Last week, I posted a letter to fellow mothers urging them to stop sharing their labor and delivery stories with pregnant women. This letter like my blog and like life was part serious and part silly. And it prompted a pair of insightful comments from loyal ILI readers. One of these comments came from fellow-blogger Mama over at the delightful blog The Elmo Wallpaper. Mama stated – ever-diplomatically of course — that she disagreed with my argument that women should lie about their labor stories.
…I believe in telling the honest truth, because not telling it just makes women freak out when they are in the middle of it and things AREN’T going perfectly. I would rather them know that it’s perfectly normal to NOT have the birth you expect. And I think it’s almost criminal that nobody tells you about the aftermath. Knowing it’s coming, IMO (in my opinion), makes the experience less terrifying.
And instead of responding to her comment in the comment box, I decided to make this is its own post because really this is about something far bigger than birth and babies and pseudo-serious letters to fellow members of the Mother Species. This is about knowledge.
We all know that I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to education, to my alma maters, to concepts of knowledge and continued learning. There is something magical and majestic about knowledge. But does it always empower us or does it sometimes hinder us? Is it always better to know more, or does a little (willed) ignorance perhaps go a long way?
When I quit my job at the law firm and told people that I was going to write a novel, I was serenaded by a chorus of condescension. The gist? My plan to jump ship and write a book was cliched and cute. An ill-conceived, utterly blonde move. And then people who knew more than I about the publishing world (which at that point was practically everyone) regaled me with countless stories of failure, of dusty manuscripts, of slush piles, of evil agents. I was fed statistics – alarming ones – about how hard it is to complete a novel and then find an agent and then sell the book to a publisher.
But I tuned these people out like I do waiters who read dinner specials and I nodded politely and then I continued to chip away at my first novel. I would venture to say that it was because of this willed ignorance or timely naivete that I actually finished the book and then started looking for an agent. If I did too much research, if I soaked up all of the dismal details of the stories told, I would likely have been derailed, deflated, discouraged.
This is what I meant when I urged you moms to gloss over the miseries that might have marked your deliveries. Not because I am a proponent of dishonesty. (Quite the opposite. My aim in creating this blog and nurturing it is to be honest with you and myself and the world and my fingers are crossed that this honesty is deeply contagious.) Rather, my feeling is that there are times when full knowledge is not power, but the opposite. When a little mystery is a good thing. I think a woman who goes to the hospital to give birth should be excited (and, yes, a bit scared) and cautiously optimistic and realistic that uncertainties abound. I do not think this woman should have specific visions of a litany of minutiae that might go wrong. No, I think she should be shrouded in a thin veil of blissful ignorance about the admittedly tough and undeniably rewarding road ahead.
What do you all think? Is knowledge always power? Or are there times when we should dial back on details?