you could rid yourself of this. That it’s your fault that this happened. Well, they are wrong – this is a real thing. You are not crazy, and this is not your fault.”

      I burst into tears right then and there. I had not realized how much I had absorbed the toxic idea that if you are sick or disabled in any way, it is at least partly your own fault. That doctor may not have been able to offer me a cure, but like Dr Amy points out, after that point I was able to surrender to the reality of my condition. It was only at that point that I could have a bit of mental peace and learn to get on with my life and my New Normal.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        And for those of us for whom it really is in our head [stupid depression, go away] just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

        • Jules B

          Absolutely! Technically, it is in my head too (the issue is how my brain interprets the info from my ears..).

        • Roadstergal

          The only acceptable follow-up to “It’s all in your head” is “…so we need a medication that effectively passes the BBB.”

          • It took me a moment to figure out what BBB meant … I don’t think we need a medication that passes the Better Business Bureau!

          • Roadstergal

            Ooops, I should avoid acronyms. 😀

        • Petticoat Philosopher

          But we just need to eat more kale! Or oily fish! Or grass-fed butter! And we need to think more positively. And is their fluoride in your water? And…and…and…

        • Allie

          Aw, that makes me think of Dumbledore: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
          : )

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            I admit to be paraphrasing him

  • Gene

    Beautiful essay. I took care of a little girl with WHS when I was a third year medical student. I remember her name, her face, everything. And this was over twenty years ago. I have no idea if she is still alive. I think about her and her mother often.

  • Karen in SC

    Great essay about a beautiful young girl.

  • Jen

    This essay was absolutely beautiful. I truly don’t have words to describe how moving this was for me. My 2 kids seem very typical so far at 2.5 years and 9months so it’s not that I can necessarily relate to the specifics. I can relate to the pressure that we all feel to somehow create and mold these perfect humans. This piece really helps cement that it truly doesn’t matter. All children deserve acceptance and love for who they are as people.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      I wish mine was that young again and at the same time I don’t. Mine is in her last year of college. She doesn’t want go past her Bachelor of Science because she find school unbearably stressful. I would have been OK with her doing something that did not need a degree but she really wanted to do it. She has done great and now through a convergence of emotional, and physical illness she is left feeling like she is worthless and so is everything she is working for. Depression sucks when you feel like you can’t help the person you love more than anything. And her school cut their counseling to nothing. Add in that she’s majoring in environmental engineering and sustainability and watershed protection and reclamation….and Trump’s election was pretty much the last straw…

      • Jen

        Depression is so hard. It runs deep in my family. I have learned a lot from my family members that struggle from mental illness. How to be there, not judge, offer companionship, understand irrational actions are not by choice… It helps me look at others with compassion and understanding in place of judgement and assumptions. Congrats to your daughter for her achievement! That’s not an easy accomplishment with or without barriers.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          Thank you. I am just trying to give her enough support to get through a day or two at a time. I hope she graduates on time because she doesn’t need another hit on top of the ones she is dealing with. I want her to be home for a while where she can have some counseling if she wants it and just not be alone in an apartment, telling herself what a loser she is (her words).

      • MaineJen

        Oh, I struggled hard with depression during college. Looking back, it first hit me around age 9, of course I had NO idea what was going on, and the preteen and teenage years were a total nightmare of isolation and insecurity. It took a long time to find the right medication. Counseling only helped so much.

        My son is 7, and he’s already anxiety-ridden and emotionally volatile. I’m afraid he’s headed down the same path of depression. I want it to be better for him. I’ve already got him talking to his school counselor once a week, and I wonder if I should be doing more, but he’s still so young. It’s hard to watch him go through this!

        • moto_librarian

          Yes. We’re going through something with our eldest as well. My biggest concern is taking care of him as much as possible, as early as possible. You’re doing well.

        • Taysha

          From what little I can offer, make sure your son knows that his emotions are real, and that he can do something about them. As a major depressive 11 yo, I heard “it’s all in your head”, “why would you be sad” “you have no reason to feel like this” for years.

          Effing miracle I didn’t kill myself before age 15.

          My dd is 6yo and showing signs of anxiety. Broke my heart to hear her say that sometimes she starts thinking and can’t stop getting sad and scared. We made a plan with her teacher for her to take a time out/get a hug/run a lap to get her out of the cycle when it happens and it’s helped a lot by simply acknowledging her emotions.

          • MaineJen

            OMG, I got the same thing. “I remember being 13! No worries, no cares…” That’s what one friend of my mom’s said to me. I mean…are you high, lady? No worries at 13? It made me all the more depressed to think…’how much worse must it get, if she can look back on this horrific time of life and think she had no worries?’ Hearing comments like that really just made me want to give up.

          • Roadstergal

            13 was not fun. I was regularly being bullied, my mom died, puberty was happening, and we moved cross-country.

            My tools for dealing with life and advocating for myself are SO much better now than they were when I was 13. Orders of magnitude.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        yeah, that result was a hard on my depression as well.

  • Christy

    Thank you for sharing this essay.

  • Mel

    The fact that many people attempt to track back bad health outcomes to a fixable, obvious cause since Spawn was born has been very disconcerting for my husband.

    Did your wife get prenatal care? Take vitamins? Take too many vitamins? Not take care of her high blood pressure? What do you mean she didn’t have high blood pressure? Was she working too much? Oh, she was probably worried from not working? What do you mean she felt she was working “just the right amount”? She gained too much weight, right? Too little? How could she be in the right range? Exercise – that must be it….and so it goes.

    I…have an unusually high tolerance for it. Probably not a healthy level of tolerance because people have been asking my parents essentially how to avoid fucking up their children so they could avoid deafness, cerebral palsy or death due to a un-diagnosed birth defect since as long as I can remember. Remember – no one wants to be like our family. And, yes, people have said that.

    So, I don’t mind watching people squirm. If you want me to give you an easy answer of how to avoid a 26-week premature baby due to rapid onset pre-ecclampsia and HELLP, you’ve come to the wrong person. I will, however, give you a leading set of questions/answers to watch your face blanch as you realize “Shit, this could happen to me, too” if I feel like you are more interested in assigning blame to me for Spawn’s premature birth than just learning about what happened or showing some level of compassion/empathy.

    You’re welcome.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      That’s kinda mean. I like it.

    • moto_librarian

      Do you think your husband needs to talk to someone in a professional capacity?

      • Mel

        I’m not entirely sure what you are asking – let me know if I interpreted your question wrong.

        We’ve both has more issues with this among random(ish) acquaintances than anyone else. People like a friend of a church friend who heard about Spawn’s delivery down the grapevine who can’t seem to conceptualize that the risk factors were “pregnant, first pregnancy, AMA, white” – and yes, that does mean that your wife theoretically could have the same thing happen even if she eats kale and avoids GMOs. In those cases, shutting the conversation down is about the only choice – but that’s a new skill for my spouse.

        I’ve had a minor issue with some allied health professionals – like a young medical assistant during a well-baby check-up – trying to pin down pre-e and HELLP to a lifestyle choice, but I took care of that issue by reporting that behavior to my son’s physician in that practice. (That one was especially egregious since she was supposed to be scheduling his next appointment, not playing 20 Questions.)

        We are both receiving psychological support that predated Spawn by several years – and I am so glad we both had established relationships with therapists before Spawn was born.

        • moto_librarian

          I had a serious reading comprehension fail. For some reason, I read it as your husband asking those questions. I don’t know why I completely misinterpreted it – maybe not enough coffee yesterday.
          That was why I was wondering if he needed to talk to someone about it. I’m sorry – that was my fuckup.

          • Mel

            No worries. I chalked it up to my newborn-induced sleep deprivation 🙂

    • You … I like you.

    • Allie

      Yeah, it’s fear based. People want to pinpoint what you did wrong so they can assure themselves nothing bad will happen to them. I can sort of understand that (the feeling, NOT expressing it to actual people), but it bothers me that they are basically completely de-valuing children who aren’t “perfect,” and de-valuing the joy and beauty they bring to the world, despite (and sometimes because of) their challenges.

      • Mel

        Plus, there’s a huge difference between “That was so scary. Are there symptoms I should look for or anything I can do to prevent it?” which both acknowledges my experience and asks for fact-based prevention compared to “Pregnancy is more complicated with a history of high blood pressure. Oh, you didn’t have high blood pressure before? But you must have been under too much stress etc. ” which is all about tamping down fear by isolating the one specific way I screwed up and brought the bad outcome down on myself.

        I actually feel worse for the children of parents like that because the parent is far too invested in having a perfect kid. Spawn is perfect as Spawn. It makes no sense for me to have Spawn then try and make Spawn into Imp, Goblin, Demon or Ghost.

    • Montserrat Blanco

      My own mother has made clear that 1) I did not get the right OB during my pregnancy and 2) I worked and exercised too much during my pregnancy. The fact that the OB was obviously licensed, working at a great hospital and was recommended by her did not make any change. The fact that exercise has shown to do not affect preeclampsia does not mater.

      It is fear based. I do not take it into account because that would have meant to lose almost all my friends and not speaking to my whole family. The fact that things are explained for something that you did wrong is culturally engraved in our brains.

  • Heidi_storage

    Superb essay. What a stark contrast between the author’s love for her daughter and the unspoken darkness of the “natural” crowd’s ugly ableism. The author is honest in describing her fears and prejudices, and yet, if her little girl ever reads this essay, she will know that her mother loves her deeply. This is the polar opposite of Kate Tietje’s confessed preference for her son, as opposed to her “difficult” daughter.