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Mommy Edition: Why Am I So Hard on Myself?


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Being a parent is the absolute hardest journey I have ever been on, and I’ve been on some journeys.


Moving to a new town for college? Easy.


Traveling to a foreign country for a semester when I didn’t know anyone? Piece of cake.


Online dating? No worries, I’ve got that.


But, holding each newborn baby in your arms for the first time brings an overwhelming sense of joy, gratitude, and anxiety.


While the joy and gratitude fills you up, the anxiety is enough to suck all of the joy and gratitude if you let it. As a mom, I constantly berate myself about the choices I made as a parent any given day.


Was I too harsh with that consequence? Was I too easy? Am I giving each child enough attention? Was it selfish to hide in the bathroom for a few minutes? Did I support my husband enough today on his parenting choices or did I cut him at the knees?


I also worry about things like what they eat, what they do, what they watch, how they play, etc.


So even though I’m fairly easy-going, being a parent has made me incredibly hard on myself. More than I ever had been.


Why?


Because as moms, we constantly question ourselves in general. Add social media into the equation, it’s a wonder that any of us make it out with any level of positivity.


So, because Jessie asked the question in her blog, I started to wonder myself…why am I so hard on myself as a parent? Why am I so hard on myself as a parent when I am able to celebrate the other places in my life so easily?


It isn’t an easy question to answer. When I started to ponder this question, the memories of my journey with breastfeeding flooded my mind. Like many, this was a personal journey with some struggle, so remember to be kind.


My son was born healthy in 2019, and thank you God for that! He was absolutely perfect in every way, and after two days, we were cleared to take him home. We would visit the doctor within a couple of days, but he had started to be a little jaundiced, so we were told to let him be in sunlight without any additional advice.


I remember taking my son home from the hospital wondering why they thought I was qualified to actually care for this child.


The next two nights, my son cried incessantly at night and slept during the day. I was trying to exclusively breastfeed, and while I kept letting him nurse for long amounts of time, he would cry through the night. My nipples hurt so much that I finally broke down at the recommendation of my mom and gave him an ounce of formula so I could have a break. I think I did it again at the next feeding.


I felt like something was wrong, but I had no idea what having a newborn was like, and I was tired. So I just kept doing the best I could.


Luckily, it was the day of the doctor’s appointment. When we did our first weight check, my son had lost 14oz since his birth. Doctors expect babies to lose weight after being born but not that much.



As soon as our doctor came in, she smiled reassuringly at us new parents holding a newborn, and she saw immediately that my son was jaundiced. She took a blood sample to have it analyzed, and we started to talk about how he was eating. I didn’t realize that jaundice was also tied to malnutrition in the early days of having a baby.


When she asked how breastfeeding was going, tears immediately streamed down my face. I’ve never been much of a crier, but after having kids, tears come much more easily.


I said that I wasn’t sure if he was getting enough. By this time, my son was four days old. My milk still hadn’t come in, and he needed more than I currently supplied. I never had the feeling of fullness so many mothers talk about when it comes to having their milk come in.


Also, by this time, my son had started to fight me when I wanted to nurse him, so the entire experience had become exhausting and full of tears. My doctor immediately went and got a 2oz formula sample, and before my tearful eyes, he drained the bottle. He had been starving.


She gave me some advice about how to work with him on nursing and supplementing formula and sent us home while she awaited the blood sample test to check his levels.


After our appointment that morning, we used formula to feed my son while I pumped. He was like a new baby. Happy and content. While pumping, I realized one of my breasts literally wasn’t producing anything. No wonder he had cried for two nights straight. I started to feel better.


Our doctor called at 8pm when the blood sample returned. We had to go to LeBonheur Children’s hospital. The number was too high, and he was going to need additional care to get his jaundice under control.


I had been home all of 48 hours with my son, and we were returning to the hospital.

It was my fault. I hadn’t been giving him what he needed. I did everything that I thought I was supposed to, but it hadn’t been enough. He was sick because of me.


The next 24 hours were filled with doctors, nurses, and lactation specialists. People helping to make my son better and who were also trying to help me with breastfeeding.


I received so much advice while lactation specialists showed me how to pump and breastfeed and latch. I practiced breastfeeding, the pump, and gave formula for two cycles of my son eating. My husband had a specific breast pump on order from Target at their recommendation for us to use at home.


I remember looking at my son at the next two-hour mark when it came time to feed him, and I began to visibly shake. My entire body shivered, and I dreaded picking up my baby to feed him. Thinking about everything I was going to have to do, I just didn’t want anything to do with it.


I was running on no sleep for the last 24 hours. I was scared, upset, and guilt-ridden. I really wanted to breastfeed, but I had always tried to keep the mindset that if it didn’t work out that it would be okay.


As I shivered across the room from my husband, I finally voiced to him that I didn’t think that I could do it. On that 5th day, my milk still hadn’t come in. I was still going to have to supplement with formula, and it just didn’t seem worth it to me anymore if on the 5th day of my son’s life, I dreaded feeding him.


Many would tell you breastfeeding is hard, and it is HARD. Many would tell you to push through because it is worth it.


For me, it wasn’t worth it. The signs of postpartum depression were already there. If breastfeeding made me dread time with my son, then it wasn’t worth it.



My husband, the amazing man that he is, supported me 100%. There was never a question about it.


And when I talked to the doctor at the hospital as well as our pediatrician, they both said the same thing.


Fed is best.


Now, there is a lot of controversy around this topic. I’m neither advocating that you give up on breastfeeding or that it’s not important.


What I’m saying is that choosing what was best for me at that moment was also choosing what was best for my baby.


And that’s a win.


By the way, my milk came in on the 6th day, and it was minimal despite all the work I had done to try and make it work.


So, if that’s the end of the story, how does that relate to being hard on myself?


Well, that’s where the next 11 months and 3 weeks come into play.


Around the time I had Brees, many people around me also had babies. And it seemed like they all successfully breastfed. And it seemed like none of them would stop talking about it.


Here I was a new mom making the best decision for me and my son to use formula, but everyone around me was being successful with breastfeeding. Everyone else posted memes about how good it is for child development and how proud of themselves they were for being able to do it. I’d get the posts in Mommy groups talking about how we should make sure to tell moms that they need to do everything that they can to breastfeed.


And I just wanted to scream.


Because all of their posts made me feel small and like a failure even though they had nothing to do with me at all.


Parenting comes with a million people wanting to tell you a million different ways of doing things, but when it comes down to it, you have to sift through the noise and figure out what is best for you and your kid. They need to be healthy (mentally and physically), happy, and loved.


However you figure out how to make that happen, it’s a win.


It’s hard to celebrate wins as a parent because we constantly fight with our own expectations and beat ourselves up by negative self-talk, especially as mothers. It’s so easy to look all around us to find others being successful on social media and forget that social media isn’t reality.


It’s a skewed reality of whatever that person wants us to see.


This thought brought me to another question.


Why are we so hard on each other as moms?


It is near impossible not to feel judged these days by other moms. That could be our own mothers, our mom friends, mom colleagues or non-moms.


Many people say that we don’t have villages in America anymore (luckily, I find myself with a fantastic village), and in many ways I think it can be because even if we have a village, we can feel judged by them.


Opinions about raising children I’ve heard: Breastfeed, formula-feed, exclusively pump, post on social, don’t post on social, vaccinate (this is the only option by the way…), sleep train, don’t sleep train, baby-led-weaning, make your own food, jar food, organic, no food-dye, no sugar, sugar’s fine, have a routine, let baby do their own thing, get on a schedule etc.


Thinking about everything that people have opinions about is exhausting and the above list is information you get in just the first six months of life. You still have 17 and ½ years to go at that point.


So, when we feel others are constantly judging us, it’s easy to judge ourselves.

We as mothers have to learn to TURN OFF SOCIAL MEDIA and get real with ourselves.


Things to remember about other moms:

  1. You can’t trust everything someone puts on their social media when it comes to being a mom. They’re leaving parts out.

  2. They’re likely just as insecure as you are and probably feel just as judged. They are figuring this out along the way just like you.

  3. Sometimes their comments that make you feel small are meant to actually build themselves up. You are not the center of another mom’s journey.

  4. And if they’re judging you, they aren’t deserving of your friendship anyway.

So, as a general rule, let’s stop being so hard on each other. It’s making it harder on ourselves individually.


Which brings me back to why am I so hard on myself?


I’m raising two whole humans, and raising children and building a family unit with my husband is the most important project we’ve ever taken on.


It’s often the most important projects that we are most critical about. And, it’s time to just find ways to celebrate the small victories.


We see the small wins every day when our child tells us that they love us. With every sloppy kiss, random hug, and high-five, I’m over the moon. Every time my child sits in my lap to read a book, I cherish the moments they want to cuddle with me. If you ‘re a parent of an older child, I imagine it’s a little different, but every teen shows you love in their own way too.


Being a parent is hard. Knowing which battles to fight and which battles to let go for now is a never ending struggle, and it doesn’t get better with age or time. These stinking kids get smarter every day, and as soon as you figure out what you’re doing, they change it up on you.



No one is going to hand you a trophy for being a good parent. A lot of days, you’ll be sitting in bed going over every action you made wondering if it was the right one.


To this day, I’ll never know what would have happened if I had kept trying to breastfeed my son.


But, I know I made a decision that was the best for the both of us, and that is a win.


My son is a thriving, smart, funny, and kind little boy who is in the 70th percentile of his age group. He’s doing just great.


I struggle many days with how I’m doing as a mom. My husband tells me to give myself a break. I want to lie in bed and think about all the wonderful things we did that day, so I have to make the effort to work at it.


So, give yourself a break from your internal struggles. Let’s stop being so hard on ourselves together.


Ask yourself:


Did you make the best decision to make sure your kid is healthy, happy and loved? Are they becoming well-rounded, contributing members of society? Are you going to wake up tomorrow and try your best until your head hits the pillow?


Then it’s a win, and let go of some of the anxiety that is holding you down.


And if all else fails, take a nap. Seriously, you probably need it.


Jackie



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