Guilt. Shame. Self-Loathing.
Sound familiar? Let me share my story with you.
Around 4 months of age, my daughter’s weight gain drastically slowed down to the point that she fell off the World Health Organization (WHO) charts. My milk supply had dropped, so I did just about everything to increase my supply. My efforts were falling short, so at 6 months of age, we began supplementing with formula and introduced solids. Margaret gained a pound in about 5 days once we started supplementing.
The picture on the top left is Margaret around that age.
I used to look at the pictures from that time and feel awful. In my mind, I had unknowingly been starving my child.
I remember the comments about how tiny she was. I hated hearing those comments. They reminded me of how hard of a time I had working to increase my supply, only to fail. I felt horrible that her weight had fallen off the charts.
Fast forward a couple years. This past November I got sick and had to cold-turkey wean my son. Once he started on formula, he started gaining weight like crazy. He had been at a perfectly healthy weight while I was breastfeeding, but his weight gain went through the roof once he switched from exclusively breastmilk to formula.
All I heard at family gatherings over the holidays was,
“He’s so huge!”
“How much does he weigh?”
“He’s a bruiser!”
“How much does he weigh?”
“What a chunker!”
“How much does he weigh??”
The picture on the bottom left is Charles about a week ago right before his 9 month checkup. He is in the 96th percentile for weight, close to the complete opposite end of the charts compared to his sister when she was a baby.
It took me several months to stop feeling the sting when I heard the comments about how huge he is. It hurt so bad when I had to wean him. Every time someone mentioned his weight, it reminded me of that awful period I went through.
I felt like I couldn’t win.
“Margaret is so tiny!”
“Charles is HUGE!”
No one ever meant for those comments to be hurtful, but the pain was still very real to me.
The two pictures on the right are Margaret and Charles together. Margaret is a peanut and Charles is my little chunker. Charles will likely pass his sister in weight at age 1 when she is 3 1/2 yrs old.
I used to compare Margaret to other babies her age and it broke my heart. It hurt because of the pain I had experienced when we struggled with my milk supply. It hurt because I thought I had been starving my daughter and that it would cause irreparable damage.
I used to compare Charles to other babies his age and it broke my heart. It hurt because of the pain I had experienced when I was sick and had to wean him. It hurt because I thought I would never connect with him and bond the way I did when I breastfed him.
Now I look at my sweeties as they truly are through a much healthier lens. My two beautiful children. Both so sweet and so happy. They are perfectly fine. In fact, they’re fantastic. I love them so much. And I don’t care if they’re bigger or smaller than other kids. Their size doesn’t make them any better or worse than other kids.
I know this is just the beginning and that to an extent, I will always struggle with comparing my kids to other kids. But with both my daughter and son, I have learned 4 very important lessons:
- When we become parents, we’re all beginners.
- We all will have different experiences and will constantly be learning and growing. We’ll have struggles, and that’s okay.
- We have to look at the big picture.
- No, I wasn’t thrilled to begin supplementing with my daughter and it hurt to make an overnight switch to formula with my son. However, I can now step back and view those experiences with a much better perspective. Those choices were in the best interest of my children and myself as well. It all worked out.
- We have to give ourselves a lot of grace.
- I beat myself up so much during and following those two difficult times with my kids. I was so incredibly hard on myself. Where did all that guilt and shame get me? NOWHERE! Daily I have to remind myself to give myself lots and lots of grace. We all have to.
- God will always meet us where we are.
- God loves us as we are, no matter how messy and broken. He brings beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). God will grow and stretch us if we allow Him to.
Mamas, let’s trade in our guilt for grace. Our shame for self-respect. Our self-loathing for love.
What have you struggled with that has brought you guilt? Shame? Self-loathing? How can you trade in those feelings for grace, self-respect, and love? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.