Obviously motherhood has changed me in so many ways - my priorities have shifted and I have learned to stand up for what I believe is best for my family. But I didn't expect the massive amount of guilt and sometimes even shame that I would feel as a new mother. It's no secret that I'm a perfectionist and an over-achiever....and pretty competitive as well. I think that these characteristics, which serve me so well in many aspects of my life, have also held me back from being the best mother to Natalie that I can be. There is so much conflicting information out there as to how to raise your children and since it is such a personal and important topic, many people are incredibly passionate about their point of view....and also sometimes quick to point out other people's parenting flaws as well. I think the concept of "mommy wars" and the "this versus that" conversations we get into can all be boiled down to a few key ingredients: we sometimes have no idea what we're doing as mothers and if we're doing something "wrong" with our children, is that a poor reflection on our love or devotion to them?
A few days ago on one of my favorite blogs Blue Eyed Bride, Erin wrote about the mommy guilt that she was releasing. It seemed to be pretty cathartic for her, so I'm going to try my own list.
1. BEING INDUCED A WEEK EARLY. During the induction, Natalie's heart rate dropped dramatically in response to the Pitocin and she was delivered via emergency c-section. I struggled with the idea of having a cesarean for a long time - I felt that I had caused Natalie's heart rate drop and subsequent delivery because I was selfish and chose not to wait for nature to take it's course, but instead to play God and decide when my baby was being born based on what was best for my life. Not that it's anyone's business but....I was not a good pregnant woman, especially in the last few weeks. I was miserable being on my feet all day, hardly able to walk because of the pelvic and back pain AND I was supposed to work an Open House at my school one night followed by a track meet the very next night. At 39 weeks pregnant. No thank you. Craig and I made the best decision for our family and our baby and that is all that matters.
2. QUITTING BREASTFEEDING AFTER FOUR MONTHS. It didn't take long to get in the rythm of breastfeeding with Natalie - she was always (and still is) an enthusiastic eater and was always generally predictable as to when she would be hungry. I did really well during my maternity leave but struggled with pumping during the school day when I went back for the last three weeks. I'm not sure what happened during the summer but for whatever reason, come July I was having mini anxiety attacks whenever I would try to feed her. She would squirm and pull and it was very difficult for me to maintain my composure while trying to get her settled down to eat properly....all the while I was worried that I wasn't producing enough milk and that's why she was so frustrated. I'm sure that somewhere along the way I could have made different choices as far as the feeding goes, but at the end of the day my baby needs to be fed and I need to be emotionally stable and if formula in a bottle is how that needs to happen, then so be it.
3. GETTING A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP. Natalie was a great little sleeper from about six weeks old until the second week into our summer vacation. Then she started waking up at least one....many times it was more....time a night. It was awful. I was stressed and angry and frustrated when I would be up with her desperately trying to rock her back to sleep just like the books said, without giving her any food because according to some, that could start up her midnight feedings again which is obviously something I wanted to avoid. Finally Craig took the bull by the horns and sent me back to bed and gave Natalie a bottle after which she promptly fell back asleep. I felt terrible - I wasn't feeding my baby enough so that she could sleep through the night. Obviously this wasn't the case....I just had to learn that there isn't one book on this planet that can explicitly tell ME what is right or wrong to do with MY baby. Craig had to take on the nighttime care because I just couldn't do it. I was a better mother to her during the day if I was able to get a mostly good night sleep. I felt terribly guilty about him being up with a lot during the night - like because I was the mother, I should automatically be the one taking complete care of her but I realized that he kind of likes being able to rock with her and snuggle. And more importantly, if I'm not mistaken, he was there when she was created and therefore he shares 50% of the responsibility of taking care of her.
I know that some of my statements might seem like they are directed towards a certain person or entity but in all honesty my feelings of guilt have nothing to do with any other person but instead more with pressure that I put on myself based on society and what is presented in literature and online. I am freeing my own self from all the guilt that I carry around about the things listed above and I'm sure that there are many other things that I need to resolve. My mantra lately has been: I am doing the best I can with what I have. And at the end of the day, Natalie knows that I love her and she is an extremely happy baby who is curious and giggly and enjoys being in the company of a variety of people....and one special puppy dog.