Being pregnant and then parenting opens up a whole can of controversial worms doesn't it?
Many who have gone before us in the parenting department feel the need to share their wisdom - asked for or not. Society throws in their two cents worth placing many women and indeed couples into a situation of undue pressure. Going out on a limb here I will say that I believe this may be where post natal depression can begin, and the child has not even been born yet. Such is the pressure to conform.
Drugs in labour, your choice of birth, breast-feeding, the use of dummies, where the child sleeps, circumcision, controlled crying, immunisation, smacking, returning to work - the list literally goes on and on.
Due to health reasons, our whole parental experience was unorthodox from the start. We underwent IVF for our first child, he was born via caesarian section under a general anaesthetic (me, not him), was not breast-fed and had a dummy on day two of his life! Jeepers, he had only made it to day two and we had begun bending the rules.
We continued to bend the rules with our second child being born only 10 months after our first. Yes, apparently we could fall pregnant ourselves. Who'd-a thunk it? I remember one of the nurses (who mustn't have seen me on the first round) commenting that there was a mother on the ward at the moment who also had a 10 month old. I came clean and told her it was actually me! Priceless. I've never had so many people enquire as to my future methods of contraception! Trust me, we hadn't planned it that way. How could we plan for something we had no idea was possible? But after walking the path of perhaps never having children to then having two, we were delighted.
Prior to delivering our first son, I was subjected to a situation reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition justifying my choice not to breast feed. That was in a phonecall. My husband and I then had to meet with the chief lactation consultant "once we had thought about it" to confirm "our" decision. Um, as far as I was aware, my husband wasn't going to be breast-feeding either! Then fate stepped in. We were in such a rush to leave for our appointment with her that I got moisturiser in my eyes, rendering them red and watery. I'm sure the lactation consultant thought I'd spent the morning in tears in anticipation of our appointment that she was a lot more supportive of my decision and accordingly noted on my file what my choice was.
I believe that a woman should be supported by whatever her decision is in feeding her child. The bottom line was, I was still going to feed him! If a woman chooses to breast-feed then she should be 100% supported. Likewise if she chooses not to. Likewise again if her choice to breast-feed unfortunately doesn't work out. She should not be made to feel like she has let her child and her family down. The impact this can have on her is too great.
As one of my girlfriends so aptly put it, if a criminal is brought before the courts, the judge does not ask "were you breast fed or bottle fed as a youngster?"
I recall offering the dummy to my son on day two of his life whilst waiting for his bottle to arrive. He took to it like a duck to water. I could hear the nurse coming and tried to extract it from his mouth knowing she would disapprove, but that little tacker had a stronger suck than I could have anticipated and he won. Yep, two days old and we had the baby equivalent of an arm wrestle! On the one hand I was so proud that my child displayed such strength, but mortified that I may be judged in my choice. When the nurse walked in, I stood there like I had been caught red-handed stealing something. Thankfully she only half-frowned upon the situation. It must have been the look on my face.
I'm not intending to call down nurses in this. It's not that at all. I praise the roles our nurses do and do with such passion. The nurses whose care I was under on both occasions with having our children, I could not speak more highly of. I understand that part of their role is delivering the message of what they have learned is best for our newborns. I get it. I just believe that if our choices are different to this, it is not because we don't want what is best for our child. Absolutely we do.
The pressure to do everything right, whatever, however and from whom ever that may be, is just immense. We, as mothers, put a lot of this pressure on ourselves. There isn't room for anymore.
Whether it be dummies, toilet-training, allowing your child to sleep in your room, or even your bed, does it really matter? My husband and I figure if it works for us, it's right. The fact of the matter is, time is fleeting. Everything is a phase. They won't be doing it when they're 18 so why stress? Gosh, there'll be new issues to worry about by then!
We have structure in our home. The children need it and we need it. We also go with the flow as they grow and change, and alter the nature of our structure accordingly. They are still alive, they are healthy, they are polite, active, fun-filled learning sponges. Most importantly, they are loved.
What I have learned in being a parent is that there are many right ways to raising your child. You keep trying different ways until you find what works for you. It may be different to how others are doing things but who cares? If it's working - for your child, for you, for your family - then it's right.