I preface this post by saying that I had planned to write a lighthearted dig at Mummy Guilt. But then I started at the beginning of my experience with Mummy Guilt and well, suddenly I just started to go to town, resulting in more of a self indulgent post. So if you are expecting a funny, tongue in cheek post about the guilt that is Mummy Guilt…sorry but this isn’t it!
Mummy guilt is relentless. She is an evil enemy who poses as a friend and doesn’t care for your feelings or about the people you love. Mummy Guilt is a vicious, repetitive monster that is so very hard to leave behind. She is always there, lurking in the shadows. No matter how hard you try or how much love you shower your children with, Mummy Guilt somehow creeps in. And if you are not careful, she can steal from you what should be the most precious, important time in your life.
I met Mummy Guilt before my babies were even earth side, which I am sure is the case for other mummies too. At first it was just little glimpses like, “hi, hello- are you sure you should eat that?” Or “You really should be reading those baby books, all good mums read the baby books”…But boy oh boy, did she ramp it up when I was hospitalised with severe bleeding, a ruptured membrane and a dilated cervix, at 26+5 weeks. Was it that exercise I did? Was it the heat I exposed myself to at the beach? Was it the travelling in the car over Christmas? Was it the rearranging of furniture as I began to nest? Was it that I didn’t question my doctor when I should have? Was it the food I ate? Was it Karma for something I have done in the past? Was it that I have no business being a mother?….. the list went on and on and on. And I hadn’t even met my precious little warrior princesses yet.
On the magical (and traumatic) morning when my gorgeous girls greeted me, fortunately Mummy Guilt didn’t show her face. I was able to enjoy the moment, although it was quite different to anything I ever expected it to be. No matter how tiny and fragile my girls were, at the time all I felt was love and pride for what my husband and I had created. Hearing their cries as they entered the world filled my heart in a way that it has never been filled.
It wasn’t until 2 or 3 days into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) journey, that Mummy Guilt surfaced again. She mostly wanted to judge me for the time I couldn’t be with my girls. For the time I spent away from them. To begin with, I spent this time being closely monitored with an infection and round the clock antibiotics fed through my drip. I also expressed every three hours religiously, in my hospital bed. Oh and even more time away from them- at night, where I selfishly slept and tried to recuperate from the traumatic birth that I had experienced. Mummy Guilt expected me to be by my baby’s bedside twenty-four seven.
When I was finally discharged after 12 days, Mummy Guilt was one chunk of the reason why I cried hysterically the whole car ride home. For the first time, I really did leave my girls; I had to go home. I went home and left two parts of me at hospital. What a horrible, selfish thing to do. Even though Mummy Guilt knew that I had no choice in the matter, she still slept next to me at night. After being discharged, whenever I was a home, I tried to be zen for my own health. Yes I did practice Yoga everyday as the sensible, rational me knew that I needed this so that I did not go insane. Mummy Guilt, on the other hand thought that it was completely unnecessary and selfish. She also told me that the nurses judged me for the time that I was not at the hospital.
Then there was the time when a lovely, sweet nurse could see that I was not coping and that I had family visiting, so she suggested I spend an afternoon at home with them. I listened and I did just this, even though Mummy Guilt was yelling in my ear that I should always be with my babies. Well, Mummy Guilt won this one. Staying at home for my own mental health meant that I missed out on Daddy’s first cuddle and not just that, but also the first twin cuddle. This was something that broke me completely and required lots of help and time to work through the awful guilt and disappointment.
Mummy Guilt was already so present in my life and I had not yet even had the experience of taking my babies home. For the 91 days that my babies spent in hospital, she always had plenty more material to drown me in guilt: morning, day and night. I did not however let her ruin my time with my babies. I was fortunately able to cast her aside most of the time and focus on my precious baby girls.
And now comes the reason why I decided to write this post. I tried my absolute hardest to breastfeed my twins. I was there at the hospital, every day, giving my babies breast feeding practice every alternate feed, as they received my expressed breast milk through their nasal gastric tubes. Then when they were moved to special care and the focus was on gaining weight, it became a cycle of learning the bottle, having tube feeds and practising on the breast. They needed to be confident on the bottle and no longer need tube feeds to come home. So once they could feed without a tube and weighed over 3kg, we were allowed to take our little miracles home.
“Your twins will, no they must be exclusively breast fed within the first couple of weeks they are home”, Mummy Guilt told me. Well..sorry to disappoint, but this didn’t happen. My girls were never able to get a full feed from the breast. It is only recently I gave up (although we do still do some ‘breast feeds’ just for bonding). Mummy Guilt had me lose lots of sleep over this. Even though I spend hours expressing litres of milk, Mummy Guilt expected me to breast feed my babies until they turned one. But I have been able to let this go and move on with the new plan. I now always express whilst simultaneously feeding the twins my milk from a bottle.
And this brings me to today and the current argument I am having with Mummy Guilt. My bubs are now almost 8 months old and so she has me questioning, for how long do I continue this exhausting task that is expressing? My supply dropped with mastitis (this was hell) and I have had to supplement with some formula, which I know people judge and Mummy guilt makes sure I know this. It is her job to listen to the nonsense that people tell me about breast being best, and how I really should see another lactation consultant, and that formula can cause cancer (hello! I was formula fed, and I happen to think I turned out quite wonderfully!). Mummy Guilt doesn’t listen to the kind, positive things that people say, she only cares about the negative. She has absolutely no idea and no place in our lives and yet, here she is clouding my decision making and just filling me with sadness for even thinking about ceasing my milk making days.
Reading over this post, I hadn’t realised how present Mummy Guilt has been in my parenting journey so far. I was so focused on the tough decision that I have to make about feeding my babies that I had forgotten all the unkind things Mummy Guilt has already said to me in the past. I didn’t realise that I could dig up so much dirt on Mummy Guilt, but gosh has it helped me feel better!
As I reflect, I can see clearly that I don’t have time for Mummy Guilt; Mummy Guilt doesn’t know best. In fact, she doesn’t have a clue what she is talking about. Everybody’s parenting journey is different and the choices we make don’t need judgement. My introduction into motherhood was not ideal and I know that the most important thing I can do, is to give my babies love.
I believe that one day when I tell my gorgeous warrior princesses the story of their first year of their lives, they will be so proud and grateful that I was chosen to be their mummy.
So I choose to cast Mummy Guilt aside. I know I can do this, because I have done it before. I will do my absolute best to keep her away as I continue to enjoy the special moments with my baby girls every day. I don’t need to make any decisions immediately, but when I do decide to stop expressing (or make any other motherhood decisions, for that matter) it won’t be Mummy Guilt that makes the decision for me. She has no place in my life and nor should she.
Love to all mummies and may you have the strength tame your Mummy Guilt too! Because, You are amazing.