Mom Guilt…Just Say No!

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 When my first child was born everything was perfect. He was perfect, my pregnancy (for the most part) was perfect, I worked full time and worked out, breastfeeding was a breeze…It was all perfect; until it wasn’t!

First of all, none of it was actually perfect, but I wasn’t having any extreme symptoms and was able to stay active during my pregnancy so I was thankful for that, but once he was out of my body that baby kicked my ass! It was exhausting, even for two physicians who were used to not sleeping and taking call… it was like taking call Every. Single. Night! Other than the exhaustion (and other post pregnancy related stuff that nobody ever talks about) I thought things were going pretty well. Until his 2 week visit at our pediatrician’s office. He wasn’t gaining weight, my milk production was low, and I was starving my precious child…everything was NOT perfect! Here it comes, the “mom guilt”, in full force. As a pediatrician I knew breast was best and of course that was all my precious baby was getting. I tried everything, lactation consultants, drugs, herbs, teas, even guiness beer! I nursed every 2-3 hours and then I pumped…after every damn feeding to increase my production… I did it all!!! I finally, begrudgingly, started him on formula when he was a month, he gobbled it down! I was starving him, my body was failing us and there was nothing I could do about it. Some members in my family encouraged my nursing only stance, others were ecstatic when I finally started formula, none of them were wrong, but nobody supported me how I needed supporting or maybe there was no way to support me?

Before we have babies we all have a certain image of the way things should be, images of doing yoga while we connect with our child, of the birthing plan that’s perfectly planned out down to what song is playing while we “naturally” birth our child, and breastfeeding our baby as we stare into each others’ eyes and bond and then he naturally weans himself off when he’s ready…..ummm, yeah, sure, that’s all totally realistic!

Where does this all come from? These images and pressures we put on ourselves, on each other? Too much to live up to, too much guilt to be had. No, no, no! I was the product of being formula fed, because at that time, that was best, better than breast milk, so why bother with nursing? But, you know what, I turned out okay. I love my mom (I talk to her daily) and I graduated from med school! The bottom line is we all do the best we can. We care for our kids and only want what’s best for them but it should not come at the cost of our sanity.

It breaks my heart to tell a mother they need to add formula to help their baby gain weight, because it broke my heart when I had to do it. But Thing 1 also turned out okay, he’s now 10 and so far so good! And breastfeeding was my downfall, but there’s unfortunately so many ways we can feel like failures; there’s the mom who is so nauseous that she can’t even get out of bed, let alone work out! Or the mom that had her heart set on a natural delivery but instead she had to have an epidural and c-section. Or maybe you had all of this down, but you couldn’t get your baby to sleep through the night and convinced yourself you did something wrong…!?!?

There’s countless examples of mom guilt, the list is endless. It’s partly society, magazine images, even medical professionals, but ultimately for me it was just me! I had to accept that I couldn’t only nurse, realize I had a healthy baby and move on.

I drove myself (and my family) crazy with my nazi-like pumping ritual! It had to stop! I wasn’t enjoying my baby and getting more emotionally attached to that pump than my baby (that dreaded pump!) It’s not easy but we all have to find ways to let go of mom guilt, it serves no purpose, and in the end what we usually end up with a healthy baby (thank G-d) that really doesn’t care about you birth plan, whether his next meal comes from a bottle or a boob, or if he came out of your tummy or the other way! Or if he didn’t come out of you at all! It’s all good!!!!!! None of it really matters. And it doesn’t stop at the baby stage…oh no…the guilt never ends! We work too much or don’t work enough, we missed the school performance or we miss our sanity! It keeps going, and going….and going!

SO let it go, let it all go and just love your babies (big or small). Your babies will love you back and know that you are the most important person in their lives because you give them love, not a whole lot else matters after you cover all the basic needs!

What’s your mom guilt? Have you been able to let it go? How?