Monday, April 12, 2010

Mommy guilt

Let me first start this off by saying that I am not trying to start a debate about breastfeeding vs formula, or natural births vs epirudals or whatever. We are all parents and we all do what WE feel is right for our child. No one else should ever tell us that what we are doing is wrong, and we shouldn't feel guilty for what we choose. We should be supported in whatever it is we choose. (I could write a whole other post how breastfeeding is not, but like I said, I'm not writing this to start a debate. I am writing this from deep inside my heart.)

I am just as this mom said, pro feeding babies'. I, like many moms' experienced birth, parenthood and so many other things about my child in a difference way than I expected, and with that comes emotions. Comes life.

A recent article came out that said "The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life."

As a mom who is pro breastfeeding to the core, it got to me. Underneath my skin, deep in my blood, and a dagger straight into my heart.

Why?

It a one word answer. One word mommies know all too much so it be about boobs, being a working mom, or not getting him that new toy.

Guilt.

Mommy guilt.

Hands-down the worst guilt we guilt ourselves with.

You all know how I struggled with breastfeeding, and I am not sure if I ever posted the end result. I am not sure if I did it out of guilt, or just lack of time or maybe it just didn't cross my mind to but my battle with the boob ended almost 3 months ago.

Reading articles like this make me fee like a failure. I know I am not deep inside, but it is everywhere I turn. Even on the formula sites, or bottle pamplets. It's everywhere. Breastmilk is best, and if I give my child formula, I'm not giving him the best.

Do you know what that does to a parent?

Um, hello mommy guilt!

If I have learned anything by being a parent, I have learned that you have to roll with the punches. Babies don't come with instruction manuals (trust me, I've asked) and every day the rules change.

I had done my research, read numerous books, blogs and articles regarding parenting, birth, labor, and babies. Before that stick dried, and before those lines showed up, I knew how I wanted his birth to go. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I knew what I didn't want (ahem, c-section!) When it didn't go the way I planned, I was so confused, and in a giant hormonal shift from, you know, BIRTHING A BABY, and I was a mess. For a moment, I questioned my choices, and the cycle of guilt continued.

The more I read, I started noticing a pattern. I even notice it now as I meet other moms. We as mothers always feel like we need to defend our choices. It starts even before the child comes out, and the questions spread like wildfire.

Are you going to breastfeed? Ew, you are going to BREASTfeed? (I actually got that) Are you going to get the epidural? Say YES to the drugs! Drugs are bad, they hurt the baby! When do
you find out the sex? When are you due? Are you excited? You are going to use cloth diapers....that is crazy! Disposable diapers kills the environment with each poop. Formula is evil. Breast is best!

Then, the child comes into the world and it gets worse! I only feed my child organic. Your potty training now? Your letting your child CRY? You need to let him cry it out. Starting solids is bad! You need to give that baby some real food!

Those that formula feed, go on to explain why they couldn't breastfeed. Those that choose to birth naturally are judged, and those that want an epidural are criticized. Whatever our choice, there is always someone who adamantly disagrees, and so is life.

Coming from someone who struggled, and finally lost the battle with breastfeeding, and had to have a c-section, this gets under my skin...right down to the bone. I struggled (and I find myself STILL struggling) deeply when my body did not provide my child what I wanted to give him. I found myself ragged with guilt with each scoop of formula. Every book, and article and website goes on to say, "breast is best." Each time I read that it is like a stab in the back. I have only been a mother for 5 1/2 months and I already know of this guilt we put on ourselves. I gave my child three months of breast milk, and I should pat myself on the back for at least trying and dealing with the crappy hand i was given. I know I did everything I could and that is all that should matter to me.

We put so much pressure on ourselves that when things do not go our way, we struggle. We feel the need to explain the why's and how's. I asked myself why a million times.

Our child's birth is such a personal, and emotional event. We chose the path best suited for our child. Yet, we find ourselves defending each decision and explaining our actions because we know we did the best we could do, and we want others to feel that too. We don't want others to think we gave up, or that we were weak, or that heaven forbid, we are bad parents. When it all comes down to it, we should all be proud of ourselves.

We are mothers. We have the single most difficult job on earth, and yet we never give ourselves the credit we deserve.

Then, I learned something 5 months later, and talk about mommy guilt exemplified.

When Brady was born, my water broke the night before and it had been so long since he was down in the birth canal without fluid so when he took a big breath when he came out and it tore a hole in his lung. That big breath that tore his lung was the cause of his NICU stay. The cause of so much fear, worry, sadness, and so many other emotions. Emotions I can feel when I think of that moment.

I kept thinking if I had given in sooner to the c-section I could have prevented it. I could have had that magical first time meeting. Breastfeeding would have worked out. Life would have been perfect.

Then, I told myself to shut up.

Trust me, it took me a long time to be able to tell myself that.

Really, Amy, Shut the hell up!

Guilting myself wasn't going to solve anything. Guilting myself is stupid. He is here now. He is growing healthy and fat.

So, for anyone who feels this mommy guilt, do what we would tell our kids not to say.....

tell that little guilty voice to shut the hell up!

16 comments:

Jennelle said...

Good for you, Amy! You're absolutely right--someone is going to think you're wrong no matter what you do, so it's just best to do what's right for your family. :)

Julia said...

beautifully written, Amy. You are right on with your view of mommy guilt, defending choices, and rolling with the punches. Good for you for telling that voice to shut up! :)

Kristal said...

Great post Amy!! Mommy guilt sucks, but even worse is mommy wars. So while you are telling that little voice in your head to shut up, do the same to anyone who questions your choices as a mother. :)

Melissa said...

i have not yet experienced "mommy guilt" but i am sure that i will in about 4 weeks...thank you for this post, because i'm sure it will come in handy when i start to let that little voice in...hopefully i can tell it to shut up before it gets too strong.

Amanda said...

So, so, so true! I agree with Kristal. You need to do what is best for you and your family and noone else can tell you otherwise. Kudos to you for standing strong in your convictions!

Mrs. Dirnberger said...

Amen!!! Amen to all of this...so true!!! You are a great wonderul mother and nobody can tell you different

Melissa and Nick said...

Amy, You're a great mom to Brady! I think 3 months for BF is fantastic. He is a healty, growing little monkey who LOVES his mommy! Who could ask for anything more! :)

Lisa said...

Wow! This is a must read for anyone! Those who are mothers, and those who need to be more understanding of mothers.

Well said!

a little green birdhouse said...

So well written, and so true! You are an amazing mom and Brady is so lucky to have you!

Lisa said...

So well said, Amy!! The constant need to defend any and all of our choices can be exhausting. It's obvious what an unbelievable mother you are, and my heart goes out to you... To all of us who ever feel judged.

Sarah said...

amy, i'm glad you were able to find that voice inside yourself to be able to quiet the mommy guilt.

i just wish it were as acceptable to voice a big ole 'SHUT THE HELL UP' to other people who are pressuring you, questioning you, judging you or making you feel wrong for your choices. maybe we should just start doing that, no?

you're an incredible mom, amy. seriously.

Stephanie said...

Great post. And great reminder to all Mom's and Mommy supporters out there.

d.a.r. said...

Ughhh you have vocalized my biggest complaint about all of my mommy friends--they are SOOO freaking judgmental!! No matter what you choose, you are damned by someone! It makes me sad and scared to enter the journey to a family, because I know so many of our close friends (and family!) will likely dislike some of the choices I make.

This is a great post, keep doing what is best for YOU and YOUR family!!

Stuff Parents Need said...

Make no mistake, you are doing right by your baby! You summed up so well that battle we all face daily with mommy guilt. It is also a good reminder to us all to think before we judge other moms just because they are doing something different than us!

ellen said...

As someone who has no idea if I'm even going to be able to breastfeed, I have to say the "all or nothing" mentality that comes with breast feeding advocates really gets under my skin. I have moments when I feel like a failure before I've even started - like, how could I possibly have been so selfish to get a breast reduction before I had all of my children and dutifully breastfed every last one of them ...

Clearly the formula companies are due for some better public relations ;o)

Maria said...

Awesome post Amy!!!