'The Rise of "New-Mum Shaming" (my experience)'
I didn't have the easiest pregnancy, and I make it my mission to be very transparent on this journey of motherhood.
When pregnant, I was constantly nauseous, had a few hospital scares, and, to top it all off, even my son's birth was quite traumatic for me (he didn't cry when he was born and I had lost a lot of blood). Admittedly, it has been a progressive journey and it has been so refreshing seeing more and more mums being completely frank about their pregnancies and motherhood experiences. I take the stance that being open and honest only liberates another mum from feeling alone in this journey. It makes them feeling supported and understood in their struggles, which are actually more normal than we originally think! But, whilst there has been an increase in honesty and rawness in our experiences as mums, I still find that “new-mum shaming” – or bullying, rather – is an area that needs a lot of work. I can remember when I was pregnant, explaining to a 'friend' that I was struggling to keep up with work because of the nausea and vomiting, and the response I got was this:
"That's nothing compared to some!"
I thought that was pretty insensitive at best, but quite true too, so I was able to move past that remark quite quickly.
Fast forward to about 8 months into motherhood (something much harder to move on quickly from) and I was shocked when a mum of two asked why she hadn't seen me and my son in a while, and I explained that we hadn't been feeling too well – and, as we all know, kids pick up these colds so easily, and Ethan and I just kept passing it back and forth to each other. Anyway, she then proceeded to say,
"You know he's unwell all the time because you aren't breastfeeding anymore."
In that moment, all of me wanted to scream and give her a real piece of my mind! I had really struggled with breastfeeding and only managed to breastfeed for approximately 5 months. I had lost a lot of blood during my birth with Ethan (which the midwife explained contributed to my reduced milk production), then latching was a struggle for us in the beginning months and I later got mastitis, which was excruciatingly painful.
In that moment, I wanted to explain myself! I wanted her to understand my journey and how hard it had been for me! But I decided not to say anything to her or explain my situation, she didn't deserve that. I simply walked away. Whilst I tried to act like her comments didn't phase me, I was crushed by her insensitive words and my 'mum guilt' quadrupled to say the least. After having Ethan, I did have to cope with postpartum depression and anxiety, and hearing that only tried to send me back to that place. Looking back now, Ethan is 11 months old and I have grown so much in my confidence as a mum. Only now do I feel strong enough to even write about it. Yes, 'new-mum shaming' is real and it really does cut deep, but I have vowed that I will not let anyone's opinions make me feel like less of a mum again. I am doing just fine and I am worthy because my God says I am (Jeremiah 29:11). At these times I now stand on the scriptures that reaffirm my position as God's beloved one and Ethan's mum (whom God so graciously gave me the opportunity to be).
Remember this: as long as you are doing your absolute best for your child, hold strong and firm that it is enough!
Making another mum feel inferior or judged is never okay, and this whole competitive mum thing is so ugly. If your baby never cries when you're in a church service, or eats all their veggies with no encouragement, that's perfect, but don't make another mother feel bad for the contrary. Instead share your tips or talk through the stages you took to get there! Surely as mums we all know how difficult it can be, so let's form a sisterhood, encouraging each other as we muddle through this crazy journey! Motherhood isn't always an 'Instagram-able' moment; there will be days where you are in your PJ's all day with spit-up down your clothes, days where your baby doesn't eat or poop and your worried sick, and many many days where you are just exhausted and need a long sleep but your child has a completely different idea! But we still keep going. Honestly, we are real-life super heroes, so please let's support each other instead of tearing each other down. Whether you are a new mum, mum to multiple, or even just hope to be a mum one day, let's STOP the judgement. If you see a mum being run ragged by her kid screaming in the supermarket, offer a warm smile instead of looking around in disgust or shock. If a mum explains that she isn't breastfeeding, instead of forming your own uninformed opinions, why not ask about how she's finding motherhood overall. Please, let's all do better!
I hope my journey and rawness inspires you to share your truth or have more compassion for new mums out there. Think before you speak; you never know what someone is going through.
Lots of love, Simply Deborah