Some of us love it. Some of us hate it. Change can be good. Change can be very bad. One thing is certain, though: we all experience change. But the real question becomes, “Do our circumstances change or do we change?” I firmly believe it is only a dramatic change in circumstances that can spark real change in a human. Parenthood is one of those dramatic changes. I look back on who I used to be and who I am now and I’m amazed at the changes that have occurred within me.
"Do our circumstances change or do we change?"
During my first pregnancy some of my health concerns were ignored by a doctor and I became very ill, developing an infection that began causing contractions when I was just 24 weeks along, with my husband in a different time zone on military orders. Talk about terrifying.
My birth experience was, at best less than ideal, and at worst traumatic. I was actually yelled at by a doctor I had never met before, for crying when I found out my unmedicated, natural birth was not going to happen. Without going into too many details, as the birthday came and went, I was disrespected and lied to. Patient autonomy and informed consent - concepts I learned in nursing school - did not exist.
Then came postpartum. Breastfeeding my son proved extremely difficult and challenging in the beginning. I thought I knew all there was to know about breastfeeding. I was sure that it would come naturally and be easy because I was convinced that if I willed it to be easy, it would be. Oh was I in for a shock!
The “Saviors” who I expected to help me through all of this (doctors and nurses) assured me that I was simply an over dramatic first time mom. Postpartum depression set in, and I no longer trusted doctors to treat me properly, so I suffered silently for a long time. I hit rock bottom and consider it a true miracle to be where I am today.. to be here at all, frankly.
I became a mere shadow of my former self.
I became a mere shadow of my former self. My husband, who once admired my strength and independence, was at a loss when he tried to console this needy, puddle of tears with a noodle for a spine he called his wife.
Thankfully, though, when you’re at rock bottom, the only way is up. Thankfully, I found social networks that wrapped me in love and support. I was lifted up by mommy groups that showed me how common this story is. But that’s when I got angry. That’s when the fire was lit. This story shouldn't be so common. I - by the grace of God - was able to determine the root cause of our breastfeeding challenges through the support of other mothers and a breastfeeding support group. Despite my child’s pediatrician and lactation consultant dismissing my concerns about lip and tongue tie, I found a practitioner who confirmed the oral restrictions and treated my son. Breastfeeding instantly became easier, and we were able to re-learn how to nurse effectively and comfortably. But more importantly, I felt something I’d never felt before: validation and empowerment. I wasn’t just an overdramatic first time mom.
I actually had maternal instincts, and when I listened to them, I was able to solve problems. I felt strong. I felt capable. Finally. I finally felt like I might actually be worthy of this child who was entrusted to me.
As I began to recover from the physical and emotional trauma I experienced in the first few months of my son’s life, I began to witness life from a new perspective.
I realized the fragility of life that I never quite appreciated.
I realized the flaws in our healthcare system that I once revered.
When you mix up all these misfortunes, swaddle them with a screaming baby, and leave parents to their own devices, you have a recipe for disaster and heartbreak.
Like a sprout poking through the ashes after a wildfire, I began to grow into a new version of myself - deeply rooted in the old me, but budding with new, more amazing flowers. That strength and independence my husband once knew took a new form. My stubbornness helped me persevere through the hard times. But now, that girl who “knew it all” turned into a woman with acceptance for the fact that there is still so much to learn. Preconceived notions are simply that - and it’s okay to change your beliefs and life philosophy. It’s also okay to admit you don’t know what you don’t know.
I also learned to stop following people blindly. I don’t know what I don’t know, and they don’t know what they don’t know. Even subject matter experts are human. Don’t get me wrong - I have a massive amount of respect for doctors and nurses and other specialists. Now, I recognize the major flaws as well. I will no longer allow a physician to make decisions for me, but rather I will educate myself on healthcare concerns and engage my care provider in discussion. If said care provider disrespectfully dismisses that discussion as “overdramatic”, I now know I have the power to move on and find a provider who will, indeed, afford me the basic respect I deserve.
If you felt forced to make a certain decision, then that’s not a decision at all.
I no longer judge people as harshly as I did before I was a parent either. Social expectations don’t exactly always jive with what’s best for an individual family. Instead of judging that family for their choices, I try to understand their choices. I try to share information in a respectful manner. I try to ensure parents know that if they felt forced to make a certain decision, then that’s not a decision at all. At the end of the day, I found my passion. I found my passion for helping to ensure that parents have complete, accurate information, autonomy, respect, and support. I thought I was going to become a successful, well educated nurse who saved lives - but I became a mom who creates lives. I became a mom who’s ego has taken a back seat and allowed love to take the wheel. Maybe I’m softer than I once was, but in many ways I’m stronger as well. Motherhood changes all of us one way or another. For me it has re-shaped my passions, it has made me softer, it has made me stronger, and let’s not talk about how it’s made me a little crazier (that’s a different conversation for a different day)...
I went on to welcome our second Little Bear into this world via a birth of redemption and empowerment. Our breastfeeding challenges weren’t so scary this time, because I was more informed. My healthcare providers and his worked as a team with me ensuring quality healthcare built of a foundation of mutual respect.
This time, my family thrived as we grew.
I no longer feel like a victim of society.
What is the difference?
How has motherhood changed you?
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