Earth Mother Failure

by Becca Alexander
Originally Published: 

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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