The 6 Guilts that Hold you Back from Being a Better Mum
Motherhood is already tough, you don’t need to complicate it even more
While I was pregnant, I spent an extensive amount of time writing my birth plan. I attended the hypnobirthing sessions for 8 Monday night,s also if nauseous and sick to the core. I read as many birth stories as I could and I compared different birth plans in order to come up with the final version of how my “ideal” birth was going to be. Or at least how I imagined it to be.
If you are wondering, it didn’t go as planned (although having a birth plan helped, as the midwives were kind enough to run everything by me); everything was rushed, I couldn’t hold my baby straight away, I had to deal with a nasty episiotomy, and, most of all, I had to be induced at 38 weeks, also if I was dreaming to break the water naturally in the comfort of my house, instead of being surrounded by a sterile environment, in the presence of people I had never met before.
The sense of guilt kicked in pretty quickly; I felt I wasn’t up for the task and my body had somewhat failed me.
“When a foetus starts living in a woman’s body, the woman moves into the house of guilt. It’s quite a big house. Actually, it’s more like a church, with pamphlets about breastfeeding and folic acid and child developmental psychology along the pews, and the latest parenting bibles in those slots on the back of the chairs, and a choir composed of crooning, straight-backed members of the many institutions invested in her success and wellbeing, such as the World Health Organization and the Royal College of Midwives.” explains successfully Diana Evans in The Guardian
I have come to realise that feeling guilty for things that are out of my control is completely useless; guilt in motherhood can have its place when it makes you stay home with a sick and overwhelmed child that desperately needs your love and attention, but it’s otherwise counterproductive when a joyful life is your end goal.
These are some of the things that I invite you to let go of:
You used drugs during the birthing process (and so do most women when given the chance)
You were in pain or about to pass out, and you asked for an epidural, although it wasn’t part of your birth plan. Or the water had broken, but the contractions were nowhere to be seen so you had to be induced. It doesn’t matter what’s your story. You tried your best, you listened to the medical team (highly advisable), and at that time you thought it was the best thing to do. So why in the world are you still carrying the guilt for something that your child will never know of?
Your birth wishes weren’t listened to
Although you had a birth plan, your team (or the team that was given to you that day) didn’t have the decency to flick through it. Moreover, you were too shy or too much in pain to reinforce it. After you gave birth, you were left with a bitter taste in your mouth “why was I so weak, why have I allowed this to happen”?
There is no need to blame anyone, as we learn from our past experiences; I’m sure the medical team did the best they could and they prioritised the health of your baby and self; maybe you didn’t have a water birth, maybe you were forced to inhale the laughing gas, maybe you didn’t have your candles and selected music on the background. Stop focusing on that day, and start looking at the bigger picture; although it hurts, now you have the chance to do motherhood your way. I feel this is something more important and powerful to focus on.
You had a C-section
A friend of mine said “I feel less of a mother, as I cheated and I had a C-section”; maybe you didn’t coat your baby skin with your important vaginal microbiome, but you still carried your baby in your womb for 9 months, and now you are his only source of nourishment. Whatever happened that day in theatre, doesn’t define you as a mother, or as a human being. The real job starts after your baby has been given to you.
You had a pre-baby
Your baby was born premature, little and depleted. Stop looking at it as if it was your fault; it wasn’t that run, it wasn’t that sushi you wrongly ingested, it wasn’t your heightened stress level. And even if it was, and your baby is now kicking and thriving, why “wasting” your time focusing on the past instead of being fully immersed in the abundance you are experiencing now?
Lots of mothers have premature resilient babies, and it doesn’t mean they won’t grow and have a happy life as much as every single other baby on the planet.
You didn’t wanna breastfeed as you just wanted to sleep
When I was handed my baby, it dawned on me that she was there to stay; in the meantime, I just wanted to roll over, sleep and cry. And most of all, I wanted the pain caused by the contractions to stop. I wasn’t showered with love the moment that I saw my baby, and it was ok, as she is the love of my life now.
Also, breastfeeding can be tough, painful, uncomfortable and challenging. I do understand why mothers feel like giving up even before trying it out. If you feel your mental sanity needs to be prioritised, say it out loud; people won’t be able to help if they don’t know what is going on. Lots of non-breastfeeding mothers are amazing mothers. Do not ever doubt your potential simply because you couldn’t latch your baby to your breast, and, most of all, don’t allow anyone to put you down because of it.
You wanted to breastfeed, but it simply didn’t work
Maybe your baby was born tongue tied, maybe you didn’t produce enough milk. Whatever it is, you gave it your best shot. Women from every era and from everywhere have had to deal with breastfeeding grief. It is time for you to understand Formula feeding is acceptable and healthy, and it is also time for you to move on.
Birth trauma and guilt can be life-changing, can be carried around for a long time, and can lead to postpartum depression. If you are feeling down and unable to talk about your experience, reach out to a professional and uncover what is going on.
In the meantime, repeat to yourself every day that you are a good enough mother…actually, you are an exceptional mother.