I remember seeing a book on my parents’ shelf when I was young, called Parenthood is Not For Cowards. I assumed this meant that it meant that in order to be a good parent, you had to listen to nightmares, and not be afraid of them. Then I became a parent. I realized that parenting meant being scared to death, every single day, and doing the right thing by your kiddo anyway. It means doing the hard thing, making the hard choices, it means never giving up, and never surrendering.
During pregnancy, we read all the books, we make all the plans, we do all the research. We attend classes, and force our partners to go with us, we pick out the perfect layette, and apply to receive the perfect breast pump. We interview 15 different pediatricians, we find the numbers for lactation consultants, parenting support groups, and visit every daycare center in the tri-state area. But things go wrong. Labors stall, emergencies happen, daycares fill. And when they do DON’T PANIC! There are far more than 42 things that could go wrong, but let them be hurdles, not walls.
Of course, as soon as you think you have breastfeeding down, something is going to change. Your milk comes in, the baby grows, you go back to work, the baby is teething, or baby goes on a nursing/sleep/solids strike. When this happens DON’T PANIC. All of these things are normal, and part of breastfeeding and in no way means that you are insufficient, or doing something wrong, or a bad mom. Here is the thing about bad parents, they never wonder if they are being a bad parent. Just by you being scared to death that you have somehow inadvertently broken your baby, you are being a good parent.
No one expects you to have all the answers. Historically, we never were expected to have all the answers. We used to raise our babies in tribes. Where all the aunties, grannies, mothers, sisters and friends were all around us, informing, encouraging, and supporting us. We used to see breastfeeding everywhere we went. We saw women latching, unlatching, babies sucking and swallowing, and crying and sleeping all the time. Many of my clients have never seen a baby fed at the breast. We no longer have access to this education. We no longer have this tribe. We try our best to fill in the gaps with social media and blogs, lactation consultants, nurses and doctors, and books and books and books.
We must be discerning between good and bad advice, we must be savvy about science v placebo affects, we must trial and error every choice we make and we must do it all while Instagraming our bliss, for beware if someone catches on that we are struggling to stay above water.
Here’s the thing people. You are doing a good job. DON’T PANIC if something goes wrong. DON’T PANIC if you don’t have the answers and you need help. DON’T PANIC if your idea of what parenthood should look like doesn’t exactly match with your life. Let go of your expectations and the expectations of others, and just do the best you can.
Oh, and always carry a towel.