The feeling of failure as a struggling new mum
Being a midwife certainly gives you the heads up on the physiological demands of pregnancy. However, when I was pregnant, people said to me ‘oh you’ll be great with a baby, you’re a midwife, you’ll know what to do’. I would wonder why. After all I’d only see newborns for a couple of days, occasionally for a few days more. Even then it was only whilst on shift.
So how on earth should I know what to do with my own baby 24/7. I mean, ok yes I’m comfortable with how you hold a baby and bath a baby. I’ve got a good idea what a baby should and shouldn’t do when it comes to feeding, pooing and peeing. I know what parameters their heart rate, temp and breathing rate should be within.
However having your very own baby at home to care for is another ball game completely. A baby needs so much more than what textbooks can tell you. In fact they need so much more than what anybody can tell you. How can you possibly sum up the demands a baby makes on you emotionally and physically. I actually think it is really hard to put it into words. They need things that you can only know about through experience.
I’ve discussed the great expectations on new parents in a previous blog post. But for this post I wanted to discuss the terrible feeling of failure I felt in those early days. This is a feeling that clouded my mind for months after the birth of my first baby.
In the first instance I failed to give birth. I ended up with a cesarean section after hours and hours of a very slow labour. ‘Why couldn’t I give birth?’ I asked myself over and over again. I did everything I possibly could to encourage a straightforward labour and birth.
In the second instance I failed to breastfeed. I tied myself in knots when I made the decision to formula feed after 8 weeks of agony and tears. I saw breastfeeding as the pinnacle of being an accomplished mum. I watched friends breastfeed and cried inside as I wished I could have done that for my daughter.
I’m a woman and a midwife. The two most natural things in the world I failed to do. In those early postnatal days, still adjusting to the sleep deprivation and hormones gone wild I wondered how I could be a good mother when I couldn’t even get the basics right. The words ‘I’m not good enough’ preyed on my mind.
Months later, thankfully the dark cloud lifted. I began to see sense. I did give birth. It may have been abdominally, but still I gave birth. My body grew a baby. How can that be failure? I fed my baby. I helped her grow. I met her basic needs. Above all else I loved her. This certainly was not failure.
Why did I put myself through this? It was such an awful feeling. Was it all my own doing? Was it my job? Was it media? I’m not sure. All I know now is that those parts of being a parent are a small chapter in raising a child. Now they pale into insignificance. There really is so much more to being a good parent.
As seen on The Huffington Post
My Pops 4 1/2 years on. Failure? I think not ♥