Preface: Last week, May 1-7, was Mental Health Awareness Week. Though it’s a few days past, I thought it was time to speak about where I am mentally and emotionally before I celebrate my very first Mother’s Day.
When my husband tells me “you’re the best mommy ever”, I tend to not look him in the eye. It’s not out of modesty or trying to be humble; it’s because I don’t believe him, and I feel undeserving of that title. I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a mom, and these months have been full of navigating who I am now while also caring for my little one. Some days, I don’t feel like myself. Though I am not diagnosed by a doctor, the postpartum life hasn’t been the easiest and I hope to speak more on it soon.
With Mother’s Day coming up, it’s all about celebrating moms. It is a blessing and quite surreal to me that I’m celebrating my first Mother’s Day, that I have a beautiful son who might not be able to call me mama yet, but who looks at me like I’m his whole world. We spend that one glorious day talking about how amazing moms are, but I think we sometimes edge away from speaking about the difficulties and the pressures that come with motherhood.
As I entered my third trimester of pregnancy, the talk became all about breastfeeding. Breastfed is best, breast is best would be repeated to me over and over. Yes, there are many benefits to nursing. But, honestly? It is HARD. They say, “oh it shouldn’t hurt”, but those first few weeks with a new little human who is learning how to eat are painful. There are issues that can happen with latching, milk supply, sensitivity, clogged ducts, reflux and not to mention, staying up at all hours of the night. Sleep deprivation almost destroyed me. There is a stigma that if you are not able to breastfeed, or choose other alternatives, that you aren’t “mom” enough, or that you don’t care about your child enough. Fortunately, the topic has become more open for discussion, even spurring the saying Fed is best.
In early January, when Vince was just shy of two months old, he declared a nursing strike. He would shriek and turn his head and didn’t want to seem to want anything to do with the food that I could provide. I was at my wits’ end, and very close to giving up. It was then that I booked an appointment with a lactation consultant, and she helped us so much. If there’s one lesson that I’ve truly learned since becoming a mom, it’s that there is no shame in realizing you need support, and there is no harm in asking for help.
The lactation consultant was able to show us different positions, compared his birth weight to his current weight to make sure he was gaining enough, and taught me how feedings spread out as the weeks go on. It was really only until he was three months that we hit a good stride with feeding and I am still breastfeeding, occasionally pumping, and we’ve just started to introduce him to solids.
Now, I’d like to come up with a new saying, one that might not roll off the tongue but encompasses both baby and mother:
Nourished is best.
Nourish your little one with love, with warmth, with the food that they need.
There are moms who formula feed due to milk allergies or low supply, moms who pump exclusively and bottle feed, and moms who do a mixture of formula and breastfeeding. Their baby is getting the nourishment they need. There are also situations where moms continue breastfeeding even though their baby isn’t happy, and as a result, they aren’t happy either. Support those moms. Do not shame them.
I’ve come across moms who go through the baby blues and come out stronger. I’ve come across moms who have an amazing handle on things and thrive. I’ve come across moms who, like me, struggle on a week to week, day to day, or even hour to hour basis. Support those moms. Do not shame them.
We’re told that to be mom is to be selfless, and that being a parent means you can no longer be selfish.
But if you do not take care of yourself, there will be not enough left of you to take care of your little one.
Nourish yourself, too. Nourish your mind, nourish your body, nourish your soul. Whether it’s going out for a walk to get fresh air, asking someone to babysit so you can have an extra nap, having that cup of coffee and reading a book, meeting up with friends. If exercising helps, make sure you fit in that 10-30 minute exercise. It could even be something simple, like paying an extra $2 for a bag of avocados because avocado toast for breakfast makes each morning a little better (i.e., me a week ago).
Nourished is best. Education about how to feed your little one is important, and discussing the benefits and detriments of each option is key. At the end of the day though, it is most important that your baby is getting the nourishment they need and being taken care for and that you are, too, so you can both thrive.
This whole “best mom ever” might still be hard for me to recognize, but it helps to talk, it helps to have support, it helps to nourish myself, and I am so glad I get to celebrate Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day!