Emmeric approached the one month old mark, and I pulled out a box of monthly stickers in the shape of ties. I eagerly planned out how I would take this first month’s pictures with him against the Boppy pillow and surrounded by a special homemade blanket and stuffed Pooh bear. In my head, I dreamed of taking pictures all the way up to one year, adding more Winnie the Pooh stuffed characters each time.
Somewhere around five months in, I stopped taking the pictures. At first, I blamed it on my forgetfulness. I’d put the box of stickers somewhere and couldn’t recall where. Then I stopped caring enough to even look. Monthly pictures became problematic for me. And there was a simple reason for that.
Monthly pictures are great when you don’t compare your child to others’ children.
When I got pregnant, I found out there were four more girls pregnant around the same time as me. All five of us went to the same high school, graduated the same year, and had been friends or acquaintances. All five of us were on Facebook, and the sharing was a big deal. We laughed about the irony of us all becoming first time moms in the same year, and it was fun imagining our future children growing up together.
Of the five, I was due last. So as they delivered, I eagerly waited for my chance to share pictures of this baby that I’d waited so long for. I had baby showers, opened adorable gifts, cleared out and redecorated our second bedroom turned nursery. I watched as they started sharing loads of photos of their children, and I wanted to be a part of that with them.
Then Emmeric came. We went through what felt like an endless number of health problems only to struggle with his weight gain. I watched my friends post pictures of their children each month with updated statistics on their growth and how happy their doctors were. I watched my son struggle to gain, go to doctor after doctor visit with less than stellar improvements, and felt disappointed.
I realize a lot of this came about with my depression. I compared myself and my son to my friends and their children. It hurt to realize my son was barely hitting numbers or stayed off the charts when people reported their children hitting this or that percentile. How can any mother want to share photos of her child and spout off, “This month we stayed off the charts again!” for her friends and family to see?
I stopped posting the monthly photos or even trying to get them because inside I felt so much pain about not being able to be happier about his hitting each month. I hated that I couldn’t post multiple happy photos and share all the neat things he was learning, the ways he was changing, and the updated statistics about my son.
Instead I sat back and brooded. And that was bad.
Sometimes social media makes it harder on mamas.
I really believe social media is a tool you can use for good or for bad. In this particular case, I used it as a way to berate myself for not being on top of things, for not being able to share only good news about my son.
I know everyone struggles. Every parent experiences problems or sickness with their children, and life isn’t always sunshine and flowers. But when people share only the happy things on social media, it looks a lot like they live enchanted lives of baby growth, health, and happiness that I wasn’t experiencing.
Depression, and Satan, used my social media browsing as a means of finding more negatives to dwell on. I should have simply backed off or even gone on a social media fast, but like a lot of people, I’m rather addicted to the screen time.
Social media on its own is not bad, so please don’t think that’s what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that it’s easy to use it in the wrong way and wind up dealing with your own pain and suffering as a result. If you’re like me and find it hard to deal with certain types of posts or even certain places on social media, perhaps you should consider taking a break or even doing a bit of a fast from it. Step back, take stock of what’s going on in your head and heart, and maybe find something to take the place of that social media time.
I stopped celebrating monthly gains with Emmeric because I was so focused on everyone else’s awesome progress. I saw us as paltry by comparison and felt discouraged as my friends’ babies grew and grew. I stopped taking monthly pictures and decided it would be easier to just avoid thinking about the differences in our kids by not sharing anything about my own child.
But I didn’t stop surfing Facebook for more information about what neat things my friends’ kids were doing. I felt some amount of jealousy that things weren’t going so easy for us, but I only saw what they shared on Facebook. So I could have easily been jealous of someone who had similar, worse, or very different issues than we had.
I hate that my brain fixated on these updates and made them into a negative. I hate how hurt I got, but I realize that time is past now. Emmeric is one year old, and I have yet to see those monthly stickers go past 12 months.
There is something I need to remember before we move forward into this next year with my son, though.
I choose how I respond to things.
I can choose to respond to social media posts, friends’ comments, and other things any way I want. Yes, depression will try to make me feel bad. My kneejerk reaction sometimes will be to see the negative in situations. But I can always choose some other response.
We struggled a lot in the last year, and we overcame a lot of obstacles. Because of that, we still see that Emmeric isn’t quite measuring up the way he should. But we succeeded in spite of all the things life threw at us. And I am so proud of all of us, my whole family, for getting to this place.
As we move forward and continue to see the changes in Emmeric, I plan to remind myself that I can always choose how I respond. I don’t have to choose the negative, the victim playing, the woe-is-me, the blame game. Instead, I can choose to stand tall, to give thanks for small victories, to grasp joy and to feel peace about the future.
If you’ve struggled with feeling guilt from comparison or failure or any other problems you’ve had, I would love your thoughts on this. Do you try to choose your own responses, or do you let your mind and heart get flooded with the negatives? Would you be willing to step back and reevaluate with me so that you, too, can start to change the way you respond? Let me know in the comments!
I look forward to sharing some more with you, and I hope to hear back from some of you as we continue moving forward into Emmeric’s second year of life. If you’re reading this, I hope you know how amazingly strong you are as a person and how worthy you are to choose joy instead of sadness today! Come back soon, my friend, and have a wonderful day!