Before my daughter was born, I was an absolute wreck, convinced that we would be completely overwhelmed by and unprepared for the world of parenting. But when she arrived something amazing happened: the moment she was placed in my arms, all of my self-doubt disappeared and I was filled with a overwhelming sense that it would be okay. I was going to be a good mom, mistakes and all.
After announcing her birth, I received so many reassuring messages from other moms telling me that I should trust myself and try not to be too hard on myself. I wasn’t sure how to respond because, the thing was, I knew I was a good mom and that when I did mess up on occasion it was totally normal. I had pretty realistic expectations about motherhood and didn’t get down on myself when things didn’t go as planned (because when do they ever?). With the exception of a few sleep-deprived incidents, I had successfully avoided the infamous mom guilt that haunts so many new mothers.
And then we went to her 6-month check-up. My big baby girl – who had been in the 90th percentile for weight at her 2 & 4 month weigh-ins – had suddenly dropped down to the 80th percentile. The doctor was a bit surprised but she wasn’t concerned, attributing it to her becoming more mobile and starting solids. She suggested upping her solid food intake and said she would see us again in 3 months. All-in-all, a pretty uneventful check-up.
And yet what I heard during the appointment was “You’re an awful mom. How could you not have noticed? Your baby girl is wasting away right before your eyes! How did you let this happen?” You see, my baby is breastfed … so that food source that had – in my eyes – failed to fatten her up over the past 2 months? That was me. I went home, put my daughter down for her nap, and then proceeded to sob for 20 minutes straight. I was overcome with such an enormous sense of failure that I suddenly felt incredibly unworthy of the beautiful baby sleeping before me. In my mind, I had failed the most basic mom requirement. I apologized to her over and over again for letting her down and felt so awful that she had been given to me, instead of the wonderful mother that she deserved. The past six months of love, laughter, and successful check-ups completely vanished from my mind.
Still crying, I made some tea and sat down to eat lunch. After refueling and taking a few deep breaths, I stopped crying and started researching some new nutrient-dense purees to make for my sweet babe. Slowly but surely, I started to feel like myself again. The good memories and knowledge that I am, in fact, a good mama bear slowly crept back into my mind. When my baby woke, I showered her with hugs and kisses – as I do every time she wakes up – and I breathed her in deeply.
A few hours later, when it had fully passed, it struck me that what I had just experienced full-blown Mom Guilt. Sure, I’d been hit by it before – but never this hard. This was like being brainwashed – I completely lost sight of the bigger picture and was consumed by the idea that I was the world’s worst mother. It’s something that happens to all moms at one point or another and I know, without a doubt, it will happen to me again. My hope for my future self and all moms out there is that, when it does strike again, I’m able to take a step back and put things in context. And, above all, to remember that one misstep does not a bad mother make. Because life will always have its ups and downs – and its imperfect check-ups – but, at the end of the day, I’m still a great mama with a baby bee that wants nothing more than to be showered with my hugs and kisses.