Let me start by saying no one is THE perfect mom... but you are the perfect mom for your child.
Every mom has experienced some form of mom guilt. Some would deny it but if you've ever felt like you're not doing enough as a parent or like you're not doing anything right or even if you've felt like you're making decisions that may mess up your child in the long run, you've definitely experienced mom guilt. I've felt mom guilt every week, sometimes even daily but there were quite a few times when it really knocked me down. Mom guilt for me started when baby girl was in the womb. If you’ve read my previous blog post on morning sickness (if not, you should check it out), you would know it was super tough for me the first 25 weeks of my pregnancy. You would also know that I lost (not gained) 20 pounds while pregnant. This is officially where I got my first dose of mom guilt. Although I didn't show it, I was super anxious about constantly being sick for so long in my pregnancy. Is my baby ok? Is she getting all the nutrients she needs? What if something happens to her and she doesn't develop properly? I began feeling inadequate because my body was not doing what I thought a pregnant person's body should do i.e. gain weight. I've seen pregnant women at my doctor and clinic appointments looking all rosy and glowing while pregnant while I looked...normal and maybe a little bit skinny. Everyone around me was so supportive; my doctor and midwife tried to alleviate my fears by ensuring me that losing weight during pregnancy is normal and no matter what, the baby was developing properly, but that did not quell my anxieties. Even my colleagues at work told me that I should have no problem bouncing back since my baby weight was minimal. That should be good news right?! Wrong! I took this information that something was wrong with me. I felt like I was being a bad mom even before she was born. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
These thoughts did not ease up when she was born by the way. After baby girl was born, there was another challenge - Breastfeeding. My mom is a breastfeeding counselor so seeing and hearing her countless times with new moms should make me a kind of a professional breastfeeder right? Wrong! Lol! I did everything right (including actually getting baby girl to latch properly) but for some reason my daughter was not getting sufficient milk from me. As a result of this, she began showing signs of jaundice (sigh) and the nurses at the hospital began giving her formula (much to my dismay). Again, mom guilt kicked in the first few days after having baby girl and I came down super hard on myself. A time when I was supposed to be focusing on my healing and taking care of her, I felt like a failure to my daughter. "I am built for this, why isn't it happening? Why am I not getting any milk when I'm doing everything I'm supposed to?" - these thoughts flooded my brain daily. Thankfully, one of my mom friends recommended that I use my breast pump to see exactly how much milk baby girl was getting, plus the suction will help with the let-down of milk. I was willing to try anything so I pumped and was flabbergasted when I saw 2 drops of colostrum (first milk). I cried like a baby. This entire time I think I'm doing ok because baby girl was peeing and pooping (both great signs) and she wasn't getting shit!! I had to come to terms with the fact that I may need to supplement my feeding with formula - hubby even bought a tin. This was not part of my plan at all... after all breast is best right? Here comes the mom guilt. I cried a couple times and I couldn't even look at the formula tin - it felt like a constant reminder that I was a failure just a few days into motherhood.
Photo: The amount of milk (1oz) I got after a week of constant pumping and baby girl suckling
Fast forward to 5 months later, it was time to return to work. I prepared for this day months, weeks and days in advance but when that dreaded date came, it was like Judge Judy slammed her gavel and yelled "GUILTY!". The mom guilt and separation anxiety hit me like a train. My first day I was physically sick! I'm talking migraine, vomiting, diarrhoea - the full works. I felt like I couldn't function - and I began wondering whether I should stay home. Work could wait right? Although baby girl would be taken care of by my mom (you know, the woman who raised me?), I still felt horrible for leaving her. Like every mom returning to work, I was back sooner than I wanted to be and even though I had a whole 2 extra months home with my daughter (I used most of my vacation days), I still felt like it wasn't enough. However, I had to put on my big girl panties, suck it up, put on my brand new work outfit (yes I bought quite a number of them) with my matching heels and step out into the world of work. Throughout that entire day I felt so guilty for not being with my child that I counted the hours, minutes and seconds till I could get back home to her. I fully understand why so many women choose to leave their full-time jobs to become stay-at-home moms. Those first couple of days, it really doesn't feel worth it.
Looking back on this now and I'm like "Wtf was wrong with me? What was my problem?!". Since those moments, I've realized that for me, mom guilt was my shame as a result of not being able to fulfill my own expectations of the mother I wanted to be. I needed to give myself grace. Thankfully, baby girl stayed full term and was born without any problems. Thankfully, baby girl did not like the formula one bit (Ha! That's my girl!) and being the determined and resilient person I am, eventually... My milk finally let down! *cue the confetti and fireworks* and lastly, thankfully, due to COVID, hubby and I are on rotation so I get to stay home half the week with baby girl so I don't experience mom guilt that badly anymore.
Your child is not going to remember any of these things happening during their first months on earth. They're not going to remember you going back out to work or not getting sufficient breastmilk (or "tittea" as I call it) as a baby and they're surely not going to remember anything that happened while they were in the womb (although some scientists may say otherwise). They will however remember you being there - clothing them, feeding them and playing with them - and how that made them feel... and to be fair, that's all that really matters.