Mom guilt starts one day postpartum: The rooming in debate
Category : Blog
After I gave birth to my first child, I was one of those moms who would read every childbirth, infant care, motherhood preparation book around. I was a typical neurotic over educated first time mom in America. I joined online communities of mothers having babies the same month as I was to and it was during the various discussions that once in a while a controversial topic would crop up. There were many: To circumcise or Not. To Breastfeed or Not and how long is too long? To succumb to in utero genetic defect testing or Not. It never ceased to amaze me how passionate women could be. Yes the issues were complex and multidimensional, but Geez Louise!
Seemingly nice and sensible women would get all crazed and judgmental when they’d discover that some in their comfortable circle were choosing a path different from their own. Women would label others, call names, banish and shame folks out from the communities; some would self-exile themselves or break out and form other boards. Imagine, all this stress from a bunch of women who never ever met each other most times!! Things would seriously get heated and passionate many times. It’s interesting because though that was nearly 8 years ago, I have seen and heard of similar instances since then among the dozens, might I say hundreds of similar online communities that have emerged since those days. Besides the occasional melo- and sometimes over-dramatic rift every now and again, those communities were the best places to get educated, share resources and knowledge and go through the overall experience with others in their same shoes.
Anyway, at some point, the topic of “rooming in” cropped up.
rooming-in /room·ing-in/ (rldbomacm´ing-in″) the practice of keeping a newborn infant in a crib near the mother’s bed instead of in a nursery during the hospital stay.dorland()
On one side of the argument was that right after birth, an infant needed to have constant access to his/her mother to encourage bonding and ease the baby’s assimilation into the outside world. The advocates for rooming in were usually the same ones who would admonish a mother for even thinking about allowing a newborn to be nursed by formula or even breastmilk through a bottle. To the women in the “au naturale” corner, I will call it, the mom had to be in a coma for it to be okay for the baby to receive nourishment through a latex nipple. So naturally, according to the moms in this corner, it would not even make sense to have the child stay in the nursery. You had to be there in an instant to hear her stirring from hunger so you could pick her up and immediately stick a breast in its mouth. No matter if you are struggling to produce milk, that your milk hadn’t come in yet or you were suffering from extreme fatigue and other effects of having had a c-section for example. They’d point to articles like this one from the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health sclaiming that rooming in mothers had higher instances of maternal attachment to her child
On the other side of the argument were those who felt that a mother needed to use all the luxury and comfort of having a 10+ nursing and hospital staff at her beck and call to take care of her and her baby. These “Posh moms” as they were sometimes mockingly referred to, did not see the rush to have 24/7 access to the baby when they could be using the 2-5 days postpartum in the hospital stay to rest up, heal and get prepared for life after the hospital. They’d have thousands of hours of uninterrupted sleep to expect in the coming months ahead and those initial days post partum were the ABSOLUTE best time to get some much needed mom time. Take advantage of the support as not everyone could afford a baby nurse or nanny at home.
I admit for my first child, I was wholly in the Au Naturale corner. I planned on breastfeeding and did not want baby to spend too much any extra time. When he wasn’t sleeping on my chest, baby was laying in the bassinet and if he but let out a wimper I would have my nose pressed against his bassinet looking for signs of distress. A wet diaper? Hungry? Hot? Cold? Whatever.
I barely slept. I was on edge and anxious. I was recovering from surgery and dealing with all the discomfort and pain from that, but yet I had a new un-selfish role and I had to be ready and able to take care of my child. Whenever a nurse asked if I wanted him to stay in the nursery so I could get some consistent sleep, I always declined. My new role as a mom would be secondary to anything else.
Needless to say, 4 days later when I got home, it was more of the same in terms of lack of sleep. But it was okay. I was doing my job. I was/am a good mom.
Well my has my tune changed three kids, three hospitalizations and three c-sections later. For my second son, I was a less anxious mom because I knew what to expect. I knew no one was going to kidnap him in the nursery. I knew he would get excellent care, be bathed and monitored appropriately in the nursery so I was less at edge with him spending extended periods of time in the nursery. If the time did come when I’d let him hang out at the nursery so I could rest, towards the end of my nap, I would wake up a bit panicky missing him dearly. I’d buzz the heck out of the nursing call station for them to return him to me. But it was all good, because I let myself let go and sleep once in a while. I appreciated them more because I knew what awaited me when I would be discharged.
With my third and last child, boy had my tune turned 180 degrees. I FINALLY realized the importance of taking advantage of the enormous support the hospital staff gave. Imagine, there were 5-10 persons including a lactation consultant, a primary nurse, a vital signs nurse, a baby nurse, a pediatrician, doctors, neonatal physicians, a home care instructor and others all on staff answering my beck and call and making sure I was comfortable and taking a load off.
Boy was I a nut to refuse all that help before! In short, the thing is there is such a thing as “balance.” A new mom can bond with her baby and even do some kangaroo care. She could nurse exclusively, if she wanted. And she could have the baby spend the night in the nursery. All she has to do is buzz when the baby is hungry and they’d happily return your screaming and wailing baby back to you.
It is not a condemnation or commentary on a mother’s value and worth as a mother, on her commitment to raise her child from birth to not be within arm’s reach of her baby that soon all the time. Now I think it is shameful for those who insist on judging others and condemning those who do not agree or make the same choices.
It is a personal choice and a mom’s choice should be respected either way. But without the judgmental neurotic condemning mother, how fun would those mom online communities be? ha