Let Your Mom Flag Fly

My professional background is clinical. I am comfortable reading research, considering clinical implications, and making decisions based on scientific evidence. I am an evidence-based practitioner, and when I became pregnant, I expected myself to become an evidence-based parent too. As the months passed and my belly grew, so did my gut instincts about birthing and mothering. I researched unmedicated/natural birth, midwifery, doula support, and waterbirth. Some of these things are backed by a significant amount of research, others not so much, and some, like waterbirth, are advised against by major medical organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But like I said, my belly grew and my gut along with it. I was developing a mother’s intuition, and I wanted to follow that more than I wanted to follow my readings on PubMed.

During pregnancy, most of my choices weren’t outwardly evident. No one noticed that I was drinking red raspberry leaf tea, using organic body products, or eating 6 dates each day to encourage a quick and easy labor. So no one said anything. As my “due date” neared, I got some scoffs from family about my disbelief in the “due date” and my go-to comment: “He’ll be born sometime between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.” Then, as mid-February arrived, came the talks. From my mom, from my dad, my younger sister, my in-laws, one of my closest girlfriends. The people closest to me were worried about my plan for a natural waterbirth in a birthing center. What if something were to go wrong, as it so often does? What if I get tired? What if I feel extraordinary pain? What if I change my mind about the whole thing and decide I want to do it the “regular” way instead? PubMed didn’t have the answers to these questions, and neither did I. I felt confident in my decision-making, but I didn’t feel so confident defending decisions. Once Forrest arrived, the conviction I held in my choices was even less. I lied to my own family about co-sleeping and bedsharing. I left the table, the room, the house when nursing at my in-laws’ because people felt uncomfortable. I silently absorbed remarks about spoiling my child by holding him regularly and wearing him in a sling, how mistaken I was for not using a pacifier or a bottle, how wasteful I was being by choosing baby-led eating instead of spoon-feeding him purees. My in-laws constantly asked about when I would be returning to work. To all things, I said nothing. And I began to question my choices, even those that were clearly evidence-based. Sometimes I wondered if I should just get on with some mainstream parenting behaviors while around family and friends, so I could avoid the confrontations altogether. Again, there was nothing in literature to support me. I wish I had some bad mamajama story about the time it finally bubbled over and I stood up to everyone and defended myself and my choices. You guys, I didn’t. It’s not my way, and I don’t think it ever will be. What really happened is that I stopped caring about what everyone else thought and said, because I realized none of it matters. Not one tiny bit. This is my life, my child, my family, my choices. That’s it.

I am so proud of the way I mother and the choices I’ve made that have brought my family to the point we’re at now. I had a beautiful, peaceful, respectful birth and an easy recovery because I knew what was right for me. I know that my alternative child-rearing decisions have helped my son flourish as a creative, kind, inquisitive, independent toddler. I love that we can sit down at the dinner table together and eat a variety of cuisines, all to his liking. Most days, I am so happy with myself and all the hard work I’ve put it, and I will no longer listen to the negativity of others’ opinions of it. I have done and am doing great, and I believe it now. But, let’s be real, I have plenty of nights (like tonight, for example) when I retreat to the deepest corner of the couch to watch Teen Mom on demand and alternate Oreos and sips of rosé. It’s all relative. Oreos probably pair better with a Syrah, and that’s part of my point. I want to define being a great mom as having total belief and conviction in yourself and your choices. Why, so often, do we second guess, compare, back down, lower our voices, apologize, explain, defend, overanalyze, and worry? Who said we had to do that? Who said any of those things would protect from what hurts us so, which is the judgment of our family and our friends (and strangers on social media…)? I read this quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” What if we decide to do what we feel in our hearts to be right, and also decide to stop criticizing others for their heartfelt choices? I say, let your mom flag fly. Focus on happiness, health, and wholeness for you and your family. That means something different to each of us. And if we all stay busy with that, there won’t be time to judge the choices of others.