I think I’m pretty firmly out of the baby-having years of my life. I mean, it is probably still physically possible, if not mentally abhorrent. If it were to happen… well, I can’t even bear to entertain the possibility of starting again at the completely clueless, worried-about-every teeny-thing phase of parenthood. Because that was totally me.
You know what I’m talking about. Anyone who has ever stared into the open and unguarded eyes of a tiny baby knows. That life, every infinitesimal thing that makes up that human existence, is quite literally in your hands. And if you’re a new mom, you’re handed this ginormous responsibility at a moment in time when your body is in the worst shape it’s ever been, your hormones are out of control and you may be right on the verge of sanity—thanks to total exhaustion and the sheer enormity of it all.
But it doesn’t matter how tired you are, or if you’re basically wearing a grownup diaper and hopped up on Motrin, because the most important job of your life starts now. If you’re like me, you read ninety-seven books about what to expect while you were pregnant. But I read maybe, oh, half a book about what to expect once I had this defenseless human being actually in my arms as the rest of the world felt like it was spinning slowly out of my control and my identity receded so far beneath my nursing bras and swaddling blankets that I wasn’t even sure who I was. I was unprepared. And even the new moms I know who read ALL the right books about how to handle that 6-pound squalling world-disruptor were pretty damned lost once the time really came.
Dads are part of the equation—of course they are. But dads, at least most dads I know, manage to be a bit outside the frenzy and tornadic shitstorm that is managing a new human life. Maybe it’s because they traditionally take just a few days or weeks off and then their lives essentially go back to normal while the moms take on most of the new-baby stuff. (In this country, at least.)
All the Ways You’re Doing it Wrong…
And so it is confusing to me that so many moms—all of whom have shared the life-altering shock, pain and confusion of having a first child to some degree—are willing to pile on one another when it comes to figuring out how this should all be done.
Why is there a legion of moms standing at the ready to pour on the guilt when a new mom realizes that breastfeeding is not going to work for her? Why are there dozens of websites and Facebook groups positioned as being there to help and assist new mothers, that will quickly deride and condemn them for deciding that baby-wearing or co-sleeping isn’t right for them? Or that they are right? There are militant mommies on BOTH sides. Why are cloth diapers the only way to go – or wait, you live in the desert (or California) where water is scarce? Then how dare you use cloth diapers when it takes so much of that precious resource to clean them and reuse them? (see? Both sides, I tell you.)
When I was a frightened new mom, with a sparkly new human life in my hands—at a time when I should have been enjoying my baby and my new definition of self—I was completely paralyzed by fear, guilt and shame. I couldn’t breastfeed. I did it for eight whole weeks—three weeks after the doctor advised me to stop. I remember when the Major came home from work one day and I was sitting on the couch crying as I pumped blood and milk into a bottle. The mastitis and yeast infections were so bad that feeding felt like pulling glass through my breast, and much of the milk I made couldn’t be fed to my new baby anyway. But I knew that “breast was best,” and I’d be damned if I was going to take the easy way out for something this important.
I hope you see the insanity in the above statement.
My baby was losing weight. But my lactation consultant said I just needed to persevere. It would certainly get easier. It would become second nature. But it didn’t. And Turbo was hungry. But formula was the enemy, right?
Formula was the right choice for us. And when Lunchbox’s turn came, I tried again, but we had the formula ready to go. And he was a fat and happy little guy, well fed and sweet.
And neither of my formula-fed boys has shown any sign of harm from my choice. By the way, my brother the rocket scientist was also formula fed. He’s over six feet tall. I don’t think formula stunted his intelligence or development. I was formula fed, too…
Don’t Listen to the Militant Mommies Around You
Here are the things I want new mommies to know, and I hope that hearing THIS from a mommy who has been there might help counter some of the messages that surround new moms, the propaganda put forth by the Militant Mommyhood:
- Feed your babies however you choose, but hold them tight when you do it, and look into their tiny faces, and smile. And know that you are taking care of them. (Having Mom smiling while holding a bottle of formula HAS to be more soothing than having Mom sob while you suck frantically at a scabbed nipple that barely makes milk, right?)
- Diaper your kids in whatever way works for you. Make your choice based on your beliefs and capabilities. Don’t let anyone pressure you in one direction or the other.
- You DO NOT have to make your own baby food and freeze it in ice cube trays. Don’t you have enough crap to do right now?? But if you DO have time to do this, then be proud that you’re doing what works for your family.
- Goldfish crackers are not the devil. Your kid will probably prefer carbs to veggies once they hit three or four, no matter how diligent you are at introducing healthy foods first. I speak from experience.
- Put the baby on a schedule. Or don’t. You have to do what works in your house, for your life. Don’t be bullied.
- Putting your tiny one in the swing and taking a minute to read a magazine doesn’t make you a bad mom. Good moms are happy moms. Find ways to get time for you and relax. Happy moms don’t spend every waking moment with their children. Happy moms regain their identity and independence over time. Don’t be afraid to do the things you enjoy doing WITHOUT a baby strapped to your chest.
- Babies are resilient. I think mine are made of rubber. You will make mistakes. And it will be okay.
- Most of all – SURVIVE. The first year is about getting your feet back under you and adjusting to the biggest change you’ll ever endure. Survive it. And if you can find those bright gleaming moments of wonder and joy in there, treasure them! Do it your way, and know that you are doing it right FOR YOU.