Before I had a baby… no, scratch that.
Before I got pregnant, I was a fairly self-confident woman. I wasn’t prone to doubting myself or second guessing my decisions. I wasn’t a ditherer. I didn’t immediately look to outside sources for validation or advice.
That all changed the instant I saw that second pink line.
Suddenly, I was entirely responsible for another person’s health and well-being. (Even if that other person was currently the size of a poppy seed, that’s a huge responsibility.) I started second guessing every decision. I refused to do anything that “the experts” didn’t deem totally safe and appropriate. Because, *gasp*, what if I irrevocably damaged my baby for life? What if I had that small glass of wine and she was born with fetal alcohol syndrome? (Shitty mother award.) What if I ate that Subway sandwich I was craving and got Listeriosis and lost the baby because I was too selfish to give up deli meat? (Double shitty mother award.) What if I scooped the kitty poop or worked in the garden without gloves (oh the horror) and got Toxoplasmosis and made my baby only have one arm or some other life ruining deformity? (This goes beyond any shitty mother award. Just take my baby to CPS now…) I constantly second guessed any decision I made that could possibly impact Bertie (as we called LB in utero).
Somewhere around 16 weeks pregnant, DB and I went to my cousin’s wedding in Detroit (worst birthday ever, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). While there, I had a conversation with Jessie and John about how they basically want you to go live in a cave (or a bubble) for your entire pregnancy and eat only organic, unprocessed, wholesome foods while playing classical music to your unborn fetus. Because if you don’t do these things, your baby will be born at such a disadvantage, there is no possible way he or she will ever become a productive member of society. And after this conversation, I realized that it is completely unreasonable to try and live like that. I needed to stop living my life like “they” told me to and to go back to living my life like I was comfortable living it. I needed to do what I felt was best for me and my baby.
So I did.
I actually went back to using my common sense (what little I have of it 🙂 ). I tried to focus on living a reasonable, healthful life. I regained the confidence in myself to trust that I was capable of making my own decisions regarding what was best for my unborn baby.
And then I had the baby.
And I completely lost faith in myself all over again.
I remember one day, when LB was about a week old, I was dithering again about breast feeding versus pumping versus formula feeding and whether I should give the breast another try (despite the fact that I had both not only had to pick bits of nipple skin off LB’s lip at one point, but also had ruined a batch of pumped breast milk because I was pumping blood and didn’t realize it and was essentially having panic attacks at the thought of breast feeding.) DB looked at me and said, “When did you lose your confidence? I’ve always loved how confident you are – this is not like you.” And it’s true – that was not like me.
But I was suddenly incapable of making, or sticking to, a decision on anything that concerned LB. I had to consult books, the internet, the triage nurses at the pediatrician’s office. I solicited advice from my mommy friends. I lived in constant fear of making the wrong decision and ruining my daughter for life. I can still remember how uncertain I felt – about everything from when to bathe her to what and how to feed her to where she should sleep. Everything.
It was a hard couple of weeks. But eventually, due in large part to DB’s trust in me, I regained my trust in myself. I realized that, even if I did make the occasional mistake, I was doing the absolute best that I could for my daughter. And spending all of my time hemming and hawing about what was the best option and what did the experts recommend and what was going to give LB the biggest advantage left me very little time for what was actually important: being a mom. At the end of the day, what mattered most was that I knew that I had done the best I could and that my family knew that they were loved and cared for.
I guess the TAM I wish I had known or the “take home” message from this post for all those normally abnormal moms out there, is this: Trust yourself. Have confidence in your ability to parent. And know that, even if you are plagued with doubt and uncertainty at first (which you will be), one day you will be a confident mother.
And then of course, life will throw something else your way, like teething or potty training or the teenage years, and you will start to doubt yourself all over again….