I am mad. And I’m gonna tell you why – even though it may ruffle some feathers.

Yesterday, I received an emailed invitation to sell my art at a “birth and baby expo” showcasing the latest products and services on the market for new moms and moms-to-be. They also want to have handmade gifts and jewelry available for attendees, which is why the organizers reached out to me.

I was intrigued; I thought it could be a unique opportunity to test the waters and see how my wares did with this niche audience. So, I went to the web site for more information. The event’s mission, it said, was to connect attendees with “empowering, multicultural resources and education that promote healthy birth and parenting and to celebrate the transformative experience of becoming parents.” Loved that! The language seemed well-aligned with my values and work, so I downloaded the application.

But as I scrolled through the document, my heart sunk. Tucked in between details on the hours, booth specifications and fees, there was a section called “Exhibit Policies.” It said sponsors and exhibitors must comply with and affirm the following statements, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization:

World Health Organization recommendation of low cesarean rate (10-15%).

Availability of VBAC for all women with prior cesarean, meaning if you are a midwife or doctor you will accept women with prior cesareans into your care during pregnancy and birth. 

World Health Organization recommendation that “exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.”

I can’t participate in this event in good conscience – and I suspect they wouldn’t let me. It’s not that I totally disagree with the recommendations. Rather, it’s that I disagree with the notion that there is one right way to have a baby or raise a child. This all-or-nothing attitude may empower some women, but it alienates and degrades even more – including me.

I realize WHO’s recommendations are research-based and outline the ideal situations for mama and baby. They want the number of c-sections to drop dramatically. If you already had one, they want you to demand a VBAC {vaginal birth after cesearean} the next time around. And they want you to do everything possible to breastfeed your baby for at least two years. My beef is that these are so often presented as the only respectable options, which leaves women who make other choices feeling like failures. Motherhood is the hardest job on Earth; no woman should be made to feel less-than on her first day on the job!

After my horrendous birth experience with Ryder in 2003, I already felt like a failure. I couldn’t birth my own child. I needed pain medication. I needed a vacuum. And my baby came out blue and battered. So much for a “natural” birth. Then, when he couldn’t and wouldn’t breastfeed and my milk dried up {despite countless trips to our local breastfeeding support center}, I felt totally ashamed. According to all of the things I’d read and heard, I’d already set my child up to fail and he wasn’t even a month old.

When I was pregnant with Truman, my therapist, psychiatrist and OBGYN highly recommended a scheduled c-section to avoid triggering PTSD and postpartum depression. I know in my heart of hearts it was a wise decision, yet I often found myself on the defensive – with midwives, with natural health practitioners, with moms who had done it all “naturally.” And when I interviewed potential doulas to support us – yes, we wanted one during our c-section – some refused to work with us and others drilled me, trying to get me to reconsider having surgery. We finally found sweet Diane, who helped us feel good about our choice and our overall experience. But it shouldn’t have been that hard to feel accepted.

And now, here I am again: shunned years later for the choices I made to protect the health and well-being of me and my children. I’m not welcome at an event simply because I believe the attendees should be allowed to weigh their options, decide what’s personally best for them, AND feel good about their choices. So, am I off my rocker or justified in the way I feel? I’d love for you to weigh in!