When I first announced my pregnancy back in April, I was instantly ushered into an elite, secret society of women that I had never known existed. I wasn’t asked whether or not I wanted to join, because one doesn’t have a choice in such matters. Once you’ve announced that you’re expecting, you’ve paid the dues… and you’re IN.
Of course, up until the moment that you actually give birth, you’re in this purgatory level where you’re fought over by fiercely-divided, opinionated women who try to convince you that their position is not only the right choice, but THE choice. And all I can say is this… If Benjamin Franklin was correct in stating that “A house divided cannot stand,” well, it’s a good thing that we don’t all live together in the same house.
That would be a mess!
The breast-feeding position is no joke. Granted, women who decide to do so have scientific evidence backing their claim of ‘breast is best’. There really are countless health reasons (both for mom and baby) to support such a choice, and it’s something that I fully intend to try. And since my position is that I plan to do it, I have been welcomed into this community with open arms. This is how I know that there is a lot of backstabbing in the direction of those who decide to feed with formula. Women who decide to use formula are talked about as though they’re selfish or weaker.
Still being in the decision-making level, however, I thought I’d use my unique position by defending moms who feed with formula and get their take on things as well. After all, I intend to try… but I also know that – although natural – it’s not an easy process. I have many friends who couldn’t breastfeed due to medical issues, work situations, or other difficulties. I also have friends who outright chose not to breastfeed, because doing so made them feel restricted and unhappy. They were happier, more confident moms when they switched to formula; and I’ve always respected their decisions (because I can’t help but feel that moms really do have to make the decision that is best for them and their families).
But much to my surprise, there was a very strong contempt for breastfeeding moms on that side of the playing field as well. I was told things like, “Oh my goodness, breastfeeding is just so gross.” Or “I fed my baby formula, and he’s doing fine… so breastfeeding is so overrated. It’s just a club that women want to be a part of.” Or “Breastfeeding moms think they’re all that. If they want to be oozing milk for months on end, then good for them.”
The harshness coming from both sides shocked me. (Obviously not from everyone, as I have surrounded myself with very supportive women and mommy friends. But still, the opinionated mommies are quite loud and growing in number).
The strong opinions didn’t end with feeding. At this level, there are many positions waiting to be chosen. Whether to work or to be a stay-at-home mom. Whether to use cloth diapers or to buy Pampers. Whether to buy baby food or to invest in a baby-food processor.
Oh, and whether or not to chose pain medication during labor… That’s a huge point of contention. Women who do get pain meds accuse other women of being ridiculous and trying to be heroes. Women who don’t get pain meds accuse other women of being weaker than them and say that these women didn’t have ‘natural’ labor. As far as I’m concerned, if you grew a baby for 9 months and then pushed it out, that’s as natural as you can get (pain meds or not). But I also believe that a labor without pain meds is an amazing accomplishment and a healthier experience for both mom and baby.
Soooo, why does there have to be a competition between decisions? Why can’t we accept that every single labor is different and that – at the end of the day – women make the decision that they feel is best?
There’s even a battle as to how soon is too soon to take baby out into public. Nate and I already told our families that we can’t make it to the family Christmas gatherings this year, because Brady will be under 6 weeks old, we have large families, and the holiday will be smack-dab in the middle of flu season. (Three different doctors already urged us to make this decision, telling us that it would be much safer for Brady if he wasn’t subjected to enclosed spaces with so many people). So we plan to have our immediate families over on Christmas Eve and Christmas… but – just for this year – we won’t be able to make it to the get-togethers for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. We feel that it’s just too risky, even if it was a difficult decision to make.
Mothers who have made similar decisions cheer us on, welcoming us into their corner. Other mothers are crossing their arms and protesting, telling us that they took their babies out much sooner and – look – they’re fine. I was surprised at the spite that came with some of these protests. It was as though they thought that our choice was somehow contradicting their choice. When in reality, Nate and I were just making the choice that we felt was best for us.
I continue to be shocked by the harshness coming from both sides, mainly because – at the end of the day – being a mom is the toughest job out there. I don’t care how you feed your baby, how many hours a week you work (if any), whether or not you chose pain meds, or whether or not you use cloth diapers. I don’t even care if you physically carried a baby in your womb or if you adopted your child! Being a mom is hard. It’s scary and doesn’t come with an all-inclusive guide-book to keep you from making mistakes. Regardless of your choices, you will face sleepless nights, tears of frustration, and moments when you’re convinced that you’re doing it all wrong. You’ll also experience love that you never knew existed, joy that can’t be explained, and a willingness to sacrifice everything.
I wish that we women would drop our competitive spirit and stop making everything a battle. I wish we would learn to respect each other and realize that – more often than not – mothers make choices that they truly feel are best. There’s enough out there to knock us down without us doing it to each other.
It’s not about who’s the stronger woman. It’s about standing together… Because together we are strong! 🙂