It happened again. I spent way too much time in the Target baby food aisle trying to decide what to feed my little man and fighting the judgement I felt from myself.
The Target baby food aisle and I have a long history. We began our relationship when my two and a half year old baby girl was just 6 weeks old. You see, I had plans. I was going to nurse her until she was at least a year. I did not understand why people would make the choice to not breastfeed. I mean, it is best for babies, great for moms, convenient, cost-effective, and natural. If you couldn’t nurse, it was simply because you did not have enough resources to get you through it.
And then I had our sweet girl and all my plans went out the door, along with my ego, my perceptions on being a mom, and my preconceived notions on what makes a good parent.
Let me apologize now to all the parents that I wrongly judged before I became one myself. I am so sorry. I had no right to think the things I thought or to have said the things I said. Life handed me a big plate of crow and it has changed me.
Despite my best efforts and I do mean best, tried everything and anything efforts, I do not produce enough nutrients to help my babies grow through nursing. My little lady was starving by the time she hit 6 weeks. Growing mere fractions of ounces when she should have been gaining pounds by then.
Break my heart. Knock me down. Feel like a failure. Cry for months.
I tried even harder with my second, pulling out every stop and seeking out every resource. But it is my reality.
Two and a half years ago I had to walk down that baby food aisle and buy our daughter formula. You know, the devil’s juice as some mom boards might have you think. The formula can even says “Breast milk is best for babies.” Really?!?! Really formula can?!?! Even you are knocking me down and letting me know I am not doing what is best?! Well guess what formula can, I cannot give them my breast milk. They do not grow. They will starve to death if I do not give them what is not best. You, formula can, have become my best option.
Ehh, so I shameful buy the formula can, feeling judged because I had judged so many before me. There was that crow again that I have to eat each time I go down that aisle and to the check out or in public when I shake my formula into water for my child to eat.
I have made my peace with my inability to nurse, kind of, and have moved on, kind of.
Now, I am grappling with feeding my little man solids. We are in the stage where I am a really busy full-time working mom, who has 2 kids 2 and under, and still want what is best for my babes and have to balance between being the ideal mom who home-makes all the baby food or who just breaks down and buys some. I made all of our daughter’s. I took pride in being able to make her food, as I wasn’t able to nurse her. This I could do. Well, turns out she is a crummy eater. Her homemade food, with the variety of vegetables, fruits, spices, etc. had proved to have done nothing in the sense of making her a great eater. I planned to home-make all of our little man’s food too. But, this became a stressful thing, as it was another thing I needed to do in my limited time at home. I decided that I would remove this from my plate as there are other alternatives available, such as buying store bought baby food. See my post on re-priortitizing-and-re-structuring.
On that last trip to the Target baby food aisle, I was there to buy baby food. The adorable, colorful, organic pouches sit on one side, while on the other side are the cost-effective, more traditional jars, which are now plastic containers. Total conundrum. Do I buy the ones that are adorable and organic and modern in their sleek pouch style? Or, do I buy the ones that look like they’ve been around since before I was born, they do only have natural ingredients, but are not in fun pouches (that I squeeze out into another container anyways), and cost literally less than half…..
There it came. The judgement again. I knew which was the better choice for our family. The cheaper ones. But, my son is my baby and all babies deserve the best… Isn’t the best the adorable, modern ones?! Internal struggle. I could buy the cheap ones to use at home but also buy the pouches to use when we are in public, so people won’t think I am less of a mom for settling with the basic baby food. A woman walks into the aisle and moves towards to organic, modern, adorable things and I put my head down in shame and then I think, really?! Really. How lame am I? The reason you feel as though this woman or anyone in public is judging you is because you once judged others like you. You have thought these thoughts of others and now you think everyone thinks this way. This woman probably doesn’t even notice you are here, or if so, you are probably just blocking her way, as you’ve been standing in this aisle having this struggle for the past 10 minutes. This is ridiculous. Get over yourself and just get your baby some dang food.
So, I fill my cart with 20 of those cheaper, non-organic, non-modern, non-adorable, baby food containers, and scolded myself for being that person that I cannot stand. The one who is so worried with what other people think that they cannot even make a simple decision.
Those trips down that Target baby food aisle are not a pretty walk for me. They reveal some of my biggest truths.
Truth- I failed at breastfeeding. In all the traditional ways, I failed at it. I get that we can sugar-coat it, but the reality is I am a part of the statistic of women who cannot nurse. I know that I am not a failure as a mom and that I tried my best, etc. etc. but I have to buy formula. We have a natural disaster and run out of formula, I am screwed. <insert irrational anxiety> I cannot breastfeed my children. They will not grow. There it is. Truth stated.
Truth- I really have not found peace with not being able to nurse and it is something I am going to grapple with for a while. However, I do know that this is a small setback in life’s plans and that it is something that we can easily overcome, by buying formula. I am grateful for our newborn “crisis” being relatively, practically nothing compared to what some families go through. I know it could have been something so much bigger, scarier, harder.
Truth- Things rarely work out as planned. However, they do work out. I have to find peace with this and rely on my faith to know that there is purpose and that it will be okay, just not necessarily in the way I had envisioned.
Truth- All parents want what is best for their children. However, what is best is not the same for everyone. I found what was best for my children. It doesn’t necessarily always fit what society or packaging or even well-intention people think it is.
Truth- I am judgmental. This is the hardest truth of all that I am hit with every time I walk down that baby food aisle. This is not a trait that I like or that I am proud of. It is a trait I am working very hard at changing. My experience with nursing has taught me so much about this and I have become much less judgmental because of it. If going through this experience made me realize how judgmental I was and helped me to see other perspectives more, then I am grateful for this experience. It has and will continue to help me grow.
So there it is. My battle in the baby food aisle. It seems so small but it really does stop me in my tracks. I think the biggest take away from it is, that no matter how you feed your baby, and there are plenty of options out there, you are feeding your baby. You are providing your little one with nutrients and love and helping them grow. It isn’t your breast, your bottle, your homemade food, your adorable pouches, your basic store-bought baby food, etc. that define you as a mother.
Your role as a mother is defined by how you love them, support them, give them what they need, and find what is best for them and for your family, within your own abilities.