Friday, 11 May 2012

Momma Loved Us Every One

In the weeks after Grady's birth, I was a bruise. I was raw. My emotions were so close to the surface. Everything - even good things - hurt because I felt them so deeply. I didn't want to lose that rawness. I thought that if I lost that hypersensitivity, I would revert to being callous and critical. Because pre-Grady? I was critical.  I was full of my-kid-will-always-do-thises and my-kid-will-never-do-thats, always said with eyebrows-raised bitchy judgy eyes.

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. 


  1. I'll be honest, when I first saw the TIME magazine cover I was shocked and then really pissed off. Mainly because they're using it to shock people so they'll buy the magazine/sign up online. It's all about advertising and a part of me really hates they used a mother and her child to do that.

    But to your point, you're right, it's up to the parents or parent how they want to raise their kid (unless they are abusing them) and no one else should be lecturing them (although we all know people will do so because they do it in all aspects of life).

    I played that video twice because that was the best creepy/adorable laugh EVER!

  2. The only opinion I have on the topic of breast feeding is that women should be able to do it in public regardless of how other people feel about it. They're feeding their kid, not shooting porn. People get all up in arms about it, but you see worse things when men take off their shirts!

  3. Yes! I couldn't have written a better post if I tried. You have said everything I would have. The thing that bothers me the most about our society and breastfeeding is we all have our own opinion and we should mind our own business when it comes to another woman and her family. Period.

  4. Yes to it all. Yes, yes, yes.

    I was so raw those first two months, and I think (in hindsight) it was such a gift, really, because (I hope) it's made me kinder, more aware of other mothers. I hope it's made me try to help instead of hurt, lend an ear or a hand instead of a snap judgment. I feel like I went through that so maybe one other mom someday could go through it....with less pain, more support.

    I am also so tired of these Mommy Wars. What I'd really like, actually, is that we all just act like parents. No more "Are you mom enough?" And "Aw shucks, that dad is adorably clueless!" Instead, how about, "Good job parents, you're doing your best!" Dads aren't second-rate caregivers, they're parents. And moms aren't perfect, superwomen, they're parents too.

    (You are the very best lady. The very best.)

  5. You made me cry, dammit.

    You are an AMAZING Mom, because you are doing all that you can for that little man. Same goes for Shawn.

    Love you, lady.

  6. As a childless woman I could agree with you more Hillary. This post is just so open and honest and basically says what everyone should do, parent how you want and let it be at that. I have a feeling all parents are figuring it out as they go and no one (except a doctor like you said) should be telling them otherwise.

    Seriously, heart you big time lady and even Grady's creepy little laugh, haha.

  7. The Time Magazine cover is so unfortunate. I don't have a problem with breastfeeding, I weaned my son at almost 19 months and for us that was the time line that worked, but to each her own. I get that the magazine is all about advertising, and they've done a great job of riling people up and getting people talking about it. It just pisses me off...Even if I WAS to breastfeed my child for years, I can't imagine standing there with my kid standing on a chair latched on like that. It's such an unrealistic image. It's making me mad just thinking about it!

    Did you see the Oreo ad recently? A baby breastfeeding - a baby who would barely be eating any solids whatsoever yet, if any - and the baby is holding up an Oreo cookie...of course the idea that milk and cookies go so perfectly together. But I was so disgusted by the image, since breast milk is so pure and Oreo's are probably the most synthetic cookie out there!

    I get that these are the kinds of images that really get people talking, but it seems to be in such a negative way, because ultimately it's just maddening. To me, it's a setback. I'd love to promote breastfeeding and get more people on board with it being natural, healthy, normal, and a good thing to be doing - but those kinds of unrealistic images make it difficult to get the right point across. So frustrating!

  8. 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.

    THIS!!!! I could've written this post myself, Hillary. If motherhood has taught me one thing, it's taught me to be more forgiving of others and how they choose to parent their own children. I most certainly have very strong opinions about how I choose to raise my own child (and will defend them to anyone who asks), but that doesn't mean my way is the only way. Parenting is hard enough as it is; we don't need outsiders (like stupid magazines that really don't know what they're talking about) interfering or trying to divide an already divisive group. Thanks for writing this post!

  9. completely agree, although i'll admit that my first reaction to that cover was a hearty "what the F*CK!?" if you want to bf your kid until he's 8, whatever! i don't care! but if you pose on the front cover of a magazine with a grown kid hanging off your boob, yeah, i'm going to have a reaction. i mean, that was the point of the cover.

    1. The main thing I thought was "what is that boy going to do when he's older and people inevitably make fun of him?" I'm sure that mom is doing her best...but I wonder about the after effects on the boy. It's one thing if it's not's another when it's documented so publicly. I think she could have made the same arguement in words instead of through shocking images....maybe not, I don't know....just thoughts.

  10. Your baby's giggle is so amazing - I had to watch the video 5 times in a row. Hope you had a lovely Mother's Day!

  11. Very well put. All we can do is try. I stress over not being a good enough mom myself, I don't need someone else judging me on top of it.