Category Archives: Letting go of Mommy Guilt

Let it be

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I need to get this off of my chest (no pun intended). If I sound mad, it’s because I am. However, I will do this once and only once, and then I’m done, I promise. I just need to get this out.

Something that has just blown my mind since day 1 of getting pregnant, is the debate between breastfeeding or formula feeding your baby. Suddenly, everyone I know was asking if I was going to breastfeed, and initially, my answer was no. I was formula fed, as I mentioned before, and, knew nothing of babies or the world accompanying them. To me, formula was an acceptable choice, and I didn’t see what the big deal was. After all, it was my boobs, my baby, and our family we were talking about, it should be my decision, right?

Wrong. I was barraged. By nurses, well-meaning friends, strangers, articles, bus advertisements, everything right on down to the formula samples I got in the mail said “Breast is Best!”. People said “just try it”, and “your baby deserves the best”. Not wanting to let the world or my baby down, I decided to hold off and make my decision when he was born – and when he was born, I decided to breastfeed. I did my research. I understand there are numerous benefits to breastfeeding and breastmilk. I also support anyone I know that breastfeeds. I believe it’s a great thing, if it’s something that works for your family and you desire to do so.

But mama….is it really THAT big of an argument? Read the following article to see how out of hand this has gotten. Unless I’m missing something and men generally lactate, I find this totally and utterly ridiculous:

http://moms.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/28/10520642-sweet-photo-of-dad-feeding-baby-turns-controversial

I admit, everything went well, so I thought, for a short while. This is where I stop my story, though, because I’ve made a vow to myself to stop feeling like I need to rationalize the decision I made. Every time someone asks me if I nursed Baby D I spill into this ramble about our story and my thought process and why I stopped. I was usually met with a  “well did you try this?” or “could you have done this?” I finally realized – I don’t owe an explanation to anyone. It didn’t work for our family, and as a family, it’s a decision that WE made. Explaining my circumstances would never lead anyone to feel what I felt or what we dealt with as a family behind closed doors. Frankly, I’m not even sure it’s anyone’s business.

That being said, since we’ve been on formula, I have heard some pretty shitty things in likely and unlikely places, and for the most part I’ve learned to let it roll off of my back. But the sanctimonious one-upping really pisses me off, especially when it implies that I am harming my child or re-writing the course of his life by using formula. Which is too bad, you know, because Baby D could have been president, but he’ll likely fail out of college and end up taking orders at McDonalds because I couldn’t hack the boob thing.

In that case, do you think that the next time I screw up at my job I could just tell my boss that I’m formula fed, and that if only I had been breastfed my IQ would be a little higher?

No. Because it’s totally stupid and ridiculous. I am absolutely sickened by the time I’ve wasted on the guilt I’ve had and hearing about the guilt placed on other new mothers that are just trying to do what they can, the best they know how. I sometimes feel as though I am wearing a “Scarlet F” – or that I don’t belong to the good mama club. You know, supporting breastfeeding does not need to equal bashing formula feeding. Just as supporting formula feeding does not mean you need to bash breastfeeding. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in my opinion, it all does more harm than good. Support does not need to always come in the form of influence. Support should be positive, factual, helpful.

That being said, I know where the guilt comes from, and it’s fueled in part by comments such as those you can read below (which are all things I have heard/read/or both…..seriously).

 

  • Giving a baby formula is like letting them ride in the car without a car seat.
    • No, it’s not. Because feeding my baby formula won’t send him flying through a windshield. Next?

 

  • If you can’t sacrifice your body for another year for your baby’s sake, you don’t deserve to be a mother.
    • I sacrificed for him for 9+ months so he could grow into the cute little guy he is now, and am still sacrificing after delivery in ways that will make you cringe. Breastfeeding for the purpose of being able to tell everyone how much pain and stress I have endured on account of my baby would not make me a better mother it would only make me sound like a bitch. Want to know how bad of a mom I am?? I got an epidural to AVOID the pain…to which I can guarantee my son will not give a shit.

 

  • You can’t bond with your baby when you’re not breastfeeding.
    • Tell that to my mother and father that adopted me at the age of 3 months –  after I had been fed formula by hospital staff, foster parents, and God knows who else for the first formative months of my existence. I dare you. Every time I feed Baby D and he stares into my (or Papa D’s) eyes smiling until the bottle falls out of his mouth, I know whole heartedly that this argument is a total load of bullshit.

 

  • You just didn’t try hard enough to breastfeed. You could have done x, y, z…..
    • What is exactly does trying hard enough look like? How much stress should you endure before you realize that you are sabotaging your relationship with your baby? Where exactly is this proverbial line, and is it honestly the same for everyone? No one can answer this for me.

 

  • Formula is a public health issue. It shouldn’t be a choice, and it should require a prescription. Breastfeeding saves 900 babies each year.
    • I have read the report and having done quite a bit of research in my own life, I have serious concerns with the methodology that provided that statistic. But if you must have something to fight for, do you know what would save a lot more lives? Teaching our kids to eat food that doesn’t come from a box or a drive thru for the other potential 80+ years they will be alive. That smoking is horrendous for your health and the health of those around you. That when you get in a car, you put your seatbelt on. But you want to know what really concerns me most of all? In 2005, 899,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect…to which 2000 of them died. Actually died. I would think that I, as a real-food making, non-smoking, seatbelt wearing, LOVING MOTHER….should be OFF of the “concern” radar.

 

  • If you aren’t going to breastfeed, you should use donor milk.
    • No, I shouldn’t. Because although human milk is nature’s most perfect food for babies (see, I can read…which is surprising, being that I was formula fed and all), it requires you to trust other humans in regard to things such as reporting infectious diseases, using prescription and non-prescription drugs, properly handling and storing milk, and being cautious of chemical contaminants. Trusting other people is difficult though, when they do things like this: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29498350/ns/us_news-weird_news/t/woman-has-meltdown-over-mcnuggets/

 

  • Don’t you want the best for your baby?
    • Are you serious?! Of course I do. I want beyond the best for my baby and I want him to be happy. Part of what I feel is the absolute best for my baby, is a happy mama. A happy mama, and happy baby, is not what we had.

 

Lastly, I think the reason the one-upping really bothers me is because I don’t care what method anyone uses to feed their babies. I just don’t. You know why? I have seen thousands of pictures of beautiful, healthy, well-fed babies on your Facebook pages and on the Christmas cards I get in the mail in December. To me, it looks like you’re all doing a ridiculously great job raising them. I fully trust that you all are making the decisions that are right for your families and specifically your babies, regardless of what those decisions are. And if you need a little support, breast or bottle feeding, I am here for you.

 

To all of you that are reading,

 You are a great mama, the best your baby will ever know. You are doing an amazing job. You are doing what is right for your family, or you wouldn’t be doing it. Even if it’s not what’s right for my family, I understand, and I support you.

Love,

Mama D

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Rabenmutter

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I read an interesting article the other day (it’s posted below, in case you’re looking for a good read). Basically, it’s an interview with a 67 year old woman, Elisabeth Badinter – one of the richest women in France. She’s the author of a book called Le Conflit: La Femme et La Mère (in English, The Conflict: The Woman and the Mother).  In the book, she talks about the constant state of guilt that modern mothers are in, all over the world. “Guilt about breastfeeding, about smoking, drinking, working, child care; about not doing ‘the best for your child’.”

Her thoughts are nothing that we don’t already know. That the world today is not conducive to becoming your own kind of mother. That ideally, you should be a perfect mother, or not be a mother at all. One thing that stood out to me in her article, though, is her discussion about working moms. In Germany, they actually use the term  “Rabenmutter”, translated to “Raven Mother”, implying a working woman is like a raven, a bird that doesn’t care for her babies.

I flew the nest yesterday.

Baby D woke up for his middle of the night feeding and was stuffed up and coughing. He was acting fine, smiling, eating, and not feverish, but that little cough sent pangs through my heart. I knew that he was okay, but what if he got worse? We are extremely fortunate to have him at someone’s home all day, with someone we consider an extension of our family. I knew he’d be in good hands, and I knew she’d call me if he was really sick, but why did I feel so terrible all of a sudden? I put him back down to sleep and laid back down in bed staring at the monitor. I could hear him sniffling and snorting. The alarm went off 5 minutes later, and I got out of bed, turned on the coffee, and started the shower. But I couldn’t get in. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “You’re a Rabenmutter. Sure, he’s ‘fine’, but he needs nose drops, boogie vacuums, and extra cuddles today. And that’s YOUR job. You’re his mother. You should be here for him”.  Then another voice chimed in. “You can’t stay home, you have a big meeting today. There are people counting on you. If you stay home, will they think less of you as an employee? You need your job, you know. You only have 10 unscheduled days left for the year. Is he sick enough for you to use one?”

And at that time, the answer was no. No, he wasn’t sick enough for me to use one. But I wanted to. I suddenly wanted to have an unlimited amount of days to use for sniffles. I grudgingly put on my work clothes and makeup, grabbed my coat, and threw my heels and (closed, or so I thought) coffee mug in my bag.  Then, I left him with Papa D – my little sniffley man still sleeping in his crib. I cried the first 5 minutes of the drive to work. Not because I couldn’t stay home today, but because it suddenly hit me that this is my life now. I  already missed him roll over, there will never be enough cuddles, and sometimes I won’t be there to suck out his boogies. I might even miss his first word or steps.  That Elisabeth was right – I will live in a state of constant conflict as a woman, as a mother.  A woman, who used to only cry at weddings or funerals (okay, and Forrest Gump), is a blubbering mess because of….the sniffles?

After getting to work and finding out that my important meeting had been cancelled and realizing I flooded my heels with coffee, I thought about the raven. I sat barefoot at my desk and started googling. I wanted to know why they didn’t care for their babies. And then something happened…all the information I found said Ravens are ruthless when defending their young. They’re quite attentive. That they’ve even been observed dropping rocks on potential predators that come too close to their nest. So either there are some twisted ravens in Germany, or maybe terms like “Rabenmutter” are just another source of fueling the mommy-guilt. Or maybe, I really am a Rabenmutter. Because even though I’m not home for every sniffle, tear, or smile, I am still doing what’s best for him and for our family. I’ll still jump out of bed in the middle of the night without flinching when he needs me even though I’m up at the crack of dawn – and you can bet that if any predators get near him, they’ll get worse than falling rocks.

It’s just that sometimes, for some families, really doing “the best for our child” means having to leave the nest.

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/life-style/nutrition-and-wellbeing/the-child-king-20120130-1qoqf.html?rand=1328051655308