Manifesto of an OCD Momma

*Disclaimer: Obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious struggle that many people face daily in their own lives and in the lives of those they love. Unfortunately, our society at large is neither kind towards those who face this struggle, nor does it boast a clear understanding of what it entails. For example, it is not at all uncommon for someone to proclaim, “I am OCD about my house being clean,” or to hear someone say, “She has OCD about how she looks.” These comments are not only ignorant, they can be very hurtful. In this post my intention is not only to comment on parenting practices, but to also comment on our society’s desire to label and discard those who are different. However, if you find my words distasteful or offensive, please do not hesitate to contact me or comment below, as that is not in any way my intention.

Moment of Truth

The other day, someone I love and care about very much declared to me angrily that I have OCD (for those less familiar with mental health jargon, obsessive compulsive disorder) when it comes to parenting and that there is “something wrong” with my brain. Her words pierced me deeply – the labeling, the disdain, the absence of kindness.

Verdict: Guilty as Charged

Since then I have done a lot of praying, a lot of thinking, a lot of soul-searching. The evidence all points in one direction. Not only do I in fact have OCD, I have an extra stigmatized, albeit rare variety classified as “OCD: Seeing Through the Smoke-Screen of Mainstream Parenting Practices.”  And yes, I definitely have a severe, pervasive and incurable case of it.

Even though her words were really hard to hear (being serious here), I am not actually shocked to learn that my rejection of consumerist, convenience-oriented, parent-centric parenting practices have landed me a “mentally ill” label. If my rejection of mainstream parenting practices did not immediately land me in the “sick box,” what would the crib, stroller, and clip-on toy manufacturers do? What would the formula and baby food industries do? What would corporate America do? What would the “baby sleep trainers” do? What would Dobson, Tripp, Pearle, and Fitzpatrick do? What would obstetricians and hospitals do?

They would lose money. And this would be utterly catastrophic. But don’t worry. There is hope for them. By labeling me as crazy you are helping them protect their bottom line. By distancing yourself from me you are helping them protect their bottom line. And by labeling me and distancing yourself from me because I parent differently than your husband, mother, friend, baby book, church, pediatrician, etc. have instructed you to parent, you are letting me know that you are not at peace with your own parenting choices. Your momma heart must be so heavy. I grieve for you.

Symptomology

But what if you aren’t worrying about the bottom lines of the baby industries? What if my parenting choices don’t rile up repressed feelings of fear for you? What if you have sensed for some time that you have “OCD: Seeing Through the Smoke-Screen of Mainstream Parenting Practices” too? Admitting there is a problem is half the battle, so in hopes of helping you decipher if you yourself belong in the “sick box,” I have outlined many of my parenting obsessions and compulsions below. Please note that you need only possess one or more of these obsession/compulsion pairs to be certifiable according to your friends, family, and complete strangers. For your children’s sake, for your sake, and for our world’s sake, I pray that you are just as sick as I am.

Complusion: Babywearing

Obsession: Knowing that this…

Image

…not only leads to less crying and fussing as it is the way babies and young children were designed to be transported, it is physiologicallyneurologically and psychologically preferable to this:

Imagehttp://www.flickr.com/photos/goodmami/1215572972/

Compulsion: Breastfeeding a toddler

Obsession: Knowing that this…

Image

…is not only normal, it is nutritionally, intellectually, immunologically, and psychologically superior to this:

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Compulsion: Bedsharing

Obsession: Knowing that this…

_JPW4235 - Edited - BW

… not only reduces the incidence of SIDS, decreases “sleep obsession,” increases breastfeeding, and results in more sleep for moms, it is physiologically better than this recent fad:

file0001315025296

Compulsion: Comforting distressed babies and children

Obsession: Knowing that this…

_JPW5641 - Edited - BW

… is a biologically hard-wired response to a distressed child. Leaving children to “cry-it-out,” on the other hand, negatively impacts lifelong health,  decreases intelligence, impedes self-regulation, fosters mental illness, impoverishes brain development, and corrodes trust. What’s more it is a myth that “self-soothing” results from this:

IMG_9482

Compulsion: Using gentle, punishment-free discipline that guides rather than harms

Obsession: Knowing that this…

_JPW4803 - Edited - BW

…is both respectful and effective and does not result in permanent brain damage, increased rates of aggression, higher incidences of obesity, increased violence and depressionhigher incidences of cancer, heart disease, and asthma, and sexual impairment like this does: 

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*I recognize that I have not fully showcased here all of my obsessions and their corresponding compulsions. As my teething boy permits, I will be sure to update.

How “Sick” Are You?

In the meantime, I would love to hear from those of you who also live with this “disease.” What are your parenting obsessions and compulsions? How did you find out you were “sick?” How have your friends and loved ones reacted?

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2 thoughts on “Manifesto of an OCD Momma

  1. Lydia

    I find myself agreeing reluctantly with all you say. I say reluctantly as so many choices were taken away by circumstance. I planned a home water birth but my baby was breach d I had a c section. I planned to breast feed but she needed prescription formula. It breaks my heart everyday that I couldn’t do what I thought was best but try to do the things I can do now. For centuries we have parented without all the advice and used our instincts and I think we need to go back to that and stop hardening ourselves to those cries to train our children. Thankyou.

    Reply
    1. shepherdsteph Post author

      Lydia, thank you for your comment! Birth and parenting in much of the developed world have moved away from what is best for children and families (and therefore society as a whole) to what makes money and is convenient, and therefore “impressive.” It really is very sad. I do want to say though that while I believe that the vast majority of women are physically and emotionally capable of birthing their babies naturally and breastfeeding them, I also know that individual circumstances arise in which medical intervention is both necessary and life-saving for mothers and/or babies. The problem comes in when those who care for birthing women and babies prefer their own convenience over what is best for their patients. Add to this the fact that most of us have been taught to whole-heartedly trust medical professionals and “the system” and you have the perfect storm.

      I do not know the specifics of your situation, but I firmly believe that as mothers we do the best we can at the time with the information we have at the time. What I do know is that our God is a big god and He ultimately holds us and our children in the palm of His hand. Nothing happens outside of His sovereign plan for our lives or the lives of our children. What’s more, when we accept the work of Christ on the cross, our sins are forgiven by grace. I will pray that you can rest in His sovereignty and abound in His grace. We cannot extend grace to our children if we cannot extend it to ourselves. Oh how I struggle with this DAILY.

      I hope you will comment again soon. Thank you for reading!

      Reply

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