Earth Mother Failure

woman-before-birthImage via Shutterstock

Were you gunning to be the crunchiest of mamas?  I was… but the universe had other plans.

I’m a yoga instructor.  I’m a vegetarian.  I take excellent care of my physical and mental health and well-being (when I’m not eating ice cream and drinking lots of wine).  I have a great therapist.  I recycle.

So when I planned to have my first child, naturally (pun intended) I knew exactly how I was going to do it.  I attended Bradley Method classes.  I choked down two eggs a day and as much Greek yogurt as I could stomach (and still manage to poop).  I did Kegels, squats, pelvic floor exercises, prenatal yoga.  I olive-oiled my perineum for a month before my delivery for god’s sake.  I was going to have a NATURAL delivery.  I was going to bask in the warm contented glow of breastfeeding bliss.  I was going to carry my little bundle of cloth-diapered, co-sleeping love into the sunset – in a sling.

Until the shit show commenced.

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My labor started at 2:00am.  My contractions lasted 45-50 seconds and were five minutes apart from the start.  I showered, walked the neighborhood to try and speed my labor, sucked on honey straws and suckers and ate granola bars.  My labor excruciatingly continued for 12 more hours with no change in my contractions.  Finally, I went to the hospital when I wasn’t making progress.  In my delivery room, I rolled (more like writhed) on my birthing ball.  I attempted to take a shower, despite the fact that there was no hot water in my room (clearly the universe was laughing in my face).  I breathed, visualized, and allowed my husband to try to massage some calm into me, despite my growing urge to jump out of my skin and off the hospital roof.  Still another six hours after that, I had only dilated two more centimeters.

When my doctor told me that I would likely be laboring for many more hours afterward, I gave in.  I begged for the epidural.  I convinced my hard-working husband that I could take no more.  Hours later – stalling my little guy’s heartbeat with every push – I found myself prepped for a c-section.

I took this blow to my ego remarkably well at the time (maybe it was the drugs – hey, they were great).  Then my little boy latched on right away in the recovery room.  I thought, this will be the beginning of a great breastfeeding experience.  Then he got hungrier.  During the next couple weeks, my supply barely increased.  I ate bowls upon bowls of oatmeal and drank milk-stimulating teas.  I called a lactation consultant sobbing and begging for help.  I pumped for 40 minutes after each nursing session (each of which had already lasted 45 minutes, giving me approximately 15 to 20 minutes of time to collect myself before nursing again).  My son was losing weight rapidly and I began to supplement out of desperation.  I plummeted into postpartum depression.  I considered suicide.  I took Prozac (something I swore I would never do after years of therapy and some holistic medicine education).  That is where my breastfeeding relationship with my son ended.

My son’s non-stop caveman-style grunting made it IMPOSSIBLE to sleep in the same room with him – even with earplugs.  Much less in the same bed.

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I brought bags of cloth diapers to my hospital with me, preparing to start my son in cloth immediately.  After several nights of changing pee-soaked swaddlers and crib sheets, that ship also sailed.  All of my plans were dashed.  I had failed.  I had failed in EVERY SINGLE THING I HAD SET OUT TO DO.

I mourned.  I cried so much I was embarrassed to be around my family.  I was a hot fucking mess.  My husband was frightened of what I had become and my seeming lack of affection for our little joint venture.

Somehow, my son was thriving, but wait… wasn’t he supposed to be a malnourished colicky ball of malcontent?  Wasn’t he supposed to be lagging behind his breastfed baby buddies in milestone-ville?

Nope.  Kid was a chunky, happy, good sleeper.  Well beyond his milestones.  I had an awesome, healthy, happy little boy and isn’t that all that matters?  Well, it’s all that should matter, and  I’m ashamed to admit that it took me much too long to realize that.


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  1. Mama Melch says

    Who can take that kind of pressure and NOT become a ball of mess? I was the exact same way with my first, and even when things went as planned it wasn’t ever as perfect as I wanted it to be. It all worked out so much better when I just let it go. Funny how life with kids works that way most times isn’t it?

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  2. Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes says

    I was exactly the same about breastfeeding with n°1. Somehow it felt as if my boobs had betrayed me.
    When I had the same supply-issues with n°2 I just shrugged my shoulders, gave the breastfeeding- ayatolla nurse the finger and requested formula for my now very happy healthy child.

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  3. Alexis says


    I read all the books, took the classes, and am a type A successful person and goddamnit I was going to be a GREAT Mom and do ALL the right things (natural birth, nursing, sleep master ninja) for my precious baby.

    5 months later I had supply issues, was spending HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS each month on medical-grade pumps, medication, home IBCLC visits, etc.

    Oh and he had terrible reflux, screamed constantly, never slept, and the highlight of my day was when my husband came home from work and I could make him somebody elses problem for an hour.

    Accepting that things don’t work out according to plan and that Plan B will be just fine for everybody is such a small statement it barely touches the reality of what that process really looks like. But yeah – right there with you.

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  4. grownandflown says

    Agreed! All that matters is that your son is a healthy, happy little guy. Good that you realize (early on) that your best parenting intentions will all be tempered and tamed by reality. This will happen at each of his developmental milestones – up to and including the moment you drop him off at his freshman dorm.

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  5. Deanna says

    I can relate in every way.. as I sit here pumping for my THIRD breastfeeding atrocity… I finally have ample milk and my child has a suck so weak my breasts don’t even register that he’s in the room.. great. Just great.

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    • Beth says

      Keep your chin up, Deanna, and if you haven’t already go meet with a lactation consultant. I wouldn’t have been able to breast feed my baby without the woman I met who taught me some different holds and showed me and my baby how to help her latch better. Each child is different. If it doesn’t work, pump and feed from a bottle if you can and keep your chin up!

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  6. Beth says

    While you mourn all of the things you DIDN’T do for your son, you should celebrate all of the things you did right. You DID get help for postpartum. You DID find a way to make sure he got the nourishment he needed. You DID get the sleep you needed by not co-sleeping with him—imagine if you tried to stick it out and added even more exhaustion to that mix? I think you did a fine idea of being adaptable which is the MOST important quality a new mother can have in my opinion.

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  7. Jessica Smock says

    Oh, my gosh, my experience was exactly the same. I could have written it myself. And in fact, I did write a piece about this a couple weeks ago:

    It was reposted a couple places, and the consensus from all the comments is that this experience is SO common. Flexibility is the key, but I completely understand how you can feel like you’re mourning the fact that you didn’t parent the way that you wanted to.

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  8. 814mom says

    And then the shit show started……thank you for making me spit my coffee out!! I just recently found my first child’s birth plan they made us write that work of fiction in birth class.

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  9. Amy M says

    I could have written this post! I was so convinced that I was going to have a natural unmediated birth that I never seriously researched any other method. So of course I ended up with a c section. I was also dead set on breastfeeding and did not prepare a formula-based back up plan. So of course I could not produce enough milk and my son was jaundiced and losing weight rapidly after he was born.

    I fought so hard at first to do it “the right way” but the moment I gave up on breastfeeding it was like a weight had been lifted and I could breathe again. It was the first time I could relax around my baby because I was no longer fear stricken at his feeding times.

    I’m so grateful it went that way for me, though. Having everything go wrong actually led to me becoming a calmer parent overall. I definitely think things happen for a reason and giving up control is definitely a parenting lesson I needed to learn.

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    • Angela says

      OMG your comment “giving up control is definitely a parenting lesson” Is spot on. Going into my first pregnancy, I thought it was all about being in control of every situation. I was the idiot that started her sentences with the phrase “when I have my kids I’m never…” or “when I’m a parent I’ll always…” That was a hard lesson for me to learn. But now with #3 on the way, It’s alot easier to adapt and adjust to the situations.

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  10. Zz says

    I’m 100% with you. Living up to my expectation of motherhood can be depressing..if you let it. I’ve learned to do the best in the immediate circumstance..and drink wine.

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