Earth Mother Failure



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.

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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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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    • 6

      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. 7

    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. 10

    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. 11

    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. 12

    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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    • 13

      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. 14

    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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  11. 15

    momofteengirls says

    very true: I once belonged to the “I will be the Parent to rival all other parents” club now, I have come to realize that failure is part of parenting; little failures with little ones, then bigger and more hard hand handle failures with bigger ones. I am currently in the midst of the”daily failures with teens” phase. My expectations of myself have lowered, but the guilt quotient has been raised; If everything is not done right thy will be judged harshly ala’ my teen needs to have good grades, be involved in sports, academic and charitable activities,stay away form smoking, sex and drugs and be respectful while going through the “Driven mad by hormones, school and social pressure phase”, and eat quality dinners as a family while everyone has a different schedule.. and works full time. Everyone needs to give themselves and eachother a break, support, non-judgementmental friendship and the necessary drinks and laughter it takes to this crazy world of parenting. It never ends….

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    • 16

      Susan says

      YOU are so right! I now have teenagers and it is just a triumph to get thru every day with them in the house. Menopausal moms and hormonal teens do not co-habitat well! The baby stage seems blissfully easy now:)
      “Until the shit show commenced” That is just too funny!
      I love this website, it helps me get through everyday with teens!

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      • 17

        Susan says

        Just another note…I know this is more about moms with little kids but just looking back and seeing that most of what I worried about when they were little is hilarious now just helps me to realize when this “shit show” of teen years passes…we will both survive it and hopefully be able to laugh about it. AND my kids will not be the ax murderers murderers that I sometimes fear they will become.

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        • 18

          momofteengirls says

          So true, Susan! It is hard to believe I worried about how many grams of protein my kids ate per day,with all of the real stuff there is to worry about now!!!!! If I could turn back time I would definitely relaxed and enjoyed way is definitely the REAL “Shit Show”! pass me the xanax!

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  12. 19

    Wendy says

    Motherhood is the art of letting go, starting with the “birth plan,” and continuing throughout your children’s lives. The couple of things I never caved on were no video games, and no white bread. They seem to have turned out pretty terrific despite all my “failings”! I’m now dealing with letting go of my grandmothering ideals.

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  13. 20

    Crystal Clancy says

    Thank you SO much for sharing your story. Moms need to stop feeling like a failure because of their birthing and motherhood experiences! We are all just trying our hardest!

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  14. 21

    Staci says

    Not the same problem but the same idea of being all natural until I found out my now 13 year DD was allergic to everything and was told to feed only rice and chicken and hey give her fruity pebbles because they are rice…. and when we started to reintroduce wheat all white, not how I thought I would ever feed my kids. You have to go with the flow and keep them happy and healthy

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  15. 22

    Teresa says

    I could have written almost every word of this… including making the babyfood myself. It took me a long time to mourn my ideal birth and motherhood expereince. But my kids thrived as well – on formula and disposable diapers. So many expectations we have…

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  16. 23

    Kathleen says

    Thank you for this! I swear, you just wrote my story, other than the breastfeeding (I had the same issue, and ended up supplementing and nursing both my kids. It wasn’t what I imagined though, my low milk supply).

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  17. 24

    Debbie says

    Welcome to the real world sweety. Nothing ever comes out the way we plan, but when we learn to go with the flow and find the humor the memories can carry you a life time.
    With my first I was in labor for 28 hours and ended up having 2 nurses trying to help me push by leaning on my stomach. We both survived. The second one was breach and those were the days when you were not suppose to have anything for deliver. All naturel.

    The third I finally got it right. The moral of the story is maybe you should have another and see if you can get it right after all.
    Babies and kids are a challenge, but when we put them first and see the joy, and humor it is all worth it.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

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  18. 25

    Harper says

    I wouldn’t say I was determined to be crunchy, but some other version of perfection [insert momeotype of choice here]. We get so caught up in what others think motherhood should look like that we invite misguided feelings of failure into our lives and respond with ‘it’s a mommy thing’ because basically it is.

    I quickly adopted the survival technique of picking one obsession at a time when it comes to parenting. I was lucky, breastfeeding was successful twice for me, so I latched on [pun intended] and made that my thing. After breastfeeding, I think it will be homemade Halloween costumes. Ha!

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  19. 26

    Maggie says

    This. Only in reverse. I was determined I would never be a weak, namby-pamby, crunchy, earth mother. I was prepared to do everything by the book and schedule and ferberize the hell out of my baby. Turns out I was reading the wrong book! After battling PPD and my own super controlling nature, I’m the baby wearing, cosleeping, breastfeeding woman I swore I’d never be.

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  20. 27

    Stacy W says

    I had a very similar experience, with the planning a beautiful natural birth and breastfeeding until my baby was one. Well I was in the hospital for 5 days and nights was on a rollercoaster of natural delivery no c-section, no you dilated to 5, no you havent moved from five and at 6:11am on the third day I had 9#11oz baby via c-section. Every nurse was telling me how good he was at latching until the day i was leaving and it was brought to my attention that my baby had lost close to 2# and i needed to supplement to feed the starving child. Well I could go on and on with my story but bottom line is you cant have a plan you have to just have to do what is necessary to have a healthy baby and mom. He gained all his weight back and is doing great Im recoverying slowly but surely. I pump every 5 hours and bottlefed. It is what it is.

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