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Next Life, NO Kids: August 2015

August 12, 2015

Please Don't Judge Me. I Need You. #SisterhoodUnite


Call To Action!!! Please visit Similac's Facebook page and share the one thing you will do to help end the "Mom Wars." #SisterhoodUnite
I have both breast and bottle fed. I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly with both. I am also very honest about my experiences whenever someone asks. I do not advocate for either or place any type of expectation on other mothers. I understand that it's most important for each of us to do what feels right.

I don't remember anyone talking to me about breastfeeding when my daughter was born nineteen years ago. I probably tried it for a minute because I saw it in a movie once or something, but I was nowhere near emotionally ready or mature enough to handle the responsibility. I remember being really psyched about the lot of ready-made formula bottles I got to leave the hospital with, and pretty bummed when she only drank an ounce of each when she woke up every hour the first night we were home. I know many young mothers today are making the choice to breastfeed their babies, and my hat and shoes are off to them. I just could not be bothered.

When my middle child was born thirteen years later, I was in an entirely different place emotionally and mentally. I had the support of a loving husband and the help of my then thirteen year old daughter. I was more mature, more steady on my feet, and most importantly I was ready. I tried for weeks to nurse him with blistered, cracked, and bleeding nipples, and continued even when I developed Mastitis in my right breast. Even after I learned of his lip tie, I tried and tried to get the proper latch - to make it work - but I just couldn't get it. The last day I cried, flinching and yelping at one last attempt to get it right, but I knew I was done.

I told my husband we had two options: 

#1 We could start bottle feeding immediately
#2 I could go completely insane and check myself in somewhere

Needless to say, we opted for the first. I didn't feel terrible about it because I had given it the old college try, and I didn't miss the sleepless nights or sticking to my bras. I was okay with the decision that I made. Soon after, the baby started sleeping in his crib, and we began sleep training. We timed the crying and it lessened as days turned into weeks and we found sleep again. It was awesome. There was no discussion about what parenting styles we were using. We didn't read any books on the right or wrong ways to do anything. We just went with flow.

When my youngest was born a few years later, I decided to give breastfeeding another go. Keeping in mind he would be our last child, I mostly wished to experience the bonding aspects as well as prove to myself I could do it. He did not have the lip tie, and was eager and able to latch properly right away. 

I attended a breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I delivered, and it was the most wonderful experience I could have asked for. I nursed for over a year, and it felt incredible. 

During the weaning process, I started doing some research online and found many different opinions on the subject.

It was in some of the online "support" groups that I first encountered the, "Mom Wars." There were legit arguments between moms over the "right" and "wrong" ways to do pretty much everything parenting. It was difficult at times to not be drawn into the controversies and drama, but I did my best to listen to my own body and baby and do what was right for us. To be honest, the constant bickering was a welcomed distraction on the days I struggled with terrible postpartum depression. Some days the group chats got really ugly, and I wondered what the heck I was doing in there. 

In the end, I left the online group because I couldn't deal with all the drama and yuck. I initially joined the chat rooms looking for support from other moms, and many days I left them with more anxiety than I entered with.

The sad news is that the battles continue far beyond the breast or bottle debate. "Mom Wars" seem to make their way into most every parenting topic there is, and it's not just online. Well, maybe most of the horrible bickering and name calling occurs online, because let's face it - it's just way easier to attack and say terrible things to complete strangers who disagree with us from safely behind our computer screens. There is however no shortage of segregated play groups in real life. These groups are welcoming to only mothers who conform to a specific parenting style and exclusive to these choices. 

A very good friend of mine was recently struggling horribly with postpartum depression and struggling to leave the house with her two kids. She lives too far away for us to physically hang out, so I began suggesting playgroups in her area. She informed me that the only one close was a "Gentle Parenting" group that she would not necessarily "fit into to." After she finished explaining to me what that term means, I encouraged her to reach out to the facilitator and ask how "strict" the group is about member conformity. 

She was right. She was not welcomed. 

Here's a mom in need of support and motherhood inclusivity,  who can't have it based on her personal choices. I don't get it. 

I don't get it, and it makes me angry. 

Next Life NO Kids - Please Don't Judge Me. I Need You. #ad #SIsterhoodUnite

I don't understand why we can't support and respect our differences. I don't appreciate the fact that there are moms in a vulnerable state who are basically being told they're not worthy of support unless they make certain "acceptable" choices.  

What might happen if we all just started accepting that we're not going to agree on everything? What if we all just admitted that every single child on the planet is different and there is no right or wrong way? Imagine how much we could learn from each other! Imagine how much we could enrich our children's lives by teaching them that discomfort with "different" is an opportunity for personal growth. 

We don't have to hide or pretend these differences don't exist, and we don't have to barricade the door. Maybe differences wouldn't be so scary if we were all just allowed them without judgment. Maybe moms could be less afraid to tell the truth about how different they feel about the joys of motherhood. Maybe we could help each other lift the heavy cloak of depressive isolation and breathe a little easier. 

Something needs to give, because this is exhausting.

I'm tired of hearing about moms being excluded because they're unique and think independently. I'm tired of watching moms defend their personal choices because someone thinks their way is the only acceptable one. I'm SO tired of seeing women tell other women that they're "bad" mothers because they dared to make decisions for their children without first consulting the list of acceptable "good" mom choices. 

I'm tired of "Mom Wars."

I have no desire to compete with anyone for the title of "Mother Of The Year," and I'm tired of being asked to care that I'm not a candidate. 

I just want us to be proud of who we are. I want every mom to know that she is enough. I want others to know it's possible to be in a group full of strong, opinionated women without it turning ravenous. 

 
I am so excited to be partnered with Similac's Sisterhood of Motherhood; while they address these issues on such a large scale. I'm beyond excited about the release of their brand new video - Real Parents, Real Judgment, and grateful for the incredible honesty!!!

On a side note, I'm also pretty psyched that the Duff sisters have joined them (I lurved Haylie in Napoleon Dynamite, and I'm more obsessed with A Cinderella Story than I'll ever admit on a public level). 

*clears throat* Anyway....

I really do have faith that if we all keep taking action each day to end this ridiculous "war," it will end. My hope is that when it ends more moms will feel empowered and supported, and support groups will feel more like a village than a camp. 

What will you do today to end "Mom Wars?" Please visit Similac's Facebook page and share your ideas and plans for action!!! 


Looking for a judgment-free space to just be you? 
Join The Mom Movement & 
our Closed Mommitment Facebook Group
We're putting "SUPPORT" back in support group. 

Join over 800 moms and make a MOMmitment!
http://www.mommitment.org

This post is sponsored by Similac and The Sisterhood of Motherhood. All opinions are my own.


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August 11, 2015

I Was Never a Monster

I Was Never A Monster - Next Life, NO Kids

In February of 1996 I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I was seventeen years old, ready to conquer the world of motherhood and prove very wrong everyone who knew I wasn't.

I was supposed to graduate high school that year, and while friends were trying to figure out which college offer to accept, I was trying to figure out my entire life and how to care for a tiny human. 

My mother came to stay for two weeks to help manage late night feedings and keep pace with the absurd amount of laundry; and then she left. I thank God I was still living with my father who had actual standards of cleanliness I might not have kept up with otherwise, and just having his company and often silent support was comforting.

I didn't know anything of postpartum depression, but looking back it's clear I suffered greatly. My feelings and emotions were treated as normal for a teenage girl with a newborn; "a baby with a baby." I was no stranger to dirty looks and comments during my pregnancy and it only got worse after my daughter was born. I felt eyes on me whenever I left the house and saw the pity, disappointment, and judgment on strangers' faces daily. 

My life was clearly over - my future ruined - opportunities gone - and it was all my fault. These are the messages often sent to young girls who "get themselves knocked up."

I was angry and scared all the time, and I turned to alcohol more and more for escape and comfort. I spent evenings with friends, took off my scarlet letter, and partied with a vengeance while my father sat for my sleeping child. I drank to breathe and to free myself - even for a few short hours - from the trap that was my life. "Drunk" became my salvation.

I didn't know I was self-medicating, and had no idea I was an alcoholic, but with eyes still on me I did my best to maintain the illusion of "PERFECT" whenever possible.

In the house I grew up in, as long as things looked pretty outside it didn't matter what was happening within. I learned very early how to avoid questions and concern with smiles and laughter, and wore those "life skills" like badges of honor. The less people knew about how terrible things were, the safer I felt. It was never a game I enjoyed or wanted to play - it was about survival and not losing my grip. It was how I learned to cope inside unpredictable and terrifying chaos.

When the toddler years rolled around, faking it became more difficult. Toddlers don't always listen; and sometimes they whine and cry for no apparent reason. The sound shredded excruciatingly painful holes through every cell in my body. The whining provoked an intense rage deep inside of me I could neither understand or control. Many years later I would learn the exact nature of this reaction, but at the time the only obvious reason was that I was a terrible mother. 

I wanted so much to be better for my daughter, and I tried so hard to keep it together only to fall apart. There were days I found myself crying hysterically on my bedroom floor wanting OUT and certain no one would ever understand. Motherhood was supposed to be happy and instead it felt like a prison. I knew my reactions weren't justified, and couldn't make sense of the incredibly intense anger I felt. The guilt after screaming or having the desire to shake her quiet (I never did) led to more plans for escape and more drinking. More drinking resulted in hangovers; which left me mentally and emotionally drained, physically ill, and irritable.

At twenty-one, I was a full time college student with a part-time job and work study. One day after working my hours at the counseling center, I broke into tiny little pieces on the office floor.

I left my daughter with her father that day and went to treatment. When I got out of the hospital two weeks later, I didn't go back for her. The illusion had been smashed, and I was resigned to the fact that I was a genuinely awful, piece of shit mother. I ran away, and pretty much disappeared for a year to drink up the energy to kill myself. When that attempt failed, I got sober for real.  

In 2009, my husband and I had a baby boy. Again, I experienced the horrid symptoms of PPD, but this time I was treated like a mother with depression instead of an emotional teenager suffering selfishness. When my son became a whiny toddler, I again experienced that old familiar rage, but this time I had appropriate resources and information available to me. This time I was lucky enough to have the $150 to pay - per session - for hypnotherapy suggested by a therapist specializing in trauma related disorders. In one of those sessions I went back to age ten; the year my brother became a toddler - the year I learned that whining would be tolerated for a very short time before something terrible happened.  

It took me a very long time and a ton of expensive therapy to sort myself out. I often wonder what would have happened to my daughter had I not had support and the opportunity to place her with her father. Knowing what I know now, I imagine our story may have landed on the front page of the local paper and I would have been labeled a monster. 

The message that struggling moms are "bad" moms is the wrong one. The idea: If I'm honest, I'll be judged so I'll just remain silent is a deadly one.

Struggling moms need help - not shame and judgment. Many women, just like me, are dealing with all sorts of feelings they don't understand right now, and do not have options or access to support. They may need to hear that they are not their feelings and reactions - that they will not automatically be tossed into some lost causes of motherhood category for being honest about them - that it's not their fault and they are not alone. They may not know that recovery from whatever they're experiencing is 100% possible.

I tell this story because I can - because I was given the chance and opportunity to recover from both postpartum depression and alcoholism - because I had support.

Judgment will never help a mother and her children. Judgment serves secrets and isolation; which only exacerbate depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. 

I do not suggest there is a very clear line when it comes to maternal mental illness, trauma related disorders and unfortunate stories in the news. Obviously if you have a safety concern, TAKE ACTION. And by action, I don't mean gossiping about it on social media and/or using guilt and shame as a weapon. There are many ways to be proactive without making a struggling mother out to be a monster. 

I was never a monster.

I cannot obviously speak to the individual needs of all mothers, but I am certain of one thing. 

We all need hope and deserve a chance.


http://ctt.ec/pFwgH
Join The Mom Movement via Next Life, NO Kids  #mommitment


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