I’ve read the books. I’ve scoured the blogs and Facebook comments section. I started with those adorable weekly emails alerting me when my fetus got fingernails. I know what it takes to be a perfect parent.
I made the conscious decision to bring my baby into the world through the magic of unmedicated vaginal birth. She latched immediately and we had hours of skin-to-skin bonding and nursing before they even took her to be cleaned up and weighed.
I exclusively breastfed both of my children, openly and publicly, well into their toddler years. They refused the one drop of formula they were offered when I was away from them at the grocery store (naturally not until they were 6-months-old). We nursed uncovered in public and brought knowledge to the masses of the proper use of the female breast. And when my oldest was diagnosed with a dairy allergy I selflessly gave up anything containing dairy so that I could continue to give her the perfect nutrition. For two years I passed up ice cream, grilled cheese and sometimes bread—all for my child.
Their precious bottoms had every single type of cloth diaper available to the public, and a few that were custom made by a local stay-at-home mom. I lined their hiney with the softest fabric known to man, so naturally I wouldn’t dream of spanking the bottom that I worked so hard to protect.
I wore them. I wrapped and snuggled and Ergo-ed the shit out of them. When they cried for me in the night I brought them into my bed and there they slept, next to my loving breast.
My parenting is so crunchy it could break a tooth.
And do you know what it has yielded? Two children who are alive. That’s it.
Those two little blessings now survive almost exclusively on chicken nuggets, fish sticks, boogers and Pringles. They chug Coke behind my back at their grandmother’s house and they still have yet to sleep through the night. They are now 6 and 3.
They’re only decently behaved half of the time, and the other half I want to beat them with my shoe. Nope, I still don’t spank because I know if I did my sheer rage would take over and I’d be in jail. Which I actually sometimes dream about because someone else cooks you three meals a day and you get your own cot. I can handle people watching me shower and pee. I could do jail.
The breastfeeding only lasted that long because a) They wouldn’t stop, a) It was a sure fire way to get them to sleep and, c) I was losing a crap ton of weight that plopped right back on the second they quit suckling. I never used a cover in public because they acted like feral cats in a burlap sack. And I figured that enough people probably saw my tits in high school and college that they really weren’t news to anyone anyway.
One of my BFF mamas is a stone cold spanker who had two C-sections and only one child who nursed for a few months, and then, only half the time. And guess what? Her kids are regular badasses. They don’t have allergies, they eat 100 percent more vegetables than my kids, they are wicked smart, and they march their happy butts up to their own beds at bedtime. Oh wait…that’s after they get their own pajamas and brush their teeth.
Don’t get me wrong I love my kids. And they are badasses, too, in their own right. They both are complimented frequently on their extensive vocabularies (which include a nice selection of the four-letter variety). My oldest can fart louder than an actual grown man and my youngest thinks it is comic gold.
But if motherhood has taught me anything it’s this: Nothing you do matters, except loving them and keeping them alive. The rest of parenthood is a complete crapshoot.
Oh sure, there’s research. There are breastfed children who are little baby geniuses. There are formula fed kids who are idiots. But I can assure you that there are plenty of breastfed idiots and formula geniuses. (Yours truly was exclusively formula fed and left to cry it out. I’m just saying.)
So, mamas, do what you want. Brag about it even. Hell, I love telling the story about giving birth to my second born without so much as Tylenol. I feel like a regular badass. But I also like telling the story about my 100 percent medicated induction with my first born. It was so horrible and chaotic that it’s a fun story, too. And I somehow manage to love both children equally even after bringing them into the world through different methods. It’s a Christmas miracle.
Just know that for better or for worse, the only thing that you control about your child’s future is whether or not they are loved. That’s it. Get them out of your body, love the shit out of them, and never say never. It’s all any of us can do.