I am fast learning that parenting is just one big guilt trip.Even when pregnant, women are made to feel guilty for behaving in a certain way, consuming certain foods, for taking (or not taking) medication. (Although I have always rather assumed that the French and Italians stick up their respective fingers to the ‘no cheese’, ‘no coffee’ restrictions).
When it comes to birth, if you choose a hospital, you are told that you are not doing your baby any favours in terms of intervention risks and harsh environment. Choose a homebirth and you are told that you are risking your baby’s life, and your own.
If you formula feed, you are made to feel like you are feeding your baby liquid nitrogen. If you breastfeed, you are told you are doing it too much, too little, and in the wrong way.
Sleeping arrangements? Put them in a cot and you are depriving them of the natural warmth and comfort of their mother. Put them in bed with you and you are going to crush them in your sleep. Or, if they survive against the odds, they will still be in your bed when they are 46.
Use a dummy and you make your child look ugly, delay their speech and give them an emotional attachment to an inanimate object. Don’t use a dummy and you are glared at in public as your child cries and you cry internally as someone judges you again.
Put your child in a nursery and you are guilt-ridden on many levels, as someone else spends more awake time with your child than you do. Don’t put your child in a nursery and people helpfully tell you that your child will become an anti-social hermit and miss out on all the educational and fun things at nursery.
Well, we have had a hospital birth (not through choice), a homebirth (through choice), and both children have been breastfed for as long as they wished (no.2 still going at almost 8mths). No dummies, no nurseries (apart from recently with our eldest, to help his other mum do some work at home, which has not gone down well at all with him). We have also co-slept and our eldest went into his own bed by choice at 13mths. The youngest has yet to spend a night in a cot or moses basket and possibly never will.
I have just spent my first night away from H. I feel awful about it. I needed to work today a long way from home and the only feasible train to get me there this morning on time would have meant getting up at 03:50.
So, she has not been breastfed for 30 hours, and I am writing this on the train home, with a sandwich bag full of lots of expressed milk, each bag expressed with a heavy and guilt-ridden heart.
It was all the more compounded when J told me he loved me for the first time. Last night, I rang, spoke to him and told him I loved him very much. ‘I love you very much as well’. And he was 200 miles too far away to hug and kiss. The best I could do was some mummy kisses down the phone.
The rational part of me says that I have to work, that I am the main breadwinner, and that if I don’t, they will be worse off. The rational part of me says that H has had the benefit of snuggling with me every night for nearly eight months, and this was just one night. That she has been breastfed every day (which technically hasn’t changed, as she was fed first thing yesterday morning and will be fed when I get home later tonight). Yet still I felt bad. And I really miss them. I nearly watched CBeebies on the hotel TV this morning, just to feel more at home.
Earlier on, J wanted to call me. His other mum phoned me, passed him the phone and walked off. He spoke very briefly to say hello and told me he was watching television. And then he just stayed on the phone, not saying anything, continuing to watch TV. The soppy part of me thinks he just wanted me there in some capacity or other, and the end of the phone would have to do. In reality, whatever was on CBeebies was more engaging than I was.