The other day I was checking out of a grocery store when the cashier started chatting me up about O. He was hanging out in his bucket in the shopping cart being quite the charmer, as usual. She asked me how old he was, and I told her. She seemed a little surprised, and I said “Yeah, he’s a big ‘un.” She then revealed that she had a son just one month younger.
“Yeah, my son is big too,” she offered. “He weighed around 17 lbs at our last checkup, but I think he’s over 20 lbs now. ”
“Really?” was the stunning comment I was able to offer. (Have I ever mentioned I’m not great at small talk?)
“Yeah, I started feeding him solids at almost three months, and the pediatrician yelled at me,” she continued.
“Oh,” I said, a little surprised. I thought back to all the baby books and magazine articles that say not to start solids until at least four months. The look on my face must’ve changed into one of shock or disapproval, because the cashier quickly continued.
“Well, formula wasn’t satisfying him, and I had to do something,” she offered, as sort of an excuse.
Feeling bad that she felt she had to offer up an excuse for doing what she did with her child, I said, “All babies are different, you did what you had to do.”
“Yeah!” she exclaimed, emphatically. Seemingly glad she found someone who agreed with her way of thinking, she continued. “I started putting cereal in his bottle at three weeks. He slept through the night as soon as I did it. My doctor yelled at me for that, too.”
Again, I was a little shocked/surprised. Now, I have heard of plenty of women who do the whole cereal in a bottle thing. Most of our parents did it, and my own mother told me to do it with O, when he woke all hours of the night looking for a boob. But as much as I wanted some sleep at night, I had read enough to conclude that cereal in a bottle wouldn’t be anything I’d be doing.
“Oh,” I said again giving those small talk skills a real workout. Again, I think she sensed (or saw) my surprise.
“Yeah,” the cashier said. “I had to go back to work at three weeks, it worked for me.”
I immediately felt bad. Here I was judging this woman for the choices she made–and she really didn’t even have a choice. This women had to return to work a mere THREE weeks after birth. I couldn’t believe it. There’s no way I could’ve returned to work in three weeks. I don’t think I was even completely recovered from the postpartum hormonal surge.
How does this happen in America? If anyone wonders, is maternity leave too short in this country? The answer is sadly yes for many mothers. It’s cases like these where I get so upset that America doesn’t have a national maternity leave program. America treats motherhood and pregnancy more as inconvenience to the employer than the miracle it is.
I guess I just want to say to all those moms that did things that weren’t exactly “by the book”–let go of your guilt! You did what you had to do. Unfortunately, the “hurry up and get back to work” culture of our country forced your hand in the matter. I urge you to check out MomsRising. Maybe if we all band together we can make a change for the better.