Sydney is The Best-ish Mom Ever. Firstly, we are loving the blog name; you should know our feelings on using the worst ‘best’ when it comes to parenting and parenting methods. If you don’t, be sure to read this article. Secondly, her recent post, “The Perfect Mom“, wonderfully discusses the pressures surrounding ‘perfection’ in motherhood. Within the post, she opens up about the impact her feeding journey had on her mental health. We are honoured to share it with the network;
“As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I struggle tremendously with anxiety, and much of that stems from a standard of perfection that I have held myself to for so many years. It has led me to a pattern of being overly-critical of myself, and putting huge amounts of pressure on myself–pressure to be the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the perfect student, the perfect Christian, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect employee, and most recently, and by a mile, my most stressful and anxiety-provoking, The Perfect Mother.
I basically failed at being what I had envisioned myself embodying as “The Perfect Mother” within the first two days of becoming one. I had a hard time getting Ace to latch on to my breast in the hospital and I was far too stubborn (and exhausted) to accept help from a lactation consultant after she shamed me about offering Ace a pacifier so early. I’m telling you, the defensiveness and fury that were triggered in that moment should have had the sirens blaring, signaled the cavalry, or at least been a red flag to my nurses.
I tried to nurse him. My heart wanted to nurse him so bad. It was going to be magical once we figured it out. I was sure of it. I obsessed over it. I lost sleep over it. I cried over it. I bled, actually bled over it. Then I tried exclusively pumping. That turned out to be equally as painful, and extremely lonely. Leaving a room every 2-3 hours to empty your milk jugs, only to have them fill up again to the point of combustion. Which brings me to engorgement. Ouch. At this time Ace was still waking up 2-3 times at night during, which meant that when I should have f*&$#^! been able to nurse him, I wasn’t. Paul was feeding him from a stupid bottle, and I was sitting there, with my *graphic warning* t*ts out, getting milked like a cow at a dairy. If I had moo’d, you wouldn’t have known the difference. I was a milk machine. I was missing that early bonding that every new mother beams about, and once Paul went back to work, he needed to be getting a better night’s sleep.
On top of this emotional roller coaster I was experiencing, and my circumstantial anxiety and depression, I was in copious amounts of pain. I was comfortable 0 hours of the day. To say I was uncomfortable is an understatement. I was actively never comfortable. My quality of life honestly sucked, and I felt udderly disgusting (lol get it?) but I freaking loved my baby. He was precious. All he wanted was to snuggle. And oh, he was so yummy to snuggle (he is crazy now, and thinks he is going to start crawling or something). We used to stay in bed until 2 pm……… What? Does that sound a little unhinged to you? Perhaps that sounds like someone who was going through depression? Maybe feeling unbalanced? I was.
I don’t think I’ve sat down since the second I stepped out of my wheelchair when we got to postpartum with Ace. I instantly felt the desire and the need to prove that I was The Perfect Mother and on top of that, battled the fear that I wouldn’t be. I nearly lost my mind in that. At 1.5 months postpartum when I finally decided I couldn’t be what I had determined The Perfect Mom to be, I instantly felt lighter. But also guilty. Only now, for quitting, and selling Ace short (or so I had myself convinced), but beyond relieved to live life around him and his needs and not based on whether I was leaking milk through doubled-up nursing pads or not. You can see how my mind was truly unhealthy. Ceasing to pump was going to allow me more time to give to him, but because I was giving up on the liquid gold I actually believed I had failed. I have only recently been able to let go of this shame and appreciate bottle feeding, not just settle on it.
I threw my breast pump in the trash and bought a can of formula on our way home. We did a week-long transition from breast milk to formula and once my milk dried up (Ouchy!) my body was mine again for the first time in nearly 11 months. But my battle was far from over; I would be faced with greater adversities and I truly believe that the postpartum period of the first-born child is the deepest, most vulnerable place in a woman’s life. I truly believe women are reshaped and re-wired during this time, and that in itself can be incredibly emotionally taxing. So to add anything else into an already-delicate scenario, beholds so many unknowns…
…It’s been only 5.5 months that I’ve been on this journey as a Mother, and already I have experience and transformed and learned so much. I can’t imagine the growth that is to come.
Thanks again for allowing us to share your story Sydney. Discussing the reality of feeding, and the impact it can have on maternal mental health, is so important if we are ever going to achieve support and understanding for all methods.
Where to find Sydney: