Soon after I became a mother, I was exposed to a motherhood reality that I never knew existed: the “mommy wars.” Ignoring the generally offensive nature of the term, the concept originated from the battle between working mothers and stay-at-home mothers over which choice was “more right,” and has since evolved into similarly judgmental discussions over almost every choice a parent can make. A recent advertisement poked fun at the so-called “mommy wars” while touching on the fact that parenthood, above all, should be unifying, not separating.
One of my biggest fears before actually becoming a mother was how I would manage this culture of motherhood. The concept of keeping another human being alive and healthy was already insanely overwhelming, but beyond that, the idea that I had to exist in society with this other being, and maintain my individuality, as well as my marriage, seemed entirely too much to manage. Children are already seen as teeny-tiny sores on the
culture of society, with their gaudy cartoon character clothing, constant tantrums, and their junky plastic toys—how was I going to not annoy everyone in sight with my precious little bundle?
The pressure of being a “great mom” felt very real then, as it does now.
To become a mother and stomach the fact that not only are non-parents judging my childbearing choice, but other parents are judging the way I raise him was just terrifying .
Motherhood, as I’ve come to know it, is simply mini-victories in between constant feelings of failure. The last thing we need to do as parents is beat-down other parents (or hell, non-parents). Before I entered motherhood, I certainly had my fair share of opinions on others’ parenting choices. Now, well… now, I know better.
Before and After
Before I became a mother, I judged those with scheduled cesareans. I envisioned an au naturel childbirth, drug and medical intervention-free. I practiced breathing, drank tons of red raspberry leaf tea to prepare my body for birth, and exercised mental pain management with ice cubes and self-induced pinches (that’s the same as contractions, right?). Then I went into pre-term labor. After hours of laboring in a hospital bed on my left side with an oxygen mask to help keep baby stable, I
begged for an epidural through my pain and fear-ridden tears. After I spiked a fever, and the monitor stopped picking up fetal movements, my sweet nurse hugged me as I cried at the impending decision: c-section.
After I became a mother, I will forever be indebted to the medical interventions that kept my little boy and I safe through the childbirth process.
Before I became a mother, I didn’t understand why a parent would choose to send their new baby to the hospital nursery. When it was my turn, I’d think, I’ll use that time for sweet skin-to-skin cuddles and nursing on demand, instead of a few extra moments of shut-eye.
After I became a mother, I didn’t see my baby for six hours. My husband followed him to the NICU, where he stayed for the next five days, through no choice of our own. Our skin-to-skin cuddles and brief nursing attempts were hindered by countless wires and monitors and doctors on rounds.
Before I became a mother, I’d roll my eyes at those who chose to not even attempt breastfeeding. I mean, didn’t they know “breast was best”?
After I became a mother to a preemie who was unable to nurse, I relied on bottles and formula to keep my little one healthy and growing. The internal guilt over not being able to nurse my baby was heart wrenching, but the constant battle hymn of “breast is best” from other mothers, strangers, and media was nearly crippling.
Before I became a mother, I was wary of letting babies “cry it out.” All of that crying couldn’t possibly be good, right?
After I became a mother to a borderline colicky baby, I learned that sometimes, babies will cry no matter how long you try to soothe them, and many times, the best you can do is lay them in their safe crib and lock yourself in the bathroom to cry, too.
Before I became a mother, I thought that stay-at-home moms had it easy. They likely had plenty of time to cook healthy food, keep the house clean, and enjoy my child’s babyhood.
After I became a mother, I discovered that, never again, would there be enough time to cook healthy meals, keep the house clean, AND enjoy my child’s babyhood. In addition to all of the errands, laundry, and running around, was the constant internal dilemma of how I could possibly pick up where my life had left off before baby.
Before I became a mother, I thought I knew exactly how I would raise my baby.
After I became a mother, I was introduced to a six pound four ounce little boy, who was absolutely an individual—a person, albeit a little one, with preferences and personality and lots of perseverance. Sometimes what he needs is not what I envisioned, and I’m beginning to learn that that is okay.
After I became a mother, I learned that what parenthood boils down to, more often than not, is a series of choices. Sometimes you know what path you’ll choose, and sometimes, you just make your choice and hope for the best. All you can do is take what you know and move forward. To assume that any other parent is making a choice without the same consideration or regard for their child’s well-being would be ignorant of me. As I continue through motherhood, a little bit more knowledgeable than I started out, I have a new mantra when observing another parent out with their child: whatever works. They do what works for them, and I’ll do what works for me.
Before I became a mother, my simple daily choices were not used as a means of defining me. I defined myself based on my character and my efforts.
After becoming a mother, why should it be any different?