Last week I saw a quote from Theodore Roosevelt on one of those inspirational memes that I may (GUILTY!) or may not be guilty of posting on my personal Facebook from time to time. It said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and that phrase resonated with me immediately. I’ve had so many conversations lately with my lady friends about exactly this. It seems that the majority of us measure ourselves up to the achievements, lifestyles or parenting styles of others.
Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more articles pop up online dedicated solely to the guilt, judgement and competition that some women feel about the manner in which their baby was born.
Not too long ago I was talking to a friend about the birth of her baby. She explained that after hours of contractions, her labour ended in an emergency C-section. She said that she was a bit envious of the vaginal birth I had.
Another of my special ladies told me of the judgement she has received from an acquaintance of hers following the OB recommended cesarean birth of her first baby. This acquaintance asked how the baby had been born, to be told by c-section. Her reply,
What? Too pretty to push?
In the moment, my friend was completely taken aback and wasn’t able to offer much by way of response. As much as I could speculate that I would ask this lady why she would try to shame another mother for how her child was birthed, I know that I would have been just as stunned. When I heard about this exchange, I saw red and my blood boiled. How dare she say that! Why would she say that? Why is it even important to her how that baby was born? Shouldn’t the main thing be that the birth resulted in a health baby and healthy mummy?
The big question is, why do we do this to ourselves? Is it our own insecurity? Is it a fear of judgement from potentially being different? Is it because we aren’t living up to our own or others unrealistic expectations? Why is it that we seem to constantly compare ourselves to others? Is an intrinsic need to feel superior to others? Do we want to fit in and be accepted? It would be incredibly arrogant for me to try to answer for someone else, because no doubt we all have our reasons. For me, it is probably all of the above.
Recently I was sent a text from a friend announcing the birth of her first baby. She described the birth as wonderful and exactly as she had dreamed it would be. What was my first instinct? It was to immediately put on my scowl face, roll my eyes and remark that she was simply bragging. Why couldn’t I just be happy that the experience had been exactly as she had hoped? To be truthful, I didn’t even think about my initial reaction until I wrote this post. I’ll put that one down to jealousy with a side of insecurity.
When I was struggling with my feelings regarding Ollie’s birth (more on that here) I constantly berated myself for feeling the way I did. I told myself over and over that I didn’t deserve to feel so emotionally damaged from that experience because others have had worse experiences than me. Those people are fine so why couldn’t I be fine? I felt that I should have coped with that better. Yep, should have. How about this, maybe those people were fine, maybe they weren’t and maybe it shouldn’t matter either way.
Unfortunately, I’m not in possession of the solution to this or the answer that will sooth us all in a way that we won’t ever have to compare again (I’m good, but I’m not that good). When we compare our situation to another’s, we are in possession of all of the nitty-gritty details of our own story but we only see the surface of the other persons. The best I can do is offer what I’m going to TRY and do as a next step to try to improve this situation for myself.
I’m going to be proud of myself for taking good care of myself while I was pregnant. I’m going to be proud of myself for getting through a labour that I found very difficult. I’m going to be proud of myself for giving birth to a healthy baby boy. I’m going to TRY and be proud of myself for being the best mother that I can be. I will try to be more conscious of the times that I compare myself to others and finally, I will be more kind to myself.
After all, I deserve that from myself.