Every time we turn around as women, as mothers, there is some advice being thrown at us telling us how to be better. Do this, don’t do that; 10 things to never say; 20 things to make sure you do say; it’s okay to make a million mistakes, but don’t make this one. Moms, the pressure is real. And don’t even get me started on the perfect Pinterest mom to which no one (except my friend, Julia) will ever live up.
A Little Back Story
We had just brought home our second born, a son, whom we had also just met two days prior. I was able to room with him in the hospital for two glorious days, just him and me, as we prepared to take him home. He is our second child adopted from birth, and I was a sappy mess. With our first born, it was casually mentioned to me that I could breastfeed her. I had never heard of an adoptive mom breastfeeding, and I honestly just let that thought wash over me and away as I fixed bottles for her day after day, night after night. We were happy. She was fed. She was very healthy.
However, with our second born, I came across an article written by a friend who had, in fact, successfully breastfed her adopted daughter; and somewhere deep within, I realized my heart secretly longed for this. I knew I would likely never produce enough breast milk to sustain my son without supplementation, but I was definitely willing to give it a go.
Looking back, a large part of me really wanted to be successful with breastfeeding to be able to experience this sacred aspect of motherhood . . . what I held in my mind as the “ideal mother” or the “true woman”. This notion that if you can carry a baby in your womb, give birth, and feed the child, then you have truly arrived as a mother engulfed my thoughts. But why? Gah, the internal pressure, right? I’m gonna be real here . . . the “breast is best” preaching by so many turned up the pressure volume in my head to explosive levels. What if I could actually do what is “best” for my child, and not subpar? Was it ever really subpar?
We had already walked through years of infertility, so the first two aspirations were out, but this third one . . . this third one, I could conquer. I could be a “real” mother, a “true” woman, and my body would no longer betray me.
The Mom Pressure is Real
Three months into using herbs and pumping continuously to stimulate breast milk, I was *actually* successfully producing some breast milk. Hoorah, right?! However, by this time, my son was used to taking a bottle, and was drinking way more formula in a day than I could possibly produce milk. But if only I could get him to the breast, we could at least bond better and I could still have that special experience of motherhood, right? He wasn’t having it. I’m talking absolute screaming if I even flashed my lady lumps in his face (Fergie approved). I felt like a complete failure as a mother.
It was during that time of exhausting myself pumping, taking gobs of herbs, saddened over (once again) not getting to experience an aspect of “true motherhood,” while reading post after post of “breast is best,” that I saw another post. A post from a dear friend and mother whom I secretly admired, with three boys of her own, the last being just a week younger than my son. She was holding him and feeding him a bottle. She tagged the post, “fed is best”. I burst into tears.
In that moment, I felt a gush of freedom wash over me, and I just sat there and wept. Here was this amazing mama feeding her baby formula — her very healthy baby, I might add. I realized in that moment that the internal pressure I put on myself to be and do what I perceived a perfect mother should be and do was not fair. It wasn’t fair to me, it isn’t fair to other mamas.
The Freedom Lesson
This blog post isn’t about which way of feeding your baby is best. That just happens to be the experience that got me to this next point. As mothers, we have enough to worry about without feeling shame about how we are raising our children: breastfeeding, not breastfeeding, homeschooling, not homeschooling, electronics, no electronics, etc. The internal pressure is real and it almost broke me.
What I learned from that experience is to take others’ opinions with a grain of salt. I had somehow built up in my mind what it means to be a “real” mama based on so many others’ opinions. I have an incredibly strong bond with my son, and he is crazy healthy. And we are both very happy.
If I could give one word of advice (as if we need another one, ha!), it would be this: You do you, Mama. Comparison is the thief of joy. Stop caring so much about all of the advice from the gazillions of online articles and friends and family. Listen, read, but in the end, take the advice you want or leave it altogether . . . you do you. Don’t try to live up to some idealistic norm that truly doesn’t exist. And dadburnit (channeling my Meme there), if you want to feed your baby formula, feed your baby formula. Fed is best. (Well, I guess I did make it a little about that after all. *wink*)
A Real Mama