Today we graduated from Lactation support. My newest baby, Will and I have had some trouble nursing and we had to see lactation weekly since his birth four weeks ago. He has gradually improved and now they said we can stop supplementing with bottles. I am thankful for that but I left there feeling less than confident about feeding my baby, the most basic of mothering duties. It got me thinking about why I feel nervous about feeding him. I think it comes down to a lack of trust in myself and my mother’s intuition. With my other babies they nursed and gained weight and that was the end of it. I never thought one minute about how much milk they got an one feeding or anything like that, I never doubted if we could be successful in nursing or whether I’d need to use formula. There is nothing wrong with formula, for the record, but what my issue is here is that when Will didn’t gain weight, in fact he spent weeks loosing weight, my faith in my body to produce what he needs was shaken. In fact I have spent years having my faith in myself as a mom shaken by well meaning doctor’s, nurses and the general good conscious of the public.
I feel like as a society we have been subtly attacking mom’s intuition to know what is best for their babies for decades now. Let’s take SIDS for example. That is something I think most moms worry about quit a bit. Every year they come out with new ways to prevent SIDS and new things we shouldn’t do. Fourteen years ago when I had my first son he had colic. He slept very poorly in a drop side crib with bumper pads. Then when that didn’t work well, they gave him reflux medicine and told me to let him sleep in his carseat so that he could be sitting up. GASP! All those things have since been declared unsafe and that they may cause SIDS. It was not that long ago that parents slept with their kids and now there is a long list of things you must not do to keep your child safe. And if your sleep deprived self happens to give in at 2am and sleep with the kid on your chest or something you are putting their life at risk and should be arrested for being a bad parent. It’s all based on fear and guilt. I am not saying we shouldn’t do what we can to keep our kids as safe as possible and all that, but I think all this hoopla is making parents scared to do anything and doubt themselves at every turn.
Another example is birth. When I had my oldest son years ago I wanted to do a natural, non-medicated birth. I told them that when I got to the hospital and they laughed at me. They said I couldn’t do it and I should just take what modern medicine had offered, pain relief. I ended up giving in. Years later I decided to do an birth center birth so that I could prove to myself that I could birth medication free and I did. That was four years ago with my fourth child. After that I had a stillbirth and everything changed. My faith in myself and my body was shaken. They couldn’t figure out why I lost Andrew, and therefore couldn’t tell me how to keep that from happening in the future. I felt broken, physically and mentally. So, when I got pregnant this last time with Will I was terrified. I didn’t trust my body at all not to mess it up again and lose this baby too. I went to a regular OB where they labeled me advanced maternal age and high risk and sent me to a specialist. That didn’t help my mental state. By the end of it I had developed cholestasis and they said I needed to be induced at 37 weeks or I was risking the babies life, so I did. It was the right call, but it left me feeling as though I couldn’t trust my body at all. So, when the time for birth came I just didn’t feel empowered or like I could trust the process as I had with my birth center birth because everyone told me my body was not to be trusted. My instincts were not to be trusted. Then Will was born and we ended up with the breastfeeding issues and again my body didn’t measure up.
So, many women feel this way. So many women are told subtly and not so subtly that they don’t know how to be a mom, they don’t know what’s best and they cannot trust themselves. The doctor’s tell you every single thing about how to care for a baby, when years ago mom’s learned this from other moms. They didn’t doubt themselves. They knew their babies and they did what was best for them. Now we have tons of opinions and regulations about how we should parent. We don’t trust ourselves anymore and we have lost our ability to parent well.
We need to take back our power and confidence as moms. We need to not live in fear and guilt, if possible. We need to trust ourselves more and everyone else less. You got this mama, have faith in yourself.