Passion and Compassion

It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.

~Erma Bombeck

Oh Erma, how I wish this was more true.

Compassion. A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

As mothers we (are supposed to) have it in spades.

For our babies, who need us 24/7 to nourish, nurture, love and keep them safe.

For our husbands and partners, who for the above reasons need us as well and because they are there for us when we need them. Sharing our lives, bringing home the bacon, or doing the stay-at-home parent thing while we go back to work.

And for our fellow {wo}man. Our sisters, our friends, the stranger with 4 kids under 4  struggling at the grocery store, the new mama doing her best to figure this all out, the grandmother who has been there and done that and now looks on with a touch of nostalgia in her eyes.

BUT...

Throw in any bit of information about how you feed your baby, how you get your baby to sleep or what you do to discipline your child (just to name a few polarizing parental choices) and BAM!!

Our compassion and understanding seems to revert right back to judgment!

Especially on the interwebz!

Why am I bringing this up you ask? Am I being like one of the many blogs and sites out there trying to stir up page views by "fueling the mommy wars" as they like to say?

GOOD GAWD NO!! Please know that this is NOT my intention at all.

This post is being written because over the past few days, I have had a lot to think about. I have had a chance to see things from a different perspective and have come to some personal conclusions that have left me needing to write it all down to make sure I completely understand what exactly happened and why.

The other night, I got riled up. Full on, blood boiling, hands shaking, MAD! I was on Facebook (mistake #1) and followed a link to a site that had posted an article about the cancelled #GNO Twitter party. The post asked if indeed the party was in violation of the WHO Code of Marketing for formula manufacturers and I commented and said that yes, it absolutely was. A few replies later, the author stated that the party was shut down by a bunch of women who have a PERSONAL BIAS against women formula-feeding.

Cue my blood pressure shooting through the roof! REALLY? A personal bias against these mothers? ME?

In a fit of frustration and with a very strong desire and intention to have a real conversation about all of this on my personal Facebook Page with my Facebook Friends, I posted a status update requesting this. (mistake #2)

What happened next was 4 hours and 153 comments of a very passionate discourse. It was FILLED with emotion, it was exhausting, and in the end I did not feel like it got us anywhere and did not even come close to the conversation I was looking for.

And I should have known better.

I should have given myself 24 hours to cool down after I read the original post and then figured out if I did indeed need to have this discussion... AGAIN. (And perhaps not on Facebook, where filters are often off and we say or type things when we probably should have left well enough alone.)

Here is what I have learned in the last few days after some personal reflection and thanks to a very long note from a friend that helped immensely. This topic, these breast milk and formula feeding conversations, regardless of how you frame them, will ALWAYS be a case of 'the chicken and the egg" and I fear that there will never be a 'right' answer or a 'winning' side. And as Albert Einstein himself said,

Doing (or in this case, saying or asking) the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

My very smart friend, who did take 24 hours to formulate her response to my original post, also very wisely said that,"Breastfeeding (or the ability or choice NOT to) is a 'heart' issue." Meaning, that most mothers can't help but talk to you from an emotional level on the subject. And in one of the many side conversations that were also going on that night, another dear friend sent me a message and said that, "A breastfeeding mother is changed forever emotionally." I can not emphasize enough how much I agree with her on this and firmly believe that breastfeeding changes us on an emotional, physical and biological level. What I also learned that night is that a mother who desperately wanted to breastfeed, was told from a trusted source that she could not, had to supplement with formula, felt judged for that decision and who continues to harbour guilt and shame for it, is also FOREVER EMOTIONALLY CHANGED.

Both are mothers, both have struggles and triumphs, both are doing the best that they KNOW HOW for their children and themselves and neither deserves to be judged or criticized for her decisions.

I am a very firm believer in the saying "When you know better , you do better." Trust me, I knew a lot more going into my second pregnancy and having Princess L than I did with Little C. Do I wish I was better informed the first time around? Absolutely. But hindsight only serves to build frustration and regret, and I really don't have time for either of those in my life. If I was to have a third child (not gonna happen y'all!) you can bet I would even more, very differently than I did in Round 1 or 2.

Being an advocate for something (anything really) doesn't mean condemning or judging people's past, present or future choices. There should never be any  "You should have..." or "Why did/didn't you...?" in advocacy conversations. There should only be, "Here is the information and resources we know and have NOW, please listen, read, hear what I have to say and make your decision(s) with them in mind. Thank you."

Which brings me back to compassion.

As mothers, I think we need to have way more compassion in our conversations, especially our online ones.

Having discussions about "heart" topics in not a bad thing, but we must keep in mind not only our own hearts, but those of the people we are communicating with as well. If someone is being defensive about something, we need to do our best to find out why? Don't be afraid to ask about someone's feelings and experiences, find out what is behind a person's hurt or anger. Be compassionate.

This becomes even more important in the world of advocacy and especially so in the world of motherhood. There will always be things that come easier to some than to others, there will always be things that work for you that don't for me, and there will always be new information coming forward that may or may not change the way we do all of these things.

In these matters of the "heart", that are so deeply rooted in us and our identities as mothers, that rouse our passions and our emotions to such heights, let us not forget that we are all mothers doing the best we can for our beautiful babies and travelling this long and dusty and often pot-hole filled mothering road together. Let us hold each other up, pass the canteen and keep on moving forward.

And here is something else that I think needs to be said about any 'how I feed my baby' conversations,be it in person or online (and please feel free to correct me if I am wrong and completely off on this one). I think that the mothers who CAN and DO breastfeed, whether it is an easy road or not, may need to have a teensy bit more compassion for the mom who did not or can not do so. For whatever the reason, be it misinformation, lack of resources and support, personal choice, medical reasons or whatever the case may be, we need to show compassion along with our passion. Because deep down, I am pretty sure there exits an element of guilt or regret or failure in all these mamas about the one thing their bodies are supposed to do for their babies.

Thank you for reading and I do appreciate your comments...

Please keep them respectful and compassionate.

Much love,

Natasha~

Photo Credit: Lawrie Cate's Flickr Photostream