Why don’t mothers unite?

This post has been a long time coming. One I have thought about for days, weeks, months and even years. When I got pregnant with my first son I immediately learned that there are many moms out there that are “perfect”. For those of us who aren’t it can sometimes feel isolating to be apart of the imperfect mothers. But I have begun to realize with my second pregnancy that my views were all wrong and they are the ones who don’t know as much as they seem. Right off the bat I will say this post is just my opinion, like all the mom advice I give, it’s what I have seen, what I have learned and that doesn’t make it right or wrong but I don’t think it makes it any less valid.

I always believed that being pregnant would be the best experience of my life. How could it not be? I was creating a life with my best friend, my partner, my lover and our family was expanding. But then HG hit. I have never been so sick in my life, having had mono I can say HG is mono’s evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine. My first pregnancy I suffered from HG until week 16, when I finally had some relief. I lost 14 pounds and was truly miserable. This pregnancy I am almost 23 weeks pregnant and I am still throwing up every single day, I lost over 20 pounds and just yesterday my blood pressure was 86/56. Thanks to having HG both pregnancies I have been given more advice than I know what to do with. The “have you tried..” rolls in daily. Anyone who hears that I am sick is so sure that if I tried ginger, ate small meals and ate saltines I would be on the mend. All of these people have good intentions but even the best intentions can hurt someone.

I would be lying if I said there aren’t times that I haven’t felt  like a failure. I have tried and tried and tried and all I have been able to do is throw up day in and day out. This advice hangs in the air, constantly lingers in my thoughts.  I have gotten lots of the “that’s morning sickness for you”, the “oh yeah I threw up in the car one time”, the “it doesn’t last forever”, and “oh the joys of pregnancy”. (Trust me there are more but these were definitely the most common ones). The one thing everyone seems to miss is that HG is not morning sickness. They are not the same thing. Morning sickness you throw up a few times a week at most. HG I throw up anywhere from 18-30 times a day. In one day I throw up more times than some women do their whole pregnancy. I have been to the ER to get fluids more times than I would like to admit. I have been in pregnancy hell, that started at four weeks and just isn’t subsiding.

My first pregnancy I was lucky and got better. But then planning for the birth came. The ever talked about birth plan. I got it from both ends, some people thought a birth plan was a waste of time and effort and some thought you shouldn’t give birth without one. But let’s be real here whether we write it down or not we all have a birth plan. You pick your ob, you go to appointments, you talk about expectations, you talk about where you will be giving birth, whether your ob (or midwife) will be delivering or if other doctors could be on call, we all have some sort of discussion that looks like a birth plan. In my own opinion I am glad we wrote out a birth plan. There were pieces of birth I hadn’t heard about and it made me better informed. But with baby two I will not be writing out a birth plan but it is something my husband and I have discussed and agreed on.

But I learned with this that yet again you get opinions on what to do and what is best. This is why I did like creating my own birth plan because I was able to learn about what I wanted and what I liked and didn’t like. Knowledge was my friend and ally and helped me prepare for what to expect and what my hopes were. I had decided NO to the epidural. I was going to do all natural, I was going to be a warrior woman. I had heard so many negative things about them that I thought how could I get one? It just didn’t feel like a choice to me. I knew I would not be getting one. But then game day came and guess what? 28 hours of labor later my amazing nurse finally said “listen I know you don’t want an epidural but you and your baby are going under major distress and if his heart rate continues to drop we will have to do a c section. An epidural does not make you less of a woman or a mother. I think you’re the right candidate for one.” I am so grateful to her for pushing me in that direction. I had the epidural and my son came four hours later. In my opinion it was well worth it. I finally relaxed and I enjoyed the end of labor, yes I said it enjoyed it.

I wish I could say my hardships stopped there but they didn’t. My beautiful son latched on the first feeding. He honestly did great and I thought wow this breastfeeding thing is no big deal. Then they realized he had jaundice. So he was given a bottle of someone else’s breast milk. To me that was one of the hardest moments I have ever had as a mother. Was watching my newborn baby suck down someone else’s milk. But they told me we were doing it for his health and we would work on breastfeeding once the jaundice began to subside. Well it did finally subside but my son never latched on again. I saw four different lactation consultants. We tried everything. But he began to lose too much weight so I started to pump my milk and give it to him in bottles. The first week my son cried a lot. And when he took the bottle of my breastmilk the crying stopped. He and I had fought for days and days, nights and nights and if I am honest I would say I was a wreck. I was mad at him for not wanting to latch and I was mad at myself for not being able to figure it out. I was failing and I felt like I didn’t know what to do to fix it.

So a pumping relationship began. I pumped for four months. And looking back I wish I hadn’t. Yep I said it, I wish I hadn’t. I missed SO much, too much. I would pump and pump and pump because I had such a low supply. I tried fenugreek, I was allergic, I tried mother’s milk, I was allergic, I am allergic to dairy and all nuts so I couldn’t look to either of those to help my supply, I kept trying and again kept failing. My son was a big boy and he needed more milk than I could make so we started supplementing. But that came with issues too. Like his mom he was also allergic to dairy, so we tried non dairy but then he ended up having a very severe corn allergy. All that was left was a brand of soy formula, yes soy, soy formula for a baby boy. And trust me I heard all about how soy is bad for baby boy’s and it wasn’t a good choice but it was the only choice our ped could come up with.

I was miserable pumping. My supply was low and I got clogs every few days. I would cry and cry in hot showers, rubbing my boobs trying to get the clogs out. I even took needles to my nipples to free out clogs. I tried. And I again felt like I was failing. My loving husband finally convinced me to stop. The first week was so hard, not just because of the pain from my boobs drying up but because I felt terrible. My son needed breast milk. It’s all I ever heard. Breast is best and pumping was at least second best. He needed my breast milk and I wasn’t giving it to him. But then something I didn’t expect happened. Our son stopped crying. He barely cried. Once he was fully on soy formula he slept for 6-8 hours, at four months old! He began smiling and cooing. He started sleeping in his crib just fine, he didn’t spit up, he didn’t throw up, he didn’t need gripe water or mylicon drops. He was actually thriving and was happy.

This crushed me. I cried and cried and cried. I felt so terrible. This whole time I thought, my baby has Gerd and there’s nothing I can do. My husband and I stayed up all night rocking him, putting him in his swinging chair, putting him in his rock n play, doing everything we could to help him and this whole time he just wasn’t doing well with my breastmilk. I had been selfish. I had been mourning the death of a relationship I hadn’t wanted so badly and in turn had ruined my relationship with my baby. I didn’t feel connected to him like I had always thought and hoped I would. I just always heard “breast is best” and even now on facebook I hear and see it daily. But I wonder if maybe “fed is best” should be the new motto. Because for my baby breast was not best, not best for him and not best for me. But him being fed was what was best.

This whole me vs. you with mom’s still continues. When he was teething I decided to give him advil and had to hear about other ways to help him. As if I hadn’t exhausted all other avenues first. I tried teething tablets, I tried hylands teething gel, I tried clove oil, I tried cold teething rings, I tried frozen wash cloths, I tried rubbing his gums. I tried it all. All I got was a baby who cried uncontrollably for 2-3 hours at a time. So I gave him advil and guess what 2o minutes later the crying stopped. And again I cried thinking that I just kept letting him suffer because I was worried about what other mothers would think.

Then came sleeping arrangements. And again I never heard the end of it. Some moms say “Let them cry it out”, “baby’s should co-sleep with their parents”, “you shouldn’t let baby’s cry”, “controlled crying is ok”, “they need a certain schedule”, and the one I got the most is “your baby sleeps too much and his schedule rules your life”. I just don’t get why there is a never ending debate of who is doing what better. I am all about getting advice and will give it if I am asked but why isn’t it more like “hey I tried this with my baby and it worked for us, just a suggestion”. Not “baby’s should do this” and “this is what;s right”. There are so many books, websites and blogs about what to do for baby’s and that’s because there is a market for this. None of us know what we are doing. And what we do know is what we have learned.

There is more that unites mother’s than separates us. Whether you gave birth at home, in water, with an epidural, without one, courtesy of a surrogate or c section the end result is we all have a newborn. Whether you gained 40 lbs, lost 14 or only gained 10 pounds or watched someone else carry your baby,  we have all experienced pregnancy. We all are or have experienced sleepless nights, messy mornings, tiring days and poopy diapers. Whether you co sleep or let your baby sleep in their crib we all have a sleeping baby who needs us. Whether you breast feed, pump, or bottle feed formula you are feeding your baby. We all are dealing with teething children, sick children, baby’s who won’t sleep, schedules or lack there of. Our struggles are the same even if the outcomes are different. I wish this is something that could be celebrated more. I wish we would unite more. I am tired of the same questions “How did you deliver him?”, “Did you breastfeed?”, “Did you co sleep?”, or “Do you have a birth plan for baby two?” My answers are “I birthed him”, “I fed him”, “He slept and still sleeps just fine”, and “Yes I plan on evicting him when it’s time.”