I'm ashamed by how critical I was pre-baby. You guys, I distinctly remember saying (on more than one occasion) that if a baby is old enough to walk over to his or her mother's breasts, that baby is too old to breastfeed. Admitting that makes me cringe. I hope that I never said that to a mother. Not that it makes my statement any more acceptable or any less rude, it just makes me feel less horrible to imagine I said it flippantly to another single, childless girlfriend instead of a mother who is just trying to do what's best for her child and her situation and really doesn't need an outsider weighing in on what's right or wrong about her parenting choices.
And then we're faced with something like the Time Magazine cover and it just feels like one more tool for women to use against other women (and don't even get me started on the women vs men dynamic. I have many feelings about all the "Mr. Mom!" and "Daddy Daycare!" comments we've received over my return to work and Shawn's stay at home dad status.) I have my own feelings about the image and you've got your own feelings about it (or maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about, or maybe you do know about the image and you don't care about it one way or the other) and that's fine. It's all fine. Instead of getting riled up over whether or not extended breastfeeding is normal, why don't we get riled up over people feeling like they can tell us what's right or wrong about how we raise our children and live our lives? If I've taken anything away from the Time Magazine cover it's that I'd like to say a hearty "fuck you!" to anyone (excluding Grady's doctor) who thinks they have the right to tell me the "proper" duration to breastfeed my child (and that includes my younger, childless self. Oh how I'd love to sit down and have a few words with her.)
I have lost some of my rawness. I had to. I couldn't survive if I continued to feel things as deeply as I did back then. I'm sure that part of my hypersensitivity can be traced to my postpartum mental illness and as I got stronger and more healed in that regard, I got tougher as well. Tougher in a good way. Tougher in a way that lets me admit that Grady sleeps in our bed - every night, all night - and if you think that's wrong or gross or damaging I fully recognize your right to your own opinion. And if you feel the need to tell me it's wrong or gross or damaging? I will feel the need to tell you to fuck right off. But if you had told me that it was wrong or gross or damaging in the weeks after Grady's birth? The weeks where there really was no sleep and my mind was dark and I spent hours every day cuddling my newborn while lying on the bathroom floor, crying? It would have ruined me.
My hope is that even as I grow tougher, I never forget what it feels like to be a walking, talking (crying!) bruise. I want to hold on to that part of me and remember it whenever I have a knee-jerk reaction to something like the image on the Time Magazine cover. Instead of immediately thinking "oh wow, that kid sure looks pretty old to still be breastfeeding!" I want to think "that mom is so brave. She made a choice based on her child and her situation and she isn't afraid or ashamed to own it." Whether I agree with extended breastfeeding or not isn't the point. The point is that it's none of my business. That's not my child. Those aren't my breasts. Unless someone is harming their child, it's not my job to judge their parenting methods.
My first Mother's Day as a mom is approaching and I've been thinking a lot about what being a mom means to me. On some days (more days than I'd like to admit) it means treading water. It means second-guessing and doubting and yes, judging the choices of others. But sometimes (more and more lately) it means having the confidence to know that I am doing everything I can for my kid. I might not be doing everything right but I'm trying my hardest and that is what matters. If I try to be the best mom for my kid, every day, I can't fail. I have the best kid ever so it's not hard to want to try to be the best mom for him.
Creepy, right? He does this giggle all the damn time.