I’ve been struggling with a great deal of mom guilt lately. Sure, I had felt guilty about the odd thing here and there, but I hadn’t experienced the rip your heart out heavy guilt that comes with the territory of parenting.
As we readied ourselves to transition W to care outside of the home (two days with my mom, two days at daycare), we began with my mom. Prior to leaving for vacation, I finally felt ready to leave him with someone other than my husband (I know, I know), and dropped him with my mom as I went off to a hair appointment. I left a bottle and went on my merry way.
After my hair appointment, I was running a few errands, when my mom messaged me and said, “He wants nothing to do with this bottle.” Record scratch moment folks. I panicked and rushed back to my parents’ home, and we tried a few options but he just wasn’t having it.
Up until this point, we’ve made sure my husband had been giving a bottle at least once per week to ensure W would take one when we had to transition him. We’d never had an issue. I could stand next to my husband and the bottle and he would chug it back. That is, until the four-month sleep regression hit. I got a little lazy with pumping and trying bottles of complete exhaustion. On top of managing my work schedule and everything, it was just easier to feed him instead of adding pumping and bottles and timing into the mix.
When we returned from vacation we tried again with my husband, and it was a disaster. I was really starting to panic now because Mr. M was returning to work that week, and we were starting the transition to my mom first.
Failure after failure, bottle, cup, syringe, strategy after strategy the guilt and weight of this challenge weighed on me unlike any other parenting hurdle ever had before.
Making my baby starve until he was forced to eat just seemed like a nightmare; I didn’t want to put my mom, my husband or W through that. I couldn’t fix the problem. I was the only person that couldn’t. All I could do was pump as much as possible and watch my precious milk go down the drain failure after failure.
Dramatic, yes. But, it was a lot for me to shoulder. I didn’t handle it well.
After a great deal of reflecting to try and manage my stress, and here’s what I unpacked.
- I was the only one that couldn’t fix the problem. As a fixer, a planner and a person that generally likes to have control over a situation, it was very hard for me to want this problem fixed, but not be the person to do it. I was the problem here. W wanted only me, and I had to be unavailable for him to eat elsewhere.
- The burden of care on others kept me in my comfort zone. Why didn’t I try this sooner? Why didn’t I let go sooner? This was a big one for me. I had major guilt over the idea of leaving my son with others. He’s not the easiest of babies to take care of. He hates napping and you have to work for them. I was always rushing to fix this sleeping “problem,” instead of giving my mom or others the opportunity to help figure it out. I felt like it was my husband and my responsibility. I didn’t want to put that burden on others. So we tried to “fix” the issue before leaving him with someone else, and suddenly we were out of time with a baby that hated napping still and now hated bottles.
- I savoured as long as I could. Another problem here was that in feeling sorry for myself I didn’t have a year with my baby like most other mothers around me, I was savouring my time with my son. I didn’t really want to let go and share because our full-time care was limited and had an expiry date. This point helped me let go of some of my guilt.
- Bottle refusal forced me to stay with my baby longer. On the more spiritual level of things, I believe I manifested a situation that would block me from separating from my baby because I wasn’t ready for it. I was packing up to work at my parents, we delayed starting daycare, and I worked less. I am very grateful that we had this option; however I think because we could do this, it made it worse. I couldn’t get to the “you have no choice” place. I could linger in the in between.
So, where are we now? W has taken a few bottles finally. Once we began introducing solids, he has willingly drank a few bottles in his highchair with some other food he’s been playing with. We got close with a straw cup, but he couldn’t get efficient. The highchair, a faster flowing bottle and other food was the trick. And so, now we’re working on me exiting for a full day, and in the next few weeks, starting daycare. Baby steps. Or mommy steps.
It’s heavy on my mama heart, it hurts and guts me… I know that the first weeks will be the hardest, but it’ll get better from there. I’m trying to look at it as an opportunity for him to spend time with others, learn from others, and for me to make more time for the other pieces of me.
Where does mama guilt strike you? How do you manage?