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Don’t put me in a box.

By February 21, 2016Encouragement, Fourth Trimester6 min read
Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

I was inspired to write this post after reading Carly Shankman’s “Don’t put me in a box” post last week.

What kind of a Mom are you?

Are you a hippy Mom? A modern Mom? A traditional Mom? A go-with-the-flow Mom? A by-the-book Mom? We’ve all been given some type of a label in life. As teenagers we may have been known as ‘shy’ or ‘a rebel’ and as we go through the different stages of life, their are multiple labels for each period. We belong. In fact it feels nice to have a tribe.

When I was pregnant I was at the stage in my life where I was on a mission to do everything the most natural (and against the grain) way possible. And there is a huge tribe of those Mama’s that I got to become a part of. Facebook groups galore!

I was going to have my baby at home. I would breastfeed until he/she was at least 2. “What on earth are all these Mom’s with such small babies even doing in this formula isle, what is wrong with them? Don’t they know how bad this shit is for tiny babies?” I would think to myself as I strolled around Baby City with my 7 month old bump and my attitude.

I did a hypno-birthing class and I was going to have my baby without any animal-like sounds coming out of me, there would be Ben Harper playing in the background and candles lit to set the mood. It was going to be so peaceful and perfect. My Instagram feed was going to look blissful. Hashtag #naturalmama

And then… I had a baby. New stage of my life. I was thrown into a wide open space of a stereotype that didn’t exist yet. There I was, standing alone without anyone who knew what to say to me to make me feel like I wasn’t alone. As if I was the first women in the world to feel this way.

Why do I feel like this? What is wrong with me? Why is my baby crying so much? What am I doing wrong? How am I ever going to cope? It wasn’t meant to feel like this. Will my life ever go back to normal again? I can’t even go meet the girls for coffee because I can’t breastfeed my baby without milk squirting half way across the room. This is a fucking nightmare!This struggle… it is real.

But you can never know it, until you live it. It’s the most alone you will ever feel in your entire life. It sucks. But as every mother will tell you (if you ask), it’s beautiful too.

The problem with this period though, is that we don’t talk about it enough. You don’t actually know it exists, until you arrive. Until your body splits in half and one become two. It’s like waking up in an empty field, standing up and looking around you and seeing people standing in the very far distance, but they are so far away you could never possibly walk there to join them.

Becoming a Mom is a lonely space for the first few weeks, even months.

My most recent box “natural mama” was a very strict box. If you don’t birth your baby naturally… you don’t belong. If you don’t manage to breastfeed… you don’t belong. I was kicked out of that box quicker than I could say “but I tried I swear, please let me stay”. So which box do I belong to now?

I had a homebirth, but it turned into a cesarean. I breastfed for 4 weeks, but then switched to formula. Soy used to be the devil to me, but then it kept my baby healthy. We co-slept, but we often used the cot. I did baby led weaning, but I also fed him puree. I don’t vaccinate, but I give him Nurofen when his teeth hurt. Every morning he has a loaded fruit smoothie, but his favourite treat is Jumping Jack popcorn. I practice gentle parenting, but I lost my cool the other day and gave him a smack when he hit the TV with his broom. I let him play games on my iPhone. I toddler wear. I let him stand up in the booths at the Spur and look at the family behind us. Some of those parents find that rude, which I find really funny.

So which box do I belong to now?

I am not breastfeeding or formula feeding.

I am not baby led weaning or anti-vaccine.

I am me.

I am a mother to my child, in whatever form the moment that presents itself requires.

If there has been 1 thing that becoming a Mom has taught me, it’s that as soon as your baby is earth side, that lid comes right off the box and you are forced to make choices for yourself and the well being of your family. All those little boxes that you were once a part of, they very quickly fade away.

This is a new era.

It’s like being born again and starting from scratch. Which is scary, but pretty exciting too. You are no longer limited to a little box anymore, you have a choice. And eventually, you will find, that your tribe is much bigger now. They exist everywhere. The doctor’s office, the beach, the toilets at the mall, the isle at Woolies, a friends wedding, the car license department, that restaurant.

It feels kind of weird not belonging to a tight group of individuals anymore. It feels weird having no actual feeling of belonging. Different. Good. New. And it’s from there that we grow. We learn and we rise as Mom’s raising our babies together. I’m on my baby’s team now. And if you’ve read this far, I’m sure you are too.

Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

Shannon McLaughlin

Shannon is the Founder of Ubuntu Baba baby carriers. She is passionate about helping new parents adjust to 'life with baby' through the art of babywearing and talking about the reality of motherhood in the 21st century.


  • Linda von Zeuner says:

    Beautiful post from a natural mama galore!
    Natural birth or caesar,formula or breast,co sleep or cot,BLW or puree-doesn’t matter! As a mom you know what is best for baby.

    I have to add though and I am sorry for doing so… Children are however dying from Diphteria in Western Cape which is totally preventable by vaccines. I have seen this by firsthand experience as a doctor and it is the saddest thing ever. I don’t judge if you dont vaccinate,but Please don’t disregard them!

    • Thanks for your comment Linda, totally agree that each mama knows whats best for her situation! You can’t really say you don’t judge, and then assume that I’m disregarding dying children… I don’t feel that I’m disregarding anyone dying from terrible diseases by not vaccinating my son and I agree with you that it’s incredibly sad. There are many reasons why someone may contract, suffer and or die from a disease, none of those reasons are because of unvaccinated children spreading these diseases. In my immediate circle of friends, almost every single child that has been vaccinated, has recurring ear infections (including those that are being breastfed past 2 years of age) and gets sick almost every time they get vaccinated, like proper sick that they can’t even attend school. In fact, I have 3 friends whose children have contracted mumps, within 6 weeks of receiving the MMR vaccine – how is it worth it to get a vaccine that makes you sick and actually gives you the disease you’re being vaccinated against? The proof is in the pudding for me. Besides that and all the independent research I’ve done myself, my son is incredibly healthy and has never had 1 ear infection. I’m always happy to talk about vaccines, because I think it’s a topic that should be carefully considered by each and every parent. The whole point of this article is “DON’T PUT ME IN A BOX”… the anti-vaccine box… I’m pro choice, and doing what’s right for you and your family.

  • Leigh says:

    Shannon I love reading your posts, I’m a new mom to a 3 month old baby girl, the first 8 weeks were a nightmare, and everyone I say this to looks at me with horror, like she is so cute and perfect, I must be lying or over reacting. “That’s normal” is what I’m told if I complain, which makes me feel like no one understands. No one can just be honest and say yes it sucks, doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. It really does feel like I’m a completely different person now and I never thought I would change. I was the last one in my group of friends do have a baby and I battled to understand how they changed. Now I get it. It’s the hardest thing in the world but also so special I can’t put it into words x

    • Aah totally Leigh! I know it’s like the old you is just GONE! I can’t even remember that person. It takes a long time to adjust to the new you. I’m so honest because of that exact reason, so many Moms put on an act for fear of being judged… so over that.. we gotta be real with each other to support each other! Much love! xx

  • Liza says:

    So beautiful. So true. I was so set on a natural birth and did not know how judgemental I was about it till I had to have a c-section. And yet. My birth experience was beautiful. The most wonderful thing when they took her out and held that white grey-looking baby girl close to my face so I could kiss her and laid her on my chest for a minute or two. My husband got to hold her skin to skin when they stitched me up and I had her skin to skin for the whole afternoon after that. So magical. The fact that I was tied to the bed with a catheter and a drip just made for more cuddle time. The whole thing made me so thankful for technology and science. And that I was still able to give birth. No matter what choices parents make for their children out of love or because there is no other way. They all eventually grow up and are okay. <3 looking forward to start using my Ubuntu soon.

  • Daleen Ehlers says:

    Yes! So much yes… Everyone always tell you about the nice parts, but never talk about that first 6 weeks where you feel you are going to loose your mind! I wonder if at some level we feel guilty and chose not to talk about it…
    In that first 6 weeks I doubted myself in so many ways – am I doing this right, why does she drink so long, why did she just vomit almost her whole feed out, does she have a fever…
    I just wanted to go to the loo, but too scared to put her down! And then just when she calms down and I feel like maybe now I’ll get a break, hubby comes home and also wants attention :/ I was exhausted!!!! Very close to breaking point, when in came the baby wrap. Lifesaver to the physically and mentally drained mommy! All of the sudden my baby is calm and sleeps after every feed. I can brush my hair and even do some make-up! I can feel human again! And I discovered a whole new world with like-minded people through babywearing :)

  • Elrika Smit says:

    Yes! For me it was like the bubbles me and Emma play with now, 17 months later, with utter delight. So fragile so quick to change, so exciting….so dissapointing. Each new breath full of hope and then….each out breath full of wonder loaded with questions and confusion. Why how when??????
    Which box is mine again? Give me another chance……next time.

    No way never again.

    Now when that blue eyes look up at me with love or utter anger. My heart knows that this is it. It knows that it will never be a no mommy heart again. A mother is only as happy as her saddest child. Now my soul knows I need this, in whichever form. This comlpletes….forced to see the other side which we so easily hides and neglect…..We made it to the otherside of the depression and therefore we love forever.

    There is no right or wrong.
    Just what works, and what do not work…..for each of us respectively. Go mommies! The best gift you can give your child is to keep your passion even if it does not include them..

    Do what you can, where you are.
    Mother love.

  • Lindie says:

    So true, and I still don’t belong after 17months. Because I still try the natural route on everything, home schooling etc. I made peace with the fact that it’s a lonely life out there if you do things upstream and not with the flow :)

  • Michelle says:

    I love this post shan. We all just doing what is best for our babies, family and what works for us. I remember those first weeks after having Lexi, how lonely they were. I will never forget. I think it is so important to talk about this possibility to new mama’s, i wish someone had told me.

    • Yes totally Mich. I wish someone had told me too. You were one of the mama’s that was there for me though during those weeks, so thank you for that, it was so nice to hear that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. xxx

  • Hello Shannon, thanks for sharing your experience! I can so relate to each and every point. I also prepared for a “all natural birth” in hospital and it all went so well after only 4hours I had a beautiful home-birth. BUT becoming a mother was and has been the hardest part of it all. It’s all a beautiful mess, magic wothin the chaos and the most entimate togetherness while feeling totally alone. I still won’t have it any other way! Mommy Madeleen.

  • Tracy-Lee Reid says:

    Love this…. And if you are ever feeling lonely remember we all belong to the same team…..TEAM MOM!!!!

  • Cara says:

    I’m on your team <3

  • Margaux says:

    Such an awesome post! Beautifully written! x

  • Simone says:

    This so so lovely, Shannon! We’re all just trying to do the best we can for our littlies in the best way we know how. Just because it’s not how our mothers or neighbours or friends do it, doesn’t mean it it isn’t right for our little family. x

  • Linda says:

    Love this post! Beautifully written, and so true! Everybody is guilty of this – so quick to judge, until the things you judged others about, becomes your reality…

  • Beautiful and touching post! Thank you for sharing this ♥️

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