A Healing Article from a Hyperemesis Gravidarum Sister

Just this past week I learned that Jessica from The Leaky B@@b also suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum.

I had no idea!

And, in a fortuitous twist, she published a fantastic article that struck to the core of some of the emotions I’ve been feeling about my HG pregnancies: Tone, filters, and information.

It seems like every time I turn around, there is some article that gets published about how if you have a great diet during pregnancy or exercise during pregnancy, your baby will be healthier and have a number of advantages.  Since good eating and exercise aren’t really options for those of us with HG, these articles usually cause me to roll my eyes, feel guilty, and sometimes even angry that I can’t have just a normal pregnancy like everyone else.

Oddly enough, I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t take on guilt simply because of our circumstances.  We should be able to share information to mothers be it about childbirth interventions and risk management or breastfeeding.  We should be able to discuss these issues openly and honestly without the knee-jerk defensive reaction.

And yet…

And yet, when I see the information out there about pregnancy diet and exercise, I experience that same feeling of defensiveness that makes me crazy when talking about non-HG-related issues.

Jessica writes:

Do those articles set out to make me feel guilty that I barely eat during my pregnancies?  No, they are just sharing information and sometimes aim to encourage and inspire moms.  Do the moms celebrating their beautiful pregnancy experience do so to punch me in the gut and knock me down?  I’m pretty sure they are just excited about their own experience.  Does the fact that I have very little physical activity during the prenatal stage of my mothering make me a bad mom?  I don’t think so but it doesn’t mean I don’t wonder from time to time or that it doesn’t hurt a little when I’m faced with the reality that it really isn’t a good thing and could be putting my children at risk.  Blaming the information though doesn’t help me or make my reality better.  Hiding it, or worse denying it, doesn’t help anyone else either.

We should still share information, we should still read information and we hopefully do this in a safe community where processing the information can happen through trusting and supportive dialogue.  I hope that by keeping in mind the fact that we do not know everything there is to a person’s back story and why they make the choices they do we can remember to be more sensitive in how we share information.  I hope that by keeping in mind the fact that we all bring our own baggage to any topic we can remember to try not to take information sharing as personal jabs.  It is through these steps that we can support one another and make a difference for others.

Reading this article really gave me a sense of healing.  It helped me build a bridge from one aspect of my life, writing, and personal views to another.

Thank you Jessica.  You gave me a lot to think about.

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Mommy Mantras

I’ve thought a lot lately about my own mental health and taking care of myself. I’ve also noticed other moms that I know face-to-face and through the internet stressing about everything from babies waking during the night to finding enough time to get kids to and from school.

I’ve gotten some good advice from you guys in the comments here and on Facebook, and I just wanted to share a few little mantras that I’ve been using lately as reminders to be kind to myself.  Mantras, affirmations, whatever you want to call it, I’ve tried really hard to use some positive self-talk these days to help change my patterns of thought for the positive.

Here are some of the things I tell myself when I start to feel overwhelmed.

Time does pass.

Perfection is a myth.

The Grasshopper is going to remember this pizza eating and cartoon watching as fun, not me being neglectful.

You’re doing a great job with what you have right now. – Thanks Diana!

You’re not Superwoman and no one expects you to be.

Just say NO! – Thanks Kerri!

Be gentle to yourself.

and my personal favorite from my mother…

This, too, shall pass.

On a related note, there’s a fantastic blog out there called Self Care Tips for Women.  They posted recently about the myths vs. the realities of motherhood, and the article really hit home for me.

Let’s Get REAL About Motherhood and Life

Do you have any sayings or mantras that you use to help yourself get through challenging times?  I’d love to expand my list!

Some additions to the Mantra List thanks to my readers:

I can choose peace instead of this. – JamesandJax

And a whole list from Diana at The Whining Puker:

“First it gets better, then it goes away.”
– Becky Taylor

“Progress, not perfection.”
– Flylady

“Give yourself lots of grace.”
– Wendi

Cue the Mommy Guilt

Now I know that I wrote about guilt last week, but this is less of a spinoff from that post and more of a spinoff from Tuesday’s post: All Things to All People.

Guilt that comes from the outside is easy for me to deal with.  Guilt trips are simply a way some people try to manipulate others.  When confronted by someone attempting to manipulate my emotions, it’s easy for me to mentally raise my middle finger in their direction and leave the guilt aside.

When the guilt comes from within as a result of me not living up to my own personal goals and ideals, it’s much more difficult to deal with.

Some things I currently feel mommy guilt about:

  • Feeding the Grasshopper crappy food: Monday-cold leftover pizza and a bowl of honey nut cheerios; Tuesday-A ham, cheese, and mayo sandwich and ice cream; Wednesday-cold leftover pizza
  • Letting the Grasshopper watch way too much TV – TV as babysitter?  Yup.
  • Not getting down and playing interactively with her
  • Parking my butt on the couch and encouraging her to entertain herself
  • Taking her to daycare with her hair uncombed and her teeth unbrushed

Okay, most of these are seriously temporary.  Mr. Grasshopper is travelling for work for a few days this week (comes back today thank god!), and we’re in survival mode.  For the record, he usually cooks nutritious and tasty meals, plays vigorously with her at every opportunity, and makes sure her teeth and hair get brushed in the morning.  Also, for the record, she does have a toothbrush at daycare, so when she arrives, she can run back and brushes her teeth then.

Overall, I know that this is stuff that I can’t really control right now.  At the end of the day, we’re doing well if I can stick food on plates and get the dishes loaded in the dishwasher.  I’m proud of myself each time I have managed to get her bathed this week.  Reaching into the tub is hard.  I’m trying really hard to give myself credit for the little stuff like that.

But we do watch way too much TV.  I try to assuage that guilt by making sure we’re watching the kids channels that don’t show any commercials.  I just wish I could play with her more.  I wish this week could have been fun girlie time with walks/trike rides through the neighborhood with the dog, fun bubble baths, painted toenails, and special activities.

That’s just not in the cards right now.

Right now, we’re doing well to get out the door in the morning and eat food at night.

I can’t wait to not be sick anymore.  I hate the way hyperemesis gravidarum is keeping me from being the mom I want to be.

World Breastfeeding Week – Guilt, Judgement, and Lactivism

I’ve gotten a lot of great comments here and on facebook that have me thinking hard about how to talk about breastfeeding in a productive way.  A lot of readers comments talk about guilt and judgement.  So how to we reconcile this with the goal of promoting breastfeeding?

Keep in mind, this is intended to be a thought-provoking post.  It may make you feel feelings and think uncomfortable thoughts.  That’s okay.  Feel free to comment.  This isn’t an echo-chamber here.  It’s my house, but I do welcome civil discussion and I’m not afraid to speak candidly and gently with someone who disagrees with me.

Guilt

Oh, boy. This first one is a doozy. Women carry a lot of guilt. Trust me. I grew up in the South and I’m Catholic.  I know all about guilt. Specifically, though, I’d like to talk about guilt with respect to breastfeeding.

In response to yesterday’s post I had several comments here on the blog, on the Facebook page, and on my own personal Facebook page that referenced the notion of guilt and disappointment over breastfeeding.  I’m glad that my readers brought up this issue.  I will confess that this was a really big elephant that I was trying to avoid, but upon further reflection, I decided that it would be disingenuous to do so.

So let us ask ourselves: Why is there so much guilt surrounding the issue of breastfeeding? Here is what I see most often: Women feel like they failed at breastfeeding and this sense of failure manifests as guilt and crops up painfully if they come across information showing that maybe they could have breastfed after all had they only known.

Some examples: Mom is told she has to stop breastfeeding to take a medication (for PPD, migraines, flu, pain, etc) only to find out much later that either the medication was safe after all or that there was a viable alternative that she could have used instead.  Brand new mom is recovering from her birth in the hospital and is told that it just doesn’t look like her milk is in so she’ll need to give her baby formula only to find out later that it can sometimes take up to five days for milk to come in and that those tiny quantities of colostrum are plenty for a newborn with a stomach the size of a grape. Mom thinks she’s not making enough milk because baby seems to want to nurse all the time ever hour over and over only to find out later that this is simply normal newborn/infant behavior and isn’t a reflection on milk supply at all.  Mom is in so much pain when she nurses and the lactation consultant says the latch is fine and that it “shouldn’t be hurting” but the pain is so great that she ends up stopping only to find out later that she likely had a treatable medical condition like thrush or mastitis or that the baby had a treatable condition like a tongue tie.

When confronted by information that calls into question the decisions they made (under duress) to stop breastfeeding some moms feel, understandably defensive. Let me be very clear to moms who feel this sense of failure:  You did not fail.  I’m going to say it one more time: You did not fail.  Not by a long shot.  Society failed you.  The medical professional who gave you misinformation failed you.  A society that promotes a false concept of newborn behavior failed you.  The community that wasn’t there for you when you needed support the most failed you.  But above all, you didn’t fail.

If you didn’t fail, you have nothing to feel guilty about.  Take those feelings of guilt, recognize them for what they are, and set them aside.  Life is full of “should haves,” “could haves,” and “what ifs.”  Know that you made the very best decision you could have made at the time with the information you had available.  Leave the baggage at the side of the road and move on, a wiser and stronger woman.

Judgement

This one goes hand in hand with guilt. I hear stories from other mothers about being approached by strangers who make inappropriate comments: “Why are you giving that baby a bottle? Don’t you know that babies should be breastfed?”  Please do not mistake this kind of thing for “lactivism” (which I will talk about next).  To explain this, I’ll need to explain a personal theory of mine.

The Jerk TheoryAny stranger who approaches you in a mall (or a park or a restaurant or any other place) to confront you about the way you are feeding your child is a jerk.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Jerks look for ways to cut down other people.  When you encounter a jerk, the best thing to remember is that their comments are not about you.  Their comments are about them making themselves feel superior.  If it wasn’t about breastfeeding, the jerk would  find something else to be a jerk about.  Recognize a jerk for what he or she is.

Now, that’s not to say that the only time mothers feel judged is when they’re dealing with the above-mentioned group of people.  Moms feel judged all the time:

When they encounter people that make different parenting choices

Please don’t mistake other people’s different choices for judgement against your own choices.  We make the best choices we can as parents, and we make the best choices we can for our children.  I choose to wear my child in a baby carrier.  That works for me.  Your baby may not like being worn or you may not have found a carrier that is comfortable for you.  We all do things differently!  What’s right for my child, may not work for your child.  You made the decisions you did for specific reasons. Own those reasons. Be confident in your choices.  And just do not pick up that guilt monkey.

When they talk to an overzealous friend who might be making assumptions about the reasons behind her choices

I’ll talk about this further when I talk about lactivism.  Here’s something I keep in mind though.  Sometimes being a new parent is like having a new toy.  You’re really excited about this thing you’ve just learned and you want to share and you don’t know the best way to share that excitement without trampling on someone else’s toes.  The new idea is so shiny and sparkly that it doesn’t even cross your mind that someone might not be as excited and entranced as you are.  It’s just so cool!  And you think, “Wow. She’s not excited about this sparkly thing that I just found out about.  What’s wrong with her?”  Yes, this is judgement.  No, it’s not very nice.  But can we really chalk it up to the Jerk Theory?  Or is it plain ignorance and immaturity?  Having been guilty of this kind of excitement, I’d like to say that, for the most part, it’s a simple case of maturity mixed with a tiny bit of insecurity.

Instead of feeling judged and taking on guilt, what if we all viewed these instances as a chance to set boundaries?  What if we respond to our excited friends by saying things like, “I respect your views, and I would just ask that you extend me the same courtesy,” or “I’m really not comfortable talking about this,” or (my favorite) “I’ll forgive you for asking me that if you’ll forgive me for not answering.”  Then change the subject.  You’re under no obligation to defend or debate your choices and experiences if you don’t wish to.

When they read a newspaper article talking about either the risks of formula feeding or the benefits of breastfeeding

I’m going to have to defer to a wonderful article from Annie at PhD in Parenting for this one.

The intent of the study is not to pick on moms or to make them feel guilty. The point of the study is to achieve greater societal, political, and institutional support for breastfeeding.  [snip]  It is time that we accept the facts. When compared with breastfeeding, formula has risks. That doesn’t mean that every mom who doesn’t breastfeed is “some kind of baby killer.” What it does mean is that every mom who does want to breastfeed deserves a fighting chance to be able to do so.

Emphasis mine.  The entire article wonderful and a lot of the comments are solid gold.

When it comes to judgement, remember this: You can’t control other people, but you can control your reactions to them.  We’re going to run into judgemental people no matter what we do.  Of this I know!  Remember, I breastfed a three and a half year old while in the depths of hyperemesis gravidarum.  You better believe I got judged for that!  But I choose not to take it on.  I make my choices and I stand by them.  If someone wants to judge me, fine.  Let that reflect on them.

Lactivism

With the above comments about guilt and judgement in mind, how can we promote breastfeeding in a healthy way?  You know the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  So what do we do?

I can tell you what we shouldn’t do.  We shouldn’t make a snap judgement when we see a woman giving her baby a bottle.  For one thing, we really have no idea what’s going on there.  Is there breast milk in that bottle?  Could be.  But what if there is formula in there?  Remember all of those barriers that women face in our society? Lack of support, predatory marketing practices by formula companies, lack of information, lack of community, etc?  Maybe she never got that critical piece of information that you got that helped you succeed.  Maybe she was abused as a child and cannot for very personal and intense reasons breastfeed.  Maybe she’s one of the minority of women who truly does have a medical barrier that prevents her from breastfeeding such as hypoplasia.  Remember, even our very dear friends have things that they may wish to keep private from us.  It’s important to be sensitive and remind ourselves that every person’s situation is different.

We also shouldn’t approach people that we don’t know because that would make us jerks (see my theory above).

What we should do is let our pregnant friends know that if they need help or have any questions that they can call and talk to us.  Here is what I always say, “I’m not sure if you’re planning to breastfeed or not, but if you are, I’m happy to help you in any way I can. I’ve got a whole lot of information right at my fingertips, and I know several really good lactation consultants that I can put you in touch with.  If you want any information, let me know and I will give it to you.”

And then do you know what I do?  I drop it.  I’ve said my piece.  I’ve made the offer to help.  My friend is free to take me up on that or not.  I won’t push the issue.  I will gently correct misinformation if she chooses to share with me.  And if she asks for me to help, I am ready to do everything I can to support her.  But I let her make the first move.

Once again, I’d like to reference Annie from PhD in Parenting whose article “I won’t ask you why you didn’t breastfeed” sums up my feelings so perfectly.

So what does this all mean?

Fellow lactivists, let’s work hard for societal change.  Let’s speak out against predatory marketing tactics that undermine women’s ability to breastfeed.  Let’s encourage medical professionals to educate themselves and give sound, evidence-based medical advice.  Let’s take off the gloves and change society for the better.

But when we deal with other mothers on an individual level, let’s remember that behind every woman’s breastfeeding outcome, there is a story that she may or may not wish to share.  Let’s treat these other mothers gently, and remember that she is the only one who knows the very personal and intimate details of that story and that those details are none of our business.

We mothers all want the same thing.  We want what’s best for our children.  Instead of playing the guilt/judgement game, let’s work together to make the world a better place for our children.

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celebrate-wbw-npn-450

I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

Confessions of a Bad Mother

I am feeling like a horrible mother right now.  I have no patience with the Grasshopper and it seems like all we do is butt heads.  Over everything.

Let me start by stating unequivocally that we are a no-spank household.  We try to be a no shouting household, too, but I’m pretty much failing at that.

Last night was awful.  It was right before bath time. She’d spent the entire evening dragging her feet and not listening and just generally being difficult. Mr. Grasshopper was using the restroom which meant that the next 30 minutes were going to involve me trying to get her in and out of the tub and reaching across my enormous belly to try to get her clean while she danced in the middle of the shower instead of standing where I could actually reach her.

Right after I undressed her, she grabbed her comb and acted like she was going to put it in her butt. Her naked, sweaty, running around all day, filthy butt. I say, “Do NOT put the comb in your bootie.” And you know what she did?  She grinned at me and scrubbed it really quickly a few times right in her butt crack. And you know what I did? I reached around and spanked her. And then I felt horrible. Like I said before, we are a no-spank household. And I was spanking out of anger, which isn’t spanking at all. That’s just hitting. I didn’t do it very hard, certainly not hard enough to actually hurt, but her look of utter betrayal just killed me.

I ended up apologizing and explaining that I was just so frustrated because she did something on purpose just because I told her not to, but that it wasn’t okay to hit. And we hugged.  And we both cried.  I explained to her that she has poopoo germs in her bootie and that when she put her comb in her bootie she got poopoo germs on her comb. I told her that poopoo germs can make her very sick and it’s important not to put her hands and things in her bootie and that when Mama tells her something it’s to keep her safe and that she must listen to Mama.

Then when it was time to comb her hair after her shower (which was spent dancing mostly out of reach just like I thought it would), I reminded her about the poopoo germs on her comb and asked her why they were there. “Umm… I don’t know.” “Think really hard.” “Because I put my comb in my bootie?” “Yep. And you know what? I’m about to comb your hair with those poopoo germs.” Cue the dramatics: “I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair! No Mama! I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair!” “Well, you should’ve listened when Mama told you not to put the comb in your bootie.” And I combed her hair.

Then my husband came out of the bathroom and told me I was being mean so I left.

Right now she is really drawing out the worst in me. It seems like all I do is yell at her all the time. I hate it.  She’s just so darn contrary right now and my patience is so short from feeling crappy all day that I just snap at her constantly. The pregnancy hormones and just the pregnancy in general are making me cranky to a pretty strong degree.  And then last night I smacked her bottom. I feel like a horrible mother.

I just feel so overwhelmed with everything right now.  Thankfully I’m not nauseated 24/7, but there are some times that I just can’t get up off the couch.  It’s like she can sense those times.  She’s like a shark smelling blood in the water.  This weekend I was feeling very ill and I asked her to wash her hands in the bathroom as the kitchen sink had dirty dishes and a knife or two in it.  She grinned at me and washed her hands in the  kitchen sink anyway.

Later, I asked her to pick up her toys and she crawled under the table and kicked the chairs for half an hour.  Now, she knows I can’t pick her up and carry her.  She knows I can’t bend over without getting sick.  She knows this.  Which is why she deliberately crawled under the table where I couldn’t pull her out.  And it’s not like she was at much of a risk for me taking the toys away because I couldn’t bend over and get them anyway.

Here’s the thing:  She’s normally a really easy-going kid.  I mean, this is the kid who, aside from a brief run-around on the grass and a few potty breaks, sat through an entire UCLA graduation ceremony.  She was better behaved than the very large group of adults that were sitting around us chatting at full volume the whole time.  For a kid, that’s pretty impressive.  For a 3-year-old, that’s just jaw-dropping.

But lately, she’s pushing her boundaries and I’m feeling really lost as to how to show her where the boundaries are.  My temper is incredibly short, I’m not physically able to chase her or move her or put her somewhere, and I just feel like I’m failing at the whole motherhood thing.

A friend commented recently that while parenthood shows you these deep wells of love that you never knew you had, it also shows you these deep wells of anger.  This is really ringing true for me right now.

I think recognizing that she’s testing her boundaries right now will really help me handle things better.  So will finding a way to be more consistent with discipline.  Right now she gets so many warnings to stop doing something that the whole thing becomes meaningless.

I think I need to find a way to reconnect with her.  It seems like the days turn into wake-up, shower, help Mr. Grasshopper get her ready, work all day, come home, crash on the couch, watch Mr. Grasshopper shower her, read her a story, go to sleep.  I really need to find some time in there for us to just connect together.  Heck, I’m even getting cranky during story time!

Something’s got to give.

I know adding a second child into the mix will just fuel the chaos, but I can’t help thinking it will be so much better because at least I won’t be pregnant anymore.

Meantime, I need to go cuddle with my firstborn and try to reach some middle ground with her.