In today’s society, we tend to be more worried about what others are doing, instead of focusing on our personal growth. This is also true for moms. The term “mom shaming” emerges from the constant berating that occurs when parenting “experts” pounce on other mothers if they feel she isn’t doing a good enough job. While it may seem like just another petty argument between mothers, it is fuel to the postpartum depression fire.
I was a victim of mom shaming- by the very nurses that were caring for me mere hours after the birth of my son. I was a 20-year-old new mother, who was just coming to terms with the idea of parenthood, all while having an episiotomy. As soon as I was taken to the recovery room, I was instantly bombarded with pamphlets and other educational materials for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding? Wait, what? Remember, I’m 20. I was overcome with a sense of discomfort and fear. This was not something I signed up for. When I told the nurses that I was not comfortable breastfeeding, and preferred bottle feeding, the frowns reared their ugly heads, and the “ I’m a mom and I tried it; it’s super easy,” stories swirled around my head, making me feel dizzy. The nurses excused themselves to bring me the bottled formula, but instead returned with a doctor in tow. The doctor sat down, and in the most professional manner, explained to me why breastfeeding was more beneficial, not only because of the nutrients, but also for bonding purposes. My fear got the best of me; I mean, I didn’t want my son to hate me because I didn’t breastfeed. The three nurses, along with the doctor, sat there as I attempted to breastfeed my son. Moms, when they tell you that your baby notices your discomfort and stress- they do! My son refused to latch on, and I was in tears because I’d already convinced myself that because of my ignorance and reluctance to breastfeed, my son would starve and die. I had let the pressures of medical personnel, as well as my own fears label me a bad mother.
After what seemed like an eternity, they excused themselves and said they’d take my baby to be fed in the nursery while I relaxed and took a nap. I need white noise when I sleep, so I asked if they’d turn the TV on for me, which they did, and I closed my eyes. I couldn’t sleep, and when I looked up, I noticed they’d left the TV on one of the hospital’s channels- the breastfeeding tutorial channel. Yes, you read that right. They have a channel dedicated to “experienced” individuals that can help quell your breastfeeding fears. Experienced? Like, they do this for a living?? I was so annoyed, and I gave up and “knew” I was a bad mother, and I hadn’t even been a mother a full day. My mother was so upset, that she spoke with the doctor, and told them to back off because I’d made my decision, and their bullying was affecting my recovery. It really was. They backed off, BUT…..they conveniently added a plethora of pamphlets and literature on breastfeeding.
I decided to try again when I went home, thinking that maybe I could do a better job in the comfort of my own home. Nope. I gave up and chose bottle feeding. At the time, I didn’t realize I was suffering from postpartum depression, and the breastfeeding fiasco was only adding to it. I’d like to say that the support I received from my family was enough to get me through it, but the truth is, the breastfeeding brigade continues to cast a pall over mothers who choose bottle feeding, and vice versa. It is a constant war between mothers to prove that one is better than the other. Looking back, it was difficult having medical personnel bombard me with pressure, but it’s a lot more difficult when you look for support from other moms, people you should be able to share experiences with, only to have them berate you as well. Moms, we are a team, with the same goals – to raise happy, healthy children and to make sure they have the best lives. How we get there may be different, but in the end, we have the same goal. Please stay tuned for future support group meetings; let’s stick together to erase the stigma of postpartum depression.