New Mama Musings

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hells Yeah, I'm Judgmental

Last spring I had a run-in with some women on a frugal living website I've been a member of for years. Although the members there are predominantly mainstream (and conservative Christian), everyone works hard to maintain a neutral, inoffensive atmosphere. The women there cheered me on during my infertility treatments, rejoiced with me during my pregnancy, and celebrated the birth of Henry, and I'll always appreciate their support.

But having Henry has changed me in ways I could never have predicted.

I think I began offending some of the women on that site when I shared an anecdote about my sisters-in-law, who bragged that they never nursed their babies "because if you breastfeed, no on else can take care of the baby" and that they sent their newborn daughters to the nursery for the night "because you have the rest of your life to bond with your child."

One of the members responded defensively, saying that she never had any desire to breastfeed her (now) teenage daughter and if she had to do it over again she wouldn't change a thing. Another woman said she had sent her baby to the nursery so she could get a good night's sleep.

I backed down and said, well, you'd have to know my sisters-in-law and this was just the tip of the iceberg for them.

I tried to make nice, even though I was thinking, "But breastfeeding is the best thing for babies!" and "How can you send your baby away when she's spent the last nine months inside you?"

I stopped doing a lot of posting there after that, partly because I was so busy with Henry, partly because Mothering.com had become more pertinent to my life, and partly because I started to feel a disconnect with the women there.

But during one of my infrequent lurkings I noticed a discussion about vaccinations. Somehow it had come up that a few of the women there did not vaccinate their children, and someone started a thread asking why.

Naively, I thought I might be able to educate the original poster and maybe a few others. After all, two years ago I hadn't known that not vaccinating was an option either.

I wrote that many of the diseases now vaccinated against used to be common childhood illnesses; that pharmaceutical companies are very closely tied to the federal government; that the government has a Vaccine Injury Compensation Program -- they admit that vaccines cause injuries! -- which indirectly protects big pharma from lawsuits; that the ingredients in vaccines include cells from aborted fetuses and livestock, heavy metals including aluminum, chemicals such as formaldehyde, and much more; that most of those affected by the recent mumps outbreak were vaccinated; and that other outbreaks have been caused by the vaccines themselves. Also, there is a question of what the long-term effects of messing with one's immune system might be: asthma, eczema, and shingles are a few conditions in question.

And then I said that before allowing something to be injected straight into your child's bloodstream, bypassing his/her immune system, you should do your research and weigh the pros and cons.

Well.

One woman responded that there was lots of assuming in my post, and that I was rude and condescending...as usual.

Another woman, the original poster, accused me of attacking her decisions and asked that the thread be closed. She then followed me over to Mothering.com (where I had started a thread asking if my post really had been condescending), registered in order to leave a comment for me, and then returned to the frugality website to report me to the owner.

If they were so confident in their decision to vaccinate their children, why were they so defensive? Why wouldn't they just say, well, we've done our research, and the risks of our children contracting these diseases and having serious complications outweigh any risks from damage by the vaccines themselves?

Because honestly, not vaccinating is a tough choice to make, one I'm still researching and mulling over.

I knew at that moment that I could no longer make nice -- with the members of that site or with anyone else.

I have opinions, sometimes impassioned ones. I would hope that when I express my beliefs I come across as thoughtful and educated, and not arrogant, but I'm not going to sugarcoat them so as not to offend someone who feels differently.

Do I believe breastfed is best? Or that women and their newborns should stay together as much as possible? Or that you should research your child's medical care and weigh the pros and cons of all treatment? You bet.

Are you a terrible parent and human being if you think otherwise? No, because it's not about you. My opinions are about what I believe is best. You may not agree, and that's your prerogative.

What I'm trying to say is, yeah, I guess I am judgmental when it comes to certain issues, if being judgmental means I have strong opinions. I've done too much reading, discussing, and thinking about those topics not to have strong feelings about them.

But if this makes you defensive, it's really not my problem. And I'm going to stop acting like it is.

4 Comments:

  • Good for you! Having conviction, regardless of your opinion, is so very important. It's all I ask of others. I'm so proud of you for standing up for yourself and realizing that indeed you don't have to apologize.
    I wrote about this recently too, about becoming honest. My friend MB wrote about this in her great, recent post about breastfeeding http://misplacedmama.blogsome.com/.
    We have a pact of sorts where we are on a path of authenticity, of not being so "nice" anymore about our convictions. Breastfeeding, homebirth, nonvaxxing, etc...How sad that in our culture we tend to do more research on purchasing a car that birthing and caring for our children.
    Keep keepin' it real. You are so wise to search past convention for true answers.
    Love,

    By Anonymous Leigh, at 11:08 AM  

  • Certainly, you have absolutly no reason to worry about "offending" the uneducated people who just want to do what "everyone else" tells them to do.
    It really IS their problem, and unfortunately, in effect, the problem that their children will assume.
    Everyone does things differently for all different reasons. We are all people that are driven by differet feelngs and experiences and can't all think the same. But by god-- when on person feels differently for EXTREMELY good, highly educated reasons, others get defensive... if they feel differently. It's annoying like no other. Anyways, good for you. :) a

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:47 PM  

  • You are so right on. This is something I've worked on a lot in the last few years ... how to respect others' choices while still standing firm on my own. It isn't always easy, and even when I think I've done an admirable job, it's not unusual for people to get defensive and flip out.

    In my opinion, I think it usually stems from insecurity. I know when I feel attacked and defensive about something, if I take a while to just sit with it, I usually calm down and am no longer upset. I realize that what they said made me question myself, made me feel insecure in my choices. But given enough time, I find my center again, and then I don't care about what they think, and am no longer mad. And on the *rare* occasion, I actually re-evaluate my choices, lol. Rare, of course, because, like you, my choices are well-informed and researched.

    I also think this problem is exacerbated by the anonymity and "remove" of the internet and forums ... it's easy to misinterpret, and also easy to fly off the handle. I'm often shocked by the stuff people write, and feel fairly certain they would never have the nerve to say that to someone's face.

    But like you said, that's not MY problem. Everyone makes a choice as to how they're going to react to something. And if someone gets mad, my choice is to (usually) ignore it.

    By Anonymous S, at 9:32 PM  

  • Hi Kay - Jodi from babywearers :)

    It is hard to be different sometimes and sometimes it's easy-- at least that's how I feel - sometimes I can speak up and sometimes I am cowering in the corner LOL

    At the hospital, some one recently told me "it's so exciting when the hospital is remodeled, they'll have a free childcare for siblings - you just drop them off and take the sick one to the appointment" *EEK* *shudder* Not for me. Have at it world but I'll keep 'em with me thanks ;-)

    Jodi

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:36 PM  

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