Mature Mom – mom-shaming!

Ugh, for the sensitive soul like me, especially as a new mom, it hasn’t taken much to make me second guess myself. Determined not to make a mistake that could potentially harm or hold back my baby, I’ve read as much as I could and continue to look everything up and ask everyone for advice or for their experiences just to learn and maybe find a solution to any kind of perceived problem that we come across. Yes, unfortunately I’m an idealist and am learning to come to terms with the fact that nothing is perfect and no one is perfect, as a result of The Fall really.

Anyway, as an example my baby hates the car seat, she just can’t stand to be strapped down into the car. I needed people to talk to about things like this who have understood and helped me to keep things in perspective. I ended up chatting a lot with my university friend about any and many topics, as she is one who can share her experiences and rationales without ever judging me and helping me to learn that all moms feel like they might be missing something when it comes to caring for their child’s development and well being.

And then there are the comments that feel like a jab in the rib. Since I do want for the person who finds this blog to be entertained a little, I will share a little.,

Example A – I’ll call her N, she is a feisty person who I never felt like I wanted to speak with anyway for fear that I’d give her a piece of my mind and then an annoying feud would break out. Anyway it’s Easter Sunday and we see her and her family at mass. Yes, it’s in the church when she strikes. But first, she comes up to congratulate us on the baby and her husband who is a really nice guy is chatting with my husband and N is just standing there smiling at my baby which I thought was nice. She asks “how is she sleeping?” One of us responded that she does well, only wakes once maybe twice a night for a feeding and a diaper change but gets a good amount of sleep in. “Tsk tsk tsk…you should read Babywise” and we said we did and she said “well read it again” and I said “she’s a reflux baby, check out chapter 8 of the book.”

I have to say something here by the way, my baby is big and healthy and strong as can be. She’s in the 95th percentile for weight and height. At 4 months she wears 9-12 month old clothes. I have been breast feeding exclusively and doing that on a much reduced diet (chicken rice and vegetables due to my baby’s protein allergies). I am also 42 years old. Additionally, despite a rough start with her reflux and her big fight against falling asleep, my baby is the picture of perfect health and everyone comments on how happy she is. Indeed, she smiles and laughs all the time. Her blue eyes dance when you sing to her and she babble talks all the time except when in public she is very polite and just watches and never cries pretty much, only saving that for us when it’s just us parents it seems. She also charms everyone to bits and already knows how to work a room. Between nursing and the diet I have lost all my baby weight and maybe a little more. I don’t do exercises like sit ups so my abs are not in shape but otherwise I think I look better than I have in a good while. Aside from me and my husband looking tired from time to time and me feeling a little insecure because I’m sensitive and I worry about life too much, we are a thriving family unit.

Next up, example B: I will call her D, and she is a nice person but another Babywise subscriber, in fact she gave me my copy for which I was grateful even though I have my own opinion on the book (it’s a book about sleep training). She told me that the book mentioned that women over 35 can have a problem with milk supply. Yeah, I’ve panicked about my milk supply many an evening. My husband laughs at me when I’m crying because I think I don’t have enough milk (the milk supply emotional breakdown is real!!!) and he just holds our baby in front of me and says, if you didn’t have enough milk, how did she get to be so big? Anyway, one day I decided to give rice milk a go to see if it would settle the reflux a little, this was around the 4-month mark. I had everything sorted except the bottle nipple…the ones that I had received as a baby shower gift were too small, meaning that the hole in the nipple was meant for newborns and had a slow flow. The milk with the rice cereal was not making it through the nipple. I didn’t want to open the hole for fear that I would open it too much, and choke my child with too fast a flow – I was cautious because my baby already choked on my oversupply milk flow sometimes. So I reached out to D over text messages and explain that I’m going to start feeding my girl some rice cereal and could she help me figure out the bottle nipple situation? Her first words of the text were, “I’m so sorry you have to use rice cereal.” To be honest I never felt like I had failed by needing some help. Baby needed something extra to help her stomach settle and to maybe help her sleep longer. The end of the text was “I’ll be praying for you.” The in between part was urging me to not use rice cereal which is fine but not helpful. I don’t think there’s any shame in acknowledging that my milk wasn’t doing the job well enough for my girl. I didn’t feel incomplete but now I managed to become the old mom who had to resort to rice cereal. Well, my mom used formula and rice cereal on my brother and I when she was low in milk and she was 21 and 25 when she had us. I was disappointed by D’s response. In the end I contacted another friend who told me about the fast flow nipple and also gave me some helpful advice about helping baby to sleep through the night, encouraging me by saying “your baby can do it!” Which I thought was very cute.

Then there are the “why don’t you breastfeed down here with us” and “why don’t you just put your baby in a car seat and sit with us?” “You mean you can’t just put her down in bed? She won’t go to sleep?” questions and accompanying facial gestures when visiting family. Then the “your baby is fine you can eat whatever you want” kind of statements that mean I’m overreacting with my diet and moreso, I should have brought my own chicken and rice dish. I have one aunt who feels like she always has to give me advice on looking after baby, from letting my baby cry it out to when I can introduce solids…and it comes out as a lecture. My own mom thinks I’m being too particular but we have so much more information now than before, more cases of modified food and food allergies, and baby food isn’t even the same anymore (from the products of the 70s)! I finally had to say to my mom, “if you were a mom today, you’d be doing exactly the same things I am doing.”

I realize that people sometimes mean well, they want to help you, they want your company, but the lack of understanding, or at least the lack of communication that they understand, is a source of stress.

But my mom said it to me recently “you’ve done it, you’re doing it, all on your own you’re doing it well and better than I did.” I think that when a baby looks strong and healthy, one assumes the child is spoiled in some way, that the mom has it too easy, so people think it’s safe to say something less than encouraging. They don’t necessarily know about the hard work and sacrifice behind the healthy baby. And then there are the moms who believe that they are better mothers than me. I’m not a highly competitive person, I like to excel and I like to be good at things, but not to dance on others. I simply wish to do my best and caring for a little fragile life is serious business to me. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not sensitive and don’t need encouragement. On the contrary, I need coaching constantly! Even just an arm around the shoulders to tell me I’m doing a good job, that’s all I need from other moms and dads. And that’s what I need to give too. Only recently I told my good friend that she was a good mom…I was always amazed by her adventurousness because she lives abroad in an exotic location, and never thought that it was hard for her because she was always smiling. Not until I got pregnant and I told her she’s done a great job with her kids, now 11 and 9. Her voice picked up when she thanked me for the comment, she said she didn’t get the compliment very often. My dad said it, “the world can be hard on happy people.”

I guess we are critical of moms and kids because we so very much need good people to be raised. But it’s a huge job! And we need to be encouraging and to be a person who can lend a hand and be of meaningful support, because we as a society are responsible for raising that child too. We are all examples to a child and kindness and helpfulness will be passed on to children, they will see it and learn it. Good habits can be passed on. Just as bad habits will be learned by children also. Why not be a source of good habits and love? There’s no need to make a mom feel poorly about herself, that will only hurt the baby. We all need to be of help and encouragement, and when appropriate, pass along some tried and true skills and practices that will help baby and mom out.

I realize that some people’s delivery can misrepresent his or her’s true intention. My husband always reminds me to listen to the words and to give people the benefit of the doubt, if only just to save ourselves from dwelling over someone’s apparent meanness in how they were trying to be helpful…dwelling is like a cancer! But I also believe in avoiding poison from people who don’t have much positivity to bring to the table. And we need to teach our children to deal with meanness too. Ah, everything is ultimately a life lesson for our little ones, rather than a reason to feel defeated and hopeless. All the more to teach about keeping a peaceful heart and to recognize what is wrong and right in behaviours so as not to fall victim to poor conduct.

All moms and new moms especially need all the positive support they can get from all of us… At the very least, demonstrating utmost respect for all mothers is something we must do as our world depends on mothers!

Interestingly, I read an article about a month ago about how long it takes for a new mom to feel confident and the average is 4 months 23 days. As I write this very entry, I have come to acknowledge that I’m doing a great job so far. Sure, we haven’t figured out the sleep thing entirely yet but she has also been a unique person so I’m quite pleased that she doesn’t follow the book. Now I can say that but when I was learning at first, I was afraid that I was doing everything wrong. Today marks 4 months and 23 days since I gave birth.

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