When I had my first baby, I knew I wanted to breast feed. I wanted it bad and didn’t even want to consider any other option. Then he was born and latched well and did all the things he was supposed to do and it just.didn’t.work. I tried everything. Everything, I tell you. I was heartbroken. I would see other mothers with babies happily latched on and my stomach would turn. I’d get a burn in my chest that was a cross of jealousy, anger, and sadness. Not angry at that mom and baby, but jealous that I couldn’t have the same experience. And so I’d sit with my baby and his bottle and a lump in my throat.
When my second baby was born, Marshall was knee-deep in residency. We rarely saw him and when we did see him it was through a haze of sleep deprivation. Our families weren’t super far away, but they weren’t close either. And the baby screamed. A lot. Several times, in complete desperation, I packed the kiddos up and went to the store. I was that mom – the one who you think, “Get that kid outta here! No body wants to hear all that.” But I was lonely and exhausted and at my wits end, and I promise I wanted her to stop screaming as much as everyone else did.
When my third baby was born he was easy going and almost always happy but he was big. As in is-he-going-to-pop-out-of-his-skin big. He liked to eat. And he fit beautifully on the growth curve, so we weren’t worried…but some other people seemed to be. Luckily I had enough experience under my belt by then that it didn’t bother me too much.
By the time my fourth baby was born, I quit paying attention to other people all together. Not because I didn’t care (because let’s be real…we all care what others think of us) but because I can only pay attention to so many things at once. Someone could have told me that she was the ugliest baby on the planet and I wouldn’t have noticed because I would have been too busy telling the bigs to stop spitting at each other and trying to get Asa to stop eating grass.
But there are times – even some recently – that I have felt judged for my choices. When we decided to homeschool, for example. I never had any idea how many people would have such strong opinions. And when I let my babies play on the iPad. Yes, I hear you mumbling under your breath over there at the doctor’s office. Oh, my goodness gracious! When I let my kid be a little bit wild on the playground? You’d think the world was about to end if you could gage it by looks. (For the record, our playground rule is that you can be wild and crazy as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others).
But there are other times, too. There are times when I have been the judger, when I’ve been the person rolling my eyes at your choices or lack of discipline or your demeanor. That’s the truth, ugly though it may be. The reality is that none of us know what others are dealing with. I don’t know if you haven’t slept in weeks or if you’re about to default on your mortgage or if you and your spouse are having problems or if your child is struggling with his or her own hurts and pains. I don’t know if you just found out that your dad has cancer or if you have a toothache that has been nagging you for weeks. I just don’t know. And you don’t either. And it’s time for us to all stop taking everything at face value. It’s time for me – and for all of us – to be more aware of our choices, of our actions, of our words. It’s time for us to come together and stop quibbling like children in the schoolyard about vaccinations and breastfeeding and cosleeping and whatever-the-next-big-brouhaha-happens-to-be. Now, maybe more than ever before, we need to create a community to support us as mothers, as women, as humans. Gone are the days when proximity dictated your community, and it’s up to each of us to cultivate a group of people that provide the love and care that we crave and need.
At Blissdom I was able to spend a little time with the folks from StrongMoms Empower. What a great initiative they have – trying to bring together moms who will support each other. (I think it’s safe to say that we could all use a little less judgment and a little more support from other moms). If you’re interested in adding your name to the list of women who pledge “to create a more supportive and less judgmental environment by empowering moms to feel good about the decisions they make for their children and their families,” just go to StrongMomsEmpower.com and sign up. You won’t get spammed nor will you get any kind of accolade, but I can attest that your promise will pop into your mind at just the right moments and maybe even remind you to offer a sympathetic smile instead of an eyeroll.
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I have not received any compensation for this post.
As always, all opinions are my own.