Our sweet baby boy was born on a warm, sunny day. Labor and birth went relatively smoothly for me and I’ll never forget the moment they placed the baby that I had been carrying and growing inside of my belly for the past nine months onto my chest. His big blue eyes looked up at my brown ones and my heart instantly melted. The next couple of days were pure bliss; I was amazed at how much energy I had despite getting very little to no sleep. We ate lots of chocolate mousse cake, loved on our baby boy, and did our best to learn everything we needed to know about caring for our child.
Driving home was surreal. I knew that motherhood would be difficult but I wasn’t as prepared as I felt I was for the sleepless nights, baby blues, or breastfeeding. As first time parents, the day we brought Rowan home really flipped our world upside down. The giddy feelings I had experienced at the hospital were quickly replaced with worry, doubt, and even a little bit of regret. Nursing my baby was the most difficult change for me. It hurt. Really bad. And the pain never seemed to ease. One feeding session with my baby would last easily over an hour and I felt like I was glued to the rocking chair in the nursery. Not long after we had finished, Rowan would begin to root and fuss, signaling to me that he still needed more food. Was I not producing enough milk? My stress resulted in my appetite nearly disappearing, which caused my already seemingly low milk supply to take a nosedive. I did everything I could to increase my supply, but became frustrated when I wasn’t seeing any results.
My mental health took a hit, too. It didn’t take very much for me to hysterically cry to my husband about how hard being a mother was and how I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I hated being left alone and counted down the seconds until my husband would come home from work so that I could pass off my baby because I didn’t want to hold him any longer. I lived in a constant state of guilt and worry. It wasn’t always going to be this way, right?
A heavy weight was lifted from me once I decided to stop breastfeeding. I smiled more often, held my baby longer, and started to more fully enjoy motherhood. We began falling into a new groove and things were really looking up, but nothing could replace the little pit in my stomach I felt as a result of not giving my baby my breastmilk. If we went out, I tried my best to hide the powder so that no one would know that I was giving my baby formula and if someone talked to me about nursing, I nodded and smiled like I knew exactly what she was talking about as if I was still chugging along on the breastfeeding train. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had given up. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, even though I knew I was happier.
The popular phrase, “breast is best” echos through my mind many times and on occasion I’ve let it make me feel as though I’ve failed as a mother. I often look at other women, nursing their babies and how bonding and beautiful it is for them and wonder if perhaps I gave up too fast, but I know I wouldn’t go back to those first few weeks because of how difficult they were for me and my family. I live for the happy, beautiful, and bonding moments that I now get to have with my son as a result of the decision I made and do my best not to look back, but to keep moving forward. Any time I wonder about what people are thinking as they watch me mix formula into a bottle and give it to my baby, I remind myself that I am still providing food for him, loving him, and doing the best that I can to take care of him.
I’ve learned a great deal in the short time I’ve been a mother and I know that I still have so much more to learn, but of one thing I’m sure: it’s to be confident in the decisions that you make for yourself and for your child. However you choose to feed your baby, raise and teach your baby, or even give birth to your baby, make the decisions that will help you smile more and own up to them no matter where you are or who you are with. The best thing you can give to your children is a happy mother. You are doing your best, trying your hardest, and loving your baby; that’s all that truly matters.
Enjoy motherhood. Embrace your imperfections and live every day to the fullest. Make the most of your days by smiling brighter, snuggling your baby longer, and loving the choices that you make. Please don’t allow the opinions, questions, or words of others to bring you down and question your divine role as a woman and mother. Be proud of the decisions you make and have complete confidence knowing that you are choosing joy and happiness. Savor the moments that are full of joy, laughter, and giddy smiles because before we know it, our babies won’t be babies any longer and we’ll be wishing it all back. And remember, be a little kinder to the other mamas around you, because you never know the battles and struggles that another woman is facing that lead to the decisions she ultimately makes. Our journey as mothers is as unique and beautiful as the snowflakes falling outside of our windows.
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