So it seems appropriate not having blogged in quite some time that my latest blog post is a follow up to the last one. In my previous post (baby pandas) I discussed my insistence that blog/ facebook posts only be about non controversial topics like pandas and kittens as opposed to politics. In the intervening 6 months since that post was written, I have had a baby. This, I thought, is the ultimate panda-like topic that everybody can get behind. Everybody loves babies, right? Unfortunately what I've discovered is that people are even more opinionated about babies and children than they are about politics. Being off work for a while in the beginning of this year and being inundated with all things baby through my professional work I became what I never thought I would be: a "mommy." Let us be clear. This blog will NEVER become a "mommy blog," but I feel I need to give myself one opportunity to get a lot off my mind. Being a mom is different than I thought it would be. Lets leave the whole "oh my god my baby is the cutest thing that ever lived" factor out of it, and focus on the real substantive issues. I knew about poop and lack of sleep and all that day to day stuff. What I hadn't anticipated was an overwhelming obsession with being "right." What do I mean by this? There are probably more books about taking care of babies than there are taking care of plants or animals or cars combined. (not a scientific fact). I've had personal experience purchasing a lot of them for the library with the money we received from our Family Place grant. On top of all these books there are websites, mommy blogs, groups, etc that all have their own opinions and ideas about what is the correct age to start solids or putting babies to sleep or what color their poops should be or whether they should be breastfed and for how long. As it turns out pretty much every mom has their own opinions about these issues and actually tend to get kind of defensive when you disagree with them. As a new mom, especially a reader who likes to read everything, I knew that I would consume a lot of information about babies. What I didn't realize was how difficult and exhausting consuming so much information could be.
Before I had my baby I used to laugh off "granolas" who would talk about organic this or chemical free that or cloth diapers, etc. Then when I became a mom I became so inundated with opinions that I started to question myself. My whole life I have been a bit of a perfectionist, but I didn't realize that I'd be the same way when it came to my baby. If I never read anything I'm sure that wouldn't be the best thing in the world, but reading so much and so many conflicting opinions made me so unsure of anything that I became obsessed. Every week, sometimes every day, I will check websites to confirm that my baby is developing "normally." Oh no, her arms don't seem as strong as her legs. Oh no, she hasn't rolled over yet and she hates tummy time. Oh ok so she rolled over, but she hasn't done it in a while. Did she forget how? Is she regressing?. My god, I put my baby in day care at 7.5 weeks. What if have "ruined" her forever? She seems a bit fussy after her last round of shots. What if I really should have delayed her vaccinations? What if I've poisoned her forever and she'll never be the same? I'm not able to pump enough breastmilk at work and I need to start supplementing with formula. MY GOD! Don't do that! Breastmilk is the holy elixer and cure for all childhood ailments! You have to continue waking up at 5am just so you can pump before your baby wakes up and yes its good that you come home after a hard day and have to pump again just to maybe get enough for the next day instead of relaxing with your husband and baby. If you can't pump enough why don't you get some breastmilk from other people because even someone else's breastmilk is better than... dum dum DUM.. FORMULA. In fact, just the other day I posted this anguished note on facebook about this latest breastmilk debacle and actually did ask for breastmilk from both a friend and perfect strangers on this mommy group page I belong to.
And then one morning I woke up and took a look at myself in the mirror and realized something. I've been a fucking crazy person. Who the hell was this person questioning her fundamental beliefs and being so intent on getting it "right" that she didn't see how wrong she had been. Who is this person reading "mommy blogs" and posting on a breastfeeding support group in the first place? This isn't Joanne Center, librarian/nerd. This was some other strange Joanne who is a "mommy." I make fun of the person I've become, a person who is defined by her baby. Looking back on my facebook posts and my recent conversations they entirely revolve around my child. She did this, she did that, she didn't do this, do I have enough milk to feed her. But where am I in all this? My daughter is important, that goes without saying (though I just said it, didn't I, thus rendering that phrase meaningless) but you know what else is important? Doctor Who. Not saying that it is as important as my baby, but jeez could I think about something else for 5 minutes for a change? Babies have been born and thrived living in poverty without the benefit of a mother who's a librarian and a father who can fix pretty much anything. Babies have been born to mothers who couldn't breastfeed at all or who never saw their fathers because they were away at war. And babies end up ok.
I think this obsession with books and mommy blogs, etc.. is a nationwide obsession that stems from the fact that when it comes to parenting, nobody seems to know what to do. Everybody is so intent on finding out answers that they end up with no answers at all. And the real truth is whether you breastfeed your child or not, or work or stay at home or vaccinate or don't vaccinate there is no guarentee that your child will be all right. Some children develop dibilitating illnesses. Some children are hit by buses or die in plane crashes or are abducted by strangers. Some children who never slept on their tummies to protect them from SIDS died when they fell from the monkey bars at age 6. This is not to say that there is nothing you can do to try to prevent some of these things from happening, but sometimes things just happen. I truly believe that people are just so desperate to do the "right" thing that they lure themselves into a false sense of security. If I only stay at home and wear my baby in a sling 6 hours a day and use cloth diapers and only have wooden toys with no plastic and I only serve them organic foods and don't vaccinate them and don't let them watch tv until they are in high school my child will be "safe" and will learn to read by age 2 and will go on to Harvard and won't get cancer. Sorry to offend, but... actually no I'm not sorry at all. Suck it up.
And really, why wasn't I supposed to supplement with formula again? Its like allergies or something, right? Or something to do with childhood obesity. Like more formula fed babies are obese? I mean she's already in day care, so any of that "protect her from illness" crap is kinda out the window. And her mom is a person who constantly gets sick whereas her dad is someone who gets a cold about once every 2-3 years and he CERTAINLY didn't have this ideal granola early childhood that everybody is talking about. Plus its not like I've stopped breastfeeding entirely... See what I mean? I got myself all worked up and crazy about not breastfeeding exclusively and I can't even tell you why. Only "those people said so." What is up with that?
So I am resolved to chill out a little bit more and to realize that sometimes, truly, there is no "right." I know this will go against many of my friends' beliefs, but I really think it is true. Do what's best for you? Do what's best for the baby? I don't think those are mutually exclusive. You can't go out and say that wearing a baby a majority of the day is best for the baby when it causes the mother back pain. You can't say that breastfeeding exclusively is best for the baby when the mother can't even enjoy the time she spends with her child. You can't say that a mother staying at home is best for the baby if she is resentful of giving up her career. Cuz let me tell ya, folks: bitter mommies are not happy mommies. Now obviously there are best practices like reading aloud and play and love and affection and all of that. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that anybody who has ever read a mommy blog loves their baby. The rest of it... I think all these super defensive mommies online need to give all the rest of the mommies a bit of a break.