I’ve about had it.
Can we all just collectively agree that parenting is hard. Any aspect of it. Motherhood, fatherhood, pregnancy, infertility – all of it. It is HARD.
But my goodness, if we don’t make it harder for each other than we need to.
I came across a Facebook post earlier today that talked about how women aren’t “lucky” to be able to breastfeed, they are just more determined and stubborn than you. While this wasn’t the exact wording, this was the clear message.
I walked away feeling like the only difference between moms that breastfeed and moms that don’t is their sheer desire to give their baby what’s best.
I call a big, fat, hearty load of B.S.
If this is how you feel about breastfeeding, that is so great for you. I’m so glad you are such a strong, awesome mom.
If this is NOT how you feel, I say to you: Girl, I freaking get you.
Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It is so awesome and in some ways magical. It’s empowering and beautiful. But it has caused mental strain in a way that few other things in my life have.
And frankly no one ever talks about this.
Instead, it’s this horrible culture of mom-shaming and comparison. And I’ve had about enough of it. Why do people even feel the need to comment about it anyway? (and ironically, here I am blogging about it…)
I tried nursing my daughter for one agonizing month. And after feeling like someone had viciously taken a cheese grater to my nipples for weeks on end, I called it quits. I pumped exclusively for five months then switched to formula.
I’m awesome. Bellamy is awesome. End of story.
With Lincoln, it was an entirely different experience. He was a champion nurser. It was almost effortless from day one. I will say that I was very *gasp* lucky to have a baby that nursed so well, especially after such a challenging experience with Bellamy.
But around 5 months in, Link was on some heavy duty antibiotics for a UTI and developed thrush. Guess who also got thrush? This mama. If you’ve never experienced thrush in your boobies while nursing, praise everything. That was the most painful experience of my life, including childbirth. I tried to stick it out as long as I could, screaming in pain during pumping sessions, but finally, it was too much.
I also started a medication around the same time that was not safe to take while breastfeeding, so Link is now exclusively on formula.
I’m awesome. Lincoln is awesome. End of story.
Mother is best
Both times, ending breastfeeding broke my heart. It was an agonizing experience for me. But both times, I knew it was the right call.
You see, our culture puts an emphasis on mothers sacrificing anything and everything for their babies to an unhealthy extent.
I am here to say that sometimes, you are just lucky to have a baby that nurses well. Sometimes, it’s because you have fought through literal sweat, blood and tears to keep nursing. Sometimes formula is the very best choice for you and for baby.
You’ve heard that breast is best. You’ve heard that fed is best.
I’m here to say that mother knows best. Don’t let anyone tell you that you just didn’t try hard enough. Don’t let them tell you that if only you had been more selfless things would be easier.
In fact, don’t let them tell you ANYTHING about how you should breastfeed. That is your decision to make.
Take care of you
One of the big reasons I stopped nursing Bellamy was because of my struggle with postpartum depression. I was a brand new mom, trying to balance a new baby, a new role as a mother and the crippling emotional pain that comes for a lot of women with postpartum.
Nursing was just one more challenge. I am ashamed to admit this, but in my very distressed state, as nursing became more and more frustrating, it started creating a wedge between Bellamy and me. I was angry at her. I once swore at my precious newborn in broken frustration, then wept in bitter shame.
I was having a hard enough time being kind to myself, I didn’t need one more reason to spin thoughts into such negative lies.
So I started pumping instead. For my own sanity. And you know what, it was hard. But it helped me be a better version of myself, which made me a better mom.
Women don’t talk enough about making choices to help themselves. This was a choice for me. And frankly, I believe it was a selfless one. Choosing to love and take care of myself always blesses my family, and this was no exception.
It’s not our place to judge other mothers. Most women will struggle with their parenting decisions without the help of a poorly timed or thought out comment. Let’s not make it worse for great moms who are trying just as hard as you.
Stop the criticizing. Stop the judging. Just stop talking about breastfeeding!
Instead, offer up useful, helpful conversations, like “What are you doing to take care of yourself, mama?” “This is a stressful time, can I bring you a meal?” “Let’s go to lunch!”
All of these are so much better and healthier (for everyone) than a passive aggressive conversation, comment or social media post about breastfeeding. Or co-sleeping. Or homeschooling vs. public schooling. Or any decision someone other than you makes.
Just be good to each other.
Because my sweet, darling kids are making me crazy enough as is. Chances are, yours are, too. Let’s help each other through the insanity, rather than into it.
I don’t know if it was because of my unrealistic expectations on marriage or the hundreds of romantic comedies I’d watched in the quarter of a century I lived before marriage, but I wasn’t prepared to be a wife. I wasn’t prepared for marriage.
Not the romantic, annoying, yucky love stuff. I was pretty good at that, as evidenced by my social media. I’m still sorry for every obnoxious selfie Eric and I shared for the first two years of our marriage. I’m still just as obsessed with my husband and now we’ve added two babes to the mix who are squishy, sassy bundles of pure joy.
I love my family. I love my marriage. I love my life.
What was missing from the equation for quite a while was a love for myself.
Specifically, in my new role as a wife and later, a mother.
It was like being doused with a bucket of cold water the other day when I came across a friend’s Instagram post. Sonja was married a little under a year ago, and posted some raw thoughts on how she had felt so lost since being married. Of course she was happy, ridiculously so, but still, something was off.
I felt every word that she wrote so deeply. I too struggled with depression after getting married. Even more so when I was pregnant and after the birth of both of my babies.
It’s hard. Change in any form is hard.
I spent years, 25 to be exact, trying to figure out who the heck I was. I spent thousands of dollars on schooling. I invested countless hours in creating a social scene and a niche in that scene. I made friends who shaped my interests and personality. I spent 18 months serving a mission, carving out yet another piece of myself. I developed hobbies and passions, including my beloved blog.
Suddenly, all of that was put on hold for a minute and my sole focus was on this amazing man who had waltzed into my life. I’m not ashamed of my tunnel vision. I was in love. It happens.
While we were dating I was swept away in the fantasy of it all. It was a magical, nearly perfect time of life for me.
When the fairy dust settled after our wedding and honeymoon — spoiler alert — life kept happening. And suddenly, I had to try to make pieces of my old life, my old self, fit into this new life. It was awkward to say the least. My husband was amazing in every way. I just felt…off.
Eric worked two jobs, often late into the night. I was working as a writer for the Deseret News. I enjoyed my work. I loved seeing Eric when I could. We had lots of Harry Potter marathons and went out to eat often so I could avoid cooking us dinner at 11 pm.
I was happy, but…
There was always that big, fat, bootylicious BUT in the back of my mind.
I felt like I was out of place in my own life. It was awful. And no one prepared me for it.
I struggled like this for quite awhile. Hindsight has given me the words. But during the thick of it all, it just felt uncomfortable. Like I was lost, but didn’t know what I was really looking for.
I’ve learned since then; I was looking for myself. At least a familiar version of her.
Because you see, I had it all wrong.
I learned at an early age that you are responsible for your own happiness. Rather than placing a deadline on your happiness, like “I’ll be happy when I graduate,” or “I could be happy if I just had a boyfriend,” I always tried to be happy exactly as I was.
What that gave me was a lot of time to develop things I loved about myself.
I value my education deeply. I became a journalist after college and worked for a few different newspapers. I blogged, and wrote columns for a local news organization. I now teach journalism at BYU-Idaho.
I valued my mission. It taught me a love of people, a love of teaching and an unshakable faith in and love of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
School, friends, hobbies, mission, everything I had filled my life with before marriage and motherhood had made me who I was. I knew that God had directed me to all of those things before I married Eric and before Bellamy and Lincoln came along.
One day, during a total emotional breakdown about motherhood, the Spirit taught me a very important lesson.
If God had led me to all of these wonderful things, my education, my career, my blog, my hobbies, it was for a purpose. And that purpose didn’t suddenly evaporate once I became a wife and mother.
All of those things about me were a part of me, and still needed to be a part of me.
Rather than creating a new version of myself, this revelation allowed me to rise from the ashes of my single life, a better, more complete version of myself. It helped me to love myself.
Instead of dropping everything I loved outside of my family to support a husband and raise children, I could use everything that I had developed in myself FOR my family. I didn’t suddenly stop being me and loving the things I loved.
It helped me to understand God’s plan for my life a bit more. I knew that as a mother I could teach my children the importance of education by continuing my own. I could teach them the value of work by balancing a job along with my motherhood. I could teach them the truths of our faith as I strive to live them each day.
My past is what will make me a better wife, a better mother. My past is what has led me to my family now. I can’t simply abandon it.
Back to my friend Sonja. She gave some wise advice about redefining her life. She’s absolutely right. I find that I am still redefining my life as I cling gratefully to the best parts of my past that has given me such a wonderful present.
Now I know that everyone’s path is different. So please, don’t compare yours to mine. Instead, be you unapologetically. You are what your family needs. You are what your children need. Become the best version of yourself.
Because you deserve the best.
Check out Sonja’s blog, The Joubert Den, where she blogs about life, marriage, faith and fashion.
Last time I blogged, I got pretty real about my struggle with postpartum depression.
I’d like to get real again and sing the praises of my doctor and modern medicine. I started medication for my PPD over a month ago. It has been quite literally life changing. I feel like I have walked out of a haze and fog into the brilliant sunlight. It has helped my mind return to equilibrium.
Since starting the medication, I have found so much joy in motherhood. Part of that has been the SSRIs, and part, I’d like to think, has been my resolve to live more intentionally. What you may not know is that I suffered from debilitating depression my entire second pregnancy. One day I’ll write about it. But not yet.
I don’t talk openly about this chapter of my life too often.
When I do, it’s often for a well-timed, calculated purpose.
This time, it’s because a little voice in the corner of my heart kept telling me to share.
I am an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho. I love my job. I love my students.
One of the things I love most about them is their strength. It astounds me.
And not just physical strength. I’m talking mental strength.
I see so many student who carry tremendous loads and do so with grace and dignity. They bear the burden of anxiety. They trudge through the trenches of depression. They rise from the ashes of their pasts as pure, refined and triumphant champions.
But the scars are still there. And sometimes, the wounds are too deep to ignore.
I get it. I mean I really, really get it.
I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life.
I am currently in Denver at a very geeky journalism conference. Go NICAR.
It’s the second trip I’ve taken away from my sweet babe, Bellamy. She’s almost 9 months old and she is the dearest darling you’ll ever meet.
Now, I love this girl more than most things.
But sometimes, you need a vacation from being a mom. Continue reading “The untold truth of every Momcation”