I am a mama to five children. My oldest two are my amazing step-daughters, they were the first people in my life that made me comprehend how much love you can feel for a child. My youngest two are also girls. In the middle of these four girls is Alex. Alex is the first person that I ever gave birth to and he changed everything.
Each of my children have taught me important lessons about who I am as a person and who I am as a mama. However, it is though the parenting Alex, the boy in the middle, that I learned the most. I always knew I wanted to be a mama but Alex made me realize that this parenting gig entails WAY more than I ever imagined, and I am so thankful for that!
I had never heard of attachment parenting when Alex came into my life. Attachment parenting was present in my heart but I did not allow it to shine. I was too encompassed with following all of the guidelines that the ‘experts’ preached. I wish I would have listened to my mama gut from the beginning, instead I made mistakes (some big some not so big) and I learned, acknowledged, and grew from my mistakes.
I suffer from severe mama guilt. I try everyday to find peace in knowing that Alex and our entire family benefits from all of the lessons that I learned from my mistakes. I won’t even begin to list all of the mistakes that I have made on my parenting journey but here are the big ones. I will start from the beginning.
Six weeks prior to Alex’s expected arrival date I was asked if I wanted a circumcision for my son. I explained that we were not finding our the sex of our unborn child until the birth. I was told that I needed to make a decision in case our baby was a boy. Shame on me for never researching this, making assumptions, and going along with stereotypes. I was new to this mama gig and extremely naive. I asked: ”What do you recommend?”. I was told: ”Do it”.
I gave birth to a boy. I allowed him to be circumcised. I have HUGE mama guilt for this one.
I now know that circumcision is his choice not mine. His body, his choice. I did not have the right to make this decision for him. I don’t know how I can ever make this up to him.
I knew that I would breastfeed and I set my goal at one year. Alex latched on perfectly. I breastfed him on demand for 2 1/2 years.
I did not give Alex the opportunity to self-wean. I weaned him due to my discomfort. I was well over halfway through my second pregnancy, breastfeeding Alex, and annoyed. Alex was a twiddler. His twiddling drove me batty. One day, I told him my milk was “all gone”. He never complained, never threw a tantrum. I am not sure if his heart broke but I know that mine did.
I should have reached out and found support. There are so many people who would have offered me kind words of wisdom and shared advice with me. I could have found a way to encourage Alex to stop twidding . I should not have simply given up.
Ava was allowed to self wean at 2 1/2 years. I was very pregnant with Audrey when one day Ava proclaimed, while nursing, ”I don’t like it anymore”. I assume my colostrum came in and she did not like the taste. Ava never breastfeed again.
Audrey is 2 1/2 and breastfeeds on demand. She will self wean when she is ready.
Lucky for Alex (and me) our home was small and all of the bedrooms were full. We were in the middle of adding on to our home in order to make room for our growing family so Alex shared our room and our bed. I did not enter co-sleeping from the perspective of an attached parent, I entered co-sleeping due to circumstance.
I know that co-sleeping strengthened our bond and reinforced the parenting path that I was meant to be on. Alex slept with my husband and I until he turned one. I then tearfully transitioned him to his own room because it is what I thought I should do. After all, this is what the ‘experts’ were preaching!
I did not sleep more, as promised by the experts, instead I spent many nights laying on the floor next to his crib. I laid there holding his hand, talking to him, and trying to soothe him. It would have been so much easier to have just kept him in our bed.
Co-sleeping rocks and it is way easier than walking across the house to sooth a child in need. It is safe. I wake up to at least two awesome faces every morning, what better way to start your day?!
I would have totally co-slept with Ava but she has always desired her own space. Se still does. She rarely slept with us as a baby. We kept her crib was right next to our bed for almost two years. Even now when she is sick she rarely sleeps in our bed, she likes her own space.
Audrey has never slept in a crib and Alex has found his way back to our bed. He spends the first half of his night in his bed then comes into our bed. I sleep much better co-sleeping with my kids than I did when I had to get up and go to them in the middle of the night!
I carried Alex in my arms but I never wore him. I put him in a stroller outings when it would have been much easier to have popped him in a sling or carrier. Honestly, there was only one carrier that I had ever witnessed and I was not impressed.
Baby wearing is awesome. It allows for close contact for mama and baby while allowing you to have your arms free. I carried Ava and Audrey in a ring sling and am currently looking for a used Ergo for Audrey.
I know that I was trying to be the best parent that I could be for Alex. I understand that I had not yet empowered myself as a mama. The moment that I did empower myself (I will have to write a post on that moment) was life changing. I allowed myself to understand and believe that I am his mama. I knew what was best for Alex and I became a truly attached parent.
The decisions that I make are always in the best interest of our children and our family. Of course I still make mistakes but I no longer give magazines, books, or doctors the permission to provide me with immediate cookie cutter answers. If there is a situation we look to one another. We ask “how does/did this make you feel” and “what should you/we do about this”. Every person in this family has needs and they are all different. I owe it to my children to respect them as an individuals, understand their individual needs, and honor their needs.
I have severe mama guilt and I am trying to come to terms with it. I know that I am a better person and our family is a better because I was open and let my experiences with my first-born guide me. Being a mama to Alex has taught me to be strong and to understand that I am my children’s mama and i am their advocate .
Do you suffer from mama guilt?