October 16, 2013
Mind and Body Update
First things first -- I got SO much support from friends and family after my last Mind and Body update in which I discussed my postpartum anxiety. I've still been seeing my counselor at The Healing Place and we've actually just recently discussed going from weekly to twice a month and then eventually moving on to an as-needed basis. So, progress is being made. More on that in a minute...
How I'm looking/feeling: Honestly, about the same. I feel a little lumpier and flabbier than I did last time I wrote an update, but that could be the fact that I'm starting to feel the need to up my physical activity a little more. Z and I have taken some walks while I'm wearing him, and that was fun for both of us!
My clothes still fit, but I'm just feeling....lumpy. I need to make some pretty big changes in my eating and activity habits if I want that to change. I think the steady journey back to pre-pregnancy status has slowed to a halt and it's time to take action again. I don't really have that whole "fourth trimester" excuse to lean on anymore, and that's okay! I'm not holding myself to unrealistic expectations, but I'm ready to be proactive about getting healthy again. Let's be honest -- before we know it, Z will be very mobile and active and I need to be able to keep up with him!
I think I've hit a major milestone, especially regarding my negative feelings regarding my breastfeeding experience and the subsequent guilt. I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post that I'm making big strides toward feeling much better and much MUCH more confident as a mother. A working, formula-feeding, mistake-making mother who has come to some pretty powerful realizations lately:
1.) Once I started releasing my fears and my anxieties to God and identifying the thoughts as they come, what caused them, and what (if anything) supports that thought, I started feeling so much better. Did the thought come from social media? A blog post written specifically to manipulate the emotions of a mother who, by her very nature, questions every choice she makes? An article or editorial written with such passion and vehemence that it just might be an outlet for someone who may be so insecure about her choices that she has to rail against the alternative?
While I was pregnant, I read everything I could get my hands on regarding attachment parenting, natural parenting, new methods regarding [insert child-rearing topic here]. I'd roll my eyes when my parents or others a generation or two before me said "Well, we raised you with/without [insert topic] and you're doing just fine!"
Now that I have a baby of my own, I feel somewhat wistful when my mom or my mother-in-law says something like "Wow, they never had that/talked about that when you were a baby." Sometimes she says it with no disdain but with genuine respect and perhaps some wistfulness of her own. Perhaps she feels like it would have made parenting easier for her, while I'm thinking it makes parenting harder for me. Maybe ignorance truly is bliss in some situations. Maybe the internets and social media have not just perpetuated and exacerbated the Mommy Wars; maybe they created the Mommy Wars. I've learned that there is a well-written, highly endorsed research study supporting just about any parenting choice you make. So, clearly there's an element of "make your own informed decision" in this whole parenting thing.
Now, when I realize I've been doing something incorrectly (such as the Car Seat Fiasco from last month), my first instinct will not be to immediately crumble into self-loathing because I did something wrong. Instead I'm learning to step back and say, "Did I really do it incorrectly, or is it just not in line with this person's choices/philosophy? Was my baby in danger? What can I do going forward to make sure that he's safe and we're both happy?"
Oh, I'm still going to make mistakes. My task going forward shall now be to learn how to make being grateful to have discovered it the knee-jerk reaction, and to modify it for the future.
2) My second fairly HUGE milestone/realization/breakthrough is that I think God has finally revealed to me the "why" of my breastfeeding struggle. I could get really verbose here, but instead I'll put it as simply as I can:
I believe God gave me that struggle for a reason. I believe that it was His way of teaching me to be compassionate and humble because, had breastfeeding been easy for me, I would have been judgmental and completely lacking in understanding as to why some mothers truly need formula for their babies.
That may seem like I'm being hard on myself. You might be saying, "But Mandy, you don't know you would've been judgmental!" but trust me; I know myself pretty well. I've already admitted in a previous blog post about how, before I even had Z, I would think, "Ugh, did she even try to breastfeed? It's obviously hard; that mother just wanted the easy route," as if I knew anything. I think God saw in me the potential to wear it as a big, bright badge of honor–so bright that it would have blinded me to the very real struggle of others.
I read the books. I took the classes. I didn't even ask for all of the lactation help I could have asked for (and should have asked for) because I thought, "It's natural! I know what a good latch looks like! I went to the classes!" I'm not completely blaming myself for what I went through, but that's the amazing thing! I'm not completely blaming myself anymore. I see now that God took Z and me down this path so that I can be more compassionate toward other women.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not quite finished with this journey, but I do know that I've turned a major corner. Now, when I look in the mirror and see the scar from my surgery, I feel more than just a need to remind myself "See what you went through?" in order to boost my confidence. I feel proud that I did all I could, but I feel humbled that I went through it. Yes, I should be proud that I took my body to the limit to breastfeed my son, but that very pride could have led me to a sense of entitlement and the need to feel defensive any time I was asked "do you breastfeed?" in the most innocent of situations. I feel humbled because I thought I knew so much about it when, in reality, I had no idea just how difficult it is for some women, including myself.
I no longer grudgingly congratulate a mama who has reached her initial goal of nursing for 3 months because it's the "right thing to do." I'm able to truly mean it and not take it as a criticism of my own methods of feeding my baby. That may not seem like much, but it's huge to me. And it makes me so happy to be able to celebrate and be joyful with that mama.
I think I've admitted this before but, in case I haven't, I want to admit that there were times that I secretly hoped that new moms would fail at breastfeeding. Just so that I wouldn't feel so alone and so I'd have someone else in "my corner." I think I've finally reached a point where I can genuinely cheer on breastfeeding mamas and be 100% confident in the fact that my formula-fed baby is healthy and happy!
3) Finally, I've come to the realization that what we say to ourselves and to other moms is so important! How we really feel and our own parenting choices and philosophies saturate every comment we make. We're so ready to share, but rarely are we ready to listen. I've made it a personal goal to listen to not only what's being said but what is not being said. To read between the lines. To look into the eyes of that mother (or mother-to-be or would-be-mother) or read into her post on Facebook and see what she might really need to hear.
God has really been working on me and my heart since the last update, and I'm finally at a point in my new journey where I can look back at the road behind me and see how the bricks have been carefully placed to guide me as I continue on. I'm so grateful for the lessons, even the painful ones, and I'm so excited about what's in store for me and for my family.