Being a new mom is so hard. Not only do you feel clueless and overwhelmed, but because of the way so many moms treat each other, you often feel like you're totally screwing up. It takes a long time to figure out that, yes, you are going to be OK, and even longer to figure out that successful parenting is not "one-size-fits-all" and looks different for every family and every kid. I honestly wouldn't have gotten here without the mom who stood up for me after I had a baby. And, sadly, she will probably never know how she made a difference in my life, because I didn't tell her.
Ironically, the mom who stood up for me postpartum — a coworker and friend — was someone I, myself, had seriously judged. I was such a perfect parent before I actually became a parent (aren't we all?). We were pregnant at the same time — me with my first baby, and her with her second. She planned to formula-feed her baby from the start. She wasn't even going to try to breastfeed. And I? Well, I couldn't believe it. I was such a b*tch, and to this day I have no clue why she didn't tell me off.
Then we both had our babies, and nothing worked out the way I expected. Despite wanting desperately to breastfeed my daughter, and nearly killing myself trying, my body had other plans. I experienced all kinds of shaming for supplementing with formula, and ultimately switching entirely when I went back to work. She was literally my only friend who helped me navigate how to choose and use formula. She was also my only friend who didn't judge me, make nasty comments, or try to change my mind. Everyone else made me feel terrible to the point I started thinking that I had failed as a mother. When we returned to work and another co-worker shamed me publicly for "failing at breastfeeding," she stood up for me. She told the person shaming me to, "leave her alone and mind your own boobs." It was awesome. It was one of those moments I will never forget, but I couldn't even muster a "thank you" because I was so ashamed at the time. There are so many things I wish I had said.
So, since I can't go back in time, I'm saying them now. Consider this a love letter to her and all the other rock star moms who stand up for new moms when they need a friend and ally in the so-called "mommy wars." I am trying my hardest to be like you, and you deserve some serious thanks.
The simplest words are often the hardest to say, but thank you. Seriously. You probably don't even remember the moment, but I will never forget you and how you stood up for me.
"Your Small Action Made A Huge Difference"
I felt so ashamed that I couldn't breastfeed, judged by other moms, and embarrassed in the moment because I couldn't respond and I have never been one to take verbal abuse without standing up for myself. It might have felt easy for you to jump in, with a few words in my defense, but your words made me feel so empowered.
Kindness matters. In fact, it's probably the only thing that matters in the long run. Your willingness to jump in and defend me when you literally had no stake in the outcome says a lot about who you are as a person. You are awesome.
"Asking For Help Is So Hard"
When you are a new mom it feels like you're failing when you admit that you need help. Thank you for jumping in without me asking, and supporting me through some horrific postpartum moments, so I didn't have to admit that I wasn't OK.
"The Mommy Wars Are So Messed Up"
It took me years to get over the guilt of feeding my daughter formula. Can we please get over the mommy wars? It seems like so many moms feel like they have to cut other moms down to feel good about their own parenting, or defend their own choices as sacrosanct rather than admit that there are so many ways to be a good parent. You lifted me up instead of cutting me down. That's real support.
"I Hope You Don’t Judge Me"
I thought everything was going to be so perfect, and it was so different. This mom thing so much harder than I imagined it would be, and when you are a new mom you make tons of mistakes. It sort of goes with the territory. I was so afraid of failure, that I pulled away from friends like you, which made things so much harder and sort of created a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wish I hadn't done that.
"I Want To Be Like You"
Over the years I've slowly grown into my role as a mom, and look to you for inspiration. The moment when you defended me, along with your continued support and judgement-free friendship, inspired me to stand up for myself and for other moms when they are shamed for their parenting choices. Thanks in part to you, I no longer have any f*cks to give about what other moms think of me or patience for mom-shaming on the playground, on the internet, or in the formula aisle. #momgoals
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