Thursday, July 10, 2014

Saying Farewell to Mommy Guilt

There are certain things you expect when you bring home your newborn baby. You can count on a lack of sleep, a plethora of dirty diapers, and for your home to be consumed by baby gear.  Then there are the surprising things that no one tells you about. For instance, people will ask you INCREDIBLY personal questions in group settings, on conference calls, while in line at the grocery store, you name it! "Oh what a beautiful baby, are you breastfeeding?" "Such a blessing. Was it a vaginal birth or Cesarean?" Yes. I've been asked point blank about my vagina by strangers! Manners, folks! There are also the super sexy panties they give you in the hospital. No one told me that both me and the baby would be going home from the hospital in diapers. Just Google it, I'd prefer not to dwell on it. On top of those surprises there are the WIDE range of emotions you experience in your first postpartum weeks. Love, self-doubt, joy, sadness, and the most difficult for me, mommy guilt.

After 6.5 years of trying to conceive, you would think that once our little one arrived, I would settle into the bliss of motherhood, and in many ways I have. I love watching him wake up and give me a big gummy grin because he loves me and knows I'm his mama. I love listening to his cooing noises on the baby monitor when he naps during the day. I love how much he needs me and how I can calm him and soothe him when he's upset. These are all things I can say now. Weeks 1 - 5 were another story. 

Our precious man came home and was FUSSY. Wait, fussy doesn't really do it justice. At least 6 hours a day (basically when he wasn't sleeping) were spent in a struggle to nurse an angry baby who didn't want to latch or have anything to do with my boob, who was only happy once we gave him a bottle of formula (ouch to the mama ego), and still cried inexplicably even after he seemed satiated. Many nights were spend strapping him in the carseat and driving in circles around our neighborhood as it was the only activity that would stop the crying and lull him into sleep. Both me and Ken were ragged around the edges with lack of sleep, and frustration at why we were obviously sucking at this parenting gig.

It was particularly hard for me. I was completely jacked up on the roller coaster of postpartum hormones and desperately wanting to seem like I had it all together. I wanted this for so long. I didn't want to finally be a mom and fail at the task, or seem ungrateful for our amazing miracle. As is my M.O. I wanted to hide this struggle. I didn't want to ask for help. Thankfully my husband knew better. He enlisted the help of a good friend to take me and the baby to Dr.'s appointments, my family to come over and watch Arlo so I could shower or nap, and my best friend to come stay with me for a few days while I was recovering.

Eventually, after meeting with a lactation consultant and sufficiently torturing myself about it, I decided to stop trying to nurse. Arlo was unhappy and unsatisfied with my measly output and I was heartbroken at yet again not being able to do what my body was supposed to do. It has been a tough decision to make while knowing that "breast is best". How could I not give him the best?!? Difficult as it was it was the right call for us. Instead of dreading each feeding time, I now enjoy looking down at my chubby, happy, formula fed baby while he takes his bottle. I know that we are bonding through that time much more than we were through his red-faced crying at my attempts to nurse him. We also discovered that part of his scream-a-palooza (even with the formula) was due to painful reflux and have gotten him on medicine as well as OTC gas drops. AMAZING the difference those little drops have made.

So why share all this? In a previous post, I spoke about wanting to live an authentic life. Part of that authenticity is blogging about the real-deal life stuff that most people would rather hide. It's easy to try to fake having it all together. Post sweet pictures of your baby sleeping on your Facebook and never mention that this was a brief moment of bliss in an otherwise crappy day. I'm also trying to shed a little light on the issue of mommy guilt. We beat ourselves up over whether or not we are doing everything right for our little ones and to be honest, we sit in judgement of other women if we think they aren't. There seems to be a rush post-delivery to declare your parenting style. Are you attachment parenting? Will you use the Ferber method? Co-Sleeping? Breastfeeding? Formula Feeding? Will you wear your baby in wraps and slings or push them in a stroller? There is an endless array of decisions to make and you feel that each of them will dramatically impact the development and psyche of your child. 

So what are we doing? What is our parenting philosophy? I've decided that we will be adopting the "Pro-Arlo and what works for our family" method. I'm trying to trust that I am the expert on my baby (scary thought) and no one knows him like I do. I'm also trying to let go of guilty feelings and realize that I'm giving him my very best 100% of the time. So here we are, doing our very best and loving this little man like crazy. 


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