On not bonding with strangers

I do a couple of fitness classes avec baby a week – mainly for the exercise, but the chatting after class is nice too.  After one of the land-based classes, I was talking to another mother, whose son was the only other baby in the class who had learned to crawl.  (Which, by the way, make these classes much more disruptive than what my baby just lay or sat on the mat.)  After class, I went over and asked how old her son was – ten and a half months at that point.  I said that Jess too was that age!  And then we compared birthdays, and the babies were born on the same day!  And at the same hospital, as it turned out!  What a coincidence!  I said that Jess had been born around 4 in the morning, and turns out that her son was born right before midnight.

I said something along the lines of “maybe I saw you there – we were in the hospital for a couple of days.”  She looked down her nose at me and stated flatly.  “I had a midwife.  We were out of the hospital very fast.”  I sputtered slightly, and said something about how after 55 hours of labour, I’d had a c-section.  I swear that she looked at me and sniffed disapprovingly.  I muttered something about being pretty sure that it wouldn’t have mattered what kind of assistance I had, that J wouldn’t have come out any other way.  She sniffed again, and I slunk away from her and her placid, stolid baby.

You guys, it’s been 11 months and I’m still defensive as fuck about my birth experience.  And you know why?  It’s because PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY JUDGING ME TO MY FACE ABOUT IT.  Sure, not people I like, or people who matter, but it’s true – there is shaming out there for c-sections.  I get it!  I desperately, frantically didn’t want one.  I laboured for two and a half days because of how much I didn’t want one.

But I didn’t have a choice.

I mean, I made every choice possible to have a natural birth.  I did my readings, I hired a doula, I gave birth in a natural-birth friendly hospital with nurses who were fully supportive of my intentions, I went as long as I could without the drugs (pitocin contractions are not the same as normal ones – they are way, way more painful).  When the doctors announced that I needed a c-section, I refused and got another hour to try and make things progress.  It didn’t work.  The baby was unable to come out the normal way, and that sucked.

But I didn’t have a choice.

And yet, I still feel so judged for it.  By virtual strangers who have no idea.  And that sucks.

Having the section sucked.  The fact that the morphine didn’t work sucked.  The fact that my feelings of failure fed my PPD sucked.  The fact that 11 months later I still have abdominal pain sucks.

But the fact that my baby was born healthy and alive and that I am healthy and alive?  Does not suck.  Sure, it was less than ideal, but the end result was positive, so good enough.  Fuck the haters, and all.

 

As you can imagine, this woman and I have NOT become friends.

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Friendship

I was at the zoo yesterday with a friend and our two kids, and we had an interesting conversation about friendship in this city.  And it made me think, so here we go.

First off, I think I need to explain some things about Calgary.  It’s a city of a million people, but it’s also a very, VERY small town. Facebook has made it clear that six degrees of separation might be a few degrees too many.  Just last week David noticed that my second cousin and his engineering classmate’s husband worked together at a restaurant 10 years ago and stayed friends.  One of my best friend’s little brother’s wife (hi Rochelle!) is good friends with one of my friends from my high school competitive swimming years.  These are just two recent examples – it’s rarely that much work to connect people.  And that’s just friendship.  One of the new engineers in my group used to work at my husband’s company, and is good friends with one of David’s best friends.  I work in the oil industry, and it’s important to never, ever burn a bridge because it’s practically inevitable that you will eventually end up working with them again.

The jokes about Canadian politeness aren’t too far off the mark, but any jokes about Canadian friendliness are, at least on the this part of the prairies.  Or maybe that’s the wrong way of putting it.  People are (transit aside) generally polite, kind and helpful to lost looking tourists.  But that has nothing to do with making friends, something I do believe is pretty hard to do here.  L, the woman I went to the zoo with yesterday, told me about a girl she had class with at university.  They sat beside each other every day and chatted in class, and after a few months, L asked if she wanted to go for lunch.  The woman declined, saying “I already have friends.”  Which, COLD.  But also not surprising in any way at all.  I didn’t really make any long term friends at university either, not ones that didn’t come attached to someone else already.  Your friend dates this guy, and you start hanging out with his friends, and maybe you make friends through that.  Actually, that’s how I met my best friend E – my boyfriend was high school friends with her boyfriend.  Since then, I left that guy, she married and divorced her guy, and we’re BFFs.  (In true Calgary style, E went to the same elementary school as my ex, and once was at a sleepover at his house when she was friends with the ex’s little sister.  She had also been in marching band with the guy my sister was dating at the time we met.)  We’ve been friends for 7 years, and I still consider her a ‘new friend’.  My other best friend T and I have been friends for 15 years – we met in high school.  My friend who is babysitting Jess this weekend is someone I’ve known for 19 years – and who, incidentally, turned out to be one of David’s second cousins.  (I swear I’m not making any of these stories up.  It’s how this city is, if you’re local.)

So this is a city of close knit people, incredibly connected.  But it’s also a city of immigration.  We’re a Have province, with a good economy, and most of Saskatchewan and all of Newfoundland has moved here for work.  (Joke!)  And the thing about people who come out here for work is that many of them leave when they have a chance,  and if you are a Calgary lifer, you have to wonder if it’s worth making friend with people who are just going to leave in a second.  I’m completely exaggerating something that I don’t think anyone consciously thinks, but I suspect it may be at the root of why it’s SO tough to make friends in this city.

I figured that having a baby would be perfect for making friends.  I mean, you’re suddenly exposed to so many new people who you have something in common with and, this being Canada, a year’s mat leave to give you free time to hang out.  And yet.

It’s not that I’ve not put myself out there.  I did 2 trimesters worth of prenatal yoga, and I’m now taking postnatal.  We did a 10 week Birth and Babies class, and while the group is meeting once very month or two, I’ve only met up with one of the moms out side of it.  (And to be fair, C and I get along well, and we had dinner at their place on Sunday.  She did mention that they have zero friends with kids, and that probably explains why they are more sociable that others.)   But that’s one social connection of the four or five dozen people I’ve met.

But I do get it.  On the one hand, more friends with babies yay please!  But on the other? I have a large social network, most of who have known for years, and keeping up with it at times seems overwhelming.  (I still have friends in the city who haven’t met Jess.)   And I think this is exactly the same thought process everyone else must have.

I used to think that maybe I was just not a friend-able person, but I’m pretty sure it’s the norm around here, not the exception.  I could be wrong, but I think I may be on to something here.  Not that like, changes anything, but it’s interesting to me none the less.

 

Why is no one else laughing?

So we’re taking this Birth and Babies class. It’s offered through the local health region, and our class happens to be at the hospital where I will deliver. (Which is conveniently less than 5 minutes from our house.) It’s a 10 week course, and costs $200, so a large-ish investment of time and cash, and this clearly makes for a self-selecting group. It’s a neat concept, in that you ideally have the kid around week 5 or 6, and then you bring the baby to the rest of the classes and learn about infant care. For the last class, they even bring in an infant massage specialist.

I was expecting to be on the older side of the class, being 30 and all. But we’re actually firmly on the young half, which surprised me a bit. But then we’re back to the self-selection of a 10 week $200 course and it makes more sense.

What I expected less is that no one else in the room seems to have a sense of humour. And let’s be honest, there are enough weird and wacky parts of this whole experience that if you can’t find something to giggle about, you probably have no sense of humour at all. I mean, at the very least, when they show the birth video and the woman walks in with her 80s mushroom cut hair and giant overalls and you don’t at least crack a grin? Soulless. We probably will not become friends.

One of the things we had to do last night was to practice the supported sway. Which the instructor explained as being like grade 9 dancing. So David and I immediately went for the arms on shoulders with straight arms awkward dance style. Which we decided was too grade 7-ish, and immediately got closer. He spent the rest of the time trying to ‘subtly’ cop a feel, all junior high boy style. While I muffled my giggles in to his chest. Because who doesn’t like a bit of side-boob touching? Everyone else looked like they were being graded and not enjoying it at all. Which is silly – this is the father (I assume) of your baby, and I don’t know about you, but I still take just about any chance I get to snuggle up with my husband.

Another assignment from last night – talk to the couple beside you about 3 things they plan to do during early labour. Early labour is the part that can go on for 14 hours and be mostly just uncomfortable, for those of you not immersed in this stuff. (Active labour is when you can’t talk or walk during a contraction.) Then we went around the room introducing the other couples and talking about their plans. Of the 12 pairs in the room, at least SIX OF THEM listed, I swear to God, studying their birth notes as a planned activity! Yours truly? Listed having a bath, watching tv and playing video games. Most of the room looked pretty judgey until the woman running the program mentioned games as being a perfect thing to do. Haha, all you uptight boring people!

But seriously. As the woman in labour, everything I’ve read suggests that it’s a very primal, not-thinky experience. It’s not a test. You get the prize no matter what happens. Reading your notes seems … way too fucking OCD for my tastes. And I say this as a woman who has read at least 31 books about pregnancy and birth and labour and breastfeeding and babies. I like research! I like learning! I just really feel that last second cramming isn’t going to help at that late date, and that staying calm and relaxed and having a laugh is so much a better plan. (All of the books I’ve read agree with me, FYI.)

Look, labour will happen and I accept that it will be hard and painful and take me to a place within myself that may be quite new. I accept that this will be an experience like no other. But I refuse to accept that it means I have to give up my sense of humour and sense of the absurd, or that I have to stop sitting in the back of a classroom making off colour jokes with the cute boy sitting beside me.

I just wished when I looked around the room I could find someone else who looked like they were trying to suppress a giggle.

Making mom friends is gonna be hard, I think.