When talking about my son’s birth, there are key details I usually leave out if I don’t know my audience very well. There’s nothing about the story that’s at all unusual or questionable, but still, I’ve seen how this works. I know some details will open me up to judgment, because even though there are about ten million things to do instead of judging another mom’s birth experience, we still do it.
As as mother myself, I'm acutely aware and that most of us moms are prone to hearing another mom’s experience and thinking, “I wouldn’t do that,” or, “I wonder why she did that,” or even, “OMG, I wish I could have done that.” In the end, and because we want to feel validated in our own experiences, we (OK, or maybe it really is just me) can't help it.
Still, as long as safety and health are considered, and experts are consulted when necessary, I know I have little room to judge. Perhaps it could go without saying, but everyone’s birth experience is different, too. Just check out how different moms describe labor and contractions to get a sense of all the ways our bodies can react. We really, truly, don’t know what it’s like to be in each other’s shoes. That said, I know it’s hard to withhold judgments. Trust me, I know. So, if you find yourself starting to critique another mom’s birth story, perhaps consider one of these options, instead:
You Can Congratulate On Her New Baby
By this point, she’s endured pregnancy and she’s delivered a human being. For just a moment, I think we can overlook the details and simply recognize the significance of that incredible act. I’m not saying you can’t form opinions, but maybe wait until you've managed to express a hint of happiness for her.
You Can Compliment Her Baby And/Or Her Parenting Skills
Is she impressively calm and looking oh-so natural while holding her little one? Is her baby adorable? Is said baby wearing the cutest pair of newborn pajamas you’ve ever seen? Is she managing to keep herself and the baby alive?
These are all worthwhile things to acknowledge, more so than opinions you might have about decisions she made with the help and guidance of her medical team and with information you probably don’t have.
You Can Bring Her Snacks
To be fair, if I stopped and bought food for everyone I have ever been even tempted to judge, I would be broke and probably unemployed. Still, if you were to do this, it would probably go over much better than any snarky comments ever would (unless you have horrible taste in snacks, but I believe you).
You Can Bring Presents For Her Baby
I can’t say for certain that baby gifts would be more appreciated than snacks, but I think odds are good this would be the case (unless you have horrible taste in baby gear).
You Can Hang Out With Her Baby So She Can Nap
Technically, I suppose you could judge her while she napped, but since she’s getting a nap out of the deal I severely doubt she’d care. I know I sure wouldn't.
You Can Learn From Her
Did she go with completely different options for her birth experience than you did? If you’re close enough to her, maybe think about asking her why. I can back up most of the choices I made around my son’s birth with my own valid reasons, so it’s very likely she can do the same. Who knows, you may learn a thing or two, or at least see things from a new angle.
You Can Load Her Dishwasher, Start A Load Of Laundry, Or Just Give Her A Moment To Chill
This is probably not quite as fun for you as it is for her, but the karma is much better. Plus, you'll probably feel like a slightly better person than you would if you allowed yourself to go on a judgmental binge.
You Can Ask Her How She's Doing
She may enjoy talking about her birth experience. Or, she may be desperate to talk about anything else. Either way, giving her the option to steer the conversation a bit leaves her room to talk about what she wants to talk about, which maybe, just maybe, could be more pleasant for both of you.
You Can Change The Subject
Guys, last night I had a dream that I went to a high school friend’s wedding, and Justin Bieber was there, and he was trying to make out with me.
You Can Do, Literally, Anything Else
No, but seriously. When in doubt, just don't. There's no reason for you to take the time to judge an experience that wasn't uniquely yours. Even if you've given birth multiple times over, you weren't her. You weren't in her body birthing her baby.
So, just, you know. Don't.