I woke up in an amazing mood this morning… the first thing I heard was my happy tiny child creating new sounds and trying them out at varying volumes, which in turn created the first thing I saw… A perfect, incredible being, one that I helped bring into this world. One I had waited for, hoped for, held close, fought for, feared for and now, finally, have the privilege of being with… My amazing mood held as we sat in the sun and explored food together, sharing a lot with the dog (who has learned to sit close to the high chair), sharing with one another (I do love squash & broccoli sludge for breakfast). My good mood held as I chatted to a beautiful woman online about her current life. My good mood held right up until I was sent a “heads up” about a breastfeeding post on Facebook.
“Breastfeeding is too hard… said no cavewoman, ever. Many of the difficulties of breastfeeding are due to modern beliefs and fears, which come from living in a bottle fed society.”
My immediate reaction was rage. Not about the content, even though the content is close to my heart. But about the fact that we are still doing one of the most damaging things we can to our future generation.
I always imagined I would be an extraordinary earth mother who plopped children out in the garden & breast fed them until they were independent – without batting a non-mascared eyelash – because it is the most normal thing in the world to do, right? Cave women everywhere have taught us that.
But after 3 emergency c-sections, 2 of which were VBAC attempts, and breastfeeding issues with all of my babies, I realized I had 2 choices.
Continue to feel like a complete failure as a mother (and woman) or re-frame my idea of what it means to be a good mum.
The first option did not work out so well for me. I tried it on for a while, but it degraded the quality of my connection with my child, my husband and any woman who had pushed a baby out her vag or could effortlessly plop it on her breast. In short, it isolated me, drove me deeper into overwhelm and made my first experience of being a mother a nightmare.
So I chose to re-frame. Which sounds so easy. Just think about it differently – right? No drama – if you live in a bubble… on an island… on another planet.
Re-framing my ideas about what it is to be great mum took every ounce of courage, clarity and “fuck-you”ness I have ever had to muster. And it took true empathy from a couple of really incredibly brave women to make me realize I was not alone.
After being a mum for 15 years now, and spending my working life being with women in trauma, I have come to know that there is truly only one way to correctly parent.
DO WHAT WORKS.
If you can be with your child, if you can listen, if you can respond, if you can meet their needs, and meet your own (as much as humanly possible)… If you can make it through the day in one piece (sometimes), if you can look at your child and experience love (sometimes), YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT.
It does not matter how they were birthed into this world, it does not matter how you are choosing to sustain their need for nourishment. We all have expectations, and striving to meet them is what makes us good mums.
Mother shaming needs to stop.
It divides us as women, at a time when connection & support is most needed.
It isolates us from the people we love – shame always does.
Making a mother wrong for the choices she makes does not make her a better mother, or a better woman (nor does it make YOU a better mother). It just makes her alone & afraid.
It is not kind, it is not helpful.
What is helpful is empathy, story sharing, truth telling and celebration of the things we do get right – the little wins that give us enough breathing space to carry on when things get tough.
The next time you feel the need to tell a woman how she could be doing it better, maybe take a moment…. Remember she is doing the hardest job in the world, realize you can never know her whole story, remember all the times you didn’t get it right… remember all the times you didn’t live up to your own expectations… and then say to her –
“You are amazing. Keep going – you have got this.”