Thursday, February 16, 2012

Removing the anvil from my chest

I logged on to Facebook today and while scrolling through the news feed, I found a friend of mine shared a link regarding the decline of parents opting to have their little boys circumcised and her excitement at the news. Given the debatable subject of the article I knew it was bound to create a few opinionated posts, and being the nosy Facebooker that I am I decided to read the comments. Bottom line, I should have known better, but what can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.

One thing I want to make clear is this has nothing to do with the friend who posted the link because she is truly a wonderful person and I value her advice in both parenting and lifestyle. I'm writing this now because the emotions I took away from her post reminded me of a topic that has plagued me during my entire time as a mother. It just so happens that her innocent and maybe even random re-posting of an article and some of the responses gave me the words to do so.


The following was too long to add to any comment thread:

I love my children with every fiber of my being. They are my entire world and the thought of anything ever happening to remove them from that world sends chills down my spine, creates a painful emptiness in my chest and completely removes my will to live. And that's just the thought that anything could happen. Every single decision in our lives, big or small, important or seemingly irrelevant, is made with them in mind. Every decision I have ever had to make as a parent, some even prior to becoming pregnant the first time, was made to keep us all functioning and happy and healthy to the best of my human abilities. I do the research, I ask for advice, I sit down and contemplate and try to envision every possible outcome, and then roll all of that into one final decision that will keep us moving as a solid unit.

I like to think this makes me a good mother. I have to believe this makes me a good mother. I have to remind myself all the time amidst debates on staying at home versus working, breastfeeding versus formula, vaccinating or not, circumcising or not, I made all of these very tricky decisions with Owen in mind. I made them to the very best of my knowledge with ALL of us in mind because we have to work as a whole. And I have to tell myself this makes me a great mother because based on some things I've read online I've already failed miserably despite putting my children first.

I breastfed for seven months. They were the darkest, scariest seven months of my life. I'm alternating between typing and sobbing right now as I force myself to go back there and find the words to describe it for you. Medication didn't work. I had this precious, beautiful little boy with bright eyes and the sweetest smile looking up at me every day and I couldn't return the favor. I never wanted to hurt him...just myself, very badly. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that if I ended my own pain by hurting myself I would in turn be hurting him. Strangely, the only thing that kept me alive was him and my unwillingness to give up on him. But it was my unwillingness to accept that breastfeeding, at that time, was not right for me and my inability to put the peer pressure and the everlasting battle between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding behind me that kept me in that horrific and depressing state in the first place! I tried to do what the majority of other mothers said was the only correct choice, and I fought a very scary bout of postpartum depression that was only prolonged by the breastfeeding, and I nearly did more harm than good.

So all you moms can come and yell at me for giving my child formula for the remaining five months of his first year, and for being fully prepared to do the same with the child that is in my womb should the same circumstances arise the second time around. You can scold me and tell me how selfish I am for not giving my child the best start possible. Go ahead. I won't listen. I will continue to make the choices that are best for MY children and OUR family and I will NEVER judge a woman for opting against breastfeeding. After all, how am I possibly giving my child the best start if it puts me in such a dark place that I can barely see him?

In my world, making the decision to stay at home or work, to breastfeed or use formula, organic or inorganic, to vaccinate or not, to circumcise or not, to baptize or not, to home school or private school or public school does not add or reduce value to your motherhood. What matters is that you give your children as much love and attention and safety and guidance as you possibly can. Help them become strong, confident, thoughtful, brave little people. Offer the support necessary to carry those traits into adulthood and their own parenthood. That alone will determine your value in motherhood.


For the record, Owen is circumcised. It wasn't until I learned we were having a little boy that I was made aware of an option not to. Jon and I sat down and talked about it, and I asked him if, given the choice again, he would opt to have the procedure done and he said "Yes." And since I lack a penis and the mountain of pride that seems to be held there, who am I to argue?

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