Motherhood’s Invisible Scars

The post I am about to make probably won’t make me popular. In fact, I’m sure I’ll have my fair share of dissension that comes out of it. But the truth is – I’m tired.  I’m tired of having to repeat myself to the same types of groups of women that seem dead set to have their war of facts way with me. Enough is enough. I will preface all of this by saying that with my first son, I ‘supplemented’ for the first few months and then went to straight formula. With my second son, I almost exclusively breastfed the whole time, but I supplemented when I needed to. I nursed him until he was 20 months old. A few days ago, a heated discussion ensued on a Facebook group about, of all things, formula v. breastfeeding. The conversation hit home, not because of which side was right, but because I saw true ugliness come out. Women accusing others of having  husbands who cheated on them, the word “snarky” being thrown around like it was second nature, and the true question of what constitutes judgment – all over a conversation about how we feed our babies.It saddened me. To think that as mothers, when we have so much thrown our way already, we can’t even have a simple conversation about a funny anecdote that someone wanted to share. Here’s what I know (based on experience and this incident):

1. You ask us to set aside our emotions and not take everything personally.

I can’t do that. I won’t separate what is natural for me to feel. And it is personal. The broken breastfeeding relationship with my first son IS inherently emotional. After struggling to have him (two miscarriages), a c-section and a lack of true understanding of what to expect coupled with my overwhelming desire to just feel normal again, our relationship came to a bumpy end when he was about five months old. I cried. I mourned the relationship that everyone told me should be natural.  Having such a different experience with my second son only made me mourn the first breastfeeding experience as an even more significant failure. When I have a discussion about this, I AM emotional because it hurts.

2. It’s not your intention to be judgmental. At your core, you are not judging.

But when I have (or others) have shared about their emotional journey with such a touchy subject and you continue to recite studies, statistics, facts, and the like just to prove your point? You’ve lost me. Unintended or not, you have spent your time ensuring that people have the knowledge at the expense of me. I know breast is best. I know formula falls last on the list of acceptable means for baby to eat (heaven knows you’ve reminded us five times in the course of the same discussion). Do you think I don’t know that? Then why keep reminding me?

3. Sometimes, your facts and studies won’t work the way you want them to.

My first son is a thriving, smart, four-year-old who didn’t get any major sickness until he was about a year old. My almost EBF son? Thriving and smart, but catches sickness like a major-leaguer. He’s usually first, has it the longest, and it can be rough…

4. I know most of you are well-intentioned. Really, I do.

But just like when talking to a woman after she suffers a miscarriage, timing and wording is everything. Telling her it will be “better next time” or talking about all the ways that breastfeeding is proven to better than formula? That’s not helpful. Not when she has so openly bared her struggles to you.

You’re right. No one can make me feel guilty or like a failure. But they CAN make me feel worse. They can fuel the negative voice that tells me I’m a failure as a mom. That I didn’t do it right.

I stood in a Mall today as my two-year-old threw the mother of all tantrums. He kicked at me, screeched, screamed, stomped, ran around, and refused to do anything I asked. All the while, one of my dearest friends stood by with her son in a stroller observing the throes of motherhood. Embarrassed to my core and wondering just what else I could do, I looked at my friend and told her she could keep walking – that I would wait out this tantrum alone and win the battle of wills with him. She looked at me with sympathetic eyes and said she understood. She said that could be her in a few years. But mostly, she just stood by me. She didn’t offer a litany of studies, statistics, or links filled with information. She offered herself & her heart.

I say all this, not to cast judgment on your passion. Or to say that you shouldn’t be educated or inform others. But I want you to so desperately understand that your passion may very well be someone else’s pain.

We can do better, moms. We must.

Samantha

Comments

  1. Well said. I feel what you are saying and it hit home for me.

  2. Thank you…. my thoughts and emotions, but expresse much more eloquently than I could have.

  3. Well said! I share your experience from the first to second child and nursing and live with regret everyday, so you are not alone!

  4. Oh Samantha, what a beautiful post. You put your heart out there and I hope you can find comfort in your bravery. It is true that sometimes people intend to be helpful but, their words hurt. On the topic of BF, every mother must make her own decisions upon what is best for her family. I desperately tried to BF my firstborn but, it was the most painful experience of my life and it just didn’t work for us. When my Twins were born, I gave it the “ole college try” but, feeding two little people (with multiple helps from lactation) again, BF failed. When I made the decision to stop BF each of my Babies, I embraced it and moved on. I knew God would provide nourishment for my kids. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  5. Wow. Awesome Sam. It’s so important that we understand EVERYONE has a story and EVERYONE’s story is different. If we can get it that gentleness and understanding go so much farther, we’d be a much stronger unit as moms. Love you. And love the friend who stood with you. That’s what friends are for :) .

  6. Okay…I’m not a mom and I don’t even know the situation that this post is really about but I AM a WOMAN! And I totally agree with you! (And not just with breastfeeding!) Behavior like this seems to be becomming the rule instead of the exception! Something about being able to hide behind our keyboards and smartphones makes us forget that we are still engaging with real people, who have real emotions and real lives! There is so much behavior that I see online and via social media (out of “christian” women, no less) that makes me sad. Good for you for standing up! (proud of you…)

    • Totally agree with you Sarah. It’s much easier to criticize through typing than speaking face to face.
      Sam, I am sorry people were mean to you. My sister also BFed her daughter and she was sick from 18 days old. I know it’s the exception but it does happen. And don’t regret your BF with your son- 5 months is great and beautiful.

  7. I think that it was in my Family Circle magazine that showed a study that women only tell their husbands and mothers (some inlaws) about breastfeeding because they do not want to feel judged. I think that it is ridiculous. Some women simply can not produce enough milk. Of course most women prefer to breastfeed but it is not always an options. Also, when people state that they are not trying to be mean or judgemental they usually are using that to be a bandage. I am going to be mean but I will say it with a disclaimer. It is stupid. Attacking people with cheating spouses shows that people online do not know boundaries. They hide behind a screen and bully. How can we teach kids not to bully when their parents do all the cyber bullying?
    Just my sentiments.
    Aunt Sarah

    • Oh and just like my bachelorette party… can you imagine? Joseph P. Smith. Graduated 63rd in class because his mom bottlefed him and he was potty trained at the age of 3. Too bad they did not potty train him sooner. He may have been number 42. If he was breast fed he may have be number 1 in class. :P
      Aunt Sarah (again)

  8. Kelly Paleczny says:

    I’m not a mom (unless you count my cat, whom I refer to as “my daughter” more often than not), so I have no real input, but I just wanted to say that this was moving nonetheless, and I empathize (even if I can’t). Thank you for sharing this, Sam. :-)

  9. Love it! Perfectly said!! We had very very similar experiences!!!
    :-)

  10. So well said. As a former OB nurse, who began working in the 70s I watched women struggling with breast feeding when postpartum hospital stays were 3-5 days and post c/section moms stayed a full week. Many times moms would be crying and overcome with how difficult breast feeding can really be…I became very compassionate and understanding of these moms and when I became a mom myself even though I was unable to breastfeed due to medication that I was taking at the time, I never looked back because I knew that I had a healthy child and for that I was grateful.
    I have a really difficult time when I read moms attacking moms about their choices in how they feed their child. What is right for one family may in fact be a terrible decision for another family.
    Moms need a lot of support and other moms should be understanding of that fact.
    Balance and tolerance of personal choices…that would be so nice to see when it comes to the hard work of parenting a child…it does take a Village of supporters to raise a child.

  11. The breastfeeding vs formula debate is the worst example of how moms can forget the one thing that matters and ruthlessly defend their point of view. It’s disheartening and totally gross. Thanks for addressing it in this lovely post.

  12. What a great article. Moms can be so judgmental and at a time when we need the most support of all, it’s sad that we can’t just encourage one another despite our differences. I struggled so much with breastfeeding, and felt like I missed out on so much those first few months because I was so miserable. Thanks for sharing and in turn supporting other moms!!

  13. Loved reading this. The need to pass judgement is beyond me and I wish more moms would just offer a listening ear and be supportive. Anyone who acts like this thing called motherhood is easy, is just not being real with themselves. It’s hard. Some times are absolutely wonderful, but at times it can be so hard. Being judgmental serves no one. I exclusively breastfed my son for a year. I have a 5-month-old daughter now and I still breastfeed her, but I have been supplementing with formula since she was 4 months. And, guess what? I don’t need to explain why to anyone. I just need people to know that I love both of those kids with all I have and I want the best for both of them. Anyone who questions that fact just doesn’t know me. Keep writing great stuff!

  14. I SUPER hate those conversations and I try my best to keep out of them. I feel like the circumcision one gets the most heated. So hard for me to not say anything but it’s really no use. Who REALLY has their mind changed over an online argument anyway. People will just defend their point of view until the bitter end. People just need to accept other people’s choices and allow each other to gracefully disagree without it being a thing.

  15. Great article. I’d never met as many judgemental women until I became a mother. Then everyone was suddenly telling me how I was doing it wrong…even women who had NEVER been mothers were telling me I was wrong! It was extremely frustrating! Thankfully, early on, my mother told me to do what worked for us, and to ignore everyone else. So that is the advice I give my friends who are new moms. Do what works for you, not what studies, statistics, or friends say is best.

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