- Posted September 10, 2013 by
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Confessions from imperfect parents
The Unnatural Mom
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- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
I’m a natural. I was a natural pianist when I learned to sight-read music at 4 ½ before I learned to read. I was a natural at public speaking when I first realized I could speak to a room full of people without shaking in fright. I’m a natural writer because it gives me, a never-ending chatterbox, the chance to say everything in my head in just the precise way it should be said. I’m also a natural klutz that bumps into walls and trips over my own feet. Daily. I’m naturally outspoken and have regretted too many conversations that involved inserting my foot in my all too sassy mouth. I’m a natural at nitpicking and nagging at my own deficiencies and of those I love (just ask my husband!). I’m also a newish mother, and until recently, I believed I was a natural mom. And no, I don’t mean “natural” as in my ability to love and nurture my baby boy. “Natural mom” has taken on a whole new meaning.
It means the minute you find out you are pregnant you eat only fresh, whole foods throughout your 40 weeks of puking, back pain, heartburn, and incontinence, err gestation. It means drafting a “birth plan” weeks before your due date, and hey, throw in a doula and a birthing tub and you’ve received bonus points in the “natural mom” Olympics. And don’t even get me started on an epidural – that may as well be a four-letter word. Induction, you say? The only natural thing is for baby to come when he’s good and ready. I laugh as I write this because I did many of these things. I was determined to have a drug-free labor and prepared my body with hours and hours of pre-natal yoga, vigorous exercise and a healthy diet. I watched YouTube videos on labor meditation and breathing exercises. My bag was packed at 35 weeks. All I had to do was wait. And wait. Forty weeks came and went and due to my tiny frame, large baby, and horrendous swelling from 90 degree-plus heat and humidity, I opted for the induction.
The birthing ball I was so determined to use to help keep me “active” during labor was a great seat as I sobbed into my husband’s stomach and begged for an epidural. This, after hours of increasingly strong doses of ptocin produced waves of pain that made being beaten with a sledgehammer seem comfortable. My “birth plan” didn’t include a bullet point for my being in labor for 24 plus hours and being awake and anxious for even longer. My “birth plan” didn’t include an asterisk that said after being stuck at 9cm dilation for five hours the doctor would decide a very “unnatural” c-section was the best course of option to get baby boy here safely.
And in the midst of the sobbing, the needles, the numbness, the pure and unadulterated exhaustion, I finally got to meet my son. It shouldn’t have mattered how I meant him, just that he was here on this earth with me and I would get the chance to love him in person and kiss his sweet face. I barely had the strength to hold him but was thrilled to just inhale his mesmerizing scent. It should have been enough.
But I wrestled for weeks about my failed attempt to have him naturally. I read the blogs, the Facebook posts, and the books from women who bragged about their drug-free, doula-assisted, home-births and wore it as a badge of honor. A badge I would never wear. I had failed to bring him into this world naturally, and it haunted me everyday.
And the “natural mom” guilt doesn’t end there. No sooner have we all been split into the Epidural versus No Epidural camps, then we find ourselves divided again in the breastfeeding versus formula war, yes war. “You’re probably not feeding him enough” was the lactation consultant’s answer to me over the phone when I begged for help as I struggled to figure out why my newborn was screaming mercilessly after every breastfeeding session. My heart just about ripped in two and I sobbed. In defeat I resorted to feeding my son that chemical-laden bottle of formula. I watched in amazement as my baby, who after days of relentlessly screaming in hunger, sucked that bottle like it was a milkshake and at last seemed full and content for the first time since he’d been born. My failure to breastfeed exclusively stared up at me with wide eyes while happily sucking on a silicone nipple. And I sobbed some more.
I wish I could tell you that my caesarean was a one-time occurrence and all future children can still be born according to my original birth plan. But medically that will never happen – the scar line below my bikini will likely be reopened again to welcome (hopefully!) another baby into this world. I wish I could tell you that I was able to figure out the breastfeeding and my pesky boobs finally made enough milk for my rapidly growing boy. But they haven’t and we still have to supplement with formula.
My cloth diapers still remain unused in baby boy’s dresser drawers. The homemade baby wipes have never been made. Oh, and my “all natural” dishwashing detergent has been replaced with a brand that’s never graced my kitchen cabinet before. It has chemicals and dyes, and God knows what else, but I’m no longer re-washing a third of my dishes everyday. And you know what? Life goes on.
I’m an unnatural mom. Because is it natural to love something growing inside of you that you can’t even see? Is it natural to love someone so utterly helpless who will never know the sacrifices you have made to bring him here? Is it natural to want to go through whatever discomfort you experienced all over again just to be able to bury your face in his sweet, soft skin and feel waves of love crash over you like you’ve never experienced before?
I don’t know how the “natural mom” phenomena took over common sense and our hard-fought feminism to do things our own way without the stigma of society’s expectations clouding our precious moments with our babies. It’s time to put away the labels and realize that as women and as mothers there is no one way to love. Our motherhood should not be defined by the way we brought our children into this world or the decisions we made on how to nurture during those early months of baby’s life. We owe this, at the very least, to ourselves, and more importantly to the countless women who will leave the hospital or fertility clinic with empty arms, as well as those who have weathered the equally painful journey of adoption. We owe this to our children, who only want and need our undivided love and attention and will never care how they were born, just that they were.
We are moms. And that should be enough.