“You are the least judgmental person I’ve ever met!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told this and it bothers me every time. Don’t get me wrong – I am SO glad that I can be a safe place for people, but it saddens me that we all live in this world where others are watching and waiting for an opportunity to tell us what we’re doing wrong, what we could be doing differently, or how our decisions (or who we are) is just simply not okay. That’s if they’re brave enough to say it to our faces. Often times they just silently judge, or wait until we’re out of earshot to tell someone else just what they think. But really, the biggest critics are often ourselves.
We’re all guilty of it. We all judge. We judge ourselves. We judge others. We judge places, things, experiences. Our very ability to judge and discern is what makes us human (and can be a great thing), so I’m talking about the kind of judging that makes us feel in some way superior to other human beings, or the kind of judgment that causes us to avoid experiences or situations we’ve judged to be unsafe, unworthy, or unimportant. The kind of judgement that clouds our ability to love and accept ourselves and others.
I’ve made an intentional effort since my early twenties to never judge anyone or anything until I experience them/it first hand. This particular “Kyleen rule” has gotten me into trouble more than once, and I’ve not always gone about discovery in the best ways, but overall I think it’s served me well to not judge people, experiences, or things based off the word of others, or off of limited personal experience. My heart and mind are open to possibilities until proven otherwise, and I’ve been wrong enough times in my life that I’ve learned to reserve judgments until I’ve gathered enough evidence.
Here’s why: I have made mistakes.
Intentional, unintentional, totally epic, unforgettable life-altering mistakes.
I’d like to think I learn from them, but some lessons are harder-learned. Every day as a parent I make mistakes, and every day I try to do better. As a newly-married pregnant mom, my list of “I’ll never“‘s was a mile long.
I’ll never let my baby cry.
I’ll never get an epidural.
I’ll never let my kid watch TV.
I’ll never leave my child with anyone overnight.
I’ll never let my kid run screaming through the supermarket.
I’ll never yell at my kids.
You know, all of those “never“s that were really silent judgments of the moms who did do those things. I thought I had come a long way from my early twenties awakening, but it was like I instantly become the perfect mother the moment I became pregnant. Ha! Maybe you can’t relate at all, and it was just me…
Honestly, looking back, I think it was more of a perfectionism thing that I was imposing on myself, and my fear of disappointing others led me to believe that maintaining that (unrealistic) standard meant I was a good mom. This list was shot to hell almost immediately thanks to a difficult pregnancy and less-than-ideal birth with my first child. To say I felt like a failure is an understatement, and in the throes of postpartum depression I felt completely and totally alone. Not only did I have an epidural, but I had every labor intervention available, and ultimately my son was born via emergency c-section. So much for “I’ll never”…
As difficult as my birth experience was, I am so grateful for it. It gave me an understanding and perspective that I never would have had otherwise. I thought if I ate the right way, exercised, read the books, did my breathing exercises, took the classes, created a playlist of amazing labor songs, repeated birth affirmations, and just tried hard enough, I’d have whatever birth experience I wanted.
I was wrong.
And I was soul-crushingly alone after his birth, surrounded by people who judged or dismissed or minimized everything I felt about my birth experience. What I needed more than anything was someone to sit in that with me, with no judgment or plan to “fix” it. I needed someone to say “I don’t know what it’s like to be you right now, but I care about you and I’m here, however you need me to be.” My husband was that person as well as he could be, and eventually with him, and through the support of a postpartum group, I learned to navigate and process everything. It took time but I came out on the other side, and I am profoundly thankful that I went through it because it allowed me to extend a grace to myself that I’d never had before. I whole-heartedly believe that it made me a better human being, and a better doula; One that approaches others with sensitivity and openness always.
When I walk through difficult birth experiences with clients, I can do so with a different understanding. When a client calls, swearing and cussing about anything and everything, I can laugh about it with her later and reassure her that I don’t think less of her for wishing “this baby would get the fuck out right now” at 41 weeks. I can hold a client as she wraps around my shoulders during an epidural placement and smile with her as she recounts her amazing birth story at our postpartum visit. I can cry with a dad in the hallway and remind him it’s okay to be overwhelmed by the fact that he just realized he became a father.
I cannot pretend to know what another human being is living at any given moment. But I can care and be there with no judgment. I don’t have to fully understand, but I can love. Everyone is worthy of love, so that’s what I will give. Do what you want, say what you need to, and know that I will never judge you. This is what unbiased support means. This is what we offer at Tucson Doulas.