What does it mean to have a good labor? A good birth? A good baby? A good life?
The other day I was chatting with a new mother and she said to me that people tell her that her baby is a bad sleeper. This mama works full time and nurses her little one when she gets home as well as through the night. She said that her baby is not a bad sleeper and she is not a good sleeper, she sleeps, she eats, and she wakes as she needs, just like all of us. Babies are biologically programmed to wake and nurse when they have access to their mothers. So is she a bad sleeper? Or a normal baby?
This struck me as rather profound and triggered something that I've been thinking about lately. What is good? What is bad? And why do we so carelessly attach these heavy, simplistic words to little people or big complicated events?
As a midwife, I am told birth stories fairly regularly. Often there are parts that the storyteller deems good and other parts that are bad. Sometimes the whole story is "bad" and sometimes it's "good." At our last Seacoast Red Tent there was a theme that occurred to me. Women telling birth stories that they believed were overwhelmingly positive but had "bad" parts in them that made them feel guilt at having had a "good" experience, or afraid to tell their stories at all. This can of course work both ways, and I've heard those too, birth stories that seem to be "birth plan perfect" but which leave the mama wishing for more and feeling deep loss that some essential part was wrong, missing, or lost.
I don't believe that this is the human condition, I choose to believe that it is a cultural phenomenon. We are compelled from our earliest interactions to believe that all our actions are either good or bad. This vein of thought is examined more in depth in the One Free Family Podcast by local doula Taylor Davis and her husband James. The podcast is a deeper look at how consent is linked to peaceful parenting, and how challenging it can be to delve into discovering how and why we determine what is good or bad.
I would challenge us all to look more closely at our language. Is that rainy day bad? Or is it raining to nourish the Earth, and maybe provide you a restful day indoors? Are you sorry that you are late, or are you grateful that your friend waited for you? I find great relief when I free myself from applying labels to the everyday occurrences in my life. It makes me happier and I'm able to be more flexible in accepting each moment as it comes, a necessity in midwife-life and a must for birthing people. We all have plans & desires, but so often when we cling to those we miss out on what is actually happening. Was your birth a good birth or a bad birth? Is anything in life that clear?
Mourn what makes you sad, rejoice in what brings you joy, but free yourself from having to pass judgement on your moments & days.