Monday, 13 February 2012

My Pet Peeves

If this post sounds like a rant, then maybe it is. I recently had a bad day with the baby. She was crying and fussy all day and nothing I did helped. Most people would say it’s just one of those days and it comes with the territory. But thinking that really does not help the feelings of despair and frustration when you are going through it at the time. Add being confined indoors during the dark winter while nursing a cold and maybe you too would feel close to loosing it. In my frustration I posted a status update on Facebook saying “Danielle is wondering where all those friends, relatives, family members and in-laws are, who kept pestering me about when I would have children, when the child is fussy all day and doesn't want to be left alone for a minute?” Two of the responses I got was “fussiness is part of the package” and “chill…and enjoy it”. Arghhhhhh! This annoyed me to no end.

It seems society believes that if you are a mother it is forbidden to complain. If you are a mother you should always be happy and enjoy motherhood. If you do not, you are a bad mother. Are these people serious? Does everyone always love and enjoy every moment of their marriage even though they love their partner? Do people always love and enjoy every moment of their years of studies even if they loved the subject? It is not humanly possible to enjoy something every second even when it is difficult. And the last thing I need is to be told I should be enjoying my fussy baby. What I need at such times is some sympathy and commiseration.

Before I had Emilia I was always annoyed by the questions: “when are you going to have children?” and “why don’t you have children?” Is not just so yuh does have children and bam dey grow up! It takes time, work, patience and love. You need to show love and patience even when the child is fussy, even when the child is misbehaving, even when he or she is rebelling. So I had to think long and hard about the decision to have children especially since, unlike those friends and relatives who were always bugging me, my husband and I do not have any family living near by. Unlike my friends I can’t call and say “Mom/sis/ mother-in-law the child is driving me crazy and I need help. Can you come over right away?” Where are those people now when I am going through the daily grind? Are they here to help sooth the crying baby? Are they here to nurse her when she is sick and give me a break? No! So people should just mind their business and leave people to get on with theirs. What people should also consider is what if I was barren? How would those persistent questions have made me feel? How much despair and anguish would they have caused by their seemingly innocuous question?

Now in spite of all my doubts and fears I decided to take the plunge anyway because I wanted to have a child more than not. And I recognized that it will be hard and that I will have to deal with it. I realized I will have to deal with being home all day everyday, alone in the dark with a screaming baby. And I resolved to deal with it, and for the most part, I am. But don’t make me feel guilty and inadequate if I complain. I believe I am better off complaining than keeping it inside. Keeping things inside and feeling that I have to be the perfect mother would probably lead me to develop post-natal depression. Or like a friend said to me on Facebook I would probably start taking antidepressants or drinking like those perfect looking wives and mothers of the 1950’s. We need to recognize that mothers need sympathy and help, not criticism and judgement.

While we are on the subject of criticism and judgement, why is it that those most critical and judgmental are always other mothers? If you look up any online blog or discussion forum there are lots of mothers criticizing others for going back out to work too early or going back out to work at all. Or they are criticizing others for not breastfeeding. Do we know that mother’s circumstances and the reasons she has for going back to work or not breast feeding? Sure in theory it is probably best to stay at home until your child is school age but what if the family needs the money? Studies show that children growing up in poor households are at a great developmental disadvantage. Poverty is in fact worse for a child than being put into day-care. Or maybe that mother is going stark staring mad being at home instead of in the workplace doing something mentally stimulating and challenging. And we don’t need any studies to tell us that a child would be better off with a sane mother who works than a depressed, mentally unstable mother who stays at home. Is this mother a bad person because she prefers or needs to have a life outside of the home? I think not. I have a friend who thinks that mothers who like and want to stay at home and be a house wife are backward and old fashioned and I strongly disagree with that viewpoint also. Everyone is different and has different needs.

The breastfeeding issue however, is probably the most contentious issue out there. If you don’t breastfeed you are made to feel like a bad mother who does not care about the health of her child because “breast milk is the best milk”. After reading about all the benefits of breast milk I believe most mothers in Finland, Trinidad and the USA (I can’t talk for other nations I haven’t lived in) want to breastfeed. If they don’t they probably have a good reason for not doing so and one should not assume they just don’t want to.

FYI, there are various reasons why breastfeeding (though “natural”) does not always work. One problem is that breastfeeding does not necessarily come naturally. Breastfeeding is actually a skill which a new mother and baby need to be taught. Without the correct instruction it could all go very wrong and you may end up with a baby who is not getting any milk out of the breast. Some babies may never learn how to “latch on” properly and in one case I know the suction power of the baby was so weak that although the latch was correct she just did not suck hard enough to get enough milk. Also, sometimes it can take a long time for the milk to “come in”. In the mean time the child may be supplemented with the bottle and later not want the breast. Or in a few cases the mother just does not produce enough milk. So you see, the natural method of breastfeeding, does not come naturally. Sometimes it takes a lot of work, frustration and stress for it to work. And in spite of all this it still may not work.

Having said all that, I will now go on record and tell everyone that I do not breastfeed my baby. I tried and it did not work because of insufficient instruction, leading to improper latching on and therefore, supplementation with bottles which lead to rejection of the breast. I also had a problem with my milk production due to all the stress and lack of sleep. In spite of the help of a friend who is a midwife and two lactation consultants I had very little success. The feeling of failure and inadequacy as a mother were tremendous. And having everyone ask all the time, "Are you breast feeding?" and then proceeding to give me advice on breastfeeding, only served to make me feel worse.

At the end of two weeks of trying to produce milk and breastfeed, my husband advised me to stop, because I was too stressed and in his opinion becoming depressed. Two days later I took his advice and decided not to force my screaming baby to my empty breast anymore. That day I felt so much better and my milk “came in”. I started to enjoy motherhood because I was able to get some sleep and have time to take care of my baby since I was not trying to pump every two hours in order to get my milk going. I realized my husband was right. Deciding to give up on the breast feeding and giving her formula was healthier for my child than having a stressed out mother who had no time to spend nurturing her. A renowned Finnish professor and paediatrician at the Children’s hospital in Helsinki said in an article, that in developed countries such as Finland with a clean water supply and well regulated food safety, formula is almost the same as breast milk. Unlike formula in the 1970’s, the formulas on the market today have been specially formulated to closely mimic breast milk. They are based on thorough research and analysis of the composition of breast milk.

In spite of this I still felt it was in my child’s best interest to receive some of the antimicrobial properties of breast milk and so I pumped breast milk for twenty-five minutes, four to six times a day, everyday for three months. I stopped after three months because it was becoming difficult to find the time to pump while trying to care for an increasingly active and social baby. My mother-in-law does not understand why I have stopped pumping breast milk for her grandchild and still mentions it. Every time Emilia gets sick she says it is because she is not being breastfed. These comments used to make me feel sad, inadequate and a failure and I would become really angry. But I am finally learning not to let other people’s opinions and advice, on how we should live our life and care for our child, bother me anymore. I can never be a perfect parent so as I saw written somewhere all I can do is try to be a “good enough” parent.


  1. *HUG a very tight tight hug, Happy Valentines day to you and u r family, you are a good mom, always trying to find out whats best for you and the baby. Good job thus far, so sorry that there aren't relatives close by. Continue the blogging!

  2. Dear Danielle,
    your experience with breast feeding sounded so familiar and as parents with no family/relative support raising our son I could relate to you post so well and thought i share my experience with you. I started with breast feeding and for 3 months Aral was sleeping 15mins and then sucking for 2 hours... poor boy... when finally on the 3rd month the neuvola täti told us that he hadn't grown enough :( I was crushed and immedeately starting giving him formula. I did manage to continue the feeds with first breast milk and then formula till about 6months. Its great that breast feeding is supported in FInland but I believe that there is a bit too much pressure. As you said I think a happy mother and a sleeping baby is as important as breast milk :) I was so depressed during the first months and didn't feel I was good mother. But looking back now I realize that it was such a short period and part of my childs life that there are so many other things that are important. OUr children will still be strong and healthy and actually aral looked more healthy when he started getting the formula!!
    There are a two points that i tell my new mother friends, one is that time will change so quickly with babies/toddlers that one day won't be the same as the next, never think o shoot this is it this is forever.. and another thing is that best mother is a happy mother not a mother what people think is a good mother...
    I wish you all the best and it would be great to meet Emilia someday and catch up!

    1. Thanks for sharing Zeynep. Sorry to hear about your struggle. We all have our own struggles. Thanks for your kind words of support. Hope you are well at Viikki and yes we should catch up.