I didn’t get the opportunity to birth my son the way I wanted. It’s something I think about often and wish would have gone differently. Following the cesarean, despite the efforts of all the lactation consultants I could find, my son refused to breastfeed.
This was not how I envisioned becoming a mother.
Two months after my son’s delivery, my husband and I found out we could not bring him back to his own nursery due to a category five hurricane that kept us from returning to our home in Puerto Rico.
My “perfect plan” was officially out the window.
But, in the time since, I have learned that any “perfect plan” goes out the window the minute you become a mother. As mothers, it’s in our nature to demonstrate strength and make the best of every situation. We need to learn to release the pressure of having a concrete plan, being the perfect mom, or following all of the books word by word.
Here are five ways to practice letting go of perfection as a new mother:
Have a Plan B and C
My son was delivered by cesarean two hours after I started experiencing heavy bleeding at 36 weeks. I did not get to say no to the epidural, I did not get to try a water birth, I didn’t even get to pack my overnight bag for the hospital.
My original birth plan was to work alongside my doula to deliver my son vaginally and unmedicated. When my doctor asked me to prepare a Plan B for a C-section given my son’s breech positioning at 34 weeks, I did. I looked up all the natural mom-blogs. I researched all the best songs for a playlist in the operating room. I started acupuncture to try to turn my breech baby.
But, at 36 weeks, when I woke up with bleeding and dilated 4 centimeters with a still-breech baby, there were no options left.
My son was born in exactly the way I didn’t want, and you know what? He was healthy, and he was beautiful.
As time has passed, I have learned that everything happened as it should have. Looking back, I didn’t need to stress so much over the small details. I didn’t need to build up a picture in my head of a “perfect” birth, assuming that anything else would be less than. He came out healthy despite being a month premature and that was the exact end result I wanted.
Even if it was, in my case, Plan C.
Stop Comparing Your Experience to Other Moms
I had the most amazing Pinterest nursery ideas. I wanted to do a macrame wall hanging. I wanted all the books aligned and all the toys made of wood. I ordered a jogging stroller for all the future runs baby and I would take together just as I saw so many other moms doing. I got the books for making my own baby food. I wanted to recreate every picture I saw from every do-it-all mom’s Instagram.
But I didn’t.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with intense force, and the aftermath was more than anyone on the island anticipated. My husband flew down days after the storm to help check on our home, repair his business, and offer assistance to those in need. My son and I shared a guest room at my parents house with a borrowed bassinet for four months until we could return home to water and power and rejoin my husband.
I was not rocking my son to sleep in the rocking chair we had in his nursery at home. We were not doing tummy time on his new rug. This was far from my Pinterest dream.
We all have heard the saying: don’t compare your everyday to someone else’s highlight reel. This applies doubly for us, moms. We can’t set ourselves up for disappointment as a mothers by comparing our experiences to others’.
You should never feel less than or not enough when your child is in your arms.
Remember It’s Not All About Breastfeeding
I nursed my son a few times, but since birth, he simply preferred the bottle. So I sat down every three hours with my new best friend (the breast pump), and made every meal I could. It was my mission to provide my son with breastmilk as a mom “should.” I realize now that I didn’t need to put myself through so much strain and pressure to follow the perfect ideal of breastfeeding. I had just grown a human, wasn’t that enough?
While I am grateful I was able to maintain a constant supply to feed my son, there are many new mothers who cannot produce enough breastmilk or have premature babies who need to have formula from the minute they are in NICU or who simply do not want to breastfeed. All of these circumstances are okay.
As a mother, we have to consider both ourselves and our babies in these matters and these choices look different for everyone. There is no one right way.
Embrace Gratitude by Being Present
When we worry about perfection as a new mother, we analyze if everything we are doing is right, we attempt to complete everything on our to-do list, or we try to mirror the image of the always-smiling mother who somehow managed to both brush her hair and put on makeup.
One of the best ways to overcome this self-criticism is to embrace gratitude in the present moment. Reframe your situation more positively. When everything seems to being going wrong, look at just three things that have gone right or three things that you are grateful for – even if it is simply the fact that you fed your child breakfast. Embrace the time you are spending with little one. Watch their smile. Make them laugh. Listen to them. Ask them questions. Tune in to the true joy and gift it is to be a mother and to shape new life.
I try to remind myself to put my phone down, close my computer, turn off Netflix (unless I’m almost done with season five of Grace and Frankie). The more invested I am in the present, rather than trying to return an email or check my social feed, the more fulfilling each moment as a mother becomes.
Ask Yourself: Are They Fed, Are They Loved, Are They Safe?
If you answered yes to all three, then guess what, mama? You’re doing a perfect job. Their meals may not be what you had imagined. But, as long as your new baby is getting fed, you’re doing great.
Regardless of all of the perfect plans we create in our heads, the real plan is to raise a human – in whatever way we can, by whatever means we can. Our goals are to keep them happy and healthy and safe. Our intention is to show them love and how to love – to instill positive values, to teach them about the world, to make them laugh.
I now know that it doesn’t matter how my son entered this world, how he ate his meals, what his nursery looked like, or what we called home.
None of this changes who I am as a mother.