Monday, February 28, 2011

Walking the fine line of regret

I don't live my life with a lot of regrets. Actually, I don't really have regrets. I like to learn from every situation - good or bad.

What I do is play the "What if" game.

What if I had stayed in Alberta? What if I had more self confidence? What would happen if I actually say what I mean? I categorize these thoughts in the same realm of mother guilt. Totally unproductive thoughts, but I have them just the same.

One of my biggest what ifs is: What would my life be like if I grew up in a family/culture that respected women's bodies and minds?

I grew up in a conservative family and spent most of my years growing up around three older brothers. Just because of this fact, I didn't have much exposure to feminine things. Then, somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that I should be ashamed of my body. I was, to say the least, very well endowed and ended up having breast reduction surgery when I was 17 years old. At this point I was more than convinced I would never have a baby. Why in the world would people still have babies, I thought. They are so much work, they are gross, they ruin your body... and the list went on.

Fast forward nine years later and you will find that I am over the moon happy with my baby girl. As a side note, I also thought nursing was a gross and demoralizing job. Pretty sure I told my Mom when I was applying for post-secondary and my Mom suggested nursing, "Gross, why would anyone want to become a nurse?" Clearly, things have changed. I believe for the better. Though I have to tell you, it hasn't been an easy road.

Physically, things went really well considering the work/stress my body was now under supporting my little bean's newly developing life. Mentally, I was a train wreck. I knew that Baby Daddy wanted a baby, but I figured after more than a few months of being very unprotected that having a baby wasn't in our cards. Honestly, I was a little sad for Baby Daddy, but I had so many ideas for my life that I wasn't too phased. I think because of this attitude it's no surprise that I would forget for periods of time that I was pregnant and refuse a drink "because I didn't feel like one... oh yeah, and because I'm pregnant". It was always in the back of my mind, never the front. Yes, this even happened when I was visibly pregnant! I could talk with people at length about my pregnancy when I finally broke the news, but God forbid that I could come to terms with what was going to be coming out of my vagina. Yes, I said vagina and yes, my baby came out of my vagina. You came out of your mother's vagina (or very close) too! It stretches (that's what's supposed to happen) and then it goes back to it's normal shape, shocking. Then breastfeeding, well, I was so ashamed about breastfeeding in front of anyone that I almost had an anxiety attack when I allowed one of my best friends to come and sit and talk with me without having a cover over top. Not surprisingly, I only breastfed until my little bean was 4 months old. Despite having a breast reduction, it is still very possible to breastfeed. I had milk, but not enough so, I did have a lot of challenges to overcome physically too.

Like I said, I don't regret getting a breast reduction, but I do from time to time wonder what my life could have been like under different circumstances. This is where my what ifs come into play, then leading me into the path of endless other questions: What if we lived in a society or I grew up in a family that was okay with female form? Would I have felt the need to get a breast reduction? What if I had been surrounded with positive examples of women breastfeeding and birthing their babies? Why do we shun these women? Why is it okay to watch strippers, but it's weird and uncommon to watch a woman give birth and/or breastfeed her baby? Why do women judge other women so harshly when they don't meet the expectations of what they say is the right way for other women to raise their kids? Why did it feel like I was cramming for an exam and that I had missed on all the classes when it came time to learn all the information before I had my baby?

I'm not really sure if many other women feel this way, but from all the stories that I have since read online, I think a lot of women are unsatisfied or just uninformed about how babies can be born naturally. I mean, it's one thing to say that "Breast is Best" or that "Breastmilk is liquid gold", thanks public health, but I'll need a little more support than that to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with my baby. I think I needed support a long time ago when I was convinced that I would never have a baby in the first place because I thought babies were "gross".

I was convinced that I was going to have a boy before I found out I was having a girl. I think I had serious fears of what it would be like for my girl to grow up in this society, but I have since come around to love the fact that I have a little girl. This is because I hope to use my knowledge to help her grow up to be more knowledgeable about the things I had little information about. I also hope to have the chance to guide her through the maze of information about perinatal issues and be there for the birth of her children before, during and after.

What if one day society joins me in this way of thinking?

Until next time,

P.S. I know PHNs are not responsible for my lack of knowledge, I am just pointing out a big gap in time where this taboo subject matter should be taught IMHO.


  1. Good for you Karli. It must be a difficult thing, to grow up with a certain way of thinking, then realize that you have to change and stop the cycle. And good for you on being blunt on how things happen and how things are. So many people just gloss over things and are afraid to tell the honest truth. I wish more people would have been more honest with me when I got pregnant, so I didn't end up feeling like this aching freakshow packing around fetuses. <3

  2. Thanks for the support ladies! This was kind of my random ramblings last night - I think this was something I would have liked to talk to my younger self about.

    Jackie, do you feel like people are either way to happy to see you being so pregnant, or completely afraid to stand next to you because you might "pop" at any second? I remember those thoughts plagued me in the last month. I desperately wanted to yell at random people at the grocery store just because of looks I got. Thank goodness I was still rational despite all my raging hormones! Can't imagine how embarrassing it would be to melt down at the grocery store!

  3. I like your blog! Here in Mali there is absolutely no shame at all surrounding breasts and breastfeeding. Kneecaps are off limits, but breasts are out all time. Culture very much does affect the way we view our own bodies and how they're viewed by others.

  4. Thanks T! I wonder how my(our) mindset(s) would change if we were offended by knees instead of breasts. Probably completely different unless knees are sexualized.... hmmm now that's hard to wrap my head around!