Mommy guilt and how it affected me

It is easy to offer advice to new mothers about how they should let their children be, not feel bad if something goes wrong while parenting and not obsess over a child being a finicky eater. I have done all this and more. I believed that I was the sane one among this whole melee of paranoid mothers. I often resolved never to be obsessive over my child’s behavior and was sure I would earn the tag of the most chilled our parent ever!

I never wanted to be a mother initially. Right from the time I was in college, I was sure I would never want a child and would instead do something to serve the country, join an NGO, perhaps. Like the two were mutually exclusive! However, like they say, you can go ahead and plan your life… but life always has other plans.

The body clocked chimed and I became pregnant. After a myriad complications I managed to deliver a healthy baby. I could talk about guilt creeping in right after my 4th month of pregnancy when I was diagnosed with a separated placenta and struggled to keep my baby alive to when I had to opt for a C-Sec because the contractions came in too fast and one on top of the other while the baby had still not descended.

However, none of these seemed significant when compared to the mother of all Mommy guilts- one that arises from breastfeeding issues. I had read up all about the benefits of breastfeeding while I was pregnant apart from the intense research that I had done on the pregnancy and related complications. What I didn’t research upon was about issues related to breastfeeding – because you know, I had these huge melons for breasts and I possibly couldn’t have any issues breastfeeding my child. In fact, I had told my employer that I would need that extra leave just to ensure that the baby was breastfed for as long as possible since I wanted her/him to get the best nutrition possible.

After the first few hours of delivery, when the lactation nurse came to help me feed her for the first time, Lil Princess latched on beautifully. It didn’t seem to be an issue at all. I was through all my troubles and complications, I exclaimed in relief. But the issues began from that night onwards. Lil Princess wouldn’t sleep at night and she kept crying. I tried to feed her and had to keep calling the nurses to help her latch on. She still wouldn’t sleep or stop crying. When she finally slept early in the morning, I was exhausted and weeping. “What went wrong?” I thought. Then came the comments and brickbats. “Oh! May be you don’t have enough milk that’s why she can’t sleep”. That was the constant refrain whenever the child kept crying even after I had finished feeding her. What nobody told me and I was too much in pain and too exhausted to find out was that the milk doesn’t come in until the 3rd day when you have a C-Section and until then the baby is okay with surviving on colostrum. What I was also not told was that some babies don’t sleep at night after birth. In fact, like the Lil Princess some babies may go up to a month or more of not sleeping at night and instead prefer to snooze during the day.

I came back home from the hospital, and instead of encouraging me, some members from my family only made fun of my inability to feed her. The emotional trauma probably contributed in a big way to the fact that my milk supply was affected. I was feeding her all the time and yet, she never seemed to be full. We had to resort to feeding her formula. I was devastated. What was I doing wrong? Was I a bad mother? Why wasn’t she getting her fill? Did I eat something wrong/ didn’t eat enough during pregnancy because of which she wasn’t getting any milk? Apart from sleep deprivation, since she was awake all night and I couldn’t sleep much during the day, all these and thousand other questions kept filling my mind day in and day out. I went into post partum depression, a condition I did not recognise then, but do now. I was crying all the time. My temper reached unimaginable levels to the extent that I was often pulling at my hair and flinging things across the room.

Then, I remembered how I had met a gynecologist who was also a lactation consultant earlier during my pregnancy. I decided to go to her almost 20 days after my delivery. Her soothing voice, calming words and ability to put you at ease and make you feel good, made me feel like I could do it again. I could feed my baby and do away with the “evil” formula. I did encounter success for another month or so, before Lil Princess started behaving very strangely. After feeding 24/7 from me, she actually started refusing the breast. She didn’t want to feed from me anymore. Then after several struggles and bouts of frustration and depression I finally switched over to formula in her 5th month. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t face her refusals, my struggles to calm her down and force feed her, the crying that ensued afterward. I had tried enough and for mine and her emotional health it was better this way.

However, the worst part of it all were the comments I got from strangers “Why aren’t you feeding her mother’s milk?” they asked me. When I told them that it was mostly because she wasn’t interested anymore, they smirked and said it was because I wanted the convenient way out. How can formula be more convenient than breastfeeding, I ask? The washing of the bottle, the sterilizing, the boiling of water, the expenses involved. Why would I choose all these over breastfeeding? Those comments, those funny stares I got from people, my own overwhelming feeling of guilt, all these increased my PPD and I was mostly miserable until Lil Princess was 8 months old. It was only after she became more interactive, mobile and more responsive that I started enjoying my own baby. Until then all I had, was intense mommy guilt and the feeling of how I shouldn’t have had a baby because I was incapable of taking care of her- as if taking care meant only breastfeeding.

I still do suffer from mommy guilt several times. She is a very picky eater- “am I not feeding her what she likes, the right stuff?”, She has an extreme case of stranger anxiety- “I should take her out more, I should get out and socialize more so she can have more friends” and many such instances which make me feel guilty.

However, now no more! I am through with mommy guilt, well most of it at least. And when I read this, I was sure I am doing the right thing in channelizing my attention and energies into something else- like gardening, baking and writing. I feel better now, much much better.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by p on June 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    that was a nice post..actually i could relate to ur situation as I also had a same situation. i gave birth to a baby girl via C-sec and couldn’t breastfeed for 2 days after delivery and my girl was wailing her lungs out for 2 days…well the part that made me really angry was that nobody ever told me that it will take few days . well during my pregnancy period and even after delivery so people were giving out free advices ..I was wondering why didn’t they tell me about this? …


    • Thanks P… This issues related to breastfeeding seem to be coming to the forefront today more than ever before… and I have seen that talking to other young mothers our age is much better than getting gyan from older family members because they have their own prejudices and superstitions around this issue


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