I recently read an article, “The 10 Things They Won’t Tell You But I Will,” which is based on the premise that other moms are snickering in a corner laughing at you because you got tricked into being a mom and are just now figuring out that it’s not all easy. Most of it, I agreed with. I agree that there are parts of parenting that people just don’t tell you. And I don’t think it’s because they are trying to keep it from you, but it’s because they don’t want to say it themselves.
For example, one warning that I would have appreciated is that my hormones would be racing wildly about my body causing me to have unreal fears about parenting, as well as a bit of contempt towards my newborn. The “baby blues” got me when I got home. There were moments of pure panic. I remember feeding Ev shortly after we got home – every 2 hours to boost his weight – and feeling very overwhelmed. I felt like there was no way I was going to be able to live my life around the clock, feeding this child. For the next 18 years.
And it’s not so much the warning that I was going to have these feelings that I needed, it was somebody else telling me that it was ok. That having a baby does crazy things to your body and you can get overwhelmed. And it’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. The key, as the author of the article said, is finding another mom who you can unload on and/or having other sources of support. I am lucky that I have other moms in my life who will let themselves and me have very real reactions to being a mother and even non-mother friends who let me be totally honest.
What I don’t want to agree with or believe about the article is the part about other moms pointing fingers. While there are parts of me that think sometimes this is true, I’d love to see the day where moms just support each other and the choice each one makes for her family instead of all the judging.
My sister just had a baby who spent time in the NICU because he was early. (She had fallen at work and upon getting checked out and monitored over several days; it was decided to do an emergency c-section because the baby was in distress). Since he was early, my sister’s milk hadn’t come in which presented a problem since she planned to breast feed. The baby was supplemented with formula. Because of that, it has been hard for her to produce a sufficient amount of breast milk. My sister called me quite upset, worried that she might have to stop trying to breastfeed. In between feedings she was doing all the things her doctors and the lactation consultant had told her to do: she was eating the right foods, drinking the right amount of water, taking the right vitamins. It still wasn’t working. She was feeling very disappointed and very exhausted.
When I asked her what the big deal was if she started giving him solely formula, her reply was “everyone will judge me.” My sister literally tried everything she could possibly try to breastfeed her son for six weeks and she had shame about stopping. She ignored my argument that it might make her a happier, more in-tune mom if she wasn’t so stressed about her milk production. When we got off the phone she told me she was going to try for two more weeks.
I wonder how this situation might be different if moms could form some sort of unspoken sisterhood where we just support one another; certainly giving advice when requested, but most mostly just being there.
Like the author of the blog, I want to be friends with moms who are real, moms who are willing to admit that this new life is hard. And then we can discuss why it’s worth it.