Finding your own right way to be a mother

Remember that time when you knew exactly what you were doing and you were completely confident in your abilities as a mother? When you thought, “Oh yah, I got this. I’m totally rockin’ this whole parenting thing?”

If you’re nodding your head and reflecting on that precious memory, well played Mama. I salute you.

If you want to punch me in the face for even suggesting such a feeling is possible, get in line and wait your turn.

I’ve been a mother for about three and half years now. Raising two boys while trying to manage my anxiety is damn hard at the best of times. Faced with the excessive, often conflicting, information, opinions, theories, and musings about what is best for children, (read: what a good mother does), it’s nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed and overcome with self-doubt.

Case in point: The Swaddle

Oh, how I simultaneously love and loathe the almighty swaddle technique. In the days after my first son, Lukas, was born, the nurses would bundle him up like a burrito in those soft, pre-warmed blankets and he would instantly be soothed to sleep. It was magic, and my son loved it.

In fact, he loved the swaddle so much he wouldn’t sleep any other way. No problem, right? Just keep swaddling. Easy peasy.

Ha! Not quite. Once he starting moving around more, Lukas was no longer content to be confined in what was essentially a straightjacket. He became a master escape artist. No matter how tightly he was wrapped, he would somehow manage to wriggle at least one arm out. I still shiver at the memory of peeking in his room shortly after putting him down, only to discover that his tiny hand had found its way out. Sheer horror, I tell you. It was only a matter of time before the whole arm would be free, and when that happened, it was game over. No swaddle. No sleep. For anyone.

Lukas could not keep from flailing his arms and smacking himself in the head, so my husband and I felt we had no choice but to rely on the swaddle, or some variation of blanket-wrapping, until he was able to sleep on his belly. By that time he was enormous and I was literally tying to swaddle him in a bed sheet. Thank God we were able to break him of the swaddle before resorting to duct tape. Pretty sure that’s where we were headed.

Never once did I question the swaddle. After all, it was the hospital nurses who showed us how to do it, and the dude who wrote “The Happiest Baby on the Block” gives it the hard sell. Frankly, it was the only thing that helped my son sleep, and that was enough for me to give it two big thumbs up.

So, imagine my shock a few weeks ago when an article called New guidelines highlight risks of swaddling babies popped up in my Twitter feed.

“Not the beloved swaddle,” I lamented. “Say it ain’t so!”

Ok, perhaps it was more of a “WTF? Are you effing kidding me?” thought process but the sentiment is the same.

One more thing for an anxious mother to be anxious about. Trust me, there’s always something. Something to worry about, something to agonize over – breast or bottle, co-sleep or crib, cry it out or pick ’em up. The list is endless.

Today it’s swaddling, but tomorrow it will be something else. There will always be some new study, article, blog or argument that pokes holes in our confidence, allowing the self-doubt to seep in.

Knowledge is power, but even more powerful is the ability to think critically about what we read and hear, and decide for ourselves whether it’s information worth acting on. As mothers we need to empower each other to trust our instincts, and support each other even when our choices are different.

I am not, nor will I ever be, an expert on parenting. Like all the other mothers in the world, I’m just doing my best to survive the tough moments and appreciate the joy that comes with the good ones.

But if my experience with anxiety has taught me anything, it’s this – there is no universal “right way” to be a mother. There is only a way that is right for me.

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