Guest-writer: Thelma Ojedis
My name is Thelma Ojedis and I am the first guest-writer of The Octopus Mama blog. I am a mother just like you except that 16 years ago my right arm became paralyzed after a motorcycle crash. So, when I became pregnant with my amazing little boy Noah, who is now six-years-old, I knew I would need to do everything motherhood requires with just the use of my left arm. Despite the challenging scenario ahead of me (did I mention I was a single mom too?), I was committed to becoming a very prepared mother and to do everything differently from what I had in my childhood. I wanted to rock this “one handed mom thing”!
I looked up everything, from clothes to strollers, that I could easily handle. I began to read any and every book about pregnancy and conscious parenting. I became obsessed with eating the right foods for a healthy pregnancy. I also played music, read and talked to my baby growing inside my belly. I got a midwife and a doula, and I had a “perfect” birth plan. I took classes on breathing techniques and breastfeeding. I meditated and connected to the little being growing inside me. I was getting it all “RIGHT”.
At 37 weeks, though, I developed pre-eclampsia. I started to gain a pound a day and my blood pressure became dangerously high. My plan for Noah’s home-birth became out of the question, and I was sent to the hospital where I was induced. After about 30 hours of induction and never fully dilated, my heart rate started to rise and the baby’s dropped. An emergency C-section was required. I cried and cried, feeling like I was already failing at being a “good mom”. My child would now be born with drugs in his system. I had to get general anesthesia instead of local and was unable to hold my baby for hours after his birth. It was all “WRONG”!
Bringing baby Noah home was another challenge books could never prepare me for. Changing diapers, feeding, burping, bathing, clothing a baby with one hand was something I could only learn through trial and error. What about all the theories of attachment parenting or the cry out method, sleep training or following the rhythm of the baby? Organic foods vs. Gerber food, to vaccinate or not vaccinate. It was overwhelming, and everyone gave me different advice – You are holding him too much! You will spoil him this way! If you leave him in the playpen too long, he won’t connect with you. Books contradicted each other. Not to mention I wasn’t producing enough breast milk and Noah had issues digesting formula. Again, I was NOT off to a good start on getting it “RIGHT”.
When Noah became a toddler he had really bad eczema and he was also constantly sneezing and coughing. His father, my mother and Western doctors suggested steroid topical ointments for the eczema and Claritin for allergies, but I was set on healing him naturally. I committed us to a toxin free home, only natural fibers and a strict vegan/gluten free diet. I took us to a herbalist and cleaned up Noah’s system. I thought it was all my fault because of the drugs introduced to his system during birth, so I had to fix it! Maybe all that effort would make me a “good mom”, right?
Not sure about the “good mom” title, but many of these choices left my son and I isolated from family and friends because we didn’t eat that food, we didn’t watch T.V., we didn’t listen to that kind of music and all the other restrictions I had imposed on us in efforts of getting parenting “right”. When I found a sort of community that engaged in the practices we did, there was always something else that I wasn’t doing “right” – we either used plastic containers instead of glass, or my discipline techniques didn’t align with theirs, or I didn’t hand make his clothes or we didn’t have wooden toys. It was exhausting and I was doing it all on my own: homemade lotions, cleaning products, laundry detergent, vegan/gluten free meals. I was also constantly arguing with his father and family members when they didn’t follow my rules in caring for Noah.
After about four years doing all I had assigned as the “right” way to be a “good mom”, I was burnt out. Noah’s skin was eczema free, but he was also crying all the time about not being able to eat food others ate or watching T.V. with his cousins. He would even cry in his sleep asking to eat regular cheese. Clearly, I had fixed one thing and created another problem. I wasn’t feeling joy in parenting and I was controlling and overbearing. For sure, I was not the mother I had envisioned myself to be. So, I stopped. I put the books down. I stopped reading about all of the toxins that can poison us. I bought regular cleaning products and detergents. I took Noah out to eat. I decided to give it all a rest. I started to enjoy more my time with him, we watched movies together. I let him sleep at his cousins’ house, eat Oreos and stay up as late as he wanted (on the weekends).
I began asking questions like, if I wasn’t trying to get it right or look good what would I choose now? If I wasn’t trying to recreate my childhood in a way I think is better, what would I choose? And finally, I gave myself permission to be what I had judged as a “bad mom”. I got clear on a handful of things that I really wanted to instill in my son. I focused on those things, like kindness, self-awareness, choice, generosity, joy and love. I combined a bit of new school with old school parenting and most importantly- I stopped taking it all so seriously. I allowed myself to change my mind about how I parent: not have it all figured out, make it up as I go and to get it wrong. Noah and I have an amazing relationship now and I found a freedom in being a parent and in turn offer that to other moms I meet in life, a nonjudgmental space of empowerment. I wonder what freedom is awaiting you?
So, my darlings, if you take anything away from this blog post, I hope you take that you can’t get it wrong! Whether you breastfeed till your child is five or feed them formula and Gerber food, it is going to be alright. Whether you let them cry it out as newborns or sleep with them till they are 12, it is going to be alright. Whether you are Vegan or Paleo, it is going to be alright. Trust you, trust that you are the best parent for your kid because you are, no matter what you are practicing in parenting. And let’s support each other and high five each other regardless of our parenting differences. At the end of the day, we all love our kids and we are doing our best with the tools we have.