Throughout my pregnancy, I spent time on forums and birth sites, reading about parenting. I was determined to do things the "right" way. My plan included a natural, vaginal birth, breastfeeding on demand, and practicing attachment parenting fully. After extensive research, I knew my plan was perfect for my daughter and I. I wasn't going to be one of those mothers who parented "the wrong way," or so I thought.
When Birth Doesn't Go as Planned
Looking back, my plan started to fail when I chose to have an induction rather than wait for labor to take place naturally. I was young, and my doctor pressured me, telling me that my baby would be large and require a c-section otherwise. Trusting my doctor seemed like a wise choice, so I went in at 5 a.m. for an induction.
Twenty-eight hours later, my daughter was in my arms after a c-section. The induction failed. I failed, or so I felt.
That is the moment my PPD began. How could I have been so stupid? Moms told me that I set myself up for a c-section by listening and trusting my doctor. Now, instead of healing from the natural birth I wanted, I was healing from a c-section.
Related: C-Section Guilt is Real and Mother-Shaming Makes it Worse
When Plans Fail
While my disappointing birth led to guilt and sadness, the depression really set in once my parenting plans started to fail. At the time of my daughter's birth, I worked and studied full time at a local university. My schedule was jam-packed, and I knew I would have to go back to classes sooner rather than later. Sure enough, I attended my first class at two weeks postpartum, leaving my newborn baby with my grandmother.
On top of attending class so soon after birth, my plans for breastfeeding fell through. I gave up so quickly due to lack of support and lack of understanding. I didn't understand what breastfeeding involved. My family encouraged me to give her formula to reduce my stress. Finally, I gave in and stopped nursing her.
The weeks led on, and I felt more like a failure. My poor daughter suffered from reflux. She spit up all the time and was miserable throughout the day until she was put on medication. Our pediatrician recommended that we thicken her formula with rice cereal. Once again, I listened to my doctor, and my daughter started experiencing bouts of painful constipation.
Related: UNICEF And WHO: Don't Promote Use of Infant Formula Unless Medically Necessary
Every decision I made seemed to lead to another problem. Trusting doctors led only to more problems, and I didn't know what else to do. Then, at eight weeks postpartum, I went back to my waitress job. As I drove away from my parent's house, I cried. Leaving her was painful each time. All I wanted to do was stay home with my daughter, but that wasn't in the cards.
Mom Groups Led to Guilt
On the outside, mom groups seemed like a great idea. Moms can talk together, breaking up the loneliness that often accompanies motherhood. First-time mothers often have an abundance of questions, and they want someone to chat with about their worries. Parenthood is full of worries.
Yet, on the inside, mom groups are what made my PPD worse. Every time I asked for advice or brought up something taking place in my life, I was met with judgments and rude comments. I failed at breastfeeding. I wasn't a stay-at-home mom, which they believed was the best choice for babies. Not only did I formula feed, but I added rice cereal to her bottle. I should've never listened to my pediatrician. How dare I trust my doctor?
The guilt I felt from my c-section was bad enough. Other mothers told me that it was my fault. I didn't try hard enough, and I should've signed myself out AMA instead of having a c-section. Those comments were emotionally hard to handle.
The comments about my failure to parent the "right" way were even harder to handle. I loved my daughter, and I wanted to provide her with the best. Because of the mom shamers, I felt as if I wasn't doing anything right. I was trying and trying, yet it was never enough.
According to these mom shamers, I left my daughter too often for work and school. I gave up breastfeeding too soon. I should've changed OBGYNs instead of going for an induction. The comments went on and on until I believed that I wasn't a good enough mother for my sweet girl.
Starting to Heal
Close friends of mine finally encouraged me to talk to my doctor. My guilt and thoughts spiraled into a depression, combined with hormones and other life issues. My doctor prescribed me medication, which slowly pulled me out of the depression.
On top of taking medication, I removed myself from my mom group. I turned to close friends and family only. The negative, hurtful people were cut out of my close circle. I knew any negativity and comments about my parenting would lead to another downward spiral.
When the fog lifted, I realized that all plans and all mothers fail at times. There is no right way to parent.
What matters the most is that we love our children, and my love is strong.