I remember vividly the first time I felt what I call "motherguilt." I was meeting some new people for the first time, drinking a Dr. Pepper from a bottle, and (as I had already informed them of my pregnancy) getting a few pretty dirty looks. One of the ladies began to lecture me on the dangers of caffeine and carbonation in pregnancy. I had already discussed this with my doctor. He told me it was fine to have one a day or even a couple a day every now and again. But it was still hard not to feel like an immediate failure as a mom even though Benjamin was only about an inch long at the time. I went home that day and reminded myself of my balanced diet, my regular intake of water, my doctor's permission, and my need to occasionally have caffeine to help me through the work day while experiencing first-trimester fatigue. Then I decided to let go of the guilt and substitute it with humor and a relaxation of the rigidity.
I remember the first time I realized I had succeeded in banishing the motherguilt. I was chatting on the phone with a pregnant friend and eating the last piece of apple pie directly from the tin with a fork. She said, "I just don't understand these pregnant women who just eat whatever they want and stop excercising alltogether. Then they wonder why they gain extra weight and look bad!" At that point I couldn't actually remember the last time my feet hit the health club floor, but I answered, "I know! I totally agree with you." When I hung up later I confessed to Jon and laughed at the irony of my eating pie at that moment. I didn't feel guilty at all.
I remember the night the motherguilt came back. I was in the hospital, where I was sure I would blissfully "room-in" with my baby and fight the nurses any time they tried to take him from me (even for pediatrician rounds). But I was so tired. And I couldn't sleep with him in the room because I just kept staring at him, wondering if he was breathing. Finally, realizing that there was a nursery full of professionals who would be awake all night, I called the nurse (in tears) and asked her to take my one-day-old baby to the nursery until his next feeding time. What a terrible mother--I couldn't even live in the same room with my baby for one night.
Now I am learning to banish it again--to relax the rules in the realization that Benjamin has not only survived for five weeks, but he has gained weight and nursed wonderfully and focussed on his books and played in his tummy time and done a dozen other things just right, despite some slips on my part. I still drink Dr. Pepper (sometimes even before a nursing session!). I have occasionally gone a day without reading to him and occasionally gone a day without singing to him. Some days he has had no tummy time. Some days I have failed to give him a bath even though I knew he had peed on himself several times (I just used a wipey!). I have forgotten to eat breakfast many mornings and I have given him way too many pumped bottles rather than whip out my breast in front of visitors. And right now, instead of sleeping while he sleeps, I am blogging while enjoying half a pint of Ben and Jerry's.
I decided that I am a better mom for Benjamin when I am a relaxed mom. I am not going to pressure myself to be perfect. Rather, I am going to be imperfect with a sense of humor and ask God for the grace to actually enjoy motherhood as I enjoyed pregnancy. I'm glad I got that off my chest--you can judge me now, if you want.
2 years ago