My dream is that with motherhood comes only empathy and connection, not judgment and shame. My dream is that all moms feel empowered to ask for help, receive it and realize that doing so doesn’t make them failures. My dream is that all moms realize that taking care of themselves and their needs isn’t selfish, but necessary. My dream is that all moms feel safe enough to be honest about their lives, even the scary parts. My dream is that all moms have access to affordable care for mental health issues such as postpartum depression and anxiety. My dream is that no mom ever feels alone as she struggles. My dream is that all moms recognize motherhood is not one-size-fits-all and no two journeys are the same. My dream is that all moms support each other’s choices and embrace each other’s differenes. My dream is that all moms lift one another up because they understand that we are all in this together.
Four years ago, when my son was born, and I battled severe postpartum depression, I felt so alone. I wanted—no—I desperately craved meeting another mom like me. Another mom who would put her hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and say, “I’ve been there. I get it.”
I didn’t find these moms until I got better almost a year later when I started sharing my journey from postpartum depression to healthy, happy mommy. And most of them I met virtually. I was amazed by how many moms would respond to my story with those powerful words, “I’ve been there. I get it.” Where were these moms when I was suffering? Most likely, they were also suffering and too ashamed to come forward just like I was.
It was then I realized the power of those two little sentences and their importance and necessity when it comes to the struggles of motherhood. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, body image, relationship issues or something else, we all struggle as moms and we want to know we aren’t the only ones. We don’t always want advice. We want to feel normal. We want to know there are others out there who get it. Who get us.
We all know it’s hard AF to be a mom. Sometimes, it’s even harder to tell the truth as one. In a world filled with opinions and judgments, we don’t always want to wear our truth on our spit-up or yogurt-stained sleeves.
I’ve accepted that not everyone will embrace calling her kid an asshole after multiple tantrums over not being allowed to have a second piece of candy. Or wanting every playdate (post-noon of course) to be accompanied by a glass of Pinot. Motherhood isn’t one-size-fits-all.
Over the past five years as a parent, I have learned that telling the truth makes motherhood easier. Pretending takes so much energy, something we moms are always running out of. Ask me anything about surviving postpartum depression and I will tell you. I’m an open book about having to take medication. I won’t lie and tell you I miss my family so much it hurts when I leave for a girl’s weekend. And I’m going to tell you that what I feel for my child doesn’t resemble appreciation or magic when he shows up at the side of my bed at three in the morning to ask me what he was dreaming about.
Happy Halloween, also known as the day where my four-year old dresses up in an overpriced costume that he doesn’t let me choose for him anymore and collects candy from strangers’ houses that his mommy and daddy will eat while he is sleeping.
Today, I thought I would share some parenting horror stories from real parents because we all have them. And there is nothing more horrifying than explosive poop and projectile vomit! So get those baby wipes ready!
Ozzy, at two-and-a –half, was in the middle of potty-training. I was in the kitchen making dinner and he was happily playing in the living room when all of a sudden the smell wafted in. I turn around to find he had had the presence of mind to pull his pants and underwear down to do his poo. But instead of going in his potty, mere feet away, he shat on the fancy rug (from Harrods no less) in the middle of the living room. Knowing he’d been naughty, he went and found his toy Dyson vacuum and proceeded to “vacuum” up his poo…all over and into the posh rug. Into the toy Dyson. All over his feet. Poo footprints all over my house. I almost passed out with a heady combination of rage and hysterical laughter. Terrible twos indeed!
-Jenn, Mom of Ozzy and Maddy
Early fall is Jewish holiday season. That means going to temple, eating apples and honey in hopes of a sweet year ahead, family dinners filled with equal parts kvelling & kvetching, and a day of starvation fasting that culminates in the annual carb loading frenzy with bagels, lox, noodle kugel, and cookies. Lots of cookies. You know…a “light” meal.
And if your child attends a Jewish preschool/day school, you are basically screwed and they may as well close for the month of October with the amount of days you have off.
That’s right folks, we are currently living in the space between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) where we ask forgiveness for our sins and hope to make it into the Book of Life for another year.
I was once getting a manicure next to a woman who asked if I had children. At the time, I told her I had a one-year old boy. She then asked my favorite question most people follow that up with. “When are you having your next one?” I told her I wasn’t–that my husband and I decided one was enough and the right decision for our family–we were one and done. I don’t even know why I felt like I had to justify my decision to a complete stranger. I guess I didn’t want my response to be met with the usual, “You will change your mind.” Or “What do your parents think? Don’t they want lots of grandchildren?” “It’s so much nicer for kids to have a sibling to play with.”
But she surprised me. She informed me she only had one son and that sometimes when you create a masterpiece, it doesn’t make any sense to paint over it. Thank you manicure lady for immediately accepting my choice and making me feel good about it! It doesn’t always happen like that.
In fact, most people respond with confusion, sometimes horror when they find out you are “one and done.” I love that phrase. It’s short and sweet and very blunt. It leaves no room for interpretation. Those people do not. Sometimes those people are strangers. Other times they are acquaintances and family members. All I can say, is that at the end of the day, you don’t know what it’s like to walk in my shoes–to live my life–to know what I need and what’s best for me. Only I know that, especially when it comes to motherhood. I also want to say that I am in no way promoting ”one and done” as the best or easiest parenthood choice. If you don’t want any kids or want to have two, three, even five kids, I think that’s incredible. Do it! It’s just not the right choice for me. And I have yet to come across any parenthood choice that is easy.
Today wraps up National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. I hope your social media feeds weren’t over-flooded with articles and photos about the joy and benefits of breastfeeding. Lactivists telling you why breastmilk is the only way to ensure a healthy, happy baby. Studies claiming that breastmilk will make your baby more intelligent and have less ear infections and allergies. Then there’s my all-time favorite claim: Breastfeeding can reduce a mom’s stress level and risk for postpartum depression. Um, yeah, not so much…have they met me? And let us not forget about the infamous mom-shamers criticizing anyone who chooses the alternative or not to breastfeed for as long as they have ruled acceptable. I mean, can’t we all just get along.
I’m here to tell you, breast is not always best. Also, formula is not always best. You know what’s best? What works for you, makes you happy and keeps your baby’s belly full. Moms have all different reasons for how they choose to feed their babies and they are none of your business.
When I had my son, I thought I would be a breastfeeding master. He would latch easily and we would be unbreakably bonded. I would breastfeed at least until the baby weight melted off. (Why shouldn’t I reap the benefits too?) Full disclosure, I had always planned to supplement with formula because I wanted to be able to sleep and let my husband help with feedings, but I never thought I would suck at breastfeeding. And It never occurred to me that I might hate it too.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of the F-word. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in so many different situations. As a writer, I love that it can be a noun, verb, adjective, and more. As a mom, it comes in very handy when I’m frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed or I feel the need to be dramatic about all the above. You step on a Lego and scream, “FUCK!” Your kid wakes up four times in the middle of the night and you quietly pray each time, “Stay the fuck asleep.” You get projectile vomited on and blurt out, “Fuck me!”
And when you can’t take it anymore you dramatically declare that if anyone needs you, you can be found hiding in your closet with that pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate-chocolate-chip ice cream because you are frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed “As Fuck” (AF). I’ve even recently heard it used to describe the phase my son just entered: “The Fucking Fours.”
When I gave birth to my son almost four years ago (before I made regular use of the F-word in everyday motherhood), I discovered my second favorite F word. Formula. Yes, you heard me correctly. Formula. Let me say now that this is not an anti-breastfeeding, pro-formula-feeding post, nor am I exclusively in support of one food source over the other. I am exclusively for feeding your baby, however that works best for you. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…
Welcome back to my Q&A with Suzanne Barston, The Fearless Formula Feeder. Let’s dive right in because she has some very wise words to share about how moms choose to feed their babies.
The Pressure to Breastfeed
Because they are told that it’s the most important thing they can do for their babies; that it’s the healthy thing; the RIGHT thing. They see celebrities and role models and their peers celebrating their breastfeeding success, which they have every right to be doing – but we hear more about breastfeeding than any other aspect of new motherhood, so it becomes this measuring stick, this way to compare yourself to others and gauge how you’re doing at this scary new job. Plus, there are some overzealous physicians and lactation professionals out there who really do make it seem like life or death.
The Problem with “Breast is Best”
It’s problematic, because it’s NOT. Breast is the biological way to feed a baby. It is normal, and healthy, and every woman’s right. And yes, breastmilk is a biologically phenomenal substance. But that does not make it best – it makes it great. Best is a subjective term – because what does that even mean? Best nutritionally? Sure, unless your baby is reacting to something in your milk, or you don’t have enough to feed him. Best emotionally? No, not unless it’s what makes you happy and helps you bond, because for some women, the opposite is true.
What About “Fed is Best?”
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which means our social media feeds will likely be filled with articles and photos about the joys and benefits of breastfeeding. So, I wanted to talk to someone who could share more about the joys and benefits of simply feeding your baby, because there are alternatives and breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. And shouldn’t that be okay?
Meet Suzanne Barston, also known as The Fearless Formula Feeder and author of the book, Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t. After experiencing many breastfeeding complications with her son, having postpartum depression and switching to formula (the best decision for her family) only to realize that there was a severe lack of information and way too much judgment when it came to formula feeding, she decided to create a support network for moms who also went the formula route.
Suzanne’s judgement-free advice and determination to change the conversation about how moms choose to feed their babies and the support they should receive are a breath of fresh air. Her work is a testament to the fact that whether a mom chooses breastmilk, formula, or both has everything to do with the right choice for her and nothing to do with how much she loves her baby.