In the few days following the birth of our twin girls, I experienced my first taste of failure as a mom that resulted in shame and guilt over not being able to breastfeed.
Let me explain. I was very determined to breastfeed. I had read a lot of books. Everything said that breastfeeding was better. I knew it would not be easy with two babies but I was committed.
Day One: I tried. I waited for the milk to start rushing in.
Day Two: Kept trying. I ate the foods that promoted milk production. I did breathing meditation to relax.
The lactation consultant at the hospital was less than helpful, urging me to use formula but not saying why.
It’s just taking longer for the milk to come in … I insisted.
It’s going to happen, I pleaded.
At home, I pumped and pumped and pumped only to get mere fractions of ounces of the gold stuff.
I cried so much.
Meanwhile, my babies were being supplemented with formula.
Jaybird — always her nickname — never did latch. It wasn’t her thing, which has been a pattern in her strong-willed existence.
But I’ll never forget how eager LiLi — also her nickname — was … a fire of determination that still glows strong inside her today.
Here’s the thing: I was not physically able to breastfeed — not even one baby, let alone two. A breast reduction surgery a decade prior — that the female surgeon ensured me would not impact breastfeeding — ruined my milk ducts.
Huge. Fat. Pathetic failure.
This is just one of the hundreds of crazy expectations we place on ourselves as women and mothers. No one else in my life was pushing me to breastfeed — unless you count the dozens of books, magazine articles and, now, Facebook posts that make you feel guilty if you do anything other than breastfeed.
Those headlines of shame filled my head with guilt over not being able to breastfeed.
I tried to console myself with the fact that I was not breastfed myself as a baby — and I still turned out just fine. Pretty awesome, In fact.
But there was an invisible new mom bar to reach and I was hurtling myself up and up but missing the mark.
The bond between my girls and I will be ruined forever.
They won’t be smart.
I can still feel that heartbreaking knot in my stomach from the inner bully screaming at me as I recall this story, a story I’ve shared very little of over the years.
I started motherhood right out of the gate feeling like I was not enough. I was riddled with shame. And guilt.
Not good enough. Not doing enough. I don’t have what it takes.
I didn’t know then what I know now.
I’m done with all of that.
There are always going to be so many invisible “keeping up” lines that are impossible for you to keep up with in motherhood without experiencing total exhaustion. Lines that Insta-moms, society, and even our own children draw for us and we push ourselves to try and reach.
And then there are the “do better” lines you draw for yourself. Do more. Be more. Have more.
It’s exhausting. This show called perfection that you keep up day after day to try and not allow the house of cards is likely why you feel so much overwhelm, stress and that inability to find comfort and ease in your life.
None of us want to admit our flaws. Or that we have needs. Or that we have this constant desire to please.
Now, 13 years later, I am here to tell you that there is a light IN the tunnel, not just at the end. Here’s a glimpse of what is possible for you when you finally release the expectations you’ve been carrying your whole life — and surrender to a life of ease.
Those early days as a new mom taught me a lot about myself.
It taught me to stand firm in who I am — but always, always to do what feels good and just not worry about the shame and guilt over not being able to breastfeed.
And it taught me to listen to myself and do what is right for my family — always.
It’s not easy to release the conditions that others place upon us — sometimes we don’t even know we have a choice.
And new moms, especially, are so eager to do everything just perfectly.
It’s so easy to feel like a failure.
If you are ready to leave behind striving, perfection and shame — join my brand new online experience called Enoughness Camp. I’m sharing my own self-coaching method that you can use anytime — in any situation — to claim your Enoughness.
Shawn Fink is the founder of The Abundant Mama Project and the author of “The Abundant Mama’s Guide to Savoring Slow.” She is the mother of twin girls, Jadyn and Liana, and a family wellness coach for mothers around the world. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen.com, Scary Mommy, Dr.Green.com and The Shriver Report.