You have natural childbirth, home childbirth, epidurals, and C-sections.You have breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, formula feeding, exclusively pumping, and supplementing. You have baby-led weaning, pureed foods, and parents who just throw in the towel. Vaccinations or none. Spanking or time-outs or firm words or nothing. Free range parenting or tight-lid or helicopter moms and dads. I was given Dr. Sears’s books and What to Expect and Bringing Up Bebe and Baby Wise. I’ve given birth naturally, and I’ve had an epidural as well. I’ve breastfed. I’ve exclusively pumped. I’ve formula fed. I’ve fed whole foods. I’ve fed pureed. I’ve fed McDonalds (judge me). I’ve spanked once or twice. I’ve given hundreds of time-outs, and I’ve wept next to my sleeping child, helplessly, when I’ve felt spent and at the end of my rope and completely incapable with discipline.
I’ve heard all the arguments. I’ve read all the blogs. I’ve read all the books. I’ve read all the comments and heard all the unsolicited advice from well-meaning family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. I’ve even been offended a time or two by others who spout differing opinions, and I let their judgments on some random parenting decision make me feel like less of a mom or less of a woman.
And do you know what? It all means nothing to me now.
Hell, I haven’t thought about any mommy argument in two years. No, I’m not special. No, I’m not enlightened. No, I’m not some sanctimommy who’s about to blow the lid in here. But I am changed. Because two years ago, after a perfectly healthy pregnancy, after eating organic, after nursing my older son while growing my second inside, after a natural, unmedicated childbirth, my second son was born and postnatally diagnosed with a severe congenital heart defect, and after six months and 17 days fighting for his life within the four walls of a children’s hospital, he died in my arms.
The day he was born and rushed away from my arms, the door flung open and in entered the equalizer.
Suddenly mommy wars didn’t matter. Critical debates over parenting decisions no longer had any hold on me. Shame and mommy guilt over what I chose to do or not do with my children no longer had any relevance in my life. I bonded with mothers in the hospital rooms next to ours, over the shared coffee machine and in the pumping rooms where we shared our fears, our worries, and our hopes for our children. It didn’t matter our philosophy on cry-it-out. It didn’t matter which diapering method we had intended to use. It didn’t matter whether we had hoped to bottle or breastfeed. Our circumstances were beyond all of that then, and the hard truth was this: They were beyond our control.
It’s in those situations beyond our control that we meet the equalizer. The equalizer—where the playing field is leveled—and we see that the only way to get through is together, hand-in-hand, regardless of personal beliefs or biases or any circumstances that may have previously divided us. Suddenly we realize that we may never get to watch our children grow old, and everything that seemed big before fades away, and the only thing we are strong enough to hold is love. Just love.
And so that’s how we go about our days. Not because we are righteous. Not because we are humble or significant or enlightened. But because all that matters is our children and keeping breath in their lungs. And when some of them leave us and their little hearts no longer beat? All that matters is holding one another, carrying them through, placing a death grip on the hands of another who is sinking under the weight of heartbreak, and lifting them with a collective strength, of women united in just love.
The equalizer. Where we’re all the same, no matter our choices, because we’re united on the basis of love, the sweetest, head-over-heels, all-in, never-ending love that is possessed in the heart of a mother for her child, no matter what decisions she makes in baby-rearing or raising or growing. Love is what unites us.
Love is the great equalizer between us all.