Mom Guilt: The Working Mom, Breastfeeding Edition
Becoming a mother brings its own sets of challenges. They all bring their own rollercoaster of emotions. One of the biggest difficulties mothers feel is the dreaded Mom Guilt. We all feel it at some point. The feeling can be overwhelming.
Working Moms spent a lot of time and energy creating the career they wanted and dreamed of. Having a baby can be a huge curveball in that. For me, I was stable in my career, so I felt ready to be a momma. No one can prepare you perfectly for those first few weeks or months of motherhood. They are absolutely challenging. The hard part is preparing to go back to work after finally getting into a rhythm with your newborn. There it is. The Mom Guilt. Should I go back to work? Should I stay home? For me, I owned my business and had an obligation to my business and my patients to return. It wasn’t a question of if I’d go back, but when I would go back. I answered calls from work the day I gave birth. I was never truly off work, but physically I was blessed to stay home for 6 weeks. Leading up to returning to work, I felt such guilt. Was I depriving my baby of her mom time? It’s such a tough time and those awful thoughts caused me such sadness. No, I was not taking time from my child. I was showing her that hard work pays off and my career is my calling. I love helping others and this is something I worked hard to achieve. Ugh, mom guilt. My family told me I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I still did. It took a while to accept it.
Breastfeeding is Difficult
I will start by saying fed is best. I’m writing it here so that if any New Working Mommas read this, I am reminding them that fed is best. Whatever that means to you personally. At the hospital, I had an extremely difficult time figuring out how to breastfeed. I told myself before I had my daughter that I would not put a ton of pressure on myself to breastfeed because I knew I would have to go back to work and it would be difficult. The lactation consultants were so great. I called them every time I tried to breastfeed, and if they were around, they would come and give tips. They suggested I pump to help bring in my milk. I don’t know how or why but once I starting pumping at the hospital, I became obsessed with making sure I could breastfeed my daughter as long as I could. I was determined to breastfeed her when I was with her and pump when I wasn’t. IT WAS HARD.
You would think that I would have it easy. I owned my business. I could set my time to pump throughout the day. Wrong. A working doctor is not an easy job to have and pump. I blocked 15 minutes every 3 hours on my schedule to pump. Yeah right. A patient would have a ton more questions after I discussed in depth their condition. So I was behind and would have to go to the next patient. A surgery took longer and I wouldn’t have time to stop in-between my cases to pump. I would hear a patient get testy with staff because “they were waiting.” They ignored the fact that they were 30 minutes late to their appointment, so it was my time to pump since I thought they weren’t showing up. I could hear my staff explaining they were sorry and the patient responding, “I don’t care. She needs to see me now.” I just sat and pumped and cried. Honestly, 90% of my patients are sweet and amazing. This one rude person is a rarity. It hurt me but I was determined to breastfeed my daughter. It consumed me. I was exhausted. I stayed up late to pump enough milk for her. I “power-pumped” every other day to increase my milk. I made lactation cookies. Took vitamins. You name it, I tried it. It drained me. I thought “well I had to go back to work and was not with my daughter; at least she would have momma’s milk. It would make her strong. It would make up for the fact I needed to work.” MOM GUILT.
I pumped late at night to make a freezer stash for when I was at work. My mother didn’t breastfeed me. Why did I think I had to? I made it 9 months exclusively breastfeeding and pumping. 11 months breastfeeding at home and sending formula/mixed with frozen breastmilk to school. It was too much. A happy, not stressed mother is a better mom. I put so much pressure on myself to breastfeed that I avoided a lot of social gatherings because I was dreading pumping to have milk to go out to the event. I was not comfortable breastfeeding in public since my daughter took a long time to feed. After I stopped breastfeeding, I realized how incredibly insane I was to put that pressure on myself. I did enjoy the closeness with my baby. That alone time we spent. The happiness I got from knowing I gave her milk. I fed her. I just wish I realized that I didn’t need to worry so much about it.