My son just turned 5 months and boy has it been a roller-coaster of emotions. Children don’t gently disrupt your calendar they turn your entire life upside down. And there’s no middle ground either – you are either completely worried and overwhelmed or so happy and in love you could burst. There is no in-between. You move from one emotion to the other so fast it sometimes makes you spin. Now, I know I have only been doing this for 5 months so I don’t know so much but there’s something that has been bothering me for a while. There is too much mom shaming and you know what ticks me off the most? It comes from other moms!
Raising a child comes with a lot of self -doubt. I especially struggled with this when my baby was below 3 months. I just didn’t know if what I was doing was the right thing. I constantly worried that I was doing it wrong and my baby would be scarred for life. I don’t struggle with this too much now but it still happens when I want to make a relatively major decision about the baby. What makes this increasingly hard is the looks and words of disapproval other moms give you. There is a weird competition and general “I am a better mom than you” attitude that comes from most moms – probably me included. We don’t see it but sometimes as we narrate how we raise our kids that nasty tone and attitude shows up. And especially if the other person chooses to parent differently. And that’s what this post is about. Dear mom, I am here to tell you to love your lane – choose how you want to parent and love it regardless of other people’s opinions.
I have noticed that there are many parenting styles and so many contentious issues about motherhood and it is difficult to know whether what you choose is the best thing. Here are a few I have encountered so far.
Vaginal birth vs cesarean delivery – birth is literally the start of life. And so, it’s tough that the mode of delivery is such a big issue among women. This should not even be a point of discussion if you ask me but for some reason it is. For some time now women who deliver vaginally are seen as superior to those that deliver via CS. We even go as far as calling vaginal birth normal delivery – as if the one is abnormal! The sole reason CS deliveries are done is to save the baby’s life (and sometimes the mother) so I honestly don’t get the ugly attitude towards women who deliver through CS. The whole point of one being a better mom because they endured labor is pure nonsense. I have done both. My first delivery was vaginal and my second was cesarean. That CS saved my son’s life! He was posterior and after 7hours of labor had not turned or made much progress. And so we went to theater. And during surgery the doctor found out that the cord was around the baby’s neck. If I had insisted to keep laboring because “I am a strong woman” I would have lost my baby. And don’t get me started on trying to breastfeed while you can barely sit up after surgery! Unfortunately this fixation that “real women push” causes a lot of child loss and/or delivery of babies with conditions caused by prolonged labor. So can we please do away with the superiority complex and just focus on delivering healthy babies??
Breastfeeding vs formula – from the moment I got pregnant and started reading up on motherhood, I encountered many benefits of breastfeeding. So many people I met talked about EBF (exclusive breastfeeding) and I was sold. I decided when my baby came I would do EBF until he was six months and probably continue to breastfeed until he was like 2 years. Then he showed up and I started to struggle with milk production. And because I knew how important breastfeeding is I ate everything that was rumored to increase milk. And I expressed at least thrice a day. I even shared here some hacks I’d learnt to make breastfeeding better. I fought so hard until last month I couldn’t anymore. At 4 and a half months what I was producing simply wasn’t enough – he had a major growth spurt and his appetite peaked. I knew I should supplement with Formula but I felt so guilty about it – I felt like a bad mother for not being able to produce enough for my baby. I eventually went to the pediatrician and when I mentioned struggling with breastfeeding she said casually ‘just supplement with formula. Start with one meal a day.” Her matter-of-fact tone gave me such a relief. I didn’t feel judged at all. And so now I am breastfeeding and formula feeding. Sure breastfeeding is the ideal and mothers should try to do it by all means but in the event they can’t lets remember a well fed and healthy baby is the goal.
Co-sleeping vs own bed: I came across this debate online way before my son was born. As a rainbow mom (mom to a child born after a previous loss) I constantly worry about my baby’s safety. So I read up a lot on SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and decided my baby would sleep in his crib from day one. This reduces chances of overheating, suffocation and other factors that cause SIDS. I mentioned in a forum that my son slept in his own bed straight from hospital and another mom remarked “I don’t think I’d abandon my baby like that”. I was so offended I didn’t even bother to explain to her that the baby is sleeping and not even aware of his surroundings so the accusation of abandoning him doesn’t make sense. Dear mom, after you decide how you want to parent don’t feel high and mighty making others feel bad for their decision.
To sleep train or not to: This is another contentious issue. I chose to sleep train my baby because I felt once he learns to self-settle he’ll have better quality sleep which is good for his development. Plus I didn’t want to have to hold/rock/feed him to sleep. I also wanted to sleep better – this by the way is not selfish. I am convinced a well rested mom is a better mom. So right now Keith wakes up once for a night feed which I know he will slowly outgrow. I have met people who are very anti-sleep training. And they have their reasons – some feel that when the baby is ready they will start to sleep well. And I respect that. I on the other hand believe that just the way you teach a baby to sit, crawl, walk, talk etc you can also teach them how to sleep. Even with this difference in opinion I am convinced that every mom does what they feel is best for their baby and would not deliberately do something that harms them. And that is what matters.
These are just examples of topics that are hot debates in the mom world. There of course many more – purees vs baby-led weaning, stay at home mom vs working moms etc etc. So I’m here just reminding each mom, do you. I say do your research on the issue you are dealing with and then dive in without fear of judgement. It could be your are about wean your baby. Collect the information you need, talk to a pediatrician, hear from other moms then make your decision – pick your lane! Once you do that, love your lane.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.