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Friday, July 12, 2013

a mommy's story - Michelle Wikiel - tomorrow's a different day

Another episode from our series Confessions of Mama Guilt on the blog today with Michelle Wikiel. She seems like such a chill, relaxed, realistic, awesome mama (despite that she admits to having much guilt along the way of her parenting journey). I found myself wanting to bold and highlight every sentence, thinking, "YES! This is good! All moms need to hear this part!" :) Michelle, thank you for sharing your story. So real and uplifting, I know moms will not only relate but be inspired by your words. 

(all photos from Michelle Wikiel)

When is the first time you recall feeling this Mama Guilt of feeling like you failed, did not do something right, or like others were judging you?
From the day Victoria was born, this fear came to me. I was scared of everything. It made me take a realistic look at my life. She gave me perspective. My biggest “failure” was that I hadn’t finished college yet. There were many contributing factors, some preventable, some not. But either way, it wasn’t done. Since my education is still up in the air and I don’t have a degree, let alone a career, I felt I was not a good role model. How am I supposed to show my daughter what a strong, successful woman is? How could I be a good mother if I wasn’t a good role model? It made me think that I could love her and take care of her to the best of my abilities, but she’d be missing that aspect of me.

Before you became a mom, what type of mom did you think you'd be? Give at least 5 words to describe the mom you imagined yourself being.
I believed that I was made to be a mom. From a very young age, I knew I wanted babies and lots of them. 

There are many things I’m not good at, but being a mom wasn’t going to be one of them. 

Like many others, I pictured myself being loving, attentive, fun, and nurturing. For some reason, I thought I would also have the technical stuff down like getting my baby to sleep, the seemingly constant spit up, etc. I envisioned myself being the mom holding her baby, in a spotless house, on her way to a corporate meeting with makeup on…HA!

Look at the words you mentioned in #2... are you those words now? Would you call yourself those words now in describing how you are as a mom? Would others use those words to describe you?
I would totally consider myself those words now, but with different meaning behind it. I understand from a mother’s point of view what those words truly mean. I am a realistic version of what I thought I would be. I throw my daughter in her carrier and we do everything together. We go to the beach, the zoo, shopping, etc. I get down on the floor and play with her. 

We sing songs about how FedEx is running late or how daddies are lucky because they get to sleep late on Saturdays. ( I know, a far cry from the classics but it works).

I do believe others would use those words to describe me. Victoria is my entire world and I literally put all my energy into her. One thing I’m frequently commended on is my patience. I never wanted to be that mother who was outwardly overwhelmed. I really try to take everything in stride. I know a blown out diaper isn’t the end of the world. It’s wicked inconvenient, but nothing to panic over.

Though my house isn’t spotless and there is laundry piling up, my daughter is happy. That’s all that matters. I’m doing my job as a mother.

SERIOUSLY?! Adorable little rock star!

How did breastfeeding go for you?
Breastfeeding came easy for us. She latched as soon as she came out and has been there for the past year. I’ve had issues with breastfeeding much different than most moms. For one, I know very few moms who breastfeed. I looked to strangers for advice (Thank you Mommy Stories!). It made me realize how isolating it can be. On top of that, for the first month, Victoria was in my arms all day long. At first I would leave the room for privacy while nursing. But then I found myself getting sad and lonely. I hated that I was in a room by myself while everyone else kept socializing. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes nursing is the best excuse to remove yourself from a situation. But doing it every feeding got old fast, especially during clusterfeeds. Being a new mom was already so isolating. I couldn’t add to it.

How do you know you are a good mom? If you don't feel like you are one now, when will you know you are? What needs to happen to make you feel like a good mom?

I know I’m a good mom. Before you mark me off as conceited, hear me out. It isn’t hard to be a good mom. Loving your child and putting their needs first makes one a good mom. 

My daughter’s health and happiness is always my first priority. It doesn’t matter if you breastfeed or use formula, you’re still making sure your baby is nourished. Who cares what car seat you buy, as long as it’s installed properly and you follow safety guidelines.

You don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom.

My daughter has recently begun hugging and kissing. I had noticed she would do it to her father and I. But recently we had a playdate with her “boyfriend,” and she crawled over to him, grabbed him by the onesie and planted a big one on him and gave him a bear hug. From there she did it to another little friend, our dog, and her grandparents. This really solidified my outlook on my parenting. I thought “Wow, at 11 months old, my daughter knows how to show affection to the ones she loves.” I have taught her that by showing my love to her through these same gestures. Though such a little event, it was an epic realization…at least to me.

If it was unplanned or didn't go as you expected - What was your birth experience like with your baby? What was the hardest part about that? How did that mama guilt creep up during that experience? Again, who or what voice as in your head as you were going through this? Have you come to peace with this situation, if so, how did you get there?
I didn’t go in with a birth plan, just some preferences. This left me less room to be disappointed.

 In some ways, I prevented her birth from becoming the subject of my mommy guilt.
We reached a point in my labor where the doctor started prepping the OR for me to have a C-section. That was never on my agenda and I refused. I had been pushing for less than 30 mins and he argued I was having a big baby. With the support of my nurse, we pushed my AVERAGE sized baby out. It turns out, he is just one of those doctors who wants things done. He had tried to use scare tactics, but I think being pregnant put me in tune with my body and I knew he was wrong.

The one thing I would change is minimal visitors. I regret not having that private time with just Victoria, my husband and I. I bawled my eyes out during Night 3 at the hospital because I was just so exhausted and overwhelmed. We had asked people not to come but that didn’t work, so next time we’re going to have to just tell most people afterwards.

What is your advice to another mom who experiences this mama guilt over breastfeeding, a birth experience that did not go as planned, etc.? What would you have wanted someone to say to you back during that difficult time?

Own it. It’s your experience, and experiences aren’t always perfect. 

When things don’t go as planned and there are variables thrown in, that’s an obstacle that you’ve overcome. Look back on it and say “yeah, it sucked, but we’re here now and couldn’t be happier.”

What else do you want to share?! What is another tough moment you've experienced? What did you learn from it about what type of mom or person you are? If you could go back, what would you tell that version of yourself you were when you went through that tough time?
As mothers, we are going to experience guilt for the rest of our lives. Hindsight is 20/20 and we will always look back. I still feel guilt all the time. I went through a rough time in the beginning where I never wanted to put Victoria down. I just wanted to hold her all the time because everyone always says that they grow so fast. I was literally trying to capture every moment.

I have guilt that I can’t always protect her. The day she was born, I told my husband how scared I was to have her because there were so many awful things that she could possibly go through, and I don’t ever want her to get hurt. I didn’t want her to fall off a bike, get bullied, or have her heart broken.

I’m slowly learning that the best way to be a good mom is to find a balance and give her the independence she needs to survive in this world. 

It’s more important to give her life skills than keep her in a bubble. But I will always be there to comfort her and tell her that tomorrow is a different day.

******************** THANK YOU, MICHELLE! 
You have the cutest little one year old around! **************************

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