This post has been long coming for a while and to be honest I’ve checked in on it several times to make last minute edits but, in general it’s a topic I’ve been meaning to share for a while. Especially as I’m approaching my 33rd week of pregnancy. As they say, I feel all the feels and expect all the jitters. But in all seriousness, pregnancy in my 30s has taught me a few things and given me moments of deeper thought and revelation. Thus I wanted to share some things that have been weighing on my heart for a while in hopes to encourage at least one other mama out there!
My journey into pregnancy isn’t very complicated thankfully. We prayed and tried and God hooked us up. However, that journey isn’t like many others and for that, I don’t take for granted what we’ve been gifted and honored with. When you first share the news of pregnancy everyone is ecstatic, truly overjoyed for you. And it feels so great to be able to share that joy and happiness with others, it really is a miracle and that’s something to always celebrate and rejoice in. Of course depending on the crowd you just shared with, the time from joy to “let-me-tell-you-what-you-should-do-and-expect” talk is anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. It doesn’t take long for the long list of dos and donts to start flooding your ears.
When Ali and I were still courting, I found myself frequenting various mommy blogs, marriage blogs and of course – anything that had to do with clean, minimal aesthetics to gain knowledge and fresh perspective on my upcoming journey and the rest of my life really. Most of the mommy blogs shared a lot of the moral views as my husband and I did, and were packed full of great information and insight, so I began to follow. The more I read and researched some of the topics covered the more I noticed a trend in the mommy community. Sadly, women had taken the catty game to a whole new level. Some of these bloggers probably in their most unintentional way, were presenting their personal beliefs and convictions to me the reader, in a very harsh, one-sided and judgmental way. It was disheartening and what made it worse was the comments section. Women would outright call each other out. It became more about putting one another down than what the topic was originally about. It was appalling. What was even more heartbreaking were the attacks on places like Instagram and Facebook….it was personal and I didn’t get it.
It became more about putting one another down than what the topic was originally about.
Long before I got pregnant, I made up my mind about some of the birthing practices I would partake in, such as natural vs medicated, breastfeeding vs formula, pacifier or not. I had close friends and family that had babies before me so pregnancy and motherhood weren’t new concepts for me. I had a close friend in high school who got pregnant and I recall her journey pretty distinctively. Even then, subjects like breastfeeding, co-sleeping and birthing methods were topics of conversations. And why not? We were in high school and someone was going through the process first-hand, so naturally, you develop a curiosity and you want to know everything. At the very least, to know what your friend is going through. As crazy as that sounds, those topics were still not as controversial as they are today. To give you a time reference – high school for me, was over 15 years ago. :] Back then, no one really paid much attention to how you chose to raise your baby or how you delivered. Maybe at the time it was the factor of, ‘babies having babies’ that took precedence. Nevertheless, nowadays women handle these topics a little differently. There is a clear lack of grace, patience and empathy when speaking about, what are now controversial topics. It’s ironic really. In an age where there are so many pro-women movies, songs (oh hey, Yonce!), books and movements – we seem to harshly put one another down and criticize each other. In a time where we feel the need to pride ourselves in being women and independent – we tear each other down. If we truly think women are strong and mothers are brave; then as women, friends, and sisters, we should support one another in these precious milestones rather than tear each other down.
What is it about women that makes us so critical and judgmental of each other but more so, of ourselves? I know I struggle with this a lot. I am extremely self-critical of all that I am and do, so when someone else joins in on that criticism, well – it’s all over really. If that’s your struggle too as a woman facing pregnancy, motherhood, marriage – what would you need from a fellow woman going through the same season or having gone before you? I know for me, a simple word of encouragement uplifts my entire week.
I made the decision to breastfeed based on what I thought was best for me and my family. I felt an internal connection to it so I researched, read articles, blog posts from other moms, and spent time praying about it – and for me it was a no-brainer. (Note: I can’t predict my body and what will happen postpartum, and for that – I pray for grace.) But for other moms it may not be this way and I totally get that. I know of moms who really struggled with the whole latching process and felt shame, guilt and disappointment when not being able to share this experience with their littles. I know other moms who were totally against breastfeeding from the beginning and chose to formula right away. Whatever I feel about it and whatever choice I’ve made for my little doesn’t make it the right or wrong one for everyone else. It simply makes it the right choice for our family of soon-to-be-three. While I may not choose what my formula-feeding friend chooses for her baby, it doesn’t give me the right to pass judgement or criticize her beliefs and choices. These are the choices she’s made for her family, based on what works for them. I respect that and I support her in that decision not shoving my beliefs down her throat.
Unfortunately that hasn’t been what some of us have experienced. I’ve had my share of moms share their thoughts and opinions about what they think is best for (all) babies, parenting and motherhood period. While I’ve taken these opinions and recommendations into consideration, at the end of the day to me – they don’t prove Gospel. Meaning, you chew the meat and throw out the bone. But I can’t help but think of why and how we ever got to this place. As I shared earlier, the moment you announce your pregnancy, you will have a slew of people – sometimes even strangers – give you tips, tricks, old wives tales and their personal opinion of what’s best and what to do. All of a sudden, everyone has a PHD in either child psychology, pediatrics and/or child development. It happens so much it becomes funny and all too predictable. For the most part, I have taken these instances with a grain of salt. But here’s what I have a problem with. Your opinions and your views are one-sided. You are biased, friend. You may not know it and you may not mean to be but you are.
Even in the world of medicine, you will find various schools of thought all leading to the same results. So does this make medicine relative? Yes, somewhat. It’s not a deep theological quest, it’s medicine and it advances daily. And with those advancements come various approaches. Such as holistic and natural, or scientific and more conventional. Whatever the case, people practice these sets. And no one alone is necessarily wrong in their approach, they are however different. And what works for Nancy, may not always work for Drew. In the same way, what often appeals to the holistic will not always appeal to the traditionalist. Precisely why there are various approaches.
Being pregnant has been teaching me patience. It’s a daily struggle for me, so imagine how impatient I really am? Yikes. With this patience I have learned that people will (hopefully) unintentionally say the most cruel of things to you about your pregnancy, your diet, your exercise routine, your weight, and so forth. I remember speaking with a friend of mine about some of her family’s birthing and parenting choices, and what she shared made me really sad. She had resolved to being private about her choices because the mommy community she had experienced was so critical and judgmental of her family’s parenting choices. I thought about this and realized how sad this actually was. Instead of building bridges to help, encourage, and support one another as women going through pregnancy and motherhood, we build walls. Why is that? Did I also have to be private in lieu of not being criticized? But I realize we’re all a little guilty of this. We all criticize in some ways. We sometimes cast our own visions onto other people’s lives and claim it as the one and only way. We do it by backing ourselves up with books, studies, articles, etc. But while those principles and ideas all may be true and working for us individually, they don’t necessarily translate to everyone else’s reality and so it is in that friction that we must learn to accept, support and learn to love one another.
I’m a very opinionated woman and I’ve much to say about motherhood, pregnancy, and women in general. But I understand that support for my friends in what they chose to do with their babies and families is their choice, and one I must support and respect if I want to remain a friend in ther lives. I understand that supporting other women in the choices they’ve made for their family far outweighs the importance of what I think they should do. You can share your story and opinion but to force your way on someone else and then condemn them when they don’t adhere to your views isn’t the best way to show support. Maybe you’re not aware and most likely it’s not intentional but it’s condemning and judgmental still. If I don’t adhere to your way of parenting or birthing method, I am not less than you. I am not a bad mom. I am not training up my child for failure. Like you, I have prayed. Like you, I have wrestled. Like you, I have researched. And like you, I want support, love and understanding. Just because I don’t necessarily subscribe to your way of parenting doesn’t mean I don’t believe in my child’s very best for them. Not everyone will agree with what you subscribe to and that’s okay. They are not the lesser parent. Not everyone will raise their children the way you’ve chosen to, and that is also okay. I hope women on social media stop attacking and condemning one another over topics like breastfeeding, pacifiers, co-sleeping, spanking, reading, play time, monitor time. All things that yes, do matter. But all things that if not handled with love, and gentleness, can break people down and ruin friendships.
I am thankful that I’m surrounded by women who even though, may differ in their birthing methods and parenting styles, are all mothers who sacrifice for their littles, pray and stand for their children the best way they know how. Being pregnant is completely humbling and I imagine parenting to be even more humbling and challenging. I don’t know it all. I don’t know much at all, actually. But I have decided from now to give myself grace for those times. I have decided to not fuss over the small things as much as I used to. I am expecting to make mistakes and am praying that myself, my husband, my daughter and the community around me show me grace. Grace that I may be able to pick myself up from those mistakes and try again. It will be challenging and I expect to be fluid in trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t. I expect to have days where I fail and for that, grace and mercy restore me. I am thankful I can rely on His word to get me back and I pray I can encourage another mama who feels shame or judgement because she’s not filling someone else’s view of righteous parenting and mommyhood.
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October 21, 2015