There are very few true parenting experts in the world. Before you disagree or feel the need to defend your vast wealth of parenting knowledge, let’s look at this. Most people share from their own experience, and even if their experience is far greater than ours, it is based on their own family. That makes them experts on their kids. True parenting experts have experience with a wide cross-section of children from all different types of backgrounds and families. They’re real pros and their expertise comes from rich and diverse interactions with many kids and parents. That’s not to say we won’t listen to your experiences. In fact we want to hear from you Hockey Moms, Working Moms, Single Moms – your experience is valuable to us, but know that it will be added to the pool of information we’re collecting. We’ll stick it in there alongside Baby Wise, the quip from the lady in the grocery store, thebump.com and our own interactions with those under 2 feet tall. Information overload is increasingly common, but when it comes to preparing for parenthood the floodgates open to volumes of fact and fiction rarely seen elsewhere. Books, blogs, stories from friends and family, anecdotes (both solicited and volunteered) and the latest and “greatest” baby products exist in abundance for the keener parent-to-be.
The trappings surrounding children can be very daunting. There’s just so much stuff. We’re not talking about parenting models or child rearing theory – we literally mean stuff. In Włocławek there is one store that specializes in all things baby. We’ll never forget walking down the stairs into the basement level shop and looking at the sea of kids stuff growing larger before us with each step we took downwards. Gut reaction: what is all of this? We spent the next 2 hours wandering the aisles in silent bewilderment. There’s been many an odd moment in kids stores since that initial encounter with the world of products for little humans. They range from the comedic (like Matthew shopping in this store in Poland by himself and having to recruit help from a sales associate to find a breast pump. He didn’t know the Polish word for “breast pump” so imagine that conversation) to the frustratingly overwhelming (please read as “most visits to Babies R Us”). We live in a small apartment and The Passenger gets a corner of our home office. So we find ourselves asking two questions:  is this item necessary?  where are we going to put it? You’d be amazed at how much of what the experts endorse can be quickly passed over when you realize the floor space it requires.
We’ve realized there is no one way. There are some clear boundaries – don’t leave the kid in the car unattended – but most things in between have more to deal with the ebb and flow of each family rather than the word of an expert. For example, The Passenger is breach and so we are looking at a probable C-section (we find out more details on Friday). As we’ve shared this news we get different reactions. Here on the West Coast, Canadians like to think of themselves as having a green-streak (the word “natural” is tossed about and attached to things left, right and center). As such we have encountered 2 groups of Well-meaning West Coast Canadians:
WMWCC Group 1: The Pitiers – upon hearing about our probable C-section they react with such genuine pity that their initial condolence flows out of their mouth in a drawn-out “oh, no” as if we just told them about a tragic puppy death. “You poor thing” they exclaim as they place a concerned hand on Amber’s arm, “isn’t there anything you can do?”, as if a C-section is some horrible shame to bear. To them a C-section is sadly unnatural.
WMWCC Group 2: The Condescenders – these people are aggressively in favour of the all-natural approach and often look down on those weaker women who cannot handle labour without pain medication. These are the same folks who birth at home in an inflatable tub. We even heard of one person who caught their own child (perhaps to be seen on the inevitable TLC documentary “Extreme Labour: a birthing story”). Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re all in favour for alternative forms of delivery than the standard doctor in a hospital approach. We ourselves had lined-up a dula, but we’re not sure how that works with the ol’ belly birth. We’re puzzled at how women here can treat hospitals as some awful imposition when, in the global perspective, they are a wonderful luxury. Perhaps this contempt is tempered by the fact that an ambulance is only a 911 call away. If you asked a woman who wanted a natural birth if she was willing to deliver in the middle of the Amazon and not down the street from a hospital, would her answer change? To review: we’re not against natural births – it’s your body, you choose – we just want you to know that your upturned nose is not welcome here.
Then there is a third group where we belong: the “do what’s best for the health of mother and baby” group. We’re no experts, but this seems like a good goal.
What we’re saying is that in most of our lives we don’t know any true parenting experts. We do however have a great network of loving people who are willing to invest their own experience into our journey towards parenthood. Moreover, there are some great resources and products out there (amidst a growing sea of merchandise) which are genuinely helpful and instructional. As almost parents we’re learning that it is our job to filter through all of this to build our own brand of parenting.