The second that second line showed up on the pee stick, I started reading anything and everything I could get my hands on (starting with the paper insert from that pregnancy test box and the 4 other boxes I had purchased just in case).
With motherhood looking at me down the barrel of the pregnancy gun, I felt unprepared. So reading seemed a natural reaction, it had always worked for me before.
So before the pee stick dried, I was at Barnes and Noble buying books. Well I pretended to consider buying books, while sipping bottled water in the cafe and browsing a towering stack of books. I read everything from the classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff to the sassy A Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine to the hysterical Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy to the earthy practical A Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson, to the extremely natural midwife Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I also read medical journals through my doctor husband’s subscription and watched endless television shows depicting various types of birth experiences.
I was suffering from information overload well before I even sat down at a computer and started googling stuff. My doctors most likely sighed when they saw my name on the schedule, because I came with questions, studies, research, and a birth plan of 2-3 typed detailed pages.
The point was that I didn’t take pregnancy lightly. Like many other new mothers, I wanted to be informed, but more importantly I didn’t want to screw it up. I wanted to do everything in my power to keep that little growing life inside of me as healthy as possible.
And if that meant…
no sushi, no fish with even a trace of mercury, not too many nuts or peanut butter (just in case it causes allergies), no caffeine (not even decaf coffee just in case), no harsh cleaning chemicals, no artificial sweeteners, no contact sports, not laying on my back to sleep, getting a flu shot and endless blood work, changing over to organic dairy and produce, and of course giving up wine despite that fact that European women somehow found a way to drink some without dying of guilt…
then I would do it.
(Heck if they told me I should sit in a bubble for 9 months or my baby wouldn’t be healthy; I would have done it.)
I will spare you my 4 birth stories, but with every childbirth I made tremendous sacrifices in the interest of my babies. I switched practices a week before my due date with my first baby, because I just couldn’t trust the doctor I had been seeing. I tried to go without pain medication for my first 2 births (the other 2 were planned c sections). I took no medication after the birth of all of my children c-sections or not, because I wanted to be alert and to keep my breastmilk pure. I traveled to the NICU every 45 minutes starting less than 24 hours after my 2nd baby was born prematurely to make sure he got as much of my milk as possible and no formula. I blamed myself for his early arrival, because I had been working too hard. I roomed in with all of my babies and wouldn’t let the nursery take them away even when I was up all night alone when my husband went home to take care of our other children.
I was the same way with my babies as infants. Holding them all of the time, reading to them several times a day (I even read to them all while in utero), wearing them in baby wraps, feeding them organic baby food (feeling guilty for not making my own), nursing as long as I could, not showing them television until age 2, rocking them to sleep, letting them sleep with me, constantly worrying about SIDS and checking them obessively…..
You get the idea. From the second I peed on the stick, I was 100% dedicated to being not just a good mother, but one that met impossible levels of perfection. Sure I relaxed a little with each of my 4 children, as I became more confident in my parenting abilities. But still, I worked damn hard to give all of them the best start in life.
But why am I writing all of this?
No, I believe that no matter what choices we make as mothers that by nature we want the best for our babies. We may not all breastfeed, or try natural childbirth or even buy organic baby food (gasp!). But, those choices don’t define us. What defines us as mothers is our instinct. The instinct to care for our babies with every ounce of our being regardless of how many boxes we can check off on the perfect mother checklist.
Do I hope to make other mothers feel in adequate?
No, the media does this all of the time, especially to mothers. We never feel like we are good enough. We feel like everything we do is constantly judged and stressed.
- Are the kids’ car seats installed properly?
- Are they getting too much BPA?
- Are their vaccinations saving their lives or infecting?
- Are their baby blankets silent killing machines?
- Will I be able to pull off everything I pinned for baby’s first birthday on Pintrest?
I don’t want to add more stress.But I do want to ask why do we as mothers hold ourselves to such impossibly high standards when our children are babies, but then let go so easily once our children become school age?
Shouldn’t we expect our schools to respect all of the time, effort, stress, and love that we put into our pregnancies and babies and to show the same amount of dedication to our children once they arrive at school?
Why do so many mothers stop researching and reading when their children turn 5? Does our job only include the time from the womb to the classroom? Or are we missing something by trusting our schools blindly to finish the job that we worked so hard at for all of those years?
Yes, I know we are tired, but all it takes is a little bit of time. Carve a few minutes from the DVR, or Facebook, or Pintrest and look into what is best for your school age child’s development. Then look into whether those needs are being met at school.
- Do your kids feel safe and happy?
- Are they excited about learning and going to school?
- How much screen time are they getting at school?
- Is the work too hard or too easy?
- Is the work interesting or boring?
- Are there enough field trips and other curriculum-enriching activities?
- Are your board members and administrators informed and working for positive changes?
Education reform is happening right now. The schools, curriculum, instruction, and tests are changing. We work hard to give our children the best in life. And only WE can make sure that the schools are furthering those efforts. Please join so many of us who are already finding our voices on blogs, on Facebook, at school board meetings and PTA/PTO meetings.
(And I want to give a shout out to the fathers too. This post focused a lot on my experience as a mother, but dad’s have the same instincts too. Historically PTA/PTO meetings have been mom-centric, but it does not need to stay that way. Fathers bring a unique perspective to the table and are a hugely untapped resource in many school districts outside of sports.)
How have you impacted education in your school district or state? I would love to hear about it!