Dear New Mamas,
I see you agonizing over every little decision for this little human and thinking “Am I already somehow messing this up?”
I remember, extremely vividly, driving myself mad after I had my son. My trigger, you ask? Breastfeeding. It never crossed my mind before giving birth for the first time that I might have difficulty feeding my baby. After all, my body was made to do this, right? I labored with my stubborn boy for 26 long hours before needing an emergency c-section.
Immediately after my delivery, a very loud, very pushy lactation consultant “worked” with me to try and get my son to latch. It was traumatizing. But the words “breast is best” rattled loudly in my brain. I had heard it more times than I could count from my OB’s office and every mom friend asking me if I was going to breastfeed. My new babe and I continued to struggle. I wanted so very desperately for it to work. When we took him for his one month well check, he had hardly put on any weight. It was clear what we were doing wasn’t working. I was anxious, in pain and felt pressure from the lactation consultant, mom friends, even some family, to make it work- because that’s “what’s best”.
After I started working again, my milk supply tanked. Finally, at 3 months, I called it quits. I beat myself up incessantly for months. I saw my body as a failure. Why couldn’t I provide for my baby? Why did it come so easily to others and not me? We gave my son formula and he started to chunk up. He was happy and growing. I could finally relax a little.
Things were different with my daughter. For starters, I had delivered at a different hospital. I opted for a scheduled c-section, for which I got a few eye-brow raises. One of my patients even said something to the effect of “Well, when I had my babies we didn’t get to pick their birthday!” It had taken everything in me not to reply “Listen, Linda, I have a small pelvis that babies don’t like to fit through. My first labor and delivery was a traumatizing experience and I’d like to have a more controlled setting this time around and not have to go through labor again just to end up needing surgery anyways. But no, you’re TOTALLY right, I just wanted to pick her birthday.”
I felt like I was a little more in control with my second baby, especially in the breastfeeding department. She loved to eat and had zero problems gaining weight. We successfully breastfed for 9 months, and I weaned her when I was ready.
Even though she was a great eater, she was a horrible sleeper. My Mom friends and family members alike put their two cents in about what I should be doing and what I most certainly should not be doing to help my daughter sleep. For a short period, the only way I could function as a human being was to let her nurse in bed with me. I felt guilty about it the whole time I did it because research says that its horrible or a friend just read a story about someone rolling on their baby and suffocating them. Oh good. More mom guilt.
I couldn’t wrap my brain around how all of these people who love and support me were making me feel so less-than. I know that all of them were trying to be helpful and no one was maliciously trying to make me feel like a horrible mother. But, if we’re being honest, that’s exactly how I felt. They were giving their opinion when it wasn’t asked for or making suggestions for something they would want for their children, not stopping to think about how it would make me feel. Saying that out loud (or rather putting it in writing) sounds so entitled and self-centered to me now, but I think that’s how most everyone feels.
My sister in law is a new mama to the sweetest little cherub. When she was in her last few weeks of pregnancy, they found out my niece was breech. She and my brother, along with their doctor, decided that the best way to bring her into this world was via C-section. She told a few of her friends the exciting news that the baby was going to be here on November 1st via C-section because she was breech. Instead of saying how excited they were, every single one of her friends started suggesting things to try to flip her so she wouldn’t have to have a c-section. As if a c-section isn’t really giving birth. And that’s exactly how my sister in law felt. I told her about my experiences struggling as a new mom and feeling the pressure still to this day that I’m not doing it right. I’m now one of the first people she turns to because she knows I’m going to support her and not make her feel bad for her parenting choices.
I urge you to be that supportive mom-friend, sister, mother, co-worker. If a mama is in a hard season, stop and think before you give her advice or ask a prying question. Think about how you would feel if someone alluded to their way of parenting is better than yours and speak, give advice or question accordingly.
Motherhood is messy and hard already. We’re all just trying to do what’s best for our kids. As long as your not putting your kid, yourself or others in danger, you do you, mama. If you need me, I’ll be right here doin’ me too.