Nothing holds a mirror up to your perceived sense of self quite like becoming a parent. I’ve always thought of myself as an independent thinker, not easily pressured to conform to social standards. Yet repeatedly throughout my experience of being pregnant, giving birth and as a new parent, I’ve been confronted with the fact that, even without my conscious approval, messages about the ‘right way’ to be a mom have dug their way into my belief system. Because of this, every challenge and impending decision has brought on waves of guilt and comparison, perhaps most apparent with our daughter’s birth.
After weeks of attempting to get our baby to rotate head-down through acupuncture, moxibustion, inversions and anything else I could find in the bizarre depths of the internet, our doctor confirmed that our baby had not budged and that we should schedule a C-Section. My frustration and sadness (why did I waste so much time in that birthing class if my experience was going to be nothing like what they taught?) brought on questions of why I was upset in the first place? Finding out I was having a C-section triggered something in me.
I realized I felt let down because I’d allowed society’s list of right and wrong to inform my beliefs of what was right for me. I’d spent much of my life watching movies depicting expectant women’s water break at exactly the wrong time in exactly the wrong place (the number of women going into labor in New York City bodegas must be astounding), and felt sadness in not being able to participate in that shared (albeit mostly fictionalized) experience.
After a few days of letting myself process in whatever way felt right, I shut out the noise and tapped into my intuition. I’m not a ‘woo-woo’ person, but I found peace in believing that our baby was telling us how she needed to come into the world. Maybe there was a reason she wasn’t meant to flip. I needed to trust her. I took comfort in being able to create a plan. Assuming no major hiccups, I knew what day we’d welcome our daughter, what sensations to expect as they pushed and pulled at my belly, roughly how long it would take until I met her, and how long until I was sewn up. For someone that likes control, it was reassuring.
To this day, I feel pangs of frustration when I hear people refer to vaginal birth as ‘natural birth’, as if my experience was unnatural or ‘less than’ because I had a C-section. I had unforgettably beautiful moments too, like when my husband held our daughter next to me, her tiny purple fingers enveloping her face only inches away from mine, watching her eyes open and adjust to her new surroundings. I wouldn’t change it for anything because we brought our healthy, beautiful daughter into the world safely. That’s what matters.
The first year of being a mother broke me down and rebuilt me into someone new. I’ve spent far too much time feeling guilty for not relishing every moment of motherhood, wondering why I didn’t feel whole and why I still longed for something more. I didn’t see myself in the version of motherhood I saw in the endless scroll of Instagram images, maternal instinct practically oozing out of my screen, and it left me feeling lacking. Now, almost exactly two years from the day she was born, I finally understand something I wish I would’ve given myself permission to accept long ago.
The simple reality is that my daughter does not complete me and it was unfair for me to have expected her to. Don’t get me wrong- I love her more than words can possibly express. She brightens my world and is the most important teacher in my life. But I am more than a mother. She didn’t erase the ambitions I have for myself or the version of me that existed before her. The person that ran around New York in her early twenties, working until all hours. The person that moved back to her hometown and opened a shop at 26, then simultaneously started a consulting business at 28. The person that continues to serve as a partner for creatives that have a vision but need guidance, and the person that loves building community. It took me two years to finally realize that it’s not an all or nothing game. I am a mother. I am an entrepreneur. I can be both and so much more. I’m a better mother for it. No parenting book or birthing class can tell me otherwise.
About the Author
Whitney is a mother and entrepreneur hailing from the Pacific Northwest, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Whitney is passionate about authentic storytelling and supporting the creatives behind small businesses. When she’s not working as a brand strategy consultant specializing in operations and content marketing or sharing her experiences on her blog and Instagram, she enjoys spending time exploring the city with her husband, two-year-old daughter Inez and french bulldog Nuggy.