When I was pregnant with Zachary and the doctors would ask if I had a “birth plan” I usually replied that the plan was to have a healthy baby. I knew that I wanted to try to give birth without pain medication, and that it would be nice if the birth was “natural”. I watched “The Business of Being Born” and considered all of my birth options very seriously. But underneath it all I was %100 sure that this was Z’s show, not mine. While I was entering into mamahood, Z was entering into life. And starting a new life out in the world way trumps my transition to mama status. After 36 hours of labor and one scare with a decelerating heartbeat Z was born via c-section. Our amazing anesthesiologist calmed me while I shook and then documented the entire event with our D-SLR camera so that KK wasn’t watching Z’s birth through a viewfinder. In my dyadreams I’d hoped that the first person to hold Z out in the world would be his Mommy. I’d been holding him for the last 9 months and now it was her turn. But I thought it would be unlikely to play out that way. Thanks to the c-section KK was in fact the first of our family to hold him, the first to welcome him into the world, the first to call him by name. The story of Zachary’s first day was so much better, so much more than I ever could’ve imagined and yet, even with all of the work I’d done to assure myself and others that this was his big day not mine, I somehow was left feeling like less because it wasn’t the “right” birth.

Today Z is 5 months old. In our family we’ve worked together to figure out what is best for all of us. For us that means that Z is fed only breastmilk, but he gets it by bottle and nursing. I (very happily) work full time as does KK. When Z is hanging out with KK they use the stroller and when he’s hanging out with me we use the Pikkolo carrier to get around. Z goes to daycare 5 days a week and LOVES it. He thinks his daycare provider is the best and really loves being around other babies. When we run errands on the weekends Z is always most excited to see other children. At 4.5 months Z moved out of our room and into his own. He’s sleeping much more soundly in his own bed, in fact, this week we swaddle weaned with no problems at all. Z loves his sleep. Loves Loves Loves his sleep. Just like I do. And we both sleep better this way. Last weekend Z rolled over back to tummy trying to keep our kitty, Dexter, in view. Right now his favorite “toys” are the cats. He’d watch them do just about everything if they’d let him. Every decision KK and I make about Z’s care is done with a view towards helping him become a stable, independent, feminist young man who knows without any doubts that his parents adore him. We want to help him become the best Z he can be, and for us that begins by letting him know that we will meet all of his needs but he doesn’t run the show in this family. KK and I see our family as a little ecosystem. We all have things that we need and the goal is to get all of those needs met. No one trumps anyone else. That’s just what works for us. And yet, last night we spent an hour talking about our “choices” in parenting. I was panicked that we had done it wrong, made the wrong choice, somehow ruined Z by not bed sharing and not having one of us stay home with him. When we “stroll” him around town I feel guilty for not breaking out the Pikkolo, even when he’d be to warm to be happy that way. When I’m out by myself, at a worship service, or reading a book at a coffee shop to meet my own needs I feel guilty about taking time away from Z. But here’s the thing… Z loves me, and he loves his Mommy. He’s happy to be with us, and he’s happy to do his own thing apart from us. He likes to hang out in his crib and chatter to himself in the morning. These expectations are not Z’s expectations, they are my expectations, gathered from too many blogs and books and pop culture commentaries.

For me feminism has always been about women having the equal right to become fully realized independent and interdependent people. I like the diversity in the world, and what I want most for all of us is the ability to be fully ourselves. There are lots of mamas and papas that I admire. Some stay at home and baby wear and attachment parent. Some work and use daycare. Some nurse and some formula feed. Some cloth diaper, some use EC, some use disposables. Some buy their children all new clothes and some only shop resale. What they have in common is that they are true to themselves, true to their families, true to their children. These are people who love their kids beyond any kind of love they imagined before. Just like we love Zachary so much more than all the love we thought we were capable of. When I read their stories as an indictment of my own I do us all an injustice. Buying into the notion that there is a “right” way to do everything not only robs me of my sense of accomplishment as a parent, it robs me of my feminist values.

What I want right now is to be a part of a feminist community of parents that is committed to learning from one another, not diminishing one another. The world needs our children. The world needs us.

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Don’t you just want to eat him right up?

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