Being a mom is hard.
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. And it’s not just hard in the ways you’d think. Sure, it’s hard not getting enough sleep and constantly picking up after someone else and getting snot and vomit and urine and who-knows-what-else on you. But there are other things that are also hard. SO hard. And until you’re a parent, you can’t really understand how hard those other things can be.
Like how to feed your baby. This doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult. I mean, as long as you’re getting your baby the proper nutrition (ie: enough breast milk or formula and then later, enough baby food or soft foods and whole milk) it shouldn’t make being a mom hard, right? Wrong.
Feeding my baby has been a source of pain for me since I realize that breastfeeding just wasn’t going to happen for us. I wanted to breastfeed. I wanted it SO BADLY. But because of a long series of things–uncooperative nipples, an undiagnosed tongue and lip tie, no real breastfeeding support in the area, doctors and nurses who didn’t have time to help as much as a new mom needs, and a baby who was rapidly losing weight–I didn’t get to have that relationship with my son. Instead, I chose to use a breast pump and pump for as long as my body would produce milk, which ended up being just at six months, and feed my son with a bottle–first breast milk, then formula, and now whole milk.
This shouldn’t be a big deal. I should be able to look at this, at the fact that I have fed my son and given him the nutrition he needs for over thirteen months now. But do you know what I see in all of that? I failed my son because I couldn’t breastfeed him until he was ready to stop. That’s what I see. That’s what I feel.
There’s an ache deep in my belly that still yearns to have that relationship with him every time I see a mom breastfeeding her baby. Every time I see an article on Facebook about why breast is best, or see other moms (and dads) talking about how awful formula is for your baby, guilt eats me up. Even now, seven months after my supply dried up, a year after I finally realized that pumping was best for James and for me, I mourn–truly, deeply mourn–not being able to breastfeed James. I still battle my mommy guilt and have to talk myself down from just sitting and crying and wallowing in these feelings, even though I know I’ve done all I could to take care of my baby. I still remember the looks I used to get in public places every time I put a bottle in James’s mouth–looks that said you’re a screw up, you could do this better, you should be ashamed.
Being a mom is hard. And the only people who can understand just how hard it is are other moms, but we still judge each other. We think we know what’s best for other mothers, other families. We think that just because we really connect with a parenting style or choice that it has to be the right one for everyone. But we can’t know what other families, other moms, other kids go through. Maybe a mother is breastfeeding because it’s cheaper. Maybe she’s bottle feeding because her baby was adopted. Maybe she did every single thing she could to breastfeed, and for any number of reasons, just couldn’t. There are a million situations with a million maybes out there…
We can’t know other moms’ stories, other families’ plot lines. All we can do is band together, really truly be a tribe of mothers instead of a group of moms who sometimes get along and sometimes judge the hell out of each other. We need to support each other, try and understand where other moms are coming from and try not to cast judgement. We need to stop assuming that the way we’re parenting is the absolute, one hundred percent best way to parent, need to stop trying to “fix” other moms. We need to support each other, love each other, be shoulders for each other to cry on, and love each other.
Being a mom is hard, but having mom friends who get you, who listen to you, who are just there for you (even if you don’t parent the same way or feed your child the same way or whatever) makes it so much easier, so much better.