I’ve already said I’m a selfish parent so why not go into the reasons why I’ve already failed my daughter. Or at least over the six years I’ve been a parent the times in which I have felt like a complete failure of a mother. I know in my head that I haven’t really failed her because she’s here, happy, healthy and generally a pretty good kid but I, like so many other parents, have been made to feel guilty for the choices I’ve made for myself and my daughter. I am a firm believer in the mantra a happy mum means a happy baby because there’s just so much truth to that but my decisions have had me doubting myself and feel like I have failed as a mother. That’s not really my fault, that’s societies. Telling me how and why I should do this and that and not this. Parenting is filled with judgement from the media, from other parents, from other relatives, from friends with no children, doctors, health visitors and so on.
The first time I failed my daughter was at 10.07 on 3rd September 2010, the exact moment where 8lbs3oz of her was pulled out of me by a surgeon. I failed my daughter the moment she was born because I didn’t have a natural birth. I had an emergency caesarean section. I didn’t want this, I didn’t plan this! I couldn’t even get my body to do the thing it was built for and birth my own child. I had to have medical intervention. I felt like I had failed.
I hadn’t failed though, there are no medals for giving birth. It doesn’t matter if you have a planned home birth with everything going to plan or surgery to help your child come into the world. You go through physical trauma no matter what way they come out. I still went through pregnancy and labor. I still gave birth. I didn’t fail, I just accepted the help I needed for the safety of mine and my daughters life.
I failed again when she was two weeks old because my milk supply wasn’t very good and breastfeeding was hard. I wanted to breastfeed so much but I struggled. I struggled because I was weak from surgery, because I was an emotional first time mum, because I am fat and have massive boobs which meant I could only feed in one position and because I was struggling she lost weight. And because my daughter lost weight a nursery nurse told me I was starving my daughter. She told me I had failed to feed my daughter, that I wasn’t good enough and I would have to start combination feeding. I was pressured into making a decision I didn’t really think about because I was made to feel guilty.
But really, I didn’t fail. The system that is put in place to help new mothers failed me. I didn’t know there was a breastfeeding support group. I didn’t know there were resources and helplines. No one told me these things and in my sleep deprived emotional state I didn’t really know I could seek them out. I was only twenty one and I was feeling like a failure at something I thought was supposed to come naturally. No one tells you the difficulties breastfeeding can bring you and your baby. All we are told is breast is best and how awful you are for formula feeding. Yes I want to normalise breastfeeding, yes I want everyone to get the support they need and deserve but no. I will not be made to feel guilty for the fact that my daughter had formula for most of her babyhood. Fed is best. It does not matter how. Happy mum, happy baby.
I failed my daughter again when she witnessed the toxic relationship between me and her dad. Thankfully I noticed that before it was too late and we left. Am I still failing my daughter because I let her have access to her family? No, I’m not. Despite the toxic relationship we had, he is not violent or aggressive to her. His family adore her and have the financial means to give her security. They deserve a relationship with her despite how he treated me. I am not bitter, angry or afraid of him anymore and after a long and drawn out process that involved solicitors, we have an arrangement in place that works for us and does not put our daughter at risk.
I failed my daughter because I had to live in a hostel for ten months sharing a room with her and cluttered with everything I owned. I had to bid for a home. I had to listen to how people hate other mothers on benefits, how they get everything so quickly and easily. 10 months of hostel living was far from easy but I did that to ensure my daughter and I had a safe and happy home.
I failed my daughter when I went back to work full time.
I failed my daughter when I had to work weekends and ensure someone else looked after her.
Aren’t all these failures a little silly?
Every single decision I have made from the day I found out I was pregnant (21st December 2009 by the way) I have made for the best interests of myself and my daughter. I haven’t failed her at all. I try not to have any regrets – I do, of course, but now when I look at her and I think about what a kind hearted, bright, funny, sweet daughter I have I know I haven’t failed her. I’ve put her best interests at heart every time. She’s a little on the emotional side, but I just think that’s because I am too.
Do not feel like you are a failure because you have done things a little bit differently. Do not feel like a failure if you’ve gone with your gut and against the grain. Do not accept someone telling you that you are failing your child because you make different choices to them. Do not let guilt and shame rule your parenting choices. You are you, and your baby is unique to every other baby there is. Parenting is tough, focus on support and if you need help never, ever be afraid to ask for it.