When my daughter was just a few months old I had her at the pediatrician. We were waiting in the waiting room to be seen and another mom came and sat down next to me as I started to give my baby a bottle. The words that came out of her mouth right after she sat down rendered me speechless: “You should be ashamed of yourself for giving your daughter a bottle and not breastfeeding.” I think I felt 100 different emotions at once in about 2 seconds flat. Most of all I was just really astounded that in under a minute this stranger formed a judgment of someone she had never met, and felt so confident in that judgement that she felt it was absolutely necessary to come over and share it with me. The thing about it is that this woman knew nothing about me. She did not know my journey, she did not know what I had been through, she did not know ANYTHING.
I always joke that my daughter came out of the womb a picky eater. She nursed perfectly ONE time. One perfect nursing session was all I was ever going to get from her. I spent hours with a lactation consultant doing every trick she knew to try to get her to nurse…she was not having it. So, my breast pump and I became the best of friends for the next six months.
What this stranger at the pediatricians office did not know was how many Mama tears I had cried since my daughter was born feeling like I failed her, she did not know how I religiously pumped breast milk every three hours 24 hours a day even when my daughter was sleeping through the night, she did not know all the supplements, teas, essential oils, and various other things I had tried to boost my milk supply, she did not know that I had lost a large amount of blood during childbirth and my milk was over a week delayed in coming in, she did not know that I had nursed my son for almost 17 months before I developed hyperemesis gravidarum during my pregnancy with my daughter and just could not continue nursing him. She did not know one thing about me. She saw a bottle, made a judgment, and voiced that judgment without one thought as to how her words might make me feel.
I am not a sensitive person. I have had things said to me that are much worse than her words, but she did not know that. Had she said those words to me at a more fragile time in my life I could have easily spent the rest of the day in tears. I am thankful that this day she said it to me, and not to another new Mama who may have taken days to recover from such a statement.
I had a choice that day. I could either give this woman a reaction, or I could give her love. I typically believe that people who hurt other people with words like this are hurting themselves in some form or another. I decided to extend compassion to her instead of anger. It was hard because the mama bear in me definitely had her claws extended and ready, but that day I picked grace and not anger.
To all the Mama’s out there struggling right now: I see you. To the Mama breastfeeding her child….you’re doing a great job, to the Mama who feels like a cow always connected to a pump….you’re amazing, to the Mama who just fixed her baby a bottle of formula….you are no less of a Mama as the one breastfeeding their baby. No matter how we feed our babies we should never feel ashamed, or let anyone else make us feel ashamed. Everyone has their own journey.
Think before you speak. It is such an easy thing to do.