I did prenatal yoga every day. I lived on kale smoothies. I meditated. I ran regularly all the way until my 3rd trimester. I tie-dyed every white onesie I could get my hands on. I studied hypnobirthing. I devoured books and documentaries like “orgasmic birth” and “the business of being born.” Ina May became my guru. I believed that natural birth didn’t have to be “painful,” that breastfeeding would be as natural as breathing, and that my maternity leave would be spent in a dreamy fog of snuggling my infant while laying in a sunbeam and catching up on my reading.
Needless to say, my expectations and my reality didn’t exactly match up.
Fail #1: Natural Birth
In a perfect world, I wanted to have a home birth. I wanted to relax in my birth tub under the stars and breathe my baby into the world with goddess-like ease. But because my insurance wouldn’t cover it, I ended up giving birth in a hospital with a midwife/doula program. Best of both worlds, right?
And it was great. They didn’t make me have an IV, I could wear my own comfy nightgown, and they were very respectful of my very natural birth plan. I labored at home for the first 10 hours and it was like a dream. I walked by the river, I soaked in the tub, I sat on my birth ball, and I literally thought “I could do this all day!” Fast-forward 4 hours and find me moaning on my hospital bed, trying to curl up into the fetal position, asking my nurse to “just TALK to me about epidurals.”
Turns out my 10 POUND 5 OUNCE baby was posterior, and the back labor was shaking me to my core. After my water broke, stuff really got real, and while I still stubbornly resisted the epidural, I asked for a dose of medicine. It didn’t really touch the pain, but it at least helped me take a breath and relax just a little bit between contractions. Just an hour later after only 20 minutes of pushing, my beautiful, healthy, ENORMOUS son came into the world.
Fail #2: Breastfeeding
In all of my obsessive birth-prep, it never even crossed my mind that breastfeeding would be a problem. I just assumed that moms knew how to do it, babies knew how to do it, and it all just WORKED. My mom breastfed for over a decade of her life and made it look absolutely joyful and effortless. So when my baby screamed and screamed and wouldn’t even come close to latching for a full 4 hours after he was born, I was concerned. In his first 2 weeks of life, he lost almost 2 whole pounds. Several lactation consultants later, we learned that due to several physiological issues we couldn’t correct, he couldn’t transfer enough milk to meet his needs.
In a desperate effort to keep him “on the breast,” I would pump, then “breastfeed” him through a tube next to my nipple (a two person job that took 4 arms and at least 30 minutes), supplement with formula, and then repeat the whole process 2 hours later around the clock. Needless to say, neither me nor my husband was getting any sleep at all. We would be left with about 30 minutes between each feeding to either nap OR shower OR eat OR go cry in a corner. It was brutal.
Eventually, I broke down and just gave him a bottle after I pumped. He drank it right up, and started packing on the ounces. I could take a breath. I could take a NAP. So we decided to exclusively pump and bottle feed. Is it how I pictured my breastfeeding journey? Not by a long shot. But it works for us. Now my son is almost 11 months old, in the 99th percentile for height and weight, and is still exclusively drinking breast milk; I couldn’t be more proud!
Fail #3: Zero Screen Time
We are “those people;” we don’t own a TV. Our living room holds close to a thousand books. My husband has no idea what a Kardashian is. We planned on never letting our baby intentionally look at a screen until he was at least three years old.
And then the whole “exclusive pumping” thing happened. Have you ever tried to keep a mobile infant nearby and not freaking-his-freak during a forty minute pump session? Yeah, it’s no joke.
Once baby was moving around on his own, the only thing that kept him happy for that chunk of time was YouTube videos of farm animals set to banjo music. And sometimes music videos of Sam Smith or Taylor Swift. And sometimes episodes of Jane the Virgin because if I HEAR ONE MORE BANJO I’M GOING TO DIE.
And guess what? He’s still smart. He’s still happy. He’s still super active and prefers playing outside to literally anything else in the world. The evil computer has not fried his brain. Because here’s the thing: there’s not one magical way to parent. You do what works for YOU and for your baby. You’re doing a great job, and everything will turn out just fine. Just maybe skip the Kardashian reruns with the baby, ok?
Kimberly Poovey is a writer, speaker, wife, and new(ish) mom. She directs the teen pregnancy prevention program for Daybreak pregnancy center, and is a founder of Pearls, an organization that serves women in the sex industry and fights human trafficking in the Midlands. She studied english literature at Florida Atlantic University, and though she will always be a Florida girl at heart, she has called Columbia home for the last seven years. She and her husband Braden have been married for a fabulous decade, and they welcomed their first child, Declan Finn, into the world on June 3rd, 2015. She is a contributor for Scary Mommy, the Huffington Post, and The Mighty. You can find her wandering around the great outdoors, drinking far too much coffee at her favorite local shops, and on Facebook.