When I had my first child, I had grand plans
and many ideas about what motherhood would be like.
After giving birth to my first child, the days wore on and on,
and I all too quickly discovered that my vision of motherhood was about 95% wrong. Motherhood is the most amazing experience in this world - period!
But motherhood is a daily challenge,
a daily exercise in patience and understanding,
and a lifelong commitment to creating responsible, caring individuals.
Since becoming a mother, my days have been filled, as I am sure every mothers have, with life changing experiences. We say things, do things, and experience things we never imagined. Being a mother is powerful, but as we travel this path, it cannot be denied that motherhood comes with judgement - from family members...from friends...from strangers. This story is about one of my biggest challenges, disappointments, and the judgement I faced as a new mother (both times).
I had a hard time after the birth of my son. A slight case of postpartum depression was my co-parent and I did not even see it at the time (and neither did my husband). To top it off nothing - not one thing about parenting came close to what I planned or dreamt about, other than the love I felt for this baby - that is the one thing that did exceed my expectations. I daydreamed that once I brought this heavenly bundle of joy home, we would spend our days at the park, reading, napping, and we would bond and everything would be beyond perfect.
I have never been more wrong.
I had put so much pressure on myself to be this perfect mother that I barely remember anything good that happened. The biggest disappointment accompanied breastfeeding. I had so desperately wanted to nurse this sweet baby and it was not working...I was not making milk, not enough anyway...and there were other problems as well. Days and days of a screaming hungry baby...days and weeks of lactation consultants, pediatricians, and trip after trip to the health store to buy vitamins and supplements that were supposed to make the milk come in. You name it...no one could help the issues we had. I had assumed that nursing would be a piece of cake, no issue at all...but it was not. They tell you it might be difficult, but they never really say how difficult.
Infections and engorgement and a multitude of other not so pleasant experiences led to days spent frustrated and crying - me and the baby! I made the decision to pump...and was absolutely scrutinized by many of the mothers in the baby groups I joined.
"Why wouldn't everyone breastfeed? It is so easy. "
"Mothers who do not breastfeed are selfish."
"I cannot believe she isn't nursing that baby."
I could hear them. I hated listening to them. It hurt. It hurt bad.
Of course they had no idea that the milk in those bottle was breast milk - precious breast milk that had to be coaxed and cajoled to come out of my body. They had no idea that I slept about 3 hours a night because the process of pumping, cleaning, and then feeding a newborn the baby and starting all over again was laborious, tedious, and took a lot of time. The peaceful image of a mother nursing her newborn in bliss did not exist in my house. But I did it because I believed in breast milk and breastfeeding and wanted to do everything I could for my baby. (For the record...I did eventually have to supplement with formula. As my son grew I could not keep up with his needs. I pumped for about one year.)
Fast forward 6 years...and a new baby girl entered our lives. I was much more prepared for the fact that things may not go as planned this time, but it did not make it any easier. There was still disappointment and frustration as I encountered the same problems with nursing. I refused to bring this baby home and live in a fog of screaming and pumping and utter devastation and disappointment in myself. I also had another child to care for and could not lose myself in the despair that followed my son's birth.
At the hospital, I made the decision..I was going to ask for the "F-Word" - Formula - to supplement the breast milk. In the area I live in, formula truly is the F-word and I was scared to ask...the nurses encouraged me to keep trying and tried to avoid my requests (in a pleasant and encouraging way). Finally I worked up the nerve to ask our wonderful pediatrician. She understood, and it took her to finally get me what I needed...what my baby needed.
I wanted to enjoy this time. I regret the moments I missed with my son, and I did not want to relive the experience - the angst and the crying and the beating myself up. I did still want to breastfeed. Again I visited pediatricians lactation consultants and read everything I could...and again, ultimately I found myself "tied" to the pump. I had come to terms with what I was and was not capable of...but I again was devastated by the lack of decency and understanding of other mothers.
Snide comments, whispers, not-so-quiet discussions were all too common at Mommy and Me. No one would sit by me, no one would talk to me because I was not able to whip out a boob and feed during circle time. And again, they had no idea that I had slept only a few hours each night so that I could pump maybe one beautiful, precious bottle of breast milk to feed my baby. They assumed. They judged. And it still hurt.
Being a mother is no easy task and there are so many ways to be a good mother. What leads us to criticize other mothers, other women for the decisions they make.
I have many, many (many) opinions about what I will allow or not allow my children to do/see/watch/participate in/behave. As a mother that is my job to determine what I feel is appropriate and right for my children and my family. If another family chooses otherwise...fine, but I will chose to not let my children participate. I am not judging that family but I am making the best decision I know for my own kids...that is my job.
And...surprise, surprise I do not agree with everyone I know about how or what they chose to let their children do...BUT that is their choice, and as long as their children are not in danger and they are being cared for that is their prerogative...EVERY FAMILY, EVERY MOTHER has the right to make the best decisions for her family.
I am not a perfect mother - far, far from it. So, in the interest of full disclosure...I will admit the following...(I am sure there is much more I can admit to...but for now this is it)
- I have been that mom at the park on the phone.
- I have been that mom with the screaming child at the grocery store.
- I have (I am) that mom who lets her little girl wear sundresses to school even when it is cold outside (with a jacket in tow as well).
- I have handed my toddler a frozen pancake while in line at the grocery store as everyone looks at me in horror.
- My kids are all too familiar with the phrase, "Just a minute."
- I believe in the 5 second rule.
- I have let my kids drink soda and processed foods.
- I chose to go back to work.
- I chose to not work.
- I chose to breast feed.
- I chose to not breast feed.
- I yell.
- I am honest.
- I tell white lies (but for the good of the family!)
- I make mistakes.
- I give myself time outs.
- I apologize.
- I admit...I have judged other mothers...
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