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Before I had my daughter, I had so many ideas of what kind of mom I would be.
I was going to have a natural, drug-free birth. I was going to breastfeed for at least six months. We wouldn’t introduce solids until six months to maximize the amount of breast milk she was getting. I was going to lose all the baby weight in the first few months, without much effort. I mean, everyone says that if you’re breast feeding, the weight just magically falls off, right? I wasn’t going to have any problems with the baby blues because I would just be so ecstatically happy all of the time. I was so sure I would be able to comfort my child. She would be a good sleeper and a great eater. Failure wasn’t even an option I considered.
I simply knew that I was designed by God to be a mother. So it would all come naturally. What could possibly go wrong?
I soon found out the answer to that question was: Everything.
Failure #1: C-Section
I found out the day before my due date that I would need a C-section due to complications I’d had during the pregnancy. For 39 weeks and 6 days I had planned on a natural delivery. My husband and I attended birthing classes, I practiced breathing, we had a plan. I was so sure about this plan that I hadn’t even researched C-sections. It just wasn’t an option. And then the doctors said it was the only option. Natural childbirth: Fail.
Failure #2: Breastfeeding
My daughter and I started trying to breastfeed as soon as she was born. She latched perfectly on the right side but, no matter how hard we tried, I could not get her to latch properly on the left. Four visits from the lactation consult yielded nothing but pain, frustration, and a very hungry baby. I began developing mastitis and ended up in the ER with a fever of nearly 102 when she was only a week old. I was determined not to use formula so I started pumping. I pumped for hours every day, to the point of total exhaustion, just because I was so convinced that “breast is best.” At around 3 months my milk supply dropped and never recovered. At that point, we had to supplement with formula. I continued pumping for nearly 6 months before finally switching fully to formula and solid foods. Breastfeeding: Fail.
Failure #3: Sleep
As a newborn, my daughter would not sleep. Before having her, everything I read and everything people told me made me believe that new babies will sleep upwards of 18-20 hours a day. This did not happen for us. Most of the time, she would sleep for 10 minutes and then be wide awake again. Often crying. For hours upon hours. The doctors weren’t concerned since she was growing well and hitting all of her milestones. My husband and I, however, were concerned as the months dragged on with never more than an hour or two of sleep at a time for any of us. Why could I not soothe my own child? What kind of a mom is unable to put her baby to sleep? Sleep: Fail.
Failure #4: Introducing Solids
I was determined to give my daughter only breast milk for the first six months of her life. At her four month checkup, she still wasn’t sleeping well and I wasn’t producing enough milk so the doctor suggested supplementing with baby cereal (in addition to the formula we were already giving her). He said this would fill up her tummy and help her to sleep for longer periods of time. I held off for another 3 weeks until finally, in a state of complete exhaustion and desperation, my husband and I began giving her a little cereal in the evenings before bed. Solid foods: Fail.
Failure #5: The Baby Weight
I thought I would exercise throughout my pregnancy, gain 20 or 25 pounds, and lose it all quickly and easily. Instead, I was unable to exercise for most of the pregnancy due to complications, gained nearly 40 pounds, and have yet to lose all the weight at 10 months postpartum. There has been no “falling off” of weight. I exercise 6 days a week and try to maintain a healthy diet and I still have roughly 10 pounds to go. And breastfeeding/pumping did nothing for me weight-wise except to make me ravenously hungry all day every day. Baby weight: Fail.
Failure #6: The Baby Blues
After having our daughter, our family moved to a different state for my husband’s work. Suddenly, we had no support system. My husband worked 12 hour days so I was alone for long periods at a time with a baby who was neither eating nor sleeping well. I soon began to experience some depression. This was a very difficult time for our family. I felt my failures just piling up, one on top of the next, and it became difficult to handle. Instead of being blissfully happy, I was an exhausted, frustrated, crying mess. Baby blues: Fail.
I had to just accept the fact that I was a failure as a mom. I mean, look at all of the evidence piled up against me.
I became convinced that I didn’t deserve this blessing God had given me.
I became convinced that I could never be the mom my daughter needed me to be.
But God is faithful and, through my darkest moments, He gave me two lifelines:
First, I am blessed with an amazing husband. I honestly don’t know if I could have made it through those early months without him. He did everything he could to make things easier on me. He worked his 12 hours days and then came home to serve my daughter and I as a faithful, loving father and husband. He held me while I cried for endless hours and reassured me, over and over again, that I was not a failure.
The second lifeline was an email from a friend. She sent me a link for a book called Unnatural Mom. God used this book to change my entire mindset.
I am the exact mom that God wanted for this baby. God knows all of my short-comings and all of my God-given strengths, and He hand-picked me to care for this little one. I may not be the most natural mom in the world. Maybe I couldn’t have a natural childbirth or breastfeed, but I am the mom God wanted for this special, beautiful little girl.
And I cried some more, though these tears were happier.
For so long, I felt like I failed in so many ways.
I learned and grew, I made mistakes and had successes. I realized that despite all of my perceived failures, our daughter is healthy, steadily growing, and hitting all of her milestones on time or even early.
Despite all of my “failures,” my daughter is happy and healthy. She doesn’t think I’m a failure. All she knows is that I’m her mama. I’m there, day in and day out, feeding, changing, and loving her. She laughs and sings and “talks” all day long. We play hide-n-seek, we tickle and blow raspberries, she helps with chores (and by helps, I mean actively works to undo whatever I’ve just done). She throws herself into my arms when I get her out of her crib, she crawls across the room just to get kisses and hugs from me.
And I am happy. Thrilled, actually. I’m (mostly) free of the “failure” mentality.
I “failed” in just about every standard the world has set up for moms. And yet my daughter is happy and healthy. And I am happy and healthy.
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Through this process I learned:
The birth of a child, vaginal or C-section, natural or assisted, is a resounding, praise-worthy success!
Fed is best. If breastfeeding works for you and your baby, that is amazingly wonderful! If formula feeding works for you and your baby, that is absolutely awesome! You are feeding your child, and he or she will thrive as a result.
Some babies sleep well, others don’t. If your baby falls into the latter category, you are not a failure. Keep trying different things until you find what works for you and your baby. Around 5 months, we found that a combination of a good, solid meal in the evening, a sound machine, pacifier, and Zipadee-Zip (swaddle transition) helped us all to get more sleep. Every baby is different and has different needs, that doesn’t make you a failure.
Don’t pay attention to the nonsense you see in the media about losing the baby weight. If you lose the weight quickly, that’s fantastic! If you takes you longer (as it has for me), there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I’m more than a little tired of the mommy-fat-shaming that goes on, but I’m also quick to acknowledge that no one is harder on me than me. Be kind to yourself and ignore anyone who isn’t.
If you’re struggling with the baby blues or postpartum depression: You are not a failure! Please reach out to someone for help. Don’t try to go through it alone. Talk to a friend, a family member, your doctor. Once I started talking about it, God gave me support left and right. Suddenly, everyone was praying for me, checking in with me, asking how they could support me. And, each day, it got easier.
I’ve learned to stop listening to all the “advice” and “rules” about what’s best or what’s right and wrong.
It’s more important to find what works for your family.
To all of my fellow moms out there: You are not a failure. Your children do not think you’re a failure.
Forget what you read on the internet. Don’t listen to what they say on the news. Let go of everyone else’s standards.
And, most of all, seek the truth about who you are in God, not in experts or media. You are chosen, worthy, and oh-so-very loved!
Focus on God and His truths. He made you. He chose you to be the mom of His precious little ones. He will equip you and see you through.