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Dear Husband: Don't Give Me Motherhood Advice When Things Are Hard

Photograph by Twenty20

On days when we're doubting our mom instincts, it doesn't help when those closest to us question it, too.

For instance, today my baby girl fell asleep while I was nursing, so I let her sleep on my chest for a bit. I figured I’d make some lunch while I had the chance. Of course, as soon as I put her down, she woke up and started screaming. I thought it might be gas, so I gave her some gas drops and gave her a warm bath to soothe her. It didn’t help. She was shrieking horribly. I hadn’t slept. I was so scared and confused. My brain couldn’t put the dots together.

Finally, my husband said she looked hungry. Duh! Of course she was hungry. Why didn’t I see that?! So, I put her on the boob and she settled instantly. When she got off the boob, she was obviously satisfied and milk drunk. I laid her down and she wiggled and cooed a bit before finally getting herself to sleep. Mission accomplished.

Well, not quite. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the part where I sobbed hysterically over my baby while she nursed, crying that I should’ve known what she needed and it was my fault she was screaming from hunger pains.

In those moments, I don’t need ideas or solutions or what you think is best. I need love.

My husband, trying to help, told me I should try supplementing with some formula. Maybe she’s not getting what she needs. But I knew she was. I knew I hadn’t given her a full feeding earlier and that’s why she was screaming. I knew she was in a growth spurt. I knew all these things because I’m the one who has done all the research, read all the books, kept all the logs, downloaded all the apps. And, at the end of the day, mommy instincts are super real. I knew. But he kept insisting I try formula.

"It’s not about you, it’s about the baby," he said.

Aaaand ... cue the irrational, sleep-deprived, hormone-fueled shitstorm.

Not about me?! Nothing had been about me for the past six weeks. Everything I did was for her. I had not thought about myself since she was born. I wasn't breastfeeding out of some prideful vendetta to prove I could. I’d gladly supplement if I knew my breast milk wasn’t giving her what she needed. But the doctor assured me it was and she was growing exactly as she should be. I was breastfeeding because I truly believed it was best for her, despite it being difficult and challenging and uncomfortable and draining. I was not doing this for me.

Of course, he was coming from a good place. He was only offering a solution to help his partner who was sobbing in agony. But it brought up a point that I don’t think people (i.e., spouses, grandparents) understand, and understanding this might help partners support new moms when they’re in the throes of it and can’t get their head above water.

Listen, I need to be able to say when things are hard. Because it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be doing it. It’s ALL I want to be doing. There’s just a sharp learning curve to this whole motherhood thing.

I’m never going to feel like I’m doing enough for my baby. I constantly feel like I could be doing more or doing better. So, when I cry, it’s not because I need you to fix it. It’s because I’m sad. My sleep-deprived mom brain has convinced me that I suck at this, and in those moments I don’t need ideas or solutions or what you think is best. I need love. I need a hug and to be told not to worry, to be told I’m doing a great job. I need to be reminded to look at that little face and see how happy she is with her mama.

Tell me that she knows how much I love her. Tell me that I’m giving her everything she needs and more.

Remind me that my instincts are right and that there’s no one better built to give this baby everything she needs. Because it’s true. And I know it. But sometimes, I forget. And that’s the best way you can help me.

Thank you. I love you.

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