When my daughter was born life turned upside down – literally. Delivery required far more medical intervention than I had expected and my vision of motherhood – rocking a contented baby, having hours just melt away while I watched her delicate little features in sweet slumber – couldn’t have been further from reality.
I’d pour a bowl of cereal at 8 AM and, if I was lucky, eat it by noon. The first few months were a haze of sleepless nights and days filled with tears (hers and mine) while we navigated infections, colic, and endless feeding challenges.
The biggest sticking point: I’d always planned to nurse my children. It was healthy, economical, convenient. It was also what a good mother would do. Not only did I want to do it, I was inundated by messaging that encouraged, championed, and elevated this aspect of mothering. I was also surrounded by mothers that could do it. Baby-hour at the library was basically a lesson in how to feed and nurture your little one naturally; you could find me wallowing in a corner covertly wielding a bottle.
I dealt with these things – as one does – by cycling through stages of denial, anger, depression, and pseudo acceptance (there wasn’t much bargaining to do; she was 2 months old after all). I researched techniques, bought supplements, and consulted experts, before officially conceding defeat.
Spoiler alert: she got older, things got easier. By 9 months she was pure joy – full of all the spunk and personality we cherish today; happy and chubby and practically perfect in every way. Though the crying was behind us, guilt lingered. And then a new friend entered my life and managed to shift my entire perspective with one sentence.
This friend and I were out for an evening walk. Somehow I had circled back to discussions of feeling less-than because of my inability to naturally deliver and feed my (now toddler) daughter. This friend paused for a minute and said, wisely: “You know, Elisabeth, she can still be a doctor.”
What she meant – and what I needed to hear – was that the future was unwritten. The unexpected complications of the past, which were completely out of my control, didn’t mean my daughter was doomed to a life of illness, missed opportunities, and continual disadvantages. No. If she wanted, she could still be a doctor. Or a stay-at-home mother. Or a physicist. Or an artist. Or anything else her determined self wants to pursue.
When my son was born several years later, I met with a lactation consultant, did all the right things, and gave it my all for a week. When the nurse told me, gently, it simply wasn’t working…I cried. It was sad and hard and disappointing. But, I also knew: he can still be a doctor. Or a pro-surfer. Or an electrician. Or a teacher, or a financial analyst, or a stay-at-home dad, or a playwright. The sky is the limit. It really is – after all, he could be an astronaut.