Today we welcome Erica to the blog. I am absolutely in awe after reading her post. In my opinion, it’s so incredible that it speaks for itself. So, without further ado, and with great thanks for sharing the story of her motherhood journey with us…
photo by threelilbirds
My name is Erica and I am from Southeastern Pennsylvania. I am a 32 year old stay-at-home (for now) mother of five (four born to me). I am working towards my master’s degree and actively involved in many community activities.
I am new to the mommy wars, but I am not a new mom. I have four children, actually. I wasn’t even on Facebook when my first child was born in 2006, so exposure to all things parenting was through the pediatrician and the local WIC office. Fast forward to 2013 and everywhere I turn there is literature regarding the “right” and “wrong” way to raise your child. My mind is exploding with new information, and at 32 years old, and nearing the end of my time parenting infants, I have entered into a crazy world of judgmental mommies thinking they are doing the best for children everywhere by putting mothers who do differently down. What in the world are we doing?
Here’s my story…
I am a fearless formula feeding- exclusively breastfeeding- baby wearing –stroller pushing- natural birthing-scheduled C-section having-co sleeping-cry it out- momma with four children who were all cared for differently.
It was August 16, 2006 when I fell in love for the first time. I wanted to do everything right for that new little boy I brought into the world. I followed all the advice given to me by my mom, my doctors, and anyone else who thought they could help. I tried to breastfeed, but no one told me that the first two weeks were hardest and if I can get through them, I’d be fine. I quit after 5 days because my nipples were bleeding and hurting, and I cried every time I fed him. Once I made the switch to formula he was happy, I was happy, everything was awesome! There was no one around to make me feel bad about that decision, or to tell me that formula was poison, or to say that I wasn’t doing what was right for my child because I didn’t continue to expose my breasts to the torture that was nursing. I went back to work when he was 4 months old. He is 7 now. He is smart, handsome, healthy, and wonderful. He is not overweight. He is not always sick. And he is securely attached.
On April 21st, 2009 I welcomed the second little love of my life into the world. She was an emergency C-section because she turned sideways and after a little stress about an epidural, out came a six pound 11 ounce beautiful little princess. I held her right away, and while they sewed me up I fell in love again. I nursed her, and it was beautiful. Until I got home! Nobody told me about how hard it was to nurse and raise a toddler! Every time I latched her on, my son went nuts. Nursing was NOT an enjoyable experience. I switched over to formula because then I could have him help me feed her. THAT worked. She is 4 now. She is smart, beautiful, healthy, and wonderful. She is not overweight, she is not always sick. And she, too, is securely attached.
On August 9th, 2011 my third child was born. Another girl. She was almost born on August 2nd after an extended stay in the hospital where I was being treated for cholestasis of pregnancy and possible preeclampsia. Luckily, my situation got better and I was able to wait until 37 weeks gestation before she was induced. She also turned sideways and ended up as an emergency C-section. She was promptly taken away because of a neural tube defect. She would need x-rays, MRI’s, and eventual surgery. She spent time in the NICU. I went to visit her every time I could, and every time I did I threw up. I couldn’t even hold her, let alone nurse. Fast forward six weeks, my mother came to stay with me and things got a little better. In hindsight, I know I had undiagnosed postpartum depression*. When she was four months old, I found out I was pregnant again. Bonus Baby! I knew I had to fix my relationship with this little princess, and I did. She is 22 months old now. She and I have a great bond even though our start was rocky. I am not less of a mother because I couldn’t bond with her right away, I am more of a mother because I recognized and fixed it. She is the smartest of them all, counting and speaking in full comprehensible sentences before two years old. She is so beautiful that she turns heads. She is the healthiest of them all, rarely even catching a cold, and she is wonderful. She, too, is not overweight. And she and I have a very secure attachment. And just to clarify, she was not breastfed at all.
October 17, 2012 my youngest prince was born. 8 pounds 8 ounces of pure perfection that I didn’t get to hold right away because of trouble breathing and low blood sugar. He was a scheduled C-section, and apparently I lost a lot of blood while they were sewing me up. I felt myself slipping into that dark place of depression again, and I sought out help right away. I did end up with postpartum depression, but this time it was treated quickly. I tried to nurse again. And it worked! He latched on like a pro! It was so exciting. I decided I needed all the support I could get, so I joined support groups on Facebook and researched breastfeeding and boy, was I slapped in the face with information. There is SO MUCH out there. If I would have found all of this information as a first time mom, I do think I would have been overwhelmed. I instantly felt stupid for not looking for this information beforehand. I felt guilty that I didn’t try harder to nurse with the other three children. I made a vow to myself that this time would be different. I would do the RIGHT thing this time. I would nurse, I would spread out vaccines, I would babywear, I would… wait a minute. Who says that all of these things are the right way to raise a child? I searched for more information.
I actually read every article posted by pro-breastfeeding websites. I read articles about formula feeding. I found that not one comes out and says that nursing is superior to formula feeding. It is the interpretation of the articles by closed minded individuals on either side of the fence that says it. There is not one study that says breastfeeding CAUSES better brain development or formula feeding CAUSES obesity. Or whatever. Correlation does not equal causation. Also, sometimes the methods and research evaluations are shady to say the least. I found the site “Fearless Formula Feeder” and started reading the information she posts as well. Between “Breasfeeding Moms Unite” and “Fearless Formula Feeder” I was overwhelmed with all sorts of information.
Back to the story of my youngest baby: He was exclusively breastfed, and jaundiced. His number was 17 and rising. The pro-breastfeeding people would tell me to keep nursing and put him in the sun. My doctor wanted me to supplement. What do I do?? The pro-breastfeeding people assured me that my doctor was an idiot. I pumped and offered the pumped milk after every feeding. He was losing weight. He was admitted into the hospital for failure to thrive. I did everything I could to remain an exclusive breastfeeder. It was at this time that I realized what a bunch of bullies mothers are. Everywhere I turned for information I found mothers bullying mothers about parenting choices. “Don’t push your child in a stroller because you are pushing them away from you” “Formula is poison!” “Women who go back to work are abandoning their children.” “Vaccinations cause autism.” OH MY GOODNESS! What are we DOING to eachother? Enter end the mommy wars. Yes. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. THIS is what we need. We need an open forum of understanding. Because EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. And as my story shows, EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT. If a mother loves her child the best way she knows how, and cares for her child the way the child needs, then that child will be fine. I have had four children, and NOT ONE of them was nurtured the same way. My oldest son slept in his crib from day one, was fed formula, and went to day care. My oldest daughter was breastfed for a few weeks, slept in her swing or on my chest, and spent the entire first year of her life with me before I got a job in a daycare and took her to work. My third baby was formula fed from day one, slept in her crib from day one, was cared for by others more than me in the first months of her life, and was still a baby when the fourth one came along. My littlest baby was exclusively breastfed for the first 7 months of his life. He is now being supplemented with formula, and he is growing very well. He sleeps in a small crib right next to the bed, or on my chest. He was not meeting milestones at first, but he is now. Should I blame his not meeting milestones on breastfeeding? Since all of my formula fed babies were above average? Some may, but I won’t. I will just stick to my belief that all babies are different. They need to be cared for differently. I believe that had I cared for all of my children the same way, they wouldn’t be as wonderful as they are now. And just as each of my babies required different things, so do all the other babies in the world. Each baby is different, each momma is different, and we need to stop trying to make everyone the same. Stop the bullying. Moms have enough to worry about.
Erica C. has a BA in Psychology and is currently working on her Master’s Degree in mental health counseling. She is happily married to a wonderful man, and together they have five children. She is currently taking time off of work to spend time with her children, but she used to be a pre-school teacher. Her hobbies include being outdoors, reading, and writing. She also is a den leader for her son’s cub scout pack and loves to sing. She feels she was put on the earth to be a mother, and enjoys every minute of doing so.