Love yourself. Love your baby.

My Grandma Doris holding my Mom as a baby in 1950.
Me holding my 9 day old son this summer
(photo credit: CL Images & Artistry)

I was recently going through the photos from my son's newborn photo shoot, when I realized the striking resemblance of me holding my son and my Grandma Doris holding my Mom as a baby. Seeing these photos side-by-side conjured a whole heap of emotions for me. I notice the similarities of how proud we are of our little son & daughter. We both have that "I made this" look on our faces. Our sleeping babes look like tiny little angels cradled in our arms. You can already tell how tired we are, but that doesn't matter to us. All that time wishing and hoping throughout our pregnancies, had finally grown into this joyous moment that I know we both treasure in our hearts.

After staring at these photos for awhile, I begin to notice the differences as well. I think about the different worlds we raised and are raising our babies in. I know it was tough for my Grandma. There wasn't the medical discoveries we have come to know in our ever-changing, ever-evolving world. There was minimal electricity in her rural Alberta home, and being that my Mom was born in April, it was right at the height of spring work on the farm. Gardens had to be planted, meals cooked from scratch, diapers washed by hand, knitting, sewing, cleaning - the list goes on and on. All of that work, would make any modern Mom's head spin - myself included. Yeah, you could say we have it easy with all of our modern day advances - except for one major piece of the puzzle - the new Mom's well-being.

Postpartum depression has always been around. It's not something new. It's real and its a scary slope that a new mom is often thinking about in the back of her busy, sleepless mind. I can't imagine how frightening a mental illness was in the 1950's, when my Mom was born. It was something that couldn't be explained. If it did happened to you, there wasn't the support or knowledge we have today. The poor, innocent Mom, if she was brave enough to seek help, was hastily diagnosed as "neurotic".

Now, new mothers are closely monitored for any inkling of depression. We are provided with all the mental checklists and told about the signs to watch for, and our partners are taught the same. So with this vast, continual knowledge of postpartum - how are there still cases of a Mom's depression going undetected and heartbreaking stories of suicide? How is this still happening?

That takes me back to the photos and the different time periods in which my Grandma and I became moms. My Grandma certainly had her hands full in raising a family with all the extra work to be done around the house and farm. When it came to her and her baby though - it was just her and her baby. She wasn't inundated with overwhelming information the moment she became pregnant. There were no daily (make that hourly) judgements from family, friends, neighbours, doctors, nurses, strangers, celebrities and TV personalities. There were no comparisons made to how you were doing as a mother found on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and Google. There were no books to read - you just trusted your gut and soaked up the knowledge your Mom and Grandma gave you. That's it.

Since becoming a Mom, I can't believe the amount of information and advice I have been given. Some of it has been unbelievably helpful - some of it - not so much. It started the moment we found out we were expecting. We have, and I'm sure will continue to be those extremely nervous parents. As soon as something happens to our son and we aren't sure what to do, my husband instantly has Google at his fingertips. We ask other parents, our parents, doctors, nurses and there have been quite a few calls to Alberta Healthlink (a service we are very grateful for). We have learned to take all of the information with "a grain of salt", because we know that every baby is different. Its been hard, but I think we are finally catching on. We are the perfect example of - if you go looking for knowledge on raising babies - you will certainly find it, and then some.

I think the hardest part though, is the unsolicited advice we are given. You can also classify it as "mom-shaming" or "parent-shaming". I have been incredibly lucky to have awesome support from my family, close friends and excellent public health nurses in our area. They tell us what worked for them, but never push their parenting outlooks onto us. I'm talking about the random strangers who decide they need to tell you what they think. Those snide comments that can turn a perfectly normal day into a shitty one pretty fast.

One of my first outings with my little one was to a local farmer's market. I was nervous to be out, but happy to seek some fresh air and spend a day with my Mom. We were touring the different vendors when out of nowhere this random woman, quite loudly said -

"Yes, you see that blanket she has on the stroller? - that is NOT the way you do it".

I stopped in my tracks and looked down at my blanket covered stroller and instantly wanted to hide in the nearest bushes. What this woman didn't know, was that I had just gotten my gassy little guy to sleep after a painful bout of crying due to his tummy troubles. He had awful gas problems in the beginning and we spent many sleepless nights because of it. She also didn't know that I was checking under my blanket (which wasn't a blanket at all, but a light muslin throw) every 2 minutes to see if my son was okay and if was too warm for him. So there I was, enjoying a nice, summer day out of the house with my Mom and month-old son, when a complete stranger ruined it. Thanks lady.

That's just one example. There were many more and I'm sure many more to come. So what's with the Mom-shaming? Do people not realize this is the hardest job on the planet? Why is it anyone's concern what I do with my son? Am I breast-feeding? Bottle-feeding? Co-sleeping? Making my own baby-food? Why do you care? Unless you are a fellow Mom and want advice - butt-out.

I know moms who have breast-fed, I know mom's who have bottle-fed and I know mom's who have done both. Guess what? All of their children are perfectly healthy and happy. The pressure to breast-feed can only be described as intense. Yes, we all know the benefits. Yes, we all know the rewards. Simply put - if it doesn't end up working for you - that is okay. You and your baby will be fine. Thank the Lord there is formula for anyone who can't breastfeed. I recently read of a woman who committed suicide because of her pressure to breastfeed her baby. That story broke my heart. There is now a child out there - without a mother - because she felt she wasn't good enough. There is something seriously wrong with that.

I wish every mom knew what a great job they were doing.  If your baby is loved, you're doing it right. However, there is another major part of motherhood that is often overlooked - loving yourself. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. I once heard of the perfect analogy for this. You know when they give you the safety demo before a flight? When it comes to the part about the oxygen masks - they always say you need to put yours on first before you assist anyone else. That's completely true for parenting, you have to take care of yourself first, before you can take care of your baby. So if you are feeling down, seek help. Phone a friend, talk to your doctor - do whatever you can to make yourself feel good again. Do not be ashamed. Do not be afraid. Do not try to be super-mom. Your baby will love you no matter what, and that is the only opinion that matters.

In a perfect, judgement free world, I wish every hospital, every health unit, every parenting book would be spreading these words: Love yourself. Love your baby. That's it.


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