During my pregnancy, you could smell my crunchiness from a mile away (and it smelled of incense, patchouli and a vague sense of superiority).
I did prenatal yoga every day. I lived on kale smoothies. I meditated. I ran regularly all the way up 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
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 four 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 four 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 four 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 myself nor my husband were 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 16 months old, in the 95th percentile for height and weight, and he’s still 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 40-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 Justin Timberlake. 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 and reading his books 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 probably 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 over-caffeinated new mom. She runs a teen pregnancy prevention program for a nonprofit and is a founder of Pearls, an organization that serves women in the sex industry and fights human trafficking. You can find her over on Scary Mommy, The Mighty, her blog, and on Facebook.