Birth expectations vs Reality: No one is a failure!

Dear mom who wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t – you are NOT a failure. Dear mom who wanted to give natural birth but couldn’t – you are NOT a failure.

We all come up with a plan of how we would like the birth to go. Whether it happens like that or not is a different story. And worst of all, moms are often riddled with guilt for not following the socially accepted norm of breastfeeding and natural birth. Well, I couldn’t do either & I am here to share my story.

My gynae never pushed me towards a certain manner of birth. He asked us what we wanted. We told him natural birth as far as possible. Towards the end of my pregnancy, things weren’t going so well at work & I was just over being on my feet all day. My Dr booked me off. He also asked if I wanted to be induced. This was also a topic that raised some eyebrows from others. I chose to be induced for various reasons:

  • I wasn’t planning on having a full 4 months maternity leave as it was mostly unpaid which would be tough financially.
  • I wasn’t feeling too bad but I didn’t want to sit at home doing nothing when I could be spending more time with my child.
  • My parents also live far away & if I could have both my parents and my in-laws there, I would be so happy.

So we went with induction. I had to be there on the 3rd of July at 5am. They induced me straight away & started feeling contractions from about 5h30. This was mild at first & then got worse. What contractions felt like to me: really bad period pains! The nurse kept coming in every few hours to see how far I was dilated. I wasn’t dilating AT ALL. Not even 1cm. She told me within 4 hours I should at least be 1cm. By this time, my whole family had arrived at the hospital. All waiting in anticipation. By 12pm (7 hours later) I still wasn’t even dilated 1cm but the contractions were still coming. I had to be 4cm to get an epidural, so that was out of the question. The nurse came in with a message from the Dr. How do I feel about c-section? I told the nurse I wasn’t opposed to it. See, I’m a very open-minded person. Yes, I wanted natural birth, but I honestly wasn’t going to lie there for days waiting for it to happen. If I couldn’t get to 1cm in 7 hours, how long would it take me to get to 10 hours? Nope, I wasn’t having it. I said yes to a c-section. Not once did the nurse, doctor or hospital push me, but I felt it was the right thing to do. It was scheduled for 15h30, so more waiting. I got to go downstairs to the coffee shop & sit with my family while we waited for the time to arrive.

Eventually 15h30 came & it went by SO quickly & painlessly. I was VERY nervous – I am a real big baby. I got the spinal block (the long needle they stick in your back) & immediately couldn’t feel a thing in my legs. It felt so weird. Had a really great anaesthesiologist who made jokes all the way. Within minutes I was holding my little human.

I planned to breastfeed. My first night was difficult. Little Mi was crying a lot & the nurses took her to the nursery after helping me try & feed her. On day 2 in the hospital, I asked my mom to buy nipple shields recommended by the gynae, as according to the nurses, “I was too flat”. This helped a bit but not much & I still had a crying baby which was tough. When we got home, I had a lactation consultant come to my house & help me breastfeed. I also bought a breastpump. I made sure I tried everything I could. The day before our newborn shoot – 5 days old – I tried to feed her when she woke up during the night. She screamed for 3 hours long. I was crying, she was crying, Marius & I were snapping at each other. I was trying to keep it all together as there was a lot of family in & out during that time but it was the toughest time for me. We had bought formula for backup (thank goodness) and eventually, after 3 hours, I gave in & made her a bottle. The next day at the newborn shoot, we were dead tired after a terrible night.

We were both on edge. It was a rough week. It was so much easier giving her the bottle while we were at the photoshoot. The relief I felt when I had a calmer baby instead of a baby screaming her lungs out from hunger was unexplainable. I tried the breastpump a bit more & hardly anything came out. This just wasn’t working for me. Nipple shields, lactation consultant & breastpump – I tried them all. I was so conflicted, not knowing what to do. Wondering what family would say. Luckily, both our moms assured me that it isn’t worth it to struggle & still have a hungry child. This brought reassurance – knowing I had their support. I just didn’t have the ability or the emotional strength to go on like that any longer.

One tired mama

You did the best you could

When asked about my birth & what I went for, I often find myself saying “I had a C-section… because I wasn’t dilating”. And whether I breastfed, “No, I wasn’t able to”. Do you always find yourself having to explain why you went that way? I am here to tell you, do NOT feel guilty. It doesn’t matter whether you had natural birth or a c-section. It doesn’t even matter if you chose to have a c-section from the very beginning. You birthed a child. You brought a child into this world & that right there is the biggest miracle of all. The path you took to get there, isn’t what is important. It doesn’t matter whether you breastfed or bottle fed. FED IS BEST! You have a happy, healthy, full baby? There you go, you are doing a fantastic job! To the mom who breastfed for 2 years – you are doing a great job. To the mom who tried to breastfeed but it didn’t work out – you TRIED! To the mom who bottlefed from the start – your child is fed, well done!

Society, even those closest to you, put so much pressure or look down on a mother when she chooses to do things certain ways. Induction, C-section, formula baby – 3 things that bring about many opinions. And I did all 3. But I have a healthy baby. A baby as healthy as the breastfed, natural birth baby. At the end of the day, you brought a life into this world & you are caring for your baby the best way you see fit. That is enough. YOU are ENOUGH!

13 Comments

  • Jessica

    It is so refreshing to hear true and real stories from other moms who realize birth and expectation of all that is will entail and the reality of it are two very different stories! We definitely put so much pressure on ourselves to conform to what society deems important that we sometimes loose sight of the best gift of all, becoming a mother, no matter how that happens. Thank you for your openness on a very emotional topic

  • Katie

    Just being a mom in general makes you so amazing! My birth was natural and I breastfed, but I’m positive that both of our babies are equally healthy and amazing. You are wonderful mama. If no one has told you they are proud of you, know I am!

  • Cherese

    Nice post. I appreciate your openness about your experience. I’m due soon and have already felt bad about my doc shutting me down on things I have included in my birth plan for safety reasons. At the end of the day, a healthy baby is all that matters! Thanks for sharing.

    • Chene

      Dankie dat jy hierdie ongelooflike spesiale ervaring openlik deel en ander mammas inspireer. Daar is soveel waarheid in jou woorde. Die druk van buite is skrikwekkend en mammas kan oorweldig voel en so vinnig dink hulle manier is nie die regte manier nie. Daar is nie n verkeerde manier as dit kom by die geboorte van jou kind nie. Ek was bevoorreg om normaal te kon kraam soos ek dit verkies het, ek het soos die boeke ontsluit, ek het nooit enige probleme gehad met borsvoeding nie en my baba is net so gesond soos jou baba wat formule drink. Its all about being a MOM and what works for you, your body and your child! The LOVE is exactly the same!

  • Amy

    There are so many societal expectations put on us mothers which can lead us to feeling like a failure! Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Amy Amato

    I love this! I find myself feeling the need to explain to people why I ended up formula feeding but at the end of the day I shouldn’t have to explain anything to anyone!

  • kim

    I did not have the birth or breastfeeding experience I wanted. I don’t feel guilty about it anymore, because I recognize that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t have the knowledge or support to meet my goals. There is so much internal guilt based on parenting, made SO much worse by judgemental people. I have never understood why having to have a c-section makes you less of a mother. I mean – you go through major abdominal surgery while AWAKE and then care for a newborn a few minutes later. I mean. What is more badass? That was the most surreal experience of my life.

  • Janette

    Oh mah gawsh. I absolutely love this post. My birth story was an unexpected emergency C-section. I was terrified and afterwards I was really ashamed for a long time, but BIRTH is BIRTH. No matter how we get there, we get there and have our little one to love on and adore. You’re rockin’ it Mama!

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