When I found I was pregnant again, I wanted to do it all the second time around. With our first child, I was young and still learning the ropes as a military wife and balancing everything as best as I could while somehow finishing my bachelor degree. This time, I wanted things to be different. I was much more settled in my career, and working in the parenting space gave me both knowledge and access to every new baby product, tip, and study so that I could really make the most informed choices for our baby on the way. I never worried about balancing it all, or how I'd handle the postpartum stress that I needed to get it all right, all the time.
My goals seemed pretty simple: have a natural, medication-free labor and somehow manage to master breastfeeding. I knew I could handle the labor part because I felt I was strong enough to get through anything, as long as I had the will to do it. But having a breast reduction when I was 17 made the whole "mastering breastfeeding" part a little bit more difficult. I didn’t even attempt breastfeeding with my first child because I was told by every doctor not to even try, due to the difficult nature after having the surgery. Nonetheless, I was on a mission. But little did I take into consideration just how much support I'd need and get from those around me. My husband, my biggest supporter, ended up telling me exactly what I needed to hear, and his advice made all the difference.
I looked at the big picture before I delivered and knew there might some disappointments with not being able to breastfeed or not having the delivery I wanted, but I tried to brush that notion out of my head and focus on the positive. Things would be different this time around. In addition to all these goals, I was also planning on going back to work full-time from home just a few short weeks after giving birth. I had a lot on my plate, but knew within every cell in my body that I could do it.
I was trying to do too much; everything on my daily to-do list was consuming me, and in all honestly, I shouldn't have even had a list at that point. I needed to take time to focus on myself and our new baby, which was the most important thing. I'd let the thoughts of what I thought I should be doing weigh heavy on me.
Well, fast forward to week two of postpartum life when everything started to get a bit rocky and managing my stress was getting a little bit difficult. I somehow powered through the medication-free labor, so I of course felt like taking on breastfeeding when I very likely had few milk ducts to even produce milk would be easy in comparison. Oh, how silly I was. I felt like I was trying everything imaginable to make it work but no matter what I did I ended up feeling like a failure because I just couldn't measure up to my own expectations.
My daily cycle of feeding, pumping, taking supplements, chugging water, and prepping lactogenic meals (foods to increase my milk supply) began. It was exhausting. I was exhausted. And even though I had help with everything, it just wasn’t enough, or worth it in the end. Every time I finished the feeding/pumping cycle, my baby would be ready to start all over again. I was getting more and more behind on work and it was all just too much. “Babe,” my husband started. “You have to give it a rest. You’re killing yourself here. Stop trying to be perfect.”
Perfection isn’t real and it was something that I was yearning to reach each day — of course I was failing miserably.
“You’re right,” I cried. “I can’t do it all; I need to cut back somewhere. I have clients who are mad at me, a little one who will be just as happy sucking down a formula bottle as she does breast milk, and I’m being really hard on myself about it all.”
It was an absolute light-bulb moment.
I was trying to do too much. My body had just gone through the ringer after all and I needed to be more kind to it. Perfection isn’t real and it was something that I was yearning to reach each day — of course I was failing miserably. My husband brought me back to reality and made everything immediately better by understanding how I was feeling and knowing what needed to be taken out of the equation in order to get myself back on track.
As soon as he said it, something clicked. I was trying to do too much; everything on my daily to-do list was consuming me, and in all honestly, I shouldn't have even had a list at that point. I needed to take time to focus on myself and our new baby, which was the most important thing. I'd let the thoughts of what I thought I should be doing weigh heavy on me.
In fact, neither my husband or my older son or clients expected me to be back in action and working or managing our household again so soon. I was the only one putting unnecessary pressure on myself, and it needed to end.
In some situations, our partners see things just as cloudy as we do because they're in the thick of it with us everyday, but I needed that comment so badly because I needed a wake-up call. I needed him to pull me out of the breastfeeding obsession I was going through and to remind me that I wasn't a bad person or bad mom if it just wasn't working for me. His simple comment changed everything for me. I started cutting back on the things that didn’t matter as much, like my rigorous daily schedule, having a beautiful dinner prepared every night, and answering every call, email, or text immediately, and I put more of myself into what mattered most: being a good mom and just being present. And being a good mom doesn’t involve being perfect.
I will admit that I sometimes still need this reminder from him, but the amazing thing is that he's always there to give it to me when I let myself get stressed out. I know I'm lucky to have that, and I don't ever take his advice for granted. We're a team, and his words were not only the support I needed, but a lesson I needed to learn. Since those new days of motherhood, I've strived to be a perfectly imperfect parent and his reminder continues to influence m every single day.