I am Mom and I am Best Enough

Camden-Kiss

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Today’s Love Topic:

Let’s start a monthly tradition of having a love free-for-all topic! Post anything your heart desires about love next week. The only requisite is that you share your love with the rest of us.

 As a recent mama, everything is new to me. I’ve heard my girlfriends talk about the challenges and joys of motherhood, but until you experience it yourself you really don’t understand it. One of the lessons I have learned in my five weeks as a mother is the reality that many moms are plagued with guilt and pressure to live up to the golden standard of motherhood. It’s a sort of keeping-up-with-the-Jane’s-of our-society complex. Let me use my experience with breastfeeding as an example of mama’s guilt and pressure. Keep in mind, this topic transcends beyond breastfeeding and really can be inserted into anything related to motherhood.

This post is a lesson on self-love.

I consider myself a confident, independent woman. At 35 going on 36, I have established myself in my career all on my own and feel very proud of my accomplishments. You can say I have a strong female voice and I am not afraid to stand up for my beliefs. Yet, the moment I became a mother, my identity has been completely transformed and I now feel like I have to start developing a new voice. It’s as if I am starting from scratch. My experience with breastfeeding highlights my nascent mama’s voice.

Breastfeeding, although a natural part of motherhood, is not initially easy. In fact, for me it was very painful. Maybe it was the fact that at the hospital once your baby is born they simply hand you your child and tell you to feed him without anyone there to guide you. Or maybe it was because Camdie was born tongue-tied, which made it difficult for him to latch on. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that I was really exhausted and didn’t have the energy to begin to learn a new skill. Regardless of the reason, I attempted to breastfeed despite the immense pain I felt each time I tried to feed ShuGar Baby.

Now, I’ve discussed at length my difficult labor and post-delivery experience before, so you already have an idea of my state of mind at that time. Without going into too many of the gory details, I can say my nipples suffered tremendously, so much so that it was painful for me to see what had become of my body. I never knew something so natural could be so challenging. Nevertheless, I vowed to not give up easily and I persisted with breastfeeding because I wanted Camdie to receive the best nutrients from his mama. It hurt, but I love him more than the pain. He is worth it.

I am proud to say that after speaking with a lactation consultant, I have turned the corner with breastfeeding and can now feed him virtually pain-free. I’m glad I didn’t quit.

All was well until I tried the breast pump to train Camden to drink from a bottle, which contained my milk. Each and every attempt I made to pump my milk made me cry out of pain. My nipples once again began displaying the same physical symptoms as before because my body just didn’t like the pump. And, yes, I did try different sizes, but nothing seemed to work.  It’s as if my breasts were telling me to not allow a piece of plastic to touch them, but, instead, only permit Camden to suck them. I tried pumping again, but it hurt so much. I couldn’t even watch myself pumping because I cringed at the pain.

For those of you who may not understand why this is so painful for me to share, let me explain why pumping is so important. Unfortunately, and fortunately, I will be going back  to full time work in a few months. At that point, I was hoping to pump at work so that Camden Boy could continue to receive my milk. The only way to do that would be to pump 3-4 times daily. If I don’t pump, I will have to feed Camden formula and that was never my goal or my intention when I became a mother. In other words, I have had to face the reality that I will not be able to breastfeed Camden once I go to work, at least not the way I had planned to.

Why am I sad about this? Well, besides the fact that things have not gone according to plans, there is also mama’s guilt and pressure from society to breastfeed as long as you can. I feel guilty that I have not been able to power through the pain of pumping to guarantee that Mr. Camden gets my milk for as long as possible. Additionally, there is this sense in mommyland that you are a good mommy if you breastfeed and pump indefinitely.  Those women are the warrior mommies we all measure ourselves by. Truth be told, I cherish those breastfeeding moments with ShuGar Baby. It’s our special bonding time where we are together; he craves my milk and I desire to hold him close. I’ve grown very fond of our breastfeeding sessions.

If this had been something related to my career or frankly anything else, I would stand up for myself and not beat myself up about something I cannot control. However, this is about me being a mom and I have yet to establish my mama identity and voice. I still feel lost in mommyland. I cried about this for weeks because I realized I could not pump. I had to give up that dream. I also felt sorrow because I felt ashamed that I could not be one of those warrior mamas. I was disappointed with myself.

Isn’t it amazing how cruel we can be to ourselves?

My sadness persisted until I reached out to a few close mama friends about my breastfeeding dilemma. These friends all reiterated how mothers set unreasonable expectations on what constitutes a good mama which, inevitably, leads to disappointment. They also explained that I should not compare myself to anyone else. When it comes to motherhood, there is really no golden standard or ideal way of parenting. Finally, they told me I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. They said I am a great mama and I should be proud of that. They reminded me to show more self-love. I adore how one of my sweet friends told me to “f*ck the pump.” Another said her body hated pumping, too. Each girlfriend confessed to me that they eventually fed their babies formula and their children have grown up to be healthy.

These days, I have let go of the guilt and the unreasonable expectations of a breastfeeding mama. I will breastfeed as long as I am home, then transition Camden to be formula-fed. It’s not what I had envisioned, but I am doing what is best for myself and my baby. I am not perfect; I am a work in progress and I am a dedicated mom to a beautiful boy.

I am beginning to love my new mama self.

I dedicate this post to all those mama friends who reached out to me or who I sought solace in my time of desperation. You all know who you are. I love each and every one of you. Thank you for showing me the light and teaching me what being a good mama really looks like. You ladies have touched my heart. I am forever in your debt for giving me the strength to slowly find my mama’s voice.

I am Camden’s mom and I am best enough.

TODAY’S DISCUSSION TOPIC:

What was your experience with breastfeeding initially and over time? Have you ever felt any pressure and/or guilt to do something which society considers the golden standard for mamas? If you are not a mama, have you ever felt the pressure to live up to certain standards?

NEXT WEEK’S ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE PROJECT SUGGESTED TOPIC:

When it comes to love, there are different ways to demonstrate your devotion. Are you more of a doer or sayer? In other words, do you prefer to show your love in your daily actions or are you someone who likes to say it as much as you can? Share examples of your love style!

Interested in spreading more lovin’ today? You can linkup your love post below. Post a pic on facebook/instagram/twitter/google + about today’s love topic or anything that inspires your heart. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #allyouneedisloveproject so we can follow you! You can also post any lovely pins to the pinterest board All You Need is Love Project. {Newly added} Be part of love discussions with the All You Need is Love Project Facebook Group.

Join the love revolution below. Ready, set, love!

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Photo credit: Peter Shushtari