Wednesday, March 20, 2013

high standards

The monthly theme for March from PAIL is "high standards".  The primary question is: do I feel like going through infertility has caused me to hold myself to a higher standard in parenting?  The short answer is: no, I don't.  One of the best questions posed was "do I feel that I try to be successful at parenting as a way to cope with infertility?".

I think for me, parenthood was such a surprise that I hardly had time to think about what I was doing.  And I failed so miserably at pretty much every aspect from the get-go that it's hard to feel like I'm doing or have done everything right.  For starters, I look back now and realize that I am not exaggerating in any way when I say that I NEVER believed that my pregnancy would end in a healthy, live newborn.  I mean, I went through all the motions as if it would, but deep down in my heart I never ever considered the reality of bringing home a baby.  I was, after all, the first of all four of my sisters to have a successful pregnancy.  And when you're a part of a community that joins together to grieve unimaginable losses, you start to think that no story has an easy and happy ending.  My pregnancy went really well and I LOVED the experience.  Because of that, I was sure I was never going to get my happy ending.  Even when they pulled an entire human being out of my uterus, I was still in disbelief.  I knew what I was *supposed* to do, but I went through those first few days feeling like it was all a dream.  Looking back, I should have spent more time doing skin to skin with her.  I should have set stricter parameters for visitors and done more of the baby holding myself.  Seriously, I think my mom held Piper more in her first few days than I did.  It was really hard for me to bond with a newborn that I never believed would actually come into existence.  I didn't have to worry about whether or not I was doing it "right" or doing the best thing possible for her, because I was just stumbling around those first few weeks.

And, on the note of being successful at parenting, I can tell you that right from Piper's birth I felt like I had done it wrong.  I had always heard that vaginal birth is the best way to deliver your baby.  Going through the birth canal gives the baby so many benefits and labor is good for both mother and baby.  So, when I ended up with a surprise! c-section, I felt like I was already starting off on the wrong foot.  I couldn't nurse Piper right away, I couldn't hold her in all her goryness and stare into her face.  Instead, she was cleaned up and handed to my husband while they put all my organs back in their proper position.  So, first I failed at birth.  THEN, I failed at breastfeeding.  Piper went 8 hours without nursing well on her 2nd day of life and they forced sugar water on her.  Our problems continued and at 10 days old the supplementing began.  I took fenu.greek and prescription medication, pumped after every feeding, did skin to skin, and nothing improved my supply.  Failure number two.  A few weeks later I was plagued with panic attacks and sheer terror over the idea of raising/entertaining my child(ren).  I was so scared I was going to do something wrong.  Failure number three is that I ended up with Post Partum Anxiety and was placed on Zol.oft, plus I needed some to get me over the "hump".  By the time Piper was 2 months old, I had failed her in every possible way.  And that's why I think I've been able to have such a go with the flow attitude about parenting!

Now, don't get me wrong, I've read a lot of parenting books and I definitely try to figure out how to do what is best for my daughter.  I cloth diaper, I made all of her baby food, and I stayed home with her for most of the first year of her life.  But, I don't sit around worrying about whether or not I'm the best parent out there.  While it was hard and totally sucky to "fail" at all of those basic things in Piper's early life, it taught me that even with the best of intentions, things don't always go according to plan.  I try to parent in the same way that I approach life in general, which is to take it each day at a time.  I can't worry about whether or not Piper will do well in Kindergarten when that's still 3 years away!  All I can do is have meaningful interactions with her that help spur on her physical, emotional, and verbal development.  I can take her to the park.  I can answer the question "what's that?" every time she asks it.  I can be an attentive and caring parent who sets good rituals and boundaries.  I don't necessarily feel that I hold myself to the highest standards simply because I failed to conceive Piper the traditional way... I just hold myself to the standard that I think will give me a reasonably well-rounded and happy child.  And, really, I think the fact that I failed so miserably in the beginning has allowed me to be so much more laid back now and, truthfully, I'm grateful for that.

Do you feel as though you hold yourself to a high standard of parenting?
Do you ever feel like you put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect?
Would you consider yourself type A or are you more laid back?
What's the best parenting advice you've ever received?


  1. What a great, honest post. I loved reading it because it really spoke to me - I am always second guessing myself, questioning whether I'm doing this mom thing "right." That guilt and those "shoulds" can be so powerful. I really believe that the best kind of parents are "good enough parents." Too perfect and I think your kids just won't be as well adjusted. So, in my book, I think you're probably doing a really great job.

  2. This is wonderfully honest. Thank you for taking the time to be transparent!!

    Before Little K was born, I was a perfectionist and an idealist. I had a plan for parenting during my maternity leave and first year that, looking back, was not attainable. When BF'ing became a struggle and PPD hit, I felt like the biggest failure... Although I was lucky (BF'ing became successful and PPD lifted around 10 weeks), I came out the other side with one piece of advice:

    Lower your expectations.

    Whether for conception, pregnancy, labor, birth, feeding, parenting... No matter the subject, accept that perfection is no longer a viable option. By lowering your expectations, you are able to enjoy the moment as it is without wishing it were different/better and are more likely to be kind to yourself and others.