The Self Consciousness of Parenthood

I couldn’t breastfeed because…
I had to have a c section because…
I let her do that because…
I decided to do it that way because…

As a parent, I quite often find myself explaining my decisions or circumstances to others. Sometimes unprompted too. So why is that? I think it’s because I’m used to questions and judgement. Sometimes direct and pointed, and other times perhaps merely perceived.

Parenting is the only life experience I can think of where you become quite scrutinised (speaking from a place of privilege). And I don’t mean as a result of sharing stuff on here either. Not to date anyway (or to my face/in the comments). But from noticeable pregnancy probably until we all perish, some people take it upon themselves to share their opinions/insight into how you should parent your kid. What I’m talking about isn’t the same as solicited advice. Isn’t this such a personal realm?

I know most people mean well – and I too am known to dish out advice. I want other parents to feel validated for the decisions they make or the circumstances they find themselves in. It’s pretty hard when your experience doesn’t follow the status quo.
Vaginal births, free from intervention including pain relief are romanticised.
Breastfeeding at all costs is romanticised.
I am fully for both if it works for you as the parent and is safe for the baby. But what happens to mothers who had really wished for one or both and didn’t get either? Guilt. Self consciousness. A bit of a grieving process while figuring out this mum stuff.

In my case, c section was the safest for both of my babies and I. After my first c section, I was at pains to describe it as an emergency c section “because my baby was small and breech”. I still do it sometimes. Sometimes it’s because someone asks “why’s that?“ delivered in the tone of ” that’s not ideal” So when I hear another mother reduce her birth story to a disclaimer, that makes me sad.

Same idea with how I fed/feed my babies. First time around I was ashamed to use formula. Why? Because I’d been taught in antenatal class that breast is best and formula is no comparison nutritionally. I’d taken this info and vowed to breastfeed for a year. So when my supply ran out at 4 months, I felt like a failure. But what’s even worse than feeling like a fucking failure of a mum? Realising that your child has been starving. I can’t describe the heartbreak and the guilt. It’s devastating. Compounded by those who said to my face that I didn’t try hard enough and formula is bad for my baby. Plus reading posts suggesting there’s always a way to breastfeed if you really want to (I have since unfollowed the Natural Parenting Magazine!)

Now, much like with my attitude towards my PND, I feel strong enough to be accepting of my situation and proud of my decisions. I don’t want other mums to feel shame or worry about what other people will say. I want us to support each other. Because that’s exactly what we all need in this parenting gig. Support. You don’t need to understand why or how. We just need to honour each other as mothers who are doing the best we can every single day.

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