10 Things You Simply Must Know Before Becoming a Parent

A dear friend of mine is having her first baby this year. We collaborate on our shared blog, The 3:30 Project, and a few weeks ago we each shared our thoughts on her birthday and becoming a parent. I really enjoyed making this list and thought I’d share it here as a fun Friday pick-me-up!

10 Things You Simply Must Know Before Becoming a Parent

  1. People will give you unsolicited advice on parenting in an inverse relationship to how well they know you. You are not obligated to listen.
  2.  There is no perfect method that will help your baby to sleep through the night.
  3. Your child WILL have a temper tantrum in a public place. It doesn’t make you a bad parent.
  4. You will forget to take your diaper bag with you exactly once. When that one time happens, your baby will have a super blow out poop. If you’re lucky, this will happen at a place that sells diapers and baby wipes. You will live through this experience, but it’s okay to cry.
  5. People will judge you for how you feed your baby and whether or not you use a pacifier. But as long as your baby is fed, it’s probably going to be okay.
  6. You are under no obligation to breast feed in public.
  7. I know that strange things always happen to you, but nothing will be stranger than human coming out of your body.
  8. But right up there with a human growing in your body and then exiting, milk coming out of your breasts is also pretty weird. Depending on how things go and what you decide to do, that’s going to take a while to get under control. I know it’s natural, and despite our smart phones and climate control, we are still mammals, but it is messy and disconcerting to feel like a cow.
  9. There’s nothing wrong with naptime being your favorite part of the day.
    • There’s nothing wrong with also taking a nap during naptime.
    • There’s no reason that you should obligated to “be productive” while your baby sleeps.
  10. One of the things I try to do when I’m arguing with my daughter about whether or not she should wear underwear or when she’s upset that I’ve opened her yogurt incorrectly, is I try to remember the feeling I had when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. The hope, the terror, the excitement, the love, the joy – all of that. When I remember how much I wanted this little person to be in my life, it makes it a little easier to get through those moments.

Welcome to parenthood!

When you start to realize something is wrong…`

I have mixed feelings about depression as a medical diagnosis. Obviously, I think it’s vitally important for people who have debilitating depression to get the psychological treatment they need. But, I also think that it’s normal to have seasons of sadness in our lives. I think that feeling sad, angry, lonely, grief and depressed are just as much a part of the human experience as joy, happiness, laughter, determination and other more pleasant emotions.

I feel very fortunate that when I have experienced a bout of depression, it usually has resolved itself in a matter of months. That being said, what I have found bizarre about my experience with depression is that by the time I recognized that there was something wrong, it was almost over.

I love to cook. I love trying new ingredients, recipes and cookbooks. I love cooking with my daughters. I love meal planning. I love eating. But for about a month, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to make a meal plan. I’ve had to force myself to go to the grocery store, and I’ve lazed around at meal time until my husband made dinner or I begrudgingly put something together to eat.

Was it over? Had I spent the last ten years saving recipes on Pinterest, figuring out what blanching was, figuring out the difference between a parsnip and parsley, and experimenting with different kinds of flour, fat, egg substitutes and chocolate in a never ending quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe for nothing?

Then I realized I wasn’t doing or enjoying anything. I wasn’t doing laundry; I wasn’t enjoying playing with my kids; I wasn’t reading; I wasn’t working on my blog. I started fantasizing about moving, changing careers, quitting work all together, and spent WAY too much time scrolling through my social media accounts.

I was going through the motions every day.

I don’t want to pretend that my experience with depression was as severe as some people’s. I never considered harming myself or anyone I love. I didn’t even feel like something was wrong. I just didn’t feel anything.

Until one day, I realized that this isn’t normal.

I know I like to cook, but I’m not cooking. I know I love reading, but I haven’t finished a book in a month. I know I love my work, but I haven’t enjoyed doing my work in a month. Something is wrong.

I wish I could say that realizing this broke the spell and everything was magically better right away.

Different people experience depression for different reasons. For me, this time, depression was the result of the fact that I have challenges in my life that don’t have easy solutions.

Oddly, acknowledging that my problems don’t have easy solutions makes me feel better. There is no quick fix, but I know that in the long run, it will probably be okay.

I think that’s the first step. And I think it’s okay to take baby steps. Today, this is my baby step. I know I enjoy writing on a blog, so even though I don’t really feel like it. I’m going to write. I know that I enjoy cooking, so I’m going to go home and make dinner.

I’m just going to have faith that if I keep doing these things that I know I enjoy enough, I will start to experience the enjoyment.

Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness

Sometimes I feel like an idea like this is “in the air.” I heard about it in sparring, then a podcast I listen to. What do you think? Do your greatest strengths also hold the seeds of your greatest weaknesses?

The Three Thirty Project

In my Martial Arts academy, we teach sparring. It’s usually considered an advantage in our style to be tall – taller people have long legs, so they have more reach and can oftenkicktheir opponent before their opponent reaches them. But, if you can get around their legs, their height becomes a weakness. Taller people tend to be easy to get off balance and if you get “inside” you can hit them with a punch or hand technique, and their legs are too long to kick you away.

In business, large companies have a lot of power – they have large advertising budgets, nationwide distribution networks, bargaining power, research teams and analysts at their disposal. But their strength is also their weakness. By necessity they have bureaucracies to manage day-to-day operations. If they want to make a change, they have to spend a lot of time and money re-training everyone in…

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Muddling through

One of my “Secrets of Adulthood” (and idea I adopted from Gretchen Rubin) – is:

There are some seasons in life that you just have to muddle through.

This has been one of those seasons for me.

For the past month, my 4 year old has largely refused to wear underwear. My 2 year old has been getting her last few teeth, which means that she has gone from being basically weaned to using my breast as a pacifier for about 5 hours a night. And I had a rather disappointing tax return.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been really cranky about these issues. It finally got to the point where I started joking (but only half-joking) with my husband, that I’m going through a midlife crisis.

I know it’s melodramatic.

But, on the other hand, on one of the afternoons where I had to leave work early because my daughters (who come to work with me) were fighting, fussing and yelling, and I was so frustrated that I thought: I could just drive away and start a new life somewhere else…I remembered: No, Maggie, you’re just having a midlife crises, this will pass.

Instead of going wherever the road and my maxed out credit card would take me, I went home and made myself my favorite comfort food (cheese quesadillas in the toaster oven and chocolate chip cookies) instead.

I certainly hope that I’m not halfway through my life, but I did just have a birthday with a zero at the end. And I think this is a fair time to take stock, look around and see if I’m living the life I want to live.

If my older daughter continues to wear underwear and my younger daughter’s teeth finally come through, I hope I’ll be able share some other thoughts on this.

But for now, I’m just accepting that I’m going to have to muddle through this season. Somehow accepting that I have to ride this wave to the bottom has freed me from the sense of hopelessness that was starting to take over my life. I know that approach wouldn’t work for everyone, but for me…I know I can muddle through for awhile. And I’ll muddle a lot better if I don’t have to pretend that everything is sunshine and rainbows.

 

 

Motivation Monday

The Three Thirty Project

For the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly reading a book by Brené Brown called I thought it was just me (but it isn’t). In it, Brown discusses shame, the ways that shame affects women, and strategies individuals can use to move past shame in your life and in to self-acceptance.

I’m really enjoying the book. It’s honest, real, practical, but it’s also uncomfortable and challenging. It’s challenging in a good way…but it’s not exactly fun to confront and work through the things in your life that paralyze you with shame.

Today, I read a section about this scene in the 1983 movie Flashdance.

 

Brown writes:

We all wanted to be Alex in Flashdance. She was perfect — ripped clothing looked sexy; welding looked exciting; ballet looked cool and break dancing looked easy. But alas, the perfection was only an illusion. I was disappointed to learn that the film director…

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Labor of love

This is my belly with my baby in it, one week before my first child was born. It was election day, and my neighbors in line with me to vote were seriously concerned that I was going to go into labor right then (as I mentioned in my last post, that’s not how it works, but I’m glad they cared). 1106121115-002I know it looks like I’m about to pop. But, I really can’t express how bothersome I find the language of “popping,” “bursting,” etc. in reference to anything that happens when a baby is born. I prefer words like “ripen” or even “cook” – they have a less painful connotation to me.

A week later I woke up to a contraction. I was lying next to my husband, and his hand was on my belly. The contraction was so strong that it woke him up, too. To be fair, I’d been having contractions for weeks, so it wasn’t that unusual, but it felt different. I knew this time that the contractions weren’t going to go away.

That day was completely surreal, because I knew that having a baby was imminent. I used to teach a class in an after school program, and my husband went for me, while I worked feverishly to finish as much of my day to day paperwork as possible, so I could really take a few weeks off after the baby was born. We had our classes that evening, and I just tried to pretend that everything was normal…I couldn’t believe I was really in labor (I had convinced myself that my baby wasn’t coming for at least another week), but when I snapped at both a student and a parent during one of our taekwondo classes, I could tell that I was not behaving normally, and decided to retreat to my office. At some point, I realized I should probably start tracking my contractions and when my husband came to check on me and realized they were 1 minute apart, he sent our last class home, and we went home and called our midwife.

We set up our birth pool. I tried to eat and relax, while it filled up. It didn’t work. So, I climbed in to the pool to wait. My husband took this picture. And as you can see from my face, I was in the process of saying,1113122159-002 “Are you seriously taking a picture of this?” He said, “I think you’ll appreciate it some day.” At the time, I said, “NO, I WON’T!” But as it turns out, I love this picture. Despite the pain, the almost nakedness, how unprepared I was for what was about to happen – this is the last look I have at the person I was before I had children.

Gone are the days where I can grab my keys and dash out the door without a diaper bag, gone are the days when I don’t have to clean up someone else’s bodily fluids, gone are the days when I lounged in bed all day on a lazy Sunday engrossed in a book.

If I could go back in time, I’m not sure I would spend that day trying to work, pretending that nothing unusual was happening. I mean…giving birth was one of the more remarkable experiences of my life. It was something that I had wanted and hoped for, and it was also completely different than I expected. Also, in a more practical sense, giving birth is exhausting, and I went into it tired from my long day – I feel like things would have gone a little more smoothly if I’d rested.

What I realize now, is that in many ways, the woman, the wife, the teacher, the daughter, the friend – the person I was before my daughter was born doesn’t really exist anymore. Perhaps I’m like a flower coming into bloom, a butterfly that emerging from a cocoon, or (more likely) someone more like the helpless baby that emerged from my womb.1114121848a-002

I’d like to pretend that “post-partum Maggie” has some kind of knew knowledge, wisdom, grace, equanimity or something like that – or is at least more beautiful – but that’s not really the case. I have a whole bunch of extra stretched out skin around my belly; I wake up a lot in the middle of the night to check on my kids; and despite my obsession with pelvic floor exercises, I’m still pretty paranoid about leaks when I jump or sneeze.

In retrospect, the labor of parenting day in and day out, being patient when my toddler insists that she wears her “summer dress” instead of her “heart dress,” or her “Troll undies” instead of her “Zootopia undies.” Changing her diapers, teaching her to use the big kid potty. The delightful work of watching her roll over, crawl, scoot, walk, run and take her first taekwondo IMG_0399class. Learning to breast feed her, persuading her to eat other food, weaning her and then trying to persuade her to eat banan
as that had been imperfectly peeled – these things make the “birth” part of having a baby seem like a happy memory. Remember when all I had to do to be a good mother was let my body push you out of my vagina. Now I feel like I’m part circus ring-leader, part hostage negotiator, part stand up comic, part maid.

I wonder sometimes about that woman who eagerly waited and anticipated this new life four and a half years ago. What would she have said to me if we’d bumped into each other in the grocery store? Would she have thought my daughters are good kids? Would she have wanted them in her taekwondo classes? Would she have wanted to be my friend? Would she think I’m doing a good job? Ultimately, these questions are not super helpful. I would have grown and changed with or without my daughters – I just would have grown and changed in different ways.

IMG_1935A better way of putting it is that motherhood hasn’t made me someone different, but instead has made me more of who I already was. Motherhood has magnified both what is good and what is bad about my personality. With my daughters, I am accepting and fun, but I’m also really bad at making them to things they don’t want to do. I’m patient and creative, but when I get hungry or tired I can be terse, hurtful and even mean. I could lounge around all day and read children’s books with them any day.

I often refer to my daughters as my little zen masters because they seem perfectly designed to challenge me and make me grow in the ways that I most need to be challenged and grow.
They press the buttons that I prefer not be pressed; they ask the questions I would prefer not to answer; they ask me to do that which I most dislike doing. I feel like we’re growing up together – I’m going through childhood all over again, this time with a hope of helping us both be and do a little better.

Birth is nothing like the movies

We all know what birth is like.

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But really. We’ve seen it in movies and television shows. Reality couldn’t be that far off!

A pregnant woman is going along her day. Everything is going great. Then all of a sudden, she has to get the attention of everyone around her – “IT’S TIME!” she says in a panic.

In the next scene, we see the panicked father helping her into or out of the car on their way to the hospital. She is in agony, and they rush into the lobby of the hospital. He doesn’t know what to do, so his laboring wife has to stay calm as she checks into the hospital and her husband fears that her baby will drop out of her at any moment.

Finally, we see the woman (now in a hospital gown), covered in sweat, gasping for breath, pain etched across her face as she lays with her arms propping her up on a hospital bed.giphy3

A doctor and a team of nurses stare into her vagina watching the baby emerge. The doctor waits. Then shouts at her “Okay PUSH!” With a cry, the woman crunches up her face, we hear the cry of a baby.

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Instantly, the woman’s face changes from anguish to joy as the doctor presents her with her baby.

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My labor was nothing like a television birth. 

To be fair, I was at home, but even when I transferred to the hospital the first time, it didn’t feel like a television show (for one, my hair didn’t look that great).

I also understand that my experience was not typical, and if a woman has had an epidural, she would probably need some guidance about when to push. But in my experience – no one had to tell me any of these things, and I really didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do while I was delivering my babies. I just wanted people to be nice to me, tell me everything was going okay, and help me be as comfortable as possible while my body did it’s thing.

A few ways that television may give you unrealistic expectations about labor

  • Your water breaking is not necessarily the first thing that will happen
    • With both of my babies, my water didn’t break until moments before my baby was born. This is not common, but it’s also not uncommon. It’s actually kind of a good thing (at least for me, with my goal of having fewer interventions in labor). Once your water breaks, the fluid protecting your baby from infection and generally making their life in your womb a cushy spa day is gone. Your water breaking is an official eviction notice. Most estimates say that after your water breaks you want to deliver your baby within 24 hours. If your water breaks when you’re 3 centimeters dilated (you need to get to 10 centimeters and THEN it can take several hours for the baby to make his or her way out into the world), your doctor (or midwife) will want to be sure your labor is progressing for both your and your baby’s health.
    • In my earlier post, I mentioned the “cascading interventions,” which can lead to c-section – often these first interventions are made because your water has broken and your doctor (rightly) wants to speed things along. Now, I would say (not as a medical expert) that sometimes these interventions get in the way of your body doing it’s thing, and if you can just relax and know your body is doing what it’s supposed to do, you’ll be in better shape.
  • Lying on a bed is not a great position for delivering a baby.
    • Both of my babies were born when I was squatting in a pool of water. In a hospital, you lay in bed because that is more convenient for the doctor, but if you’ve been watching April the giraffe, you know that many creatures give birth standing up. Why? Is it because they haven’t discovered beds? No. It’s because when you’re in an upright position, it facilitates the baby coming down (because the laws of gravity apply inside your body, too), and can make the whole process easier and more comfortable (note: this is not the same as easy and comfortable). But I will say, that basically any position other than laying on your back is more comfortable when you’re in labor. Lying on your side, curling up in child’s pose, walking around, squatting and hanging on to a birth ball or your labor coach, standing in the shower, hugging someone you love…all WAY more comfortable than laying on your back.
  • You will be not be in constant pain
    • Contractions come and go. When you’re not having a contraction (the contractions also push the baby out), you don’t feel pain. You will have a different experience on pitocin (more on that to come).
  • You do not need instructions from your doctor on how to push
    • When it was time to push my baby out, I knew. For most people with an uncomplicated pregnancy (In one sense, every pregnancy is super complicated because it’s your baby and your body, but most people are basically healthy, most babies are basically healthy, most babies have normal presentations, etc.) – birth is an involuntary process. No one had to teach your heart how to beat, no one had to show you how to breathe, no one had to teach you how to pee or poop, birth is an involuntary process. It can go much better if you have assistance from a doula, midwife, doctor, caring spouse – just like you can learn strategies for better breathing, you can exercise you heart to make it stronger and you can learn when  and where to use the bathroom – there are things you can do to facilitate your birth that will make it easier for you and your baby, and that’s really important, but you really don’t need anyone to yell at you while you’re in labor.

To wrap up, on the one hand, it’s great that pregnancy, labor, birth and babies make their way onto television and movies so frequently. There are certain sectors of our world where we pretend children and families don’t exist, and I think that is unhealthy for our society. But I think it’s important to recognize that these depictions of birth are written to be entertaining, not to be instructive. On the one hand, the movies are all correct – delivering a baby is really uncomfortable, and when the contractions and the pushing are over, you experience the huge sense of relief when the baby is finally out, and you see your sweet baby for the first time…there is nothing like that feeling. But I think that if we changed our expectations and conversations around these things, we could have better long term outcomes for moms and babies.

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You see an squished red faced alien looking thing, but I see my sweet newborn!

What’s in a due date?

Human babies have an average gestation of 40 weeks, or about 9 months.

I think it’s really important to remember that your due date is not like the tracking number you get from UPS. There’s no guaranteed by 5:00 on that date or your money back.

Then where does the 40 weeks number come from?

Well, it’s an average. About half of babies are born before the 40 week mark and half are born after. The normal range is considered 38 – 42 weeks.

A Tale of Two Due Dates

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my due date was in mid-November. But, I had read that sometimes, with your first baby, you run a little over. Whether it’s because you mis-calculated when you got pregnant or maybe your baby needs a little extra time to “ripen,” your due date can be off.

I was determined not to panic if my due date came and I didn’t have a baby yet, so I told myself for MONTHS that my due date was a week later than expected.

I thought this was a clever trick. I told my relatives and friends the later due date and figured I would spare myself a lot of, “Have you had that baby yet?” Questions.

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1st Pregnancy, 39 weeks. Note to self: when someone asks, “do you want to hold a baby alligator?” It’s okay to say, “no.”

As it turns out, this plan backfired. From month 7 on, people (friends, strangers, relatives) would ask why I hadn’t had that baby yet. Part of this has to do with my belly – it was enormous in a way that only a baby belly can be cute and enormous at the same time. AND, since I had totally convinced myself that my baby wouldn’t be born until my later due date, when she was born right on time, I was not quite ready. I mean, I had diapers, a car seat, baby clothes, etc. But I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t gone grocery shopping, caught up on my laundry, or installed my car seat, and I just spent the first few days with my new baby trying to get my bearings (which, honestly, you’re going to do anyway, but it would have been nice to have food in the refridgerator).

Fast Forward Two Years and Nine months

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I was determined not to make the same mistake again. I wanted to be prepared for the whole range of possibilities. Part of this was practical, I now had another child who needed to have someone to watch her and play with her while I was delivering a baby (whenever that might be), and most of my family lives 7 hours away, so they couldn’t just come over whenever I happened to go into labor and watch my daughter. So, from weeks 38 – 41, I had planned to have someone on hand who could watch my daughter.

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Pregnancy #2. 41 weeks. 

Week 38 passed. No baby. Week 39 passed. No baby. Week 40 passed. No baby. Week 41 started, and I started to get intensely impatient. I was not-so-secretly hoping for an early baby and then having 3 weeks with support to get adjusted to life with two babies. But, that’s not how it happened, and I was frustrated.

I own my business, so my employer was very understanding when I needed to cut back my work load significantly because I was about to have a baby. Of course, my workplace has no maternity leave policy…because if I don’t go to work, I can’t afford to pay myself and someone to do my job for me…and to be honest, I can’t pay someone to do my job. But, I was able to work at half speed for the few weeks before and after I had my baby. I was able to take my new baby to work with me, which facilitated breast feeding and bonding, and it all worked out.

But, I can understand how this “baby can come at any time, whenever they’re ready” approach is really challenging for many families. Let’s say you’ve managed to cobble together 6 weeks of vacation and sick leave, you’re 38 weeks pregnant and are sick of going to work every day and having to constantly explain your lack of baby and you’ve said, “No, I’m not having twins. Yes, I’m sure,” more times than you can count. Plus, you’re exhausted all the time because you’re growing a baby, your belly is enormous, your weight is displaced, it’s uncomfortable to do everything – you’ve walked a thousand miles, eaten spicy food, massaged your labor points and basically tried every old wive’s trick to induce labor short of drinking castor oil (though it’s been kindly suggested), and you’re watching your vacation days tick by, and all you want is to snuggle your baby and have your body back.

This is all to say, I can understand why labor induction is really appealing.

Figuring out what’s best

Both of my babies were born on my body’s timeline. They were born without pitocin, epidural, in my home, and they were both healthy, whole and wonderful. After a few weeks of sore nipples, I was able to successfully breast feed. I did all the things you’re “supposed” to do if you want to have a natural birth experience. And I wouldn’t change my experience for the world…maybe.

But…if my life had been different. Let’s say, I had to work out family leave with my employer. Would it really have been better for my baby if I had to use three weeks of leave waiting around for my baby to be born? Would it have been preferable for that alternate universe Maggie to schedule an induction, risk that it didn’t work, and find myself having a c-section, so I could have my leave time with my baby.

What if breast feeding hadn’t been so ‘easy’? I would have wanted to have a lot of high quality and affordable options to supplement my baby’s diet. I would have still loved my babies: played with her, held her, sang to her…and it still been hard to find a balance between letting my body recover, taking care of my newborn, and resuming my life’s responsibilities.

I feel like birth is the first time you’re forced to confront the reality that you are going to second guess every decision you make as a parent. Most of us don’t get to know if waiting for spontaneous labor, inducing, or scheduling a c-section is ultimately going to be the “perfect” choice for your child. You’re just going to do the best you can, and hope for the best for yourself and your baby.

I think it’s important to acknowledge reality – due dates are estimates; we live in a society that doesn’t make it easy for women to bring their baby’s into the world, and you’re going to have to make choices without knowing how it’s going to work out.

I just to say that whenever and however your babies were born: you love them, and you’re doing a good job.

Home birth: an introduction

I had both of my babies at home – one in the dining area in my apartment. The second in my bedroom.

When I tell people this I get a little push back.

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Did you just forget to go to the hospital?

I had what’s called a “planned home birth.” When I went into labor, and it was apparent that it wasn’t practice or false labor, my husband called my midwife (who then asked to talk to me) and she came over with an assortment of medical supplies, we  (and by we, I men my husband) set up a birthing pool and a few hours later, I had a baby.

I thought midwives were some weird medevil thing…

There are a couple of different kinds of midwives. My midwife is what’s called a licensed midwife, she practices midwifery privately and assists people in home birth. A certified nurse midwife is someone who might work in a hospital or birthing center, but usually works under the supervision of an obstetrician.

What if you died?

In my case, that was pretty unlikely. I was young, healthy, active and had basically no risk factors going into labor. But just to be sure, every time I visited my midwife, she scored me on a variety of risk factors – blood pressure, weight, fetal heartbeat, presentation, etc. If my risk factors showed any red flags, I would have to been transferred to the care of an obstetrician and given birth in a hospital. Obviously, you can’t plan for everything, and I was transferred to the hospital after my first daughter was born because I had some tearing and needed stitches.

Home birth isn’t for everyone, but I felt pretty comfortable that if something came up, my home is 15 minutes from a hospital, and I could get there if I needed to.

Do you have something against doctors?

I think doctor’s are great. But, I was really fascinated by the idea of home birth, and then I watched Ricky Lake’s documentary The Business of Being Born and knew that when I decided to have a baby, I wanted to look into the possibility of home birth. I was curious about water birth and really liked the idea of having a peaceful, birth experience with no interventions.

I felt like one of the upsides (and depending on how you look at it the downsides) of home birth was that I wouldn’t be tempted by the availability of an epidural, and so it’s would be easier for me to give birth without having one. There is research that indicates that the routine use of interventions during labor (whether they’re epidurals, pitocin, etc. can cause what’s called “cascading interventions” and lead to a higher rate of c-sections.

Disclaimer: I just want to say that I don’t think any woman is wrong for having a c-section. I think it’s incredible that this surgery is safely available for so many women in labor, and I think it’s important that this is an option when a woman or baby in delivery needs it. I don’t think that having a c-section is a failure, a disappointment or anything like that, but it is major surgery, and I think that’s important to keep in mind, too.

I have some more to share on this topic, but in the mean time, enjoy Jim Gaffigan’s description.

Rate that on a scale from 1 to 10

Before my husband and I got married, we did premarital counseling with the pastor at my church. We had some really valuable conversations, but one piece of advice has been particularly useful in navigating the world of compromise.

Rate that on a scale of 1 to 10.

My pastor suggested that sometimes when you’re making a decision together – whether you’re deciding where to go to dinner or whether or not to go into business – it can be useful to rank how strongly you feel on a scale from 1 to 10. This helps your partner recognize how important your preference is to you and can help you be more sensitive in conversation with each other.

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We use this strategy to decide where we want to go on Sunday afternoons and which movie we want to watch (because it’s useful to know if you just suggested that we go get hamburgers because you didn’t want to be lame and not suggest anything or if you’ve been craving this exact thing for two weeks and will be super disappointed if you don’t get it right now).

But it’s also handy when you’re having an emotionally charged or difficult conversation. I think most people want to be respectful of their partner’s feelings, but that can be hard when you’re talking past each other or focusing on different priorities.

I hope you’re able to try out this idea. Let me know if it’s useful to you or if you try something like this with the people you love in your life!