Most women, having just given birth, have the feeling that they have done something amazing. They have. Most women do feel like Mother Earth the moment they hold their baby. At the end of the day they have given life to another human being!
Now, how many women have been made to feel that they should be banished for having an elective c-section or an epidural or even worse, AN INDUCTION? Who’s been made to feel bad that they selected to deliver in a hospital rather than have a home birth? How many have been made to feel they should apologise because they haven’t breastfed because they needed medication to deal with the aftermath of childbirth or because they just didn’t want to? Hands up. Be honest. Is the first year of motherhood a popularity contest?
The pressure of the perfect birth
There is so much pressure out there to have the perfect birth. What is that exactly? Surely it’s different for everyone? I had one blogger make me feel like there was something wrong that I had a hospital birth … ummm … that’s what I wanted and I never asked for her opinion. I am happy she wants a home birth but I certainly wouldn’t tell her that I think it’s a risky choice which could be considered downright irresponsible in today’s day and age. So why did she feel she could pity me for my “substandard delivery?” I dread to think what she’d say about my induction which turned out to be the perfect choice for me. Every situation is different, everyone has a different pain threshold, a different agenda and guess what? That’s OK.
The pressure of breastfeeding.
Often I meet mothers who, when I say I breastfeed, automatically jump on the defensive saying that they couldn’t breastfeed for whatever reason. I never asked, I don’t care, feed your baby, love your baby, that’s all the matters. Yes, I breastfeed but that is my choice! It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. If you have done your research then I will leave you to make the choice that works for you, your baby and your family. At the end of the day we are lucky to have alternatives. Ok, those who do breastfeed do look for support and celebration for reaching milestones – I know as well as anyone how much I NEED that encouragement and support but it doesn’t make me look down on someone who stopped before I have. EVER.
So, where is my medal?
I don’t do any of the things I do with BiP for any other reason than that is what I WANT to do with her. Yes, I breastfeed, yes I do Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), yes I part-time EC (Elimination Commuincation) her, yes I occassionally cloth diaper her, yes I occassionally, every minute of the day, love her. Do I get a medal? NO of course not! No medals for dealing with pain from childbirth, no medal for refusing an epidural when you can’t take the pain, no medal for dealing with chapped nipples or that first bite that you daren’t look down at for fear that your cherub has actually bitten your nipple clean off, no medal for struggling losing the weight, or for being tired … no no no! NONE of that!
So, what’s the deal? I’m all for putting the info out there and encouraging other mama’s but we all have to do what we CAN within our capabilities and sensibilities.
What do you think? Is childbirth and the first year of motherhood a popularity contest?
I was discreetly removed from the email list of my local new mother’s group when I told them I was unable to breastfeed my daughter. Even though I cloth diapered, made her food, sewed her dresses and took her to 5000 classes- i was a bad mom in their eyes. After taking part in chats for months, all of a sudden: poof. Gone… and I saw them meeting in the park without me. Whatever.
I don’t think it’s a popularity contest as much as there’s some sort of bizarro, judge-y approval matrix. It’s particularly terrible here in NYC.
That is AWFUL. I nearly cried reading that. How unbelievably heartless of them.
Oh I agree. how terrible of them. Their loss, you are a wonderful mom indeed.
That is awful – I don’t understand why people concern themselves to that extent with other people’s business. Sounds like you are better off being out of that “gang”!
Well said. I think we can all do with the reminder that we’re all just doing the best we can in the situation that we’re in. No medals, no competition.
Thanks Emma – you are so right – we do the best we can. End. Of.
I think this can be a pretty complicated discussion, with lots of room for respect & nuance.
I will first say that it makes me very sad when people automatically look down on others for making choices different from their own. It’s egotistical and essentially flawed. We do not all have the same preferences nor the same options available to us, and no one has the right to decide for someone else what is best for them.
Beyond that obvious statement, it gets very tricky…especially because we are all very sensitive to judgments made about our parenting choices. It amazes me how much pressure women feel about breastfeeding or natural birth when those of u’s who do either are in the *minority.* (in the US only 30% of babies are exclusively breastfed at 3months, and numbers drop from there). We have this screwed up social system where we insist everyone should breastfeed, but then put up every roadblock possible to make it difficult to do so. So then when we try to advocate for how to make changes to help others succeed, those who tried & couldn’t cry out about being judged.
I’m not always sure how to walk that fine line. I try to spread information & support for Breastfeeding and natural birth, while trying to make it clear that I don’t pass judgment– I want all moms to do their homework and make fully enforced decisions (decisions that will likely be different for each person even based on the same information). For example, I don’t expect everyone to want a home birth or evens med-free birth…but I want them to know it’s an option they could consider, in case they might be interested (and to help ppl realize that even if it’s not for them, it’s not a crazy or inherently unsafe option, either)
I think there’s also a lot we can all do to support each other & try to feel more confident in our own choices. I’m kinda of a mix of different parenting styles (mainstream and attachment) and if I’m not careful I can get caught up in “what might they think” of what I’m doing. Then I remind myself that I just need to focus on what seems best for myself & my family (a lesson that’s taken a few years to learn). We need to spread that sort of confidence to all parents! ; )
(sorry for the super long comment!)
Thanks for your valuable input Marcy. I think you hit the nail on the head. There IS a difference between giving information and pushing it down people’s throats and judging them. Focussing on being the best mother WE can be to OUR children should be the focus.
I do agree that I am incredibly defensive of my choices – after all I chose them and it was not without research and questioning that I came to these conclusions … so when someone tries to look down on me for them, well, I growl.
Great to have your opinion!
I’m amazed at how many women out there are so concerned at what other women “should” be doing, in terms of where and how they have their babies, what they feed their babies, what they put on their babies bum’s, where their babies sleep, and so on. I do have a keen interest in childbirth, breastfeeding, childcare, and finding the best ways for my little family. I’ve gotten to a point now where I try not to judge what another mother is doing (unless it’s downright dangerous) for her family, because I’m more interested in what’s going on with me and my family.
I will happily advise on breastfeeding, to someone who asks for or needs/wants my help, and I am very pro breastfeeding, but I am always cautious about how I share my enthusiasim, because I am aware that as Mum’s we are all doing our best, and what works for me, may not work for another Mum. I’ve never understood the need to criticise a woman’s choice of where and how she has her baby. I’ve met a woman recently who had what is called a “freebirth” in that she laboured, delivered and did the after care for her baby, entirely alone, at home, with just her husband, no medical help. She’s very vocal in her belief that this is the way it “should” be done. Personally, it’s not my cup of tea, I wouldn’t choose her way, just as she wouldn’t choose mine (midwife led hospital birth, unmedicated, with some complications that meant I had a doctor with me) She isn’t supermum, neither am I. As you said, it’s not a competition.
I think personally, spending time with my children, trying to do the best I can, as their Mum, and not being so worried about what everyone else is doing, and whether they’re better than me, has been a good lesson. We are all doing the best we can, it isn’t a competition, doing things certain ways does not entitle us to lord it over other mother’s and feel superior or that we are better than them. And to be honest the women who do come over as SuperMum, who have the ability it seems to make the rest of us feel inferior and not good enough, usually actually don’t have it all together, and really aren’t as Super as they make out. I think discovering that was a good lesson for me too! 😉
Ps it gets worse, as your kids get older. I had to shake myself today, at the school gate when one of the Yummy Mummy’s gave me a bit of an odd look when she asked me how many “activities” my 4 year old does, after school. Her child does ballet, piano lessons, swimming, tennis, and German/French lessons, on top of going to school. I prefer to have a slightly less structured (and less expensive) lifestyle for my kids, but for a moment I felt guilty, that I wasn’t doing enough for my kids, but then I shrugged it off, and as she took her 4 year old off to her swimming class, I took my 4 year old home to play play dough and watch CBeebies. Each to their own, I say! 🙂
I can only imagine it get’s worse as they get older. Oh joy!
I know I can be judgmental to a point BUT the differences is that I don’t vocalise it. It’s not my business. If a person is open and willing to accept information that’s a different story and usually I am right on gauging if that person is ready for it or not. Unsolicited pity is, in my world, unacceptable especially when you are happy with your choices.
BTW – we are all Super Mum’s … just with different sets of super powers!
Breastfeeding, making your babie’s food, organic or no? how well does she nap? sleeps through the night too? And how about the stroller – sometimes it seems like parents are the ones looking at the other brands and the children don’t care.
:: Sigh ::: it sure feels like a popularity contest sometimes. You’re right, to each their own and everyone does what they can.
I also try to just focus on what’s best for our family since other’s choices are not my business.
Buuuuuut those choices are everywhere and happen everyday and though I try to be impartial at times I do keep what I think to myself but I do THINK and can’t help it.
For example, when a couple of friends decide to forward face their carseat when their baby is 7 months old because she “is growing up” I can’t be impartial inside my head. I think it was a wrong thing to do but my thoughts are mine (though the putting baby in danger is arguable and against the law here).
We all have enough in our hands as it is!
I am with you 100% – I am not saying that I don’t see things I wouldn’t do and pass judgement, in MY HEAD. It’s about choosing your words, your opinions and who you deliver them to.
Great post! I think that we’re dealing with human nature. If it’s not motherhood it’s eating habits; choice of partner; choice of job; blah blah blah. We need to cut each other a break in LIFE, but I think it starts in motherhood. What kind of a message do we send to our kids if we’re constantly comparing and nitpicking. Yuck.
You are right – I guess it’s just recently most the conversations are around motherhood! I agree that we need to be the ones who set and example …
I think we all judge, it’s part of our nature, and I do judge things that I see other parents doing, but I try not to vocalise what I think, because most of the time, it wouldn’t go down too well, and also, I don’t feel it’s my place to say something, but oh yes, silently, I sometimes will raise my eyebrows and wonder at things another mother is doing. I live in an area of very mixed social and economic skills/finances, and have seen mothers putting cola in their babies bottles, and toddlers who most definately will have issues later in life, and on the other side seen parents with more money and ambition for their children than common sense, and biting my tongue is a skill I’ve also learned being a parent. But generally, I try to let things go. If my neighbour chooses to feed her kids whisky and crack, hell yes, I’ll judge, and I’ll be calling social services, but if she chooses to formula feed and use baby jars, and laughs when I tell her about cloth nappies because the whole idea of more laundry to her, busy as she is, seems horrific, then I just smile, and we agree she does what she does, and I do what I do, and we get along fine. It’s how we deal with judgement. There’s a huge difference, and finding the right way to offer advice without offending or upsetting, is as you say, definately a hard one!
The perfect birth issue gets to me. I always wonder if I could have gone without an epidural but then I wonder if I regret an epi because of myself or society. I felt really great about his birth right after, with no regrets. It was only afterwards as I compared to others and received opinions that I questioned what I had already decided was a great experience.
I do judge on breastfeeding. Simply because, if you DO research, it is hard to argue that breastfeeding is not the best choice for your child. I feel for women who cannot breastfeed, but I rarely respect it as a choice. I know how hard you worked to BF and how hard others have and I find it offensive whenever someone claims that formula feeding is just as good. It isn’t, and you (MiP!) deserve an actual medal for working so hard at making breastfeeding happen!
Thanks Janine, I can assure you every mother (well, almost) deserves a medal but since we don’t get them we have to stick together and support each other!
I feel the same way as you about the epidural – next time round I think I’d do it the same way – at least that way I know what to expect and there was nothing wrong with it. It’s all choices and we should be allowed to make them without being made to feel bad/inadequate etc
As a mom of a daughter who was allergic to my breastmilk, and for whom the elimination diet made me sick as hell…specialized formula was BETTER for her.
I got put through hell by myself, my mom groups, LLL, and *STILL* get “if you had just tried…” from women. The difference between then and now is that I used to let the comments hit the target. Now I know better…in MY daughter’s case, breast was not best.
Doesn’t mean I won’t try breastfeeding again with #2, due in Nov, because it is the optimal feeding situation…but that doesn’t mean I wont’ switch to formula if we have food allergy issues again.
Or if I need my anti-depressants again…my being close to suicidal because I wouldn’t put her on formula was NOT a sound parenting (or personal) decision.
Is breast optimal? Most of the time yes. But if you’re a mom who needs mood stabilizers, who has had certain surgical procedures, who has an allergic child, or who has had sexual trauma that makes breastfeeding traumatic (I’ve met several women in this category) formula can be just as good if not better for YOUR child.
I only stepped in to comment because any universal statement is dangerous, and immediately hurts someone who did their best but by your universal failed.
I think anyone who can get a few good nights of rest and a handful of days without a bodily fluids on them wins the prize.
Awesome! LOVE the criteria … I still don’t qualify! LOL!
It’s not just the first year, the whole judging moms by some standard set by God knows who goes on throughout motherhood. It’s really sad. I was made to feel guilty by a close relative about getting an epidural while I was in the midst of labor! It was insane! (Just so you know, I got the epidural anyway because I wanted and felt I needed it.) I don’t judge other moms because I know that every decision that a mother makes is made for a reason. I can’t be the judge of whether her reason(s) are right or wrong.
You hit the nail on the head! Everyone is different and we cannot judge others choices – everyone does what they need to!
I think it might actually get worse as they get older – joy!
BTW – I still don’t get what the deal is with the epidural. If you want it have it but why the scorn for choosing to have it from others? Sometimes I feel people focus on the delivery as the destination when in fact it’s just the beginning.
Thanks for stopping by Jessica and reminding me that there are lots of cool mama’s other there!
This is such a great post. I’m so glad I stumbled upon it. I had to have an induction with my daughter at 36 weeks. I had gotten a rare pregnancy related disease that caused liver and kidney failure and would have caused a still birth if we kept her in. We had to get her out. There was never even an option for me to have a home or natural birth because of an underlying heart condition. So I had to be monitored through out the entire pregnancy and delivery. I was already planning on an epidural to begin with. I didn’t care. I don’t like pain. And being induced causes severe contractions and lots of pain!
Both of us were fine and she came out perfect! She is now almost two years old and thriving. I also still breastfeed. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to nurse. I know a lot of women who had a hard time with it. I never judged them. They tried and just encountered some roadblocks with it. They felt horrible for not being able to. The only people that I vocally judge, are the ones that say that breastfeeding is gross. And yes, I have heard women say that. I have heard moms say that. That is when I speak up. There is nothing gross or unnatural about breastfeeding.
Every mother will make different decisions when it comes to raising their child. You know whats best for your child and that is what matters. Nothing else.
Wow Jami, thanks for sharing. You are so right – every decision we make as mothers is (should be) the best decision we can and that’s no one’s business.
It’s a great post, MiP. But sadly, it lasts FAR FAR FAR longer than the first year.
The pre-school drama makes me want to bang my head against a wall. That I send her to pre-k AND she takes gymnastics makes me an over-scheduling blah blah blah blah (insert charlie brown teacher voice).
The perfect birth myth makes me see red. I am constantly telling women that I’ve had a baby and I swear that there is NO secret medal ceremony going on for who had what birth. Do what’s right for you and your kid. Everyone else can go to hell.
Breastfeeding was my own personal hell. I had so many strikes against me…
–My daughter ended up in intensive care for almost a month (10 days of that on a ventilator near death).
—I was diabetic and it’s common in diabetics for not all milk ducts to mature, causing supply issues
—I was pumping
—I had crippling PPD that I refused to treat because going on mood stabilizers (which is what I need, not anti-depressants) is incompatible with breastfeeding
–After release from the hospital my daughter had lost weight and needed fats added to my milk to make it higher calorie (coupled with a weak suck reflex)
—OH YEAH…and she was allergic to my milk, something we didn’t discover until she was almost 6 months old.
You know what I hear when I share that?
–Well if you’d just tried (supplement)–tried it
–There’s a supplemental nursing system–been there, done that
–You really should have just (fill in the blank against doctor’s orders)–sorry but you’re not my (fill in the doctor’s sub speciality) you don’t get to 2nd guess them, especially since you’ve never seen my kids 400+page medical record.
But it always boils down to some variant of “you didn’t try hard enough” and that my “failure” to breastfeed is on me.
I drank that koolaid for months, if not close to a year before I finally stepped back, looked at the situation logically and got pissed off instead of accepting that I’d failed.
I am a good mom to my daughter.
I will be a good mom to her sister.
The best lesson I’ve learned is to shut up and quit judging others, and to let other’s judgments roll off my back.
There is no perfect one size fits all answer.
Far better for us to build each other up. Do you love your kid? Yes? Are you actually hurting your child? No? Then you’re fine. The rest is all details, and just because I wouldn’t use your approach doesn’t make it wrong.