……as long as we leave the judgement behind
I have a controversial statement to make.
I enjoyed having a newborn. Enjoyed as in really, really loved it and can’t wait to have another one.
While I felt extremely tired and often emotional, I didn’t feel overwrought, lost or at my wits end.
I have experienced that feeling since though – what mother hasn’t – just not during the first few months of my babies’ lives.
Now I know some readers will already be rolling their eyes ready to accuse me of making mothers who find the newborn stage difficult, feel even more horrendous.
But as a mother who has experienced the extreme highs and lows of parenting and understands that all women and babies are different, I would never – ever –pass judgment on another mother, nor feel smug about my own mothering.
In fact, passing judgment is my least favourite aspect of our society’s new-found fascination with motherhood and how it’s being done, or rather should be done. But that’s another story.
All of our experiences at different stages in our children’s lives vary, from the extremely positive to the extremely negative.
But it seems to me that admitting to enjoying the newborn stage of parenthood, let alone that it was one of my most treasured periods is a bit of a no-no.
I assume that’s because it’s not a common favourite so professing your love for those days is presumed to make those who did find it difficult feel worse.
But it really shouldn’t. To me, sharing a happy moment simply demonstrates the extent to which motherhood pulls and tugs us in very different directions.
Many mothers have shared with me that the toddler years were their favourite, a welcome and happy relief from life with an infant. For me though, that wasn’t the case.
My first born was very strong willed and developed a lovely habit of screaming to an ear-piercing level at any given moment for very long periods of time. It was then that I experienced my own low points, my feelings of failure, wondering if I was as good a mother as I’d planned to be.
Yet, I have never really shared the joy I felt or the ease with which I experienced having a new born with anybody other than my mother for fear of being accused of being smug.
One of the best things about the raising of awareness regarding the difficulties of motherhood through forums, websites and increased dialogue is that mothers no longer feel alone in their distress. This is a very good thing.
One of the worst though is how quickly and how publicly we judge other mothers, their choices and their feelings, seemingly looking for the worst in their actions instead of the best.
Yes. I found caring for newborns enjoyable, despite relentless tiredness.
But I didn’t find breast-feeding easy. I was plagued with difficulties including recurring mastitis that lead to hospitalisation and the eventual advice to make the dreaded switch. A similar situation followed with my second baby despite my best efforts – in his case there simply wasn’t enough milk so I chose to switch to formula.
That was a huge blow for me at the time and I found it extremely difficult to accept, particularly the first time as I had very strong pro breastfeeding views prior to his birth.
Having watched my boys develop into healthy and strong toddlers and children, I’m now comfortable with the way things turned out, but to this day others still manage to make me feel crappy about it.
But not by women who say they found breastfeeding easy. To them I say “good on you! Brilliant news!”
I love hearing positive stories about all aspects of motherhood – and am genuinely happy when I hear about a positive breastfeeding experience.
It’s when those stories are used to look down on those whose experiences were less pleasant or whose choices were different that it becomes problematic.
One of my best girlfriends recently had a baby – I was overjoyed when I saw her breastfeeding her baby with ease. She enjoys breastfeeding, appears to be good at it and did so for a long time with her first bub. But not once have I heard her say a negative word about those who aren’t able to or choose not to breastfeed.
So when I say I loved the experience of caring for a newborn that’s just me wanting to share a positive experience from a journey that’s filled with highs and lows and everything in between.
I guess the point is all of our motherhood journeys are different, so are our choices. And that’s ok.
It’s also ok to share them – the ups and the downs - as long as we leave the judgment behind.
Published 22nd February 2013