This is a personal post. But I didn’t think too long about whether I should or should not write it like others I have written in the past. It was cathartic. At the base is the firm knowledge of how every mother feels about her child. You want the absolute best for them but above all you want them to be healthy. So what happens when they’re not and that’s not the worse part.
James is eleven months old and this week we gave him antibiotics for the third time in his little life. Bacterial infections seem to have taken a liking to my baby and for the first time since I became a mother I was forced to acknowledge that I am not the perfect one. The one I read about who would never touch antibiotics, never feeds her child from a jar, always carries an extra set of clothes with her, who never lets her child watch TV. And I am definitely not the perfect one who has never judged another.
For me, being a mother in today’s society means everything you do is magnified and scrutinised. Perhaps as a blogger I am half-responsible for this but what about all those other mothers who seek advice from a FB group or parenting forum and end up being attacked. Or the one shopping and minding her own business when all of a sudden she’s feeling guilty for not putting socks on her baby’s feet? And, again is it just me, but aren’t there times when it feels like a competition too? So when you’re being brought to your knees, watching your child suffer, analyzing how you could have prevented it from happening, self-confidence and inner strength fly out the window and in comes all that scrutiny and self-doubt.
I raised another baby who needed absolutely no medication of any form until he was three and a half. I believe in natural medicine and I believe in the healing powers of food and energy. But I won’t pretend to have enough dedication and faith in my knowledge of natural healing to make a bacterial infection go away and rid my child of the pain he’s in. I know there ARE ways but I just don’t know enough about them. So when I was faced with finally knowing that a nasty virus was attacking my baby, I did what any mother would do. I did my best and I did what I could to make my baby better.
So why did I feel like I failed? Why did I feel defeated even though I had found a way to make my baby better? Why did I spend that morning crying my eyes out in the car after getting the results back from James’ strep test and a prescription note for antibiotics for a third time? Because it’s just so sad how often this baby has felt like absolute shit. And because I have always thought of antibiotics as evil yet now I am completely unable to find another way to make my child better. And it’s definitely because I am afraid of being judged and I’m afraid of making a mistake.
It’s the same story with sleeping arrangements, vaccinations and breastfeeding. And I bet it keeps going all the way through childhood. The overwhelming amount of information we have has become a weapon with which we battle each other. Most times I feel we should reply with: Thank you for telling me that sleep training my child will lead to self-confidence issues later. Thank you for informing me how devastatingly wrong it is that I don’t want to/ can’t keep breastfeeding my child. Thank you for ruining the moments I enjoy sleeping with my baby. Thank you for making me feel bad for wanting to protect my child from disease.
I have judged another mother and her ability to raise her child. Many times. I may not have expressed my opinion out loud but I have questioned her. Why antibiotics? Why medication in general? There must be another way? What’s their diet like? Did you breastfeed? Did you vaccinate?
But you know what, and I have a feeling you do, there is no one size fits all. Especially when it comes to our children and their well-being.
In the end with James’ current situation, I chose to block out those little voices, including my own little finger-wagger, stagger to my feet and listen to my child’s health professional, who have trusted for years and who I picked out of many, to help my children recover from whatever it is that is pulling them down.
Mamas judging other mamas is a fact. In fact, it’s human nature. But it’s got to the point where we are judging everything. All the time. The food we feed our kids and how we feed them, the kind of milk we give them, the vaccinations we do or don’t do, the way they sleep, the toys they play with, the school they go to, the clothes they wear. It’s exhausting. And of course the worst type of judgement is the type that comes at that raw moment when a mother is caring for her sick baby. And we think we know what’s best. Unless you’re a health professional and that is your patient, you don’t. The mother does. And as long as that child is being cared for no one has a right to judge that mother. What she needs at that moment is strength, support and your knowledge. Give advice, the kind you were given. And that’s all.
We talk about how much we are capable of as women and how far we have come in society yet time and again we turn on each other, judging every move we make especially as mothers, which is idiotic because being a parent is the hardest thing EVER. And there’s no manual. So let’s give ourselves a break. And then let’s give others a break too.