Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how motherhood has changed me, and the one thing that stands out is my increased empathy for other mothers. Before I had children, I thought I had a clue about parenting. HA. HA. HA. Isn’t it funny how humbling motherhood is?
With that, I wanted to share a few things that I had totally wrong. It’s not that I don’t have my values anymore; it’s just that I understand where others are coming from now. And I understand there’s no way I can rightfully judge another mother without walking in her shoes.
To the mom who birthed in the hospital with an epidural, I apologize.
When I got pregnant with my first baby (Harper), I decided I would pursue a natural birth. I watched all the documentaries and joined all the Facebook groups and spouted off all the statistics about how natural/out-of-hospital birth was better than medicated/hospital birth. I believe that in many ways, it is. But it’s not for everyone. And honestly, I don’t know which I’ll choose if I have a third baby.
Giving birth to Harper wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t terrible. There were a few extremely painful hours, but there were only a few minutes when I really thought I couldn’t take it anymore. With Ezra, on the other hand, I spent about 10 hours at 8.5cm+ in transition. It was awful. AB.SO.LUTE.LY.AW.FUL. I cried. I screamed. I swore I would never do it again. And I meant it. Afterward, I actually mourned my ability to have a third child naturally because it was truly that painful. I felt (and still feel, to some extent) that having a third baby might mean having a baby in the hospital with pain meds. Who knows? A third birth might be easy and fast. It could even be painless. (Ha!) But the unknown kills me. And for that reason, I have no judgment.
To the mom who uses disposable diapers, I apologize.
The decision to use cloth diapers with Harper was a pretty easy one. It made financial sense. My husband was on-board. And it seemed like a good choice for the environment. I spent months sewing all-in-one diapers from a pattern I bought online, and they ended up not fitting Harper. They also repelled water due to my misunderstanding of some of the recommended materials. I persisted, though, and I purchased a bunch of covers and prefolds. She was cloth-diapered almost from birth.
At around six months, she was sleeping through the night, and her diapers were leaking…and stinking! I emailed the manufacturer for suggestions, and I started changing her diaper while she slept before I went to bed every night. Sometimes that meant I had to rock her back to sleep again…and sometimes she slept through. Then, around 9 months, she couldn’t make it through a two-hour outing without needing a full wardrobe change. I was cleaning the car seat every night. And I was always covered in pee. By about one year, I had all but abandoned cloth diapers. They served their purpose for a long time, and I didn’t mind washing/scraping/soaking/sunning/bleaching all that much. But it just wasn’t working anymore. I didn’t want to buy all new diapers that late in the game, and she was showing signs of interest in potty training. So, we started using disposables.
I had every intention to cloth diaper Ezra, but it just never really happened. I tried a few newborn diapers on his tiny frame when he was born, but he leaked out. (His legs were TINY, and nothing cinched up properly.) I waited until he fattened up a bit, and I tried again. Pee everywhere. All-in-ones, pockets, covers/prefolds…nothing worked. I bought some disposables and just kind of never went back to cloth. I was surprised that my husband never questioned me about it, but he didn’t. I suppose he just thought it was easier for me to use disposables while taking care of two small children.
Some say that disposable diapers are terrible for the environment – and I don’t disagree. But cars are also terrible for the environment. So is textile manufacturing. And myriad other modern-day conveniences that we continue to utilize. The most important thing is that we’re aware of our actions and take small steps toward living a cleaner life. And if that means we do certain things in a greener way (and not others), that is OK. We do the best we can.
To the mom who feeds her baby formula, I apologize.
I breastfed Harper until she was 16-months-old. I never had any problems with supply or infection or pain (except for those early weeks), and I had several false stops when I tried to wean her. (Our nursing relationship finally came to an end when I got pregnant/miscarried and then got pregnant again with Ezra.) Ezra is almost 6-months-old, and he’s still exclusively breastfed. However, I recently found myself googling “why people give up nursing at six months.” (Of course, all the threads/articles I found were written by breastfeeding advocates who were passively and even aggressively judgmental of the original poster.)
For several reasons, I haven’t found breastfeeding to be as enjoyable with Ezra as I did with Harper. My supply seems okay, and I’m not in any real pain, but I am tired of it. I selfishly want my body back. (I’ve been nursing or pregnant for almost 3.5 years now.) I want someone else to be able to feed him. And I want to be able to leave the house for more than an hour without getting frantic text messages that I need to return home. Sure, I could pump, but that’s a pain, too. So, like I said…I fully admit my reasons are selfish. But they are my reasons. And for that reason, I don’t judge anymore. I will continue to try to nurse him until he’s a year old, but I’m not going to fault anyone else for stopping.
To the mom who lets her infant cry it out, I apologize.
I thought you were permanently scarring your baby for letting her cry it out in her crib. Babies NEED to be fed when they awake in the middle of the night, and their cries are a call for help. Right? That’s what I believed.
What I have learned, however, is that I am a bad mother when I am sleep-deprived and exhausted. And as much as babies need to be fed comforted, they need their sleep, too. There is a balance. When Harper’s pediatrician told me at her 9-month exam to put her in the crib and close the door, I was torn. On the one hand, I was losing my mind from feeding her multiple times throughout the night. On the other, I couldn’t wait to have her sleep through the night. I trusted his advice, and our entire family has been better for it. After about a week of mixed emotions, tears (her and mine) and doubt, she started sleeping 10-12 hours a night. She has not stopped since.
So when Ezra turned 4-months-old, I let him cry it out. It took him ONE NIGHT to make it through. At six months, he now shares a room with Harper and sleeps on about the same schedule she does. My husband and I get to share a bed at night. We sleep. It is glorious. And I am a better mother for it.
Go ahead, sleep-deprived mama: if you need to let your baby cry it out, by all means, do so. Don’t torture yourself because people like the-formerly-judgmental-me put their judgments on you.
To the mom who doesn’t co-sleep, I apologize.
I tried it. I really did. And it was nice in some ways. It was great when Harper wanted to nurse all night long, and I could still get some sleep. But in the long run, I hated it. My husband slept in another room. I got no sleep. Harper even fell off the bed once. (She was fine, but it still scared me.) I take naps with Ezra every now and then, but co-sleeping was not for me/us. Ultimately, it took a pediatrician telling me to get my baby out of the bed and get some rest before I went crazy to stop me from continuing to co-sleep when Harper was 9-months-old. (And I’m so glad he did.)
So to the mothers who refused to sleep with their babies, and who started right away with putting their babies in a crib, I apologize.
To the mom who doesn’t wear her baby in a wrap or sling, I apologize.
I wore Harper all the time. I had a myriad of slings and wraps – a Kelty pack, a mei tai carrier, a Sleepy Wrap and a Hip Hammock. (I used the Sleepy Wrap the most.) There were times when I liked the ability to carry her around with my hands free, but I never loved it like some do. I found that no matter which wrap/sling I chose, my shoulders and back would ache. And inevitably, she would start squirming and get uncomfortable. In the summer, there was the heat, and in the winter, there was the cold. If I wore her into a restaurant, there was no where to put her while I ate, so someone ended up holding her all the time (usually me).
So with Ezra, we use the car seat. And the stroller. (I LOVE THE STROLLER.) I have worn him in the Sleepy Wrap a couple times for hiking to a rock climbing location, but that’s it. He’s a heavy little dude. And wearing one’s kid isn’t for everyone. So to those mothers who use strollers and car seats to carry around their infants and 30-pound toddlers, I apologize for judging you.
To the mom screaming at her three-year-old in the parking lot, I apologize.
You really disgusted me. I saw you storming toward your minivan with your infant in one arm and your three-year-old dragging behind you. Her arm was uncomfortably bent, and she was screaming at the top of her lungs. You angrily placed her in her car seat and told her how bad she’d been in the bookstore. Your words were harsh and mean, and she was clearly upset and confused. Then, you sweetly placed your infant in his car seat and ignored your toddler’s screaming. I thought you were a terrible mother. Boy, was I wrong.
You were tired. And frustrated. And who knows? Perhaps you’d just gotten some terrible news, or you’d been in a fight with your husband. Or maybe it was just one of those days – those days when nothing goes your way and the toddler is into everything and there’s poop on your shirt and spit-up in your hair. And you’d just HAD IT. I’ve been there.
I’ve been that mean mom. I know how it feels to get to the absolute end of your rope and then cry myself to sleep at night out of guilt. So to you, I apologize. You are trying your best. And some days are hard. Really hard. Maybe I should have helped you instead of secretly judging you. Again, I’m sorry.
The the mom who goes back to work full-time, I apologize.
I used to wonder why you even had kids if you were just going to work full-time and leave them in daycare for someone else to raise. I thought you were selfish and valued material things over your relationship with your children. I always made the exception for those families who needed the extra income, but I simply couldn’t justify the “unnecessary” second income earner.
But over the past couple years, I’ve changed my tune. Working full-time isn’t for me, but that’s just because I know I’d drown myself in guilt if I spent so much time away from my children. But for the women who choose to go back to work, more power to you. Whether you’re doing it to support your family or because you simply like the finer things in life that having a second income can buy, you’re doing whatever feels right to you and your family.
I am crazy thankful that I have the ability to stay at home, but I must admit…there are times when I fantasize about having a full-time job. With the salary I’d make, I could buy cuter?, more expensive clothes for my kids, take my family on vacation, choose organic without worrying about price, buy more fabric, save more for our future, etc. And sometimes, I just miss having a job. So, I’ll say it again: I apologize. And to you moms who work out of necessity? Props to you. I don’t know how you do it. The thought of waking up before daylight to take care of the kids AND get myself ready for a full day of work scares the bejesus out of me. You are amazing.
To the stay-at-home mom who puts her kid(s) in daycare a day or two (or three!) a week, I apologize.
When Harper was an infant, I estimated that I was “working” 90 hours a week. 90 HOURS A WEEK! For 90 hours, I was either feeding, changing, entertaining, bathing, carrying, soothing, holding or teaching her. That’s almost 13 hours a day. Every day. Seven days a week. No holidays or paid vacation. No sick days, either. It was exhausting. And yes, I know there are women who do it with more than one child. Some are amazingly good at doing it with 3…4…or even 5+ kids!
But I wasn’t. My husband was working ridiculous hours when she was little, and I was miserable. I felt like I had no help, no family nearby, NO BREAK. I finally decided to put her in daycare three days a week when she was about 15 months old. Soon after that, I found out I was pregnant with the second baby (which I lost) and then with Ezra. Harper’s being in daycare was an absolute godsend when the nausea of early pregnancy (and the exhaustion of later pregnancy) set in.
So to the stay-at-home mom who just needs some time to herself…I HEAR YA.
To the mom who wears high heels and skinny jeans and looks a little ridiculous at the children’s museum, I apologize.
I admit it: you looked amazing. I posted a photo of you on Instagram expecting everyone to agree with me, but they didn’t. They thought you looked fab. So I thought to myself – maybe I’m just jealous. And I was. There I was in my maternity overalls and milk-stained tee, and I hated you. I hated you for setting an alarm and getting up that morning and taking care of yourself. I hated you because I wanted to be you. So to you, I apologize. I have since learned that putting myself first sometimes can make all the difference in my happiness.
And a happy me makes a happy family. For that, I don’t apologize.