My son Rowan, as a tiny infant.I have made a ton of mistakes in parenting, and I'll tell you -- I don't feel guilty nor defensive about a single one.
I'd never really been around babies when I got pregnant with my son, Rowan. The youngest child I'd spent any real time with was 11 months old, and quite precocious and self-reliant. I couldn't remember ever seeing anyone breastfeed and couldn't tell you the difference between a Diaper Genie and a Snugli. I also had no local support system, because I'd moved 2,000 miles away from all my friends and family to live with my Navy husband.
In short, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.
What I did know though was that this was going to take work, and like anything else in my life, I wanted to be as educated as possible before going into it. Just like making my mom pay for me to take practice tests before the real ones and pushed back getting my driver's license by a couple months so I could try to be perfect -- there was no way I was going into parenting without actually having an idea of what to expect and "knowing" (hah!) how I'd handle different situations.
My OB's office gave me a gift bag with a spankin' new copy of a very popular pregnancy book. I'd heard of it, and thought it must be factual and trustworthy. I loved the layout, the information and the sections on each stage of development. I called it my Bible. By the end of pregnancy, I'd picked up and read through the entire sequel for the first year as well, confident that I now knew what I was doing, what choices I was going to make, etc. I subscribed to a couple very popular magazines as well.
The problem with the book and magazines was that they tried way, way too hard to be politically correct in lieu of giving solid, factual information, and I later learned how much misinformation and product-bias (from donations, no doubt) there really was as well.
But I digress ...
Rowan's room that he never used full of stuff we never touched.The carseat I had was one that ended up being recalled six months later for being essentially useless in an accident but had been highly recommended by a book (which in retrospect was probably an ad made to look like an article). I had a nursery full of stuff that books and magazines swore I needed and I ended up never using. Diaper Genie, crib, dresser with changing table on top -- the list goes on and on.
My son was born perfectly healthy (despite the birth, which we won't discuss here), and when it was time to feed him, I was told to use the hospital's double pump to make sure I had enough colostrum to feed him before I could nurse. So, there I sat and pumped and got out about three tablespoons, which they applauded and said was an amazing amount, that they proceeded to feed to him on a spoon. Then I was allowed to nurse. Sigh. (That was a ridiculously stupid, incredibly worthless, and potentially damaging "rule" they had. Makes me wonder what they'd have done if I hadn't been producing lots of colostrum ....)
Fast-forward to a day or two later when we're home from the hospital, baby won't stop crying, we've got a billion bottles of pre-made formula (thanks, hospitals ... not -- Ban the Bags!) and I'm exhausted, convinced I can't nurse enough, telling hubby to bottle-feed Rowan even though he doesn't want to give him formula and eventually baby vomits like the exorcist and stops breathing. Long story short, a five-day stay at the specialty children's hospital gave us a diagnosis of extreme Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
I'd strap him into the Snugli that was supposed to make him happy but made us both miserable because it was stiff and he was really too small for it, put him in the swing that made him happy (but ran on batteries and was really only meant as a travel swing) and tried to fly by the seat of my pants. All that reading I'd done was really rather worthless for anything other than actually knowing how to keep this thing alive, what order his teeth might come in, and of course, knowing the signs of a million random infections and diseases that for the most part never reared their head. He slept in my bed because I was too tired most of the time to even lift him over into the playpen with a bassinet insert (another thing I thought you HAD to have).
It wasn't until my husband was deployed (and I'd stopped using formula because I was too lazy and tired) that we got his GERD under control -- thanks to the "Breastfeeding Your Reflux Baby" group I'd found on a forum for moms. Then I started learning more and more: that my carseat was really dangerous, co-sleeping was actually okay, my Snugli hurt because it was a bad carrier, I had plenty of breast milk, formula was making the GERD worse, and there were medications we could even use. And no thanks to the !%#$*%!^ pediatrician (who had no children), but we did get medication and suddenly Rowan was like a different child.
I think the most valuable resource out of everything I'd had was other moms -- the information they shared and pointed me to helped me the most. Occasionally someone would tell me that something I was doing or had done was a bad idea and they'd tell me why. God, how I soaked this all up! These women helped me save my breastfeeding relationship (which went on for 28 months), and I got my son into a safe carseat. I tried cloth diapers, learned how to safely co-sleep, and realized that I had a bad pediatrician who was way out of line (told me to have a 2-month-old CIO!), amongst other things.
I am grateful every day that I was open and willing to learn from them. Sometimes things were phrased meanly, but I read what they meant instead of how it came out (even if I did have to walk away to think about it). Sometimes they pointed out the poor choices I'd make and I'd feel bad but never did I lash out at them -- after all, it's not their fault I made a poor or misinformed choice -- and some of them had made the mistakes I was making or about to make. I was able to learn through their experience as well, and maybe save myself or my child some problems, thanks to those ladies.
Rowan, playing with his sister, Aurora.Because I was willing to learn, willing to admit mistakes, open to asking for help, and really valued the lessons I shared, I changed so much into the amazing mom I'm proud to be. When my daughter was born, I was able to go into it so much more educated and confident that the newborn period wasn't even stressful, but wonderful and special. I never once worried if the carseat was installed or used correctly, whether I had enough milk, if I should be forcing her to sleep in a crib, or anything. I am at ease not because I am just going with the flow or with what works, but because I know that I am making the BEST decisions for her health AND mine.
It's so much easier this time, and I'm comfortable knowing that the mistakes I've made in the past are in the past. I will not make them again because I learned to do better and I still, even now, never stop learning and seeking out knowledge. I also never feel guilty or lash out at people who correct me, but welcome correction and thank those who give it and openly share my mistakes. I know that at all times I put in 100 percent, and on bad days, can admit to myself where I went wrong. I do my hardest, I do what is proven safest and healthiest. I'm never upset with mistakes I've made because I know I was doing the best I could with what I knew at the time and am honest with myself.
I want people to share their mistakes and fully admit to them because it helps them be a better parent, rid of guilt, and prevent others from making the same mistakes. Also, if god forbid anything ever happens to your child, you won't have to consider that maybe if you'd done what you knew was better but didn't for whatever reason, it could have been prevented.
There's no reason to feel guilty if you know you're doing the best you possibly can at all times, and are willing to change your ways if you learn that you're not at your best. People who point out areas you could improve aren't doing so to be mean, either, so don't lash out at them or accuse them of "making" you feel a certain way. Only you control your emotions. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said,
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Remember that ... every time you start to get upset at someone trying to help you. They don't make you feel any way -- you choose to feel that way, and maybe it's worth figuring out why instead of attacking people who try to help. If it weren't for those people, there'd be a lot more dead and sick babies and upset and scared new moms.
What mistakes have you made in the past and how did you learn to do better?