Natural Motherhood, Interrupted
By Rebecca Ash
I’m so much wiser now. As a bride I began to believe that it really would be the most important day of my life and money really shouldn’t be an issue. Our wedding did end up wonderful and memorable, but it’s dimmed by the day I became a mother. When I found out I was pregnant, there would be nothing I would compromise on when it comes to the health and well-being of my son?
I wanted him to have the best of everything, and what exactly is the best? A natural birth, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, no-cry sleep solutions, organic food, hypoallergenic anything that touches his skin, and so on and so forth.
Before Ely was born I read a lot, but of course on his arrival I felt frantic: I hadn’t read enough of the right things and I didn’t really remember anything I useful I had read. Pregnancy was smooth sailing: I exercised, ate right, went toxin-free, and prepped myself for an all natural birth. Then suddenly, starting with the birth, I faltered.
My water broke at 5:30am, 6 days past my due date. It would be the start of a very long and very un-natural birth. 35 hours, an epidural, and a LOT of Pitocin later, Ely miraculously came to world via vacuum and surrounded by many adoring doctors and nurses. This was the start to what my husband calls our “complicated relationship”.
Since he was born via vacuum, Ely was sent for tests almost immediately. They didn’t wait to cut the cord, we didn’t get to have the skin-to-skin moment that I’d been waiting over 40weeks for or that first attempt at breastfeeding.
When we had done our parenting class at the hospital a month prior, our birth instructor showed us a a video about the beauty of breastfeeding instead of the standard emotionally scarring birthing video. There was a point in the video with a montage of newborn babies latching on to their mothers. It was National Geographic- esque with slow motion and animalistic fervor. It was inspirational and I was determined, certain this was not going to be a problem, and I was wrong.
Following the un-natural birth I went to sleep and Ely went to the nursery. In the middle of the night the nurse came to get me and told me that he needs to eat. It must have been 3 in the morning when I finally got my first attempt to breastfeed. Breastfeeding, what’s supposed to be one of the most natural things in the universe, and one of the greatest gifts you can give your child, was impossible for us. For two months I was obsessed with trying to get Ely to breastfeed. Lactation consultants admired my tenacity and conviction and promised me everything would be ok, that they never had a client who didn’t succeed. I became a master at pumping since my child would not have formula. As far as things were going, I was convinced that if I had been giving birth in the Middle Ages, we wouldn’t have made it through! No contractions and lots of Pitocin plus no breastfeeding = Natural lifestyle – 0 Medical intervention – 2. The feelings of guilt and failure surmounted and dwarfed any sense of self-esteem or competency I had regarding motherhood.
The first couple months were the most difficult. Lack of sleep and no success at breastfeeding did not make me a happy camper. At three months, we switched full-time to formula. There was a moment of sadness and failure as I packed away my trusty Medela Freestyle for the last time, but there was also relief. I had become a little bit of a crazy and obsessed person with my vehemence. Now I was able to relax a bit and really begin to enjoy motherhood, or so I thought.
My amazing little man is active. If you’ve read “The Baby Whisperer”, he’s a “spirited child”. Always moving and racing to each milestone, Ely has fallen asleep in his stroller exactly twice in his first year, and I have the pictures to prove it. He keeps us on our toes, and for 6 months on a fitness ball, bouncing sometimes for over an hour before he would finally relax and welcome the sleep fairy. We tried to get him to sleep in countless natural ways; holding, rocking, patting, stroking, and finally coaxing. Each new idea seemed to make things worse, and in the end, Dr. Ferber and his progressive waiting method is what saved the day. It wasn’t the natural method either, but it worked for us.
In many of our attempts at natural parenthood, we failed. , Where we didn’t fail was always being able to realize what was best for Ely, natural or not. For the things we really have control over, we do natural – no Gerber or processed food for this guy! For everything else we do our best and give natural a try. Writing this now, just one year after becoming a mother I feel some element of triumph in all my parenting efforts, but I can’t shake the feeling of failure and sadness that I wasn’t able to be the mother I was hoping to be, especially at the beginning. I don’t feel guilty anymore, though. I realize though that while everything might not have gone as planned, what matters most is that Ely is happy, well-adjusted, chubby, and meeting all his developmental milestones, and that in my efforts and goodwill to do what is best for him, whether successful naturally, or successful unnaturally, the most important thing is that I tried my best. And isn’t that the lesson our parents always tried to teach us?
Rebecca Ash is the Admissions Director for the Sofaer International MBA.