It’s not easy being perfect. No, really, it isn’t. It’s pretty darn impossible in fact.
No matter how hard you try, before you have your baby, you assume he or she is going to be perfect. Everything will be perfect. Any flaws or bad habits are going to go right out the window in the face of motherhood. Your growing bump and everything it represents becomes a mirror to your true self and you start frantically reapplying make-up and smoothing down the frizz of your life with a damp palm in anticipation of his or her arrival.
And then suddenly, your little package dive-bombs into your life with a wonderful splash and it all flies out the window. Over the next few months your little mirror shows you both the best and worst versions of yourself over the course of any one day, and three guesses which version sticks in your memory. Sometimes things just don’t go to plan. Even when you didn’t realise you had a plan.
Brace yourselves – I’m going to share my breastfeeding story. Every mum has one and this is mine. Bean fed really well from the offset – after about 30 seconds in the world, she popped herself on and had a good old glug. A bit of a learning curve was required for it to come naturally, but she was soon off and away. I should have (yep, there it is) been pleased. The thing is, I was pretty zoned out for a good few days after the labour. I won’t go into details but it was looooong (we’re talking days here) and pretty traumatic in the end. After such an ordeal, I desperately craved some time to recover, but there was this lovely brand new little baby, needing me completely and I just had to grab the bat and step up to the plate. We just existed, together. As a person who values her own headspace to maintain balance in life, I found it so difficult to suddenly not even have ten minutes to myself.
Our plan was always to introduce a bottle so the hubby could share feeding and give me a bit of sleep. Bean had other ideas – that was not going to happen. When I couldn’t even have this time, I went a bit bonkers. I found myself becoming obsessed with her taking a bottle. I would spend my time in the middle of the night researching ‘techniques to overcome bottle refusal’ and teats that claimed to be ‘THE ULTIMATE BOOB ON A BOTTLE’. Nothing worked – Bean wanted me and only me, and I found this really really hard. Add some pretty painful and productive reflux into the mix, and I found it even harder. Friends who hadn’t been able to breastfeed couldn’t understand why I was so desperate. Even I couldn’t – why couldn’t I just be happy that my baby was feeding relatively well and putting on weight? The fact is, I just wasn’t.
It’s taken me 9 months to realise that this was ok.
We are now fine – we stopped breastfeeding at six months, with her having eventually accepted a bottle quite happily around four months. Her reflux had calmed down, solids were underway and finally I felt I could take a breath. As I began to realise our bond was there underneath all of this, I panicked as I reflected back over the months. One morning the Should Have gremlin showed up. He sauntered in, made himself a cuppa and told me everything I’d done wrong. I agreed with everything he had to say. I should have just been happy. I shouldn’t have forced a bottle on her all those times. What kind of monster am I?
The truth is, I’m not a monster. I’m just human. It’s just our journey. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last. It’s now clear that Bean is a giggly little girl with a strong will, and I love her to pieces. And me? I’d been through a hell of a lot physically and emotionally, and it was my mind’s way of coping. I’m getting back to me again. Everything that happened has passed, and no it wasn’t perfect, but it’s ok. There’s no changing it, and everyone is fine. It’s just what happened.
When things get easier and feel pretty lovely, it’s very easy to look back and beat yourself up for the times that didn’t feel so lovely, for the fact that you had bad times. It’s very easy to make the Should Have Gremlin another cup of tea and hear more of what he has to say. But my word, those thoughts feel heavy. And all the while you’re focusing on the past, you’re missing what’s right in front of you: today.
So my lesson for now is to just accept and let go. Let all the ‘should haves’ float on by and bask in the lightness that comes with doing so. I’m not at all perfect. It’s a relief to accept that actually I’m pretty darn imperfect and that is fine with me.