Child Rearing


I drafted this post about 6 months ago.  I have since begun to come to terms with my issues.  However petty they may seem to others (and honestly, I look back and realize how fortunate I am to have been pregnant and birth healthy babies)- they were really significant to me and my mothering experience.  I’m happy to report that both of my children are well nourished, happy and healthy Thanks Be to God.

Ohhh I swore I wouldn’t complain or lament, but I need to get this off my chest.

Breastfeeding has been the  number one biggest challenge and epic disappointment for me in my 38 years of life.   When I was expecting my son, and even before he was conceived, I dreamed of having our very own baby and wondered how magical and fulfilling it would be to nurse him after his birth.  I fantasized I was glowing with joy as I peacefully nursed him in my rocking chair while my husband admired us and was in awe with  how capable and beautiful I was. 

So very not the case.

At 39 weeks and after a failed induction I had an unplanned c-section which was followed by wicked mood swings and disastrous attempts at breastfeeding.   Even after we arrived home, baby never latched on, not once- despite all of the different advice, books, contraptions and  numerous lactation consultants— my body failed again.  I couldn’t deliver him naturally and show my husband how strong as was, and  I couldn’t even nourish him.   I was defective and ugly and there wasnt anything anyone could have said to make me feel better.   I just cried, and cried.  And cried and cried.  Then I cried some more.  Did I mention how wicked I was?  This went on for 6 weeks, and I started to worry!  Friends would visit and ask if I was nursing, and it would bring anxiety and stress.   They would all give me advice, and sometimes husbands would chime in!  A simple little question would trigger so many negative feelings, and when those moments came when some of my friends would nurse their babies in front me,  anxiety would fill my chest and throat, and I would become unfocused and nervous.  It was awful.  (Gladly, that doesn’t happen anymore).  Clearly this was not normal, and for reasons I could not and still cannot understand, my breastfeeding experience has a profound  affect on me.  

I had a repeat c-section last summer, but delivered at a different hospital.  I was allowed to have my daughter in recovery; they allowed me to attempt nursing right away, and encouraged breastfeeding.    I was better prepared this time and I expected to have difficulty nursing.  She did latch intermittently and effectively two or three  times.   Those brief moments were so beautiful and I will never forget them.  I was also more relaxed because I knew what to expect- and that allowed me to be more present during her birth and helped me to cherish the not-so-perfect moments.  There was one nurse, who taught me the best way to get her latched on my last day, and I will always think she was brilliant and in-tune with her skills and patients and patience! 

Once we were home, it became a little more difficult.  She would not latch, I was in pain, exhausted, crying all the time and my 2-year-old son became a beast that detested his sister instantaneously.  I was chained to my Medela pump day and night, and it was not doing anything for my self-esteem.   I was able to partially breast feed, and partially bottle feed, and after such a rotten experience the first time, I took it!

With both children, I ended up supplementing with formula and my body stopped producing milk when they were 4 months old (note: I also returned to work at this time).  I never felt that I made that much milk to begin with, but I could not let go.   I never experienced the ‘engorgement’ that most new moms talk about.   What slays me is my daughter became a champion latcher by the time she was eight weeks old, but I was not producing enough to nurse her exclusively, despite heroic attempts to increase my supply.   I began to resent pumping and having her latch constantly so my body would produce more.   It was mechanical and cold- and guess what?  It didn’t work.

I am so thankful to God that my children are healthy, born without complications and that we have the means to provide them with everything they need.   Alhamdulillah.  When I snuggle  Tiny Girl in my arms with her bottle, I get warm fuzzies when she looks up at me.  I relish the way formula drips from the corner of her mouth to her little stinky neck.  My heart flutters when I see her chubby little fingers wrapped around mine and I am satisfied that her nutritional needs are being met and that she is thriving.    Contrary to some fo the breastfeeding dictators I’ve encountered, they didn’t sleep through the night (damn!), they weren’t/arent overweight, did not/do not suffer from gastrointestinal plight or constipation plus they seemed to enjoy it. 

There is such an emphasis on ‘breast is best’, and all I could think about amid the struggles was “if I lived in an impoverished nation would my children be malnourished or die?”

One of the worst parts about all this, is that I took time away from myself  being a new mother for the first time and enjoying it.  I took time away from myself to relish every second with my first-born.   I was so enveloped in my nursing failure that I think it inhibited some of the natural bonding tendencies.  I would do anything to go back in time, and hold him as a new infant, and tell him how much he was loved, before he was conceived rather than agonize over each feeding and wondering if I was meant to be a mother.   Those feelings began to disappear when I returned to work because I was so busy, I didn’t have time for non-essential thoughts and literally made the best of every second I had with him.  My nursing experience with my daughter wasn’t as severe as my first and I generally had an easier time in all aspects of parenting her.

–Yet as I sit here and write this, unsuccessful breastfeeding has left me feeling inadequate, less feminine, less accomplished and guilty.  Despite my primal instinct to nurse my children, I failed.  I want these nagging feelings to disappear.

Following are my very opinionated thoughts; my intention is not to insult or criticize, but to come to terms with my feelings regarding young girls and hijab.  Feedback and discussion are welcome and appreciated.

Several years ago we attended an ICNA conference  and I could not believe my eyes: an adorable eight or nine month old baby in a hijab, perched on her father’s lap.  Until this very moment, partly due to the fact that I am the mother of a five month old daughter, I often wonder why a Muslim parent would resort to donning an infant in a hijab.  Aside from my visceral reaction of borderline disgust (I know– harsh.  Just being honest.), it looked totally ridiculous.  She didn’t even have teeth.   A baby girl in a hijab seems as twisted as a toddler in a beauty pageant.    Excessive.  Seeing a baby covered in this manner, has triggered some emotions regarding my own children and their Islamic education and upbringing.

We are planning to send our kids to Islamic preschool, and if we find that the Islamic elementary schools in our area are dynamic, reputable and meet and exceed the standards for education– we will send them.  I find myself feeling anxious that my daughter will be required to wear a little hijab.  Sure, it’s cute.  Anything she does is cute, and anything she wears is cute.   Pre-K through second graders are required to wear hijab.  Third graders and older are required to wear khimar and jilbab!   I must ask, what message does this send?  Will Tiny Girl  chalk it up to ‘girls cover and boys don’t’ ?  Will she grow to love it or be turned off by it because it’s mandatory?  Will my son grow to be biased toward girls and young women  based on whether or not they cover?  As a matter of fact it is only mandatory when menstruation begins.  So why start so young?    I absolutely cringe when I hear another Muslim offer this explanation: “well, if she only starts wearing it to school when she gets her first period, everyone will know she has it”.

Spare.  Me.

As a Muslim parent, I do have concerns.  I want my children to grow to love God and to realize that living a well-balanced life is totally compatible with Islam.    Furthermore, I want my children to be in an unbiased and fair environment when it comes to schooling,  learning how to be social creatures and making new friends.  I want both my son and daughter, to understand and find internal value in the practice and preservation of modesty.   More importantly, I’m feeling like my parental right and duty to introduce my children to modesty and it’s practice are being taken away from me.  Why should I let an institution determine how or when my daughter practices hijab?   I take hijab-wearing seriously and it doesn’t mean a thing, if it’s not done for the right reasons. I find it hard to believe kids  will learn to embrace modesty if it’s forced upon them.

Is my logic grossly flawed or is  this a typical concern amongst other Muslim parents?  What are parents of Muslim teens saying?  I would love to know how they deal with this issue, and what the outcomes are.