Emily's post yesterday at The Beetle Shack might have been intended as a short and sweet 'tell it how it is' post about the food she prepares for her children, but it struck me on a much deeper level. The lighthearted 'confession' about shopping at big supermarkets and buying what's affordable over buying organic food or feeding her children home grown produce really resonated with me... and it cemented my train of thought that had spawned from Claudia's childbirth discussion.
Don't get me wrong, I love reading about empowering, calm, natural birth experiences. I found them so inspiring throughout my pregnancy, and I still enjoy reading them now...
...but what if yours wasn't like that? What if yours was the one where everything went off course? What if it wasn't empowering, but deflated you to your weakest self? What if you had to ashamedly ask for an epidural after labouring naturally with a posterior baby with a deflexed head for 20+ excruciating hours and still being only 4cm dilated? I guess you just have to live with the fact that your birthing experience leaves much to be desired, and is extremely unlikely to inspire any expectant mother.
Obviously, every labour, every birth and every experience is different. While you might have the greatest plans for a calm, natural birth and the confidence and enthusiasm to back it up, sometimes it's just too fucking hard. And so you fail. Or at least you feel like a failure. For a little while. And then you wake up to yourself and realise that nurturing and carrying your child to term and being able to hold your healthy baby in your arms, is in fact your greatest achievement yet. So I try to remind myself that I did a pretty good job. Heck, I might have even passed.
But something I've found to be true in my case (and some of my peers') is that as mothers, we inevitably set ourselves up for feelings of failure, time and time again... long after birth. Take me for instance, during my nine months of pregnancy, I used my time to set myself some parenting standards. Some commandments, if you like. And because I've always been the over-achieving type, I was going to breeze it in.
1. I will not give my child a dummy, I will be patient and teach the child to settle herself with other comforting aids. On the third week, during a monster cyclone, tensions were high, and I caved and gave the girl a dummy. I continued to do so until she started refusing at about 4 months old. Now she sucks her fingers. (FAIL)
2. I WILL breastfeed, no matter what. It was a huge struggle to start with, attachment just was not happening... but I was determined and eventually we got the hang of it. I love breastfeeding Lalie and expect I will be very sad when she eventually weans. Although I've been successful with this one, I now have some understanding of mothers who simply can't, or choose not to breastfeed, whereas before I had zero tolerance. (PASS)
3. I will grow my own vegetables organically and feed her straight from the garden. Hmmm, despite our efforts, the only garden she's eating from at the moment is Rafferty's. (FAIL) Which brings me to another food related commandment...
5. I will use cloth nappies at home and disposables when going out. I can barely get through my washing as it is. (FAIL)
6. I will keep toys to a minimum to encourage a deeper engagement and level of play. Well, I'm not lying when I say that the toys we have purchased for lalie have been minimal, but if you borrow a carload from the in-laws, I guess that would be cheating, right? (FAIL)
7. I will avoid teething medications and pain relief, and will opt for natural alternatives. I've used both Bonjela and Panadol. I can almost hear the tsk tsk's... (FAIL)
8. I will not feed my baby to sleep and will follow the SLEEP FEED PLAY routine. Our routine went a little something like this: FEED FEED FEED SLEEP FEED FEED PLAY FEED FEED FEED SLEEP. (FAIL)
9. I will not allow my child be stimulated for long periods by a television. So far, I've managed to stick to this one. But ONLY because our TV broke when she was about three months old. (PASS-ish)
10. I will start reading to her, every night, from birth. We have the occasional story, but most of the time she just wants to eat and destroy literature. (However, in the last couple of weeks since I started writing this post, she's really starting to enjoy a story or two!) (FAIL)
These are just some of the 'rules' that come to mind, and out of a list of ten - I've only really managed to achieve two . There's no wonder post natal depression seems to be popping up everywhere. It's almost impossible to live up to the high expectations that we set for ourselves. And half the time, I wonder if we set ourselves these rules because we really truly believe in them, or if it's just to feel adequate next to others with those similar standards? I know I can only speak for myself here... but I feel like on paper, I'm failing miserably. Look at all that red! I'm not mothering in the way that I would have liked - I break all the rules. Yet in my heart, I know with all certainty that I am doing the best that I can, and that every single thing I do, every word, every action has her best intentions at heart.
I'm only human (a tired one at that), and although sometimes I feel like I'm under-achieving, my daughter's smile tells me that she feels loved, happy, healthy and safe.
And really, at the end of the day,