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Empowering Motherhood

Please note: This post is not meant to be a value judgement or a response to any person or idea. It’s just something that has been stirring in me since the days after Josiah was born…

On June 13th 2009 I was all set and determined to have a natural birth.  Little did I know, that by the end of the day, I would have experienced everything but that.  At Noon, I was in my kitchen making cookies.  By four o’clock, I was under anethesia, having a lifeless baby boy cut from my body.  The interventions necessary to bring him back to life made all those birthing interventions, that I was so afraid of and apalled by, seem like a walk in the park. 

The days that followed were full of guilt… “Did I do something to cause this?”  “I should have done such and such differently.”  “I feel so detached.”  “I’m not producing enough milk.”  I could go on and on.  Guilt then turned into grief… “I wasn’t there when he was born.”  I didn’t get to hold him for four days.”  “I will never experience natural child birth.”   Guilt and grief walked with me every moment of the time that we spent in the NICU.

Finally, we got to take him home.  Being the new mom that I was, I read a lot, looking for anwers to all my new mom questions.  I read books, articles, blogs and comments.  In all of those, I read a lot about how empowering natural childbirth is, how important it is to hold your baby those first moments, and how “breast is best.”   More guilt, more grief… Then there were the comments… “formula is SOOOOOOOOO nasty”  “how could someone feed that to their baby”  “You don’t know what is in that stuff”  “It’s full of toxic chemicals”  More guilt, more grief, and now fear…

Then there was the expectation that everything would just be “normal” after we brought him home.  Nothing was “normal.”  I read sleep training books but couldn’t follow them because of the complications with breastfeeding. I watched him anxiously to see if he would smile, laugh, roll over etc… We had been told that he could be severely developmentally handicapped.  Despite all the experts advice I held him all the time and let him nurse whenever he wanted because I wanted to make up for lost time. According to many experts I was letting him manipulate me.  More guilt, more grief…

Looking back, I realize that all of that made me feel like I was somehow “less than” the mothers who had a natural childbirth and who could breastfeed normally.  I felt like I had missed out and that my relationship with Josiah would never be right because I didn’t bond with him immediately after birth. I felt like I was giving him poison by feeding him formula.  I experienced so much unnecessary guilt and grief.

The reality is that I did my very best.  I sacrificed a lot physically, emotionally and materially to be a mother.  I was stronger than I every could have imagined.  I should have felt empowered by THAT!  The birthing experience is important but it is a very small part of motherhood .   Breastfeeding is wonderful!  So is the fact that we live in a time where babies can thrive despite their mothers inability to produce enough milk.  I thank God every day for formula!

I’m telling you all this because now I honestly believe that every single journey into motherhood is “empowering.”  Regardless of how that baby gets out of your body, YOU grew a HUMAN in your body! That is truly amazing.  If you did not grow that little human in your body, and you adopted him/her instead, YOU labored in a way that most of us will never know. You labored in time, heartache, finances, and grief. You had to be stronger and more determined than I can even imagine.  That is truly amazing!

We have all seen what we are made of in our journey to motherhood.  We all have made sacrifices.  We have all made mistakes. Most importantly, we have all been stronger than we ever thought possible and we should ALL feel empowered by that!