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Mom-guilt. Mom-shaming. These two phrases did not make a noticeable impact on my life until I discovered I was pregnant. They trickled their way into my every day existence through social media and family members or articles and friends. Of course, I knew about them since they were popular sayings being thrown all over social media, blogs, and podcasts. However, they did not hit close to home until I personally experienced the mom-guilt myself.
I will admit, I have thrown “shame” at other moms without realizing it may hurt their feelings or make them feel uncomfortable. Before I became pregnant, one of my friends was breastfeeding her little one and every time her baby cried or grew whiny, she whipped out her boob. Being someone who has always felt a little uncomfortable with breastfeeding, I would jokingly say, “Have some juice instead” or “She doesn’t need that, she just needs to play.” Well, back then I was just being myself: quirky, goofy, and honest. Now, looking back, I see that my comments could be put in the category of mom-shaming.
We are all human with personalities, opinions, and beliefs and, sometimes, our thoughts may slip out in a way we don’t expect them to. While some people may brush off those statements, others may take them to heart and feel guilty or ashamed. I now fully recognize this and understand this concept because I am a parent. I may be someone who can brush off the comments of others, but sometimes those statements can get the best of me – and there have been times when they have.
Three Times Mom-Guilt Got the Best of Me
1. Delivering via C-Section: “Well, You Really Didn’t Give Birth.”
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“Well, you really didn’t give birth.” That statement. That opinion. That is what crushes many moms who end up having a cesarean section. Whether it is due to health reasons or personal reasons, a c-section is still a very real and legitimate way to deliver a baby. It can and should be recognized as giving birth – whether some people in society agree or not.
When “Baby A” decided to stay breach up into my third trimester, delivering my twins vaginally was not something I felt safe doing. Even though going through labor vaginally with twins was not something I really wanted to do, going through a c-section was also not something I was thrilled about. I knew it was a surgical procedure, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of the scenario until the day of delivery. I had no control over anything going on and the environment was incredibly sterile.
After the c-section, I had to sleep on an incline for weeks and my boyfriend had to help me out of bed simply because my abdominals couldn’t life me to my feet. I would hear jokes about how moms who have c-sections don’t really give birth or how it’s the easy way out and I would brush them off as just what they were – jokes. However, there were times when those statement hit me – especially when I couldn’t jump back into physical activities with ease or when I couldn’t sleep on my back for weeks after the surgery.
When someone thinks that a c-section is “the easy way out” or “it isn’t really giving birth,” they need to step back and think about what they want to say before they say it. Think about how that statement will impact the person they are speaking to. Will they laugh it off? Will they grow emotional about it? Will they slap you in the face? Anything is possible.
2. Cribs from Night One: “You Don’t Want Them Close to You?”
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When my boyfriend and I noticed our newborns sleeping well in the hospital all swaddled up in their separate containers, we realized something: Why don’t we just try to put them in their cribs when we get home? Instead of stressing about the transition from the swing or pack-and-play into the crib, we decided to try it out from night one. It magically worked.
For many people, they saw this as a wonderful choice we had made. We wouldn’t have to fuss over that transition and they would already be comfortable in their nursery. It also gave us, as new parents, time to breathe and time to be with one another.
Then there were some hushed voices that thought otherwise. Some people saw this as not providing enough bonding for our twins since they were not beside or in the bed with us. Some people brought up us not being able to hear or see them clearly since there was a wall between us – even though we had a monitor by our table.
Though I was proud of our decision and I would never, ever take it back, these little comments amused me and frustrated me. Before jumping to conclusions, take a step back and remember that every single family has their own set of parenting beliefs. While I don’t believe in co-sleeping, it doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. While I don’t really enjoy breastfeeding, it doesn’t mean another mother doesn’t have to love it. We all have our personal set of beliefs and remembering that is important.
3. Breastfeeding Bonanza: “Breastfeeding is the Best Way to Bond, Though.”
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I wrote a blog not long ago discussing my decision not to breastfeed my twins. To make a long story short, I did not find breastfeeding comfortable mentally or physically. I did not like the idea of having my babies feeding off of me and when I tried to two weeks, I was simply doing it to please those around me who wanted me to try. This may be a strange concept for nursing mothers to understand, but the fact is: breastfeeding is just not for me. Plain and simple.
I knew from the start I would be using formula and I was absolutely fine with this decision. I was already stressed beyond explanation and forcing myself to do something I did not feel comfortable doing was not top priority. Within the first 24 hours of delivery, I repeated myself numerous times to three different lactation consultants: “I will try breastfeeding on my own and I am fine pumping and using formula.” Even when I was pregnant, nurses would expect I was planning to nurse and when I said I was not sure I would breastfeed, many responses revolved around bonding.
More medical professionals made me feel ashamed for making the decision to supplement than social media, articles, blogs, friends, and family. It was strange how a community of professionals who should be open-minded about the beliefs and wants of their patients easily threw their opinions at me in blunt, honest ways. I respect their opinions and was open to listening to them, but getting some kind of breastfeeding advice at every single appointment became overbearing.
Before throwing your opinion at others regarding how someone chooses to feed their child, remember that your tone, body language, and choice of words can leave unexpected scars. Though I remained open to the support of others when it came to nursing, I did occasionally feel guilty for deciding to supplement when, all along, I knew it was the decision I wanted.
Never forget your original plan if it was something you were truly set on. Do not let the words and actions of others tear you down. Stand your ground and be proud of your parenting style.
Jennifer Aline is a coffee addict, mama of twins, and a passionate freelance writer and author. She writes for Moms.com on a regular basis and has had articles in publications such as the NY Daily News, NY Post, and In Good Health Newspaper. Aline received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from Keuka College and worked in the Human Services field before her two little girls entered her life. Aline now focuses primarily on writing, teaching aerial arts classes in the evenings, and caring for her twin daughters – all while continuously chugging coffee, of course.
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