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Monday, June 24, 2013

a mommy's story - Shelby Davis - no nursing and delivery hell

Thank you to Shelby for answering these questions so honestly. 
This is another Honesty 101 account from a super strong mother, from our June Confessions of Mama Guilt series. The hope is twofold: 1) The moms writing these posts get to become a little freer of the guilt they've carried by sharing their experiences, and 2) The moms reading it can know they aren't alone.

(all photos by Shelby Davis)

1. When is the first time you recall feeling this Mama Guilt of feeling like you failed, did not do something right, or like others were judging you?
From the time he was born, I have felt guilty. First, because I had to have a c-section. But since then, I feel judged for not breastfeeding first and foremost.  I couldn’t.  I tried and it didn’t work and I am SO SICK AND TIRED of the breastfeeding nazis and all their crap.  My kid is alive, healthy and thriving. And I’ve given him everything I have since the day he was born. So shut up already. 

I’m actually over that guilt. It was paralyzing for months after my son’s birth, but then – I decided I was glad I wasn’t a human cow and everything happens for a reason. There was a reason I couldn’t do it, and I think our family actually benefitted from me NOT being able to do it.   

Since then, I feel guilty for any reason at all.  Any time I don’t make him his meals from scratch (if I give him mac and cheese for dinner or give him a nutri grain bar for breakfast), if we put him to bed later than his 7:15 bedtime, if we’re too busy and miss a nap, when we’re running errands and I feel we should be’s never ending guilt. But I’m slowly getting over it.

2. Before you became a mom, what type of mom did you think you'd be? Give at least 5 words to describe the mom you imagined yourself being.
Before having my son, I thought I’d be a great mom because of my experience with my niece and nephew. I waited til my early 30s to have my first baby on purpose. Because I wanted to be 100% ready to do it and know what I was doing.  I wanted to do the very best for him that I could. I would be loving, understanding, fun, goofy, protective, patient and supportive. I would feed him the best foods, read him books, sing him songs, take him to new places all the time. We would go sledding, to the beach, play with friends, do art projects, dance together, not ever watch TV.  I would be super mom!

3. Look at the words you mentioned in #2... are you those words now? Would you call yourself those words now in describing how you are as a mom? Would others use those words to describe you?

I am very, very close to the mom I thought I would be, possibly even better than I thought I would be.

Besides the occasional frustrating moment, I’ve followed through with everything I said I would do.   My biggest challenge that I’ve remained consistent on, has been to remain calm whenever he’s freaking out, testing me, or having a tantrum.  As I said to my mother earlier today “If you could only communicate with babbles, laughs, cries or tantrums, wouldn’t you have your bad moments, too?”  So I try very hard to work through his moments with him and I think we’re both better for it.  It’s important to me that my mom thinks that I’m a good mom.  And I know she really does, she’s not just saying so.  I’ve overheard her before telling people how attentive and wonderful I am with Nolan and how he is so lucky that I’m his mom, and she really didn’t know I could hear her.

4. If breastfeeding didn't work -- What happened ? What did you try to make it work? Why didn't it work, what got in the way? Why did you want it to work so badly? Who or what was in your head when you were trying to nurse? How did it feel when the breastfeeding didn't work? You mentioned you have come to peace with this now... how did you reach that point of being OK with breastfeeding not working out for you?
My milk never came in.  I tried and tried in the hospital, and again when we got home. He was latching fine, but I wasn’t producing. I was pumping as well, trying to make something (anything!) happen. I was working with the lactation consultants and we had a plan for what I was going to do when we went home.  We were supplementing with formula through a small tube as he was nursing to “trick” him so he wouldn’t stop nursing and want a bottle. 

My husband was super supportive and very helpful to me.  Right before being discharged from the hospital a nurse fed him a formula bottle WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. I completely lost it, I called my sister in law and was crying so hard she couldn’t even understand me. I made a complaint to the head nurse. I was so upset.  Here I was killing myself, TRYING to feed my son, and she just popped a bottle in his mouth without discussing it with me. Had she talked to me about it, we could have come to some sort of agreement on what to do. Maybe more syringe feeding before we left.   But I was furious with her for not talking to us and not letting me or my husband give it to him!  

When I got home I felt discouraged, defeated, angry, sad. 

My husband and I got into a HUGE yelling fight about breastfeeding vs formula feeding in front of my entire family about an hour after we got home.  We both had the same common goal – to feed our baby – but were both so spent, we just couldn’t even communicate any longer.  

Right at that moment I decided I hated everything about breastfeeding and what it represented. All these people who promote it and make it the most beautiful bonding experience.  

Well guess what?  It was HELL for me and my baby lost so much weight after being born that I had to fight to bring him home, against the doctor’s recommendations. 

So after the fight with my husband and ending up in tears and my entire family being afraid I was going to go postal,  I made a bottle and fed my staving baby.  I returned the pump a few days later and never looked back.  And wouldn’t you know it, after all that, my milk never ended up coming in. I have a healthy, well fed 15 month old, who transitioned from formula to milk and from bottle to sippy cup at 11 months old without missing a beat.  He eats anything I put in front of him and is growing perfectly.  He’s perfect.
5. If it was unplanned or didn't go as you expected - What was your birth experience like with your baby? What was the hardest part about that? How did that mama guilt creep up during that experience? Again, who or what voice as in your head as you were going through this? Have you come to peace with this situation, if so, how did you get there?
We had a very laid back birthing plan.  Whatever happened would be fine with me.  I was open to trying everything and anything.  I planned on seeing how long I could go without an epidural, but knew that I’d probably want one at some point.  The only thing on my birth plan was NO C-SECTION.  When my water broke right after lunch at work, I was pumped.  

It was going to be awesome.  Water breaking, contractions, pushing, baby. I wasn’t nervous at all.  Well, my contractions didn’t start.  

I had to be induced. But it was okay.  It hurt, but I got through a lot of the intense contractions by sitting in the jacuzzi. I got the epidural (thank goodness) Finally I got to 10 cm and I was very relaxed and was doing great pushing.  I pushed like I was going for gold in the Olympics.  I pushed as hard as I could for 4 hours. 
Finally – it wasn’t happening and I was told a c-section was the smartest move because they were afraid he’d get stuck.  It went downhill from there.  I called my mom as I was hysterically crying.  My husband felt helpless.  I had a fever and was shaking.  It wasn’t what I wanted.  I had pictured the moment that my wet, slimy, crying, gorgeous baby would be placed on my chest and I was SO PISSED that I wasn’t going to experience that and I felt SO GUILTY that I couldn’t do it.  You’re told time and time again while pregnant “A woman’s body is just made to do this”.  Yeah, well not mine!  The birth was terrible. Besides my fever and my shaking, I was freezing in the OR.  It took them extra time to get him out because he was so far down in the birth canal.  I had internal bleeding.  The cord was wrapped around his neck 3 times. He wasn’t breathing when he was born and had to be resuscitated.  My husband thought he was dead.  Nobody would tell me what was going on.  I was yelling over and over again “What’s wrong? Is he okay? What’s wrong? Tell me what’s going on!” And nobody, not even my husband, would answer me.  

It was the worst moment of my life and all I could think was “I just had the easiest full term pregnancy ever, and have been trying to get this baby out for 44 hours and he’s dead. How can everything be so perfect and end so badly.”  

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was realistically under 5 minutes, he was breathing.  He never did cry in the OR.  My husband brought him to me after 10 minutes, all wrapped up and just his sweet little face sticking out.  He was alive and he was okay.  

BUT – I have had horrible guilt ever since that day.  

I feel guilty that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t get the experience that I not only WANTED, but was supposed to be able to do!  I feel guilty that I put my baby through HELL trying to deliver him.  

I feel like I almost killed him. After doing my own research, I feel that any of his gross motor delays are because of his traumatic delivery and that it’s MY FAULT.  

After 5 nights in the hospital, we finally came home.
My c-section recovery was the worst pain ever. I would have rather gone through another labor with no epidural.  I’d get up in the middle of the night with my newborn and sudden pain would just shoot through me without warning.  I couldn’t hold him while this was happening, I’d become almost paralyzed.  Sometimes I yelled for my husband, sometimes I’d quickly set my son down on the rug and got through it on my own, all while telling him “Mommy is so sorry, I know I’m doing a really horrible job at this, I promise I’m going to do better.”  

Aside from the “normal” baby blues, I can’t believe I didn’t have serious PPD because of the hell we went through in those first few weeks.  

I still haven’t gotten over the delivery experience, and I’m not sure I ever will.

I also cannot have a VBAC.  My midwife told me VBAC’s aren’t for people in my situation.  I trust her and will not push for one as much as I really want to. Delivering another healthy baby is more important than getting the experience I want. I would never put a future baby at risk for demanding a VBAC.   I did  talk to her about my feelings at my 1 year annual after my son’s birth.  She did her best to make me feel better.  Not saying it helped, but she tried. 

I am thankful for my healthy son, knowing it could have ended differently, and I do tell myself that quite often. 

It’s not how he got here, it’s that he’s here and thriving. I hope that when we do have baby #2 that my guilt isn’t as strong as it’s been this first time.

6. How do you know you are a good mom? If you don't feel like you are one now, when will you know you are? What needs to happen to make you feel like a good mom?
I am a good mom.  I feel guilty a lot, mostly due to things that aren’t a big deal like him not having enough veggies one day or me skipping his bath before bed another night. I give him my all every day. Some days my all is more than other days.  But I know that my son knows how much I love him. 

The morning smiles when he wakes up, the constant cuddles he gives me without me having to ask, the excitement when I pick him up at daycare, him wanting to show me new things he’s discovered. 

I’m his mom, I’m the person who would do anything for him, who takes the best care of him, and there is no doubt in my mind that he knows that. 

I’m his hero and that makes me a good mom. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks because my son’s opinion is really all that matters.  


I appreciate your raw, straight forward truth, Shelby. I know moms can relate to these troubling feelings, unending guilt. Thank you! Such strength came from this challenging experience. I hope you remind yourself of that. It takes a strong woman to get through what you did. And you're right, all that matters is your son. :)

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