Things Motherhood Has Taught Me: Humility

Motherhood has been the greatest teacher of my life.  Over an ongoing series of posts, I am going to share with you some of the things motherhood has taught me.  I’m going to kick off with what I feel to be perhaps the most important lesson so far – that of humility.

When I was pregnant, I knew it all. I knew exactly what kind of mother I was going to be and the choices I would make. I was one of those awful, awful first time preggos who think they know everything about things they have never experienced. Who want to give people directions for paths they have never walked. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and give myself a good smack in the face.

I planned an all natural homebirth. I was going to use cloth nappies. I was going to breastfeed as long as my baby wanted to. I have to be honest, I judged people who did differently. I didn’t understand why anyone would choose a drug-filled hospital birth, to pollute the earth with disposables, to formula feed from birth.

It’s funny the way life has of teaching you these lessons. As it turned out, my homebirth turned into four days of agonising posterior labour that ended in hospital with gas, pethidine and an epidural (i.e. every drug possible!). I just couldn’t get the feel for cloth nappies for a long time and so she wore disposables for the first 8 months of her life. I hated breastfeeding and endured 6 months of it before weaning with relief onto formula.

At first I felt like a failure. I felt like everything I had tried to be as a mother, I had failed at. I saw other people having beautiful homebirths, easy drug free births, cloth nappying from birth, breastfeeding into toddlerhood – and I thought: they are the mothers I wanted to be… why can they do it and not I? I must be a massive failure.

But then, as I became more at peace with the mother I am and stopped comparing myself to others, I began to feel like maybe events had happened the way they did to teach me a lesson. A very very important lesson that I value highly, and that I feel makes me a better person in taking to heart.

It taught me the lesson of humility.

It taught me never – NEVER ever ever – to judge another person whose shoes you have not walked in. You can never know how you would react to a situation until you are in it. And just because someone does something differently to the way you would do it, doesn’t mean they are wrong. There is nothing to say that the choices I make are right – they are just right for me, in the moment that I make them. Everyone is just doing the best they can, with what they have, where they are. And if you’re sitting and judging someone harshly because they made a choice different than you think you would…. well, in my experience, life has a certain knack for chucking you into a situation where you may just come to an understanding of that choice.

The mummy wars that pervade modern motherhood drive me nuts. Except in a very few matters, there really is no black and white right or wrong when it comes to parenting. There are no true “experts”. We all come into this job with our own biases and personalities and life history. If all people are different and unique, it’s crazy to think that we should all conform to one way of parenting.

I parent my way – I stand strong in my choices, knowing they are right for me and my child. But I can also have the humility to know that they may not be right for everyone. And that is ok. It doesn’t make me wrong and it doesn’t make other people wrong. Even if I feel I have been in a similar situation to someone else – I haven’t truly been in their shoes… and thus, truly, I have no place making judgement on them.

I still do feel a little sad about the way some things turned out in my journey so far. I feel sad about the homebirth I missed out on. It sucks that I didn’t have an evangelical breastfeeding experience. It sucks that I didn’t emerge from birth instantly being the personification of the ultimate earth mother, but rather that I had to grow into (am still growing into) the mother I want to be.

But in some ways, I am glad as well. I am grateful for the lesson of humility my experiences have taught me. I am grateful to have had a glimpse of some of the things other women go through that leads them to make choices I once judged or pitied.

I am grateful to motherhood for bringing me out of my own head and back down to earth. I feel that it has made me a better, more loving, more accepting person. And that’s gotta be a good thing.

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