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The 'perfect birth' doesn't exist—trust me I gave birth 4 times

It was with that birth that I realized I had been chasing a fantasy that didn't exist. It didn't matter how my babies were born.

birth

I always thought of myself as this crunchy granola "earth mama"—breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing—I had a specific image in my head of how I wanted to be. On the go, my daughter had to have the organic cheesy crackers for a snack. At the pool, it was the expensive sunscreen that cost more than my own shampoo and conditioner combined. And sleep training? Forget about it. I was attachment parenting all the way.

But there was one topic that always left me silent when it came up at playgroup—birth.

My daughter was breech and had been born via C-section. It was a decision my doctor and I mutually agreed upon after talking through my options, yet I still felt as if I'd been cheated out of the full birth experience.

So when other mamas would share their birth stories—hours spent in labor, pain management techniques, an exact number of pushes—I listened quietly, feeling like I didn't have anything to contribute to the conversation. For me, becoming a mother had been a relatively easy and painless hour in the operating room under the care of my skilled OB-GYN. I felt like a sham. Like, I'd somehow taken the easy way out.

I envisioned the perfect birth as hours (perhaps days!) of painful contractions that I would need to breathe and meditate through (no pain medication of course). My partner would speak lovingly to me as I tapped into my true maternal power and pushed the baby out in a few quick pushes.

That's what I thought birth should be and so I felt like a failure.

Two years later when I was pregnant with my second child I was determined to have a vaginal birth after cesarian (VBAC). Early on, I expressed my wishes to my doctor and she reassured me I was an excellent candidate for TOLAC (trial of labor after C-section). I did everything I could to remain healthy and active during my pregnancy—walking, swimming, prenatal yoga, mindful meditation, healthy weight gain. I was a model patient.

And when my second child was also found to be in a breech position near the end of my pregnancy, I really stepped it up. Under the guidance of my doctor, I tried chiropractic care to coax my baby into a head-down position and spent every evening lying inverted on an ironing board.

It didn't make a difference. My second daughter remained breech and arrived unexpectedly at 38-weeks, also via C-section. I was devastated my birth hadn't gone as planned, but as a second-time mama, I could better appreciate that my daughter arrived safe and healthy.

Labor with my third child threw us for a loop. After more than 12 hours of painful contractions, no sleep, and very little to eat, I told my midwife I needed help. I needed the epidural. Now.

Everyone around me sprang into action and swiftly got me pain relief. I blissfully took a power nap. Good thing, too, because my son took nearly three hours to be delivered. When he was finally resting on my chest I felt relief. But mixed in with that and my overwhelming happiness, was still the sense that I had somehow failed. I had been "weak" in choosing pain medication. I should have kept going. I should have been able to deliver him naturally. I should have…

I was so hung up on not achieving the "perfect birth," I couldn't appreciate what I did have. Three beautiful children. Healthy and happy. An easy recovery after each birth.

Looking back I can see how ridiculous it was, but at the time the sense of failure was very real to me.

I know now that everyone's journey to parenthood will be different. That there is no such thing as a perfect birth. No perfect path. But what really opened my eyes to that truth was my fourth child's birth.

My fourth child, our last, was born quickly. No time to consider an epidural quickly. Three big pushes and she was born. I was elated! But I also remember saying to my husband over and over, "Who would do that more than once?!" The pain (for me) had been almost unbearable.

It was with that birth that I realized I had been chasing a fantasy that didn't exist. It didn't matter how my babies were born. There had been pros and cons in each scenario. Pain and joy with each birth. In a way, birth is the perfect primer for parenthood—things rarely go exactly as planned and each child's timing is unique.

I try to be more gentle with myself these days and eliminate any parenting fantasies. I am grateful for my four unique children and their unique birth stories.

And over time I'm finding, with fewer expectations for myself, I am better able to appreciate both the joy and the pain of parenthood.

These new arrivals from the Motherly Shop are *so* good you need them all

Noodle and Boo, Mushie and Plan Toys—everything you need, mama.

Motherhood is hard work—finding great products and brands to make the journey easier doesn't have to be. Each week, we stock the Motherly Shop with brilliant new products we know you'll need and love from brands and makers that really care.

So, what's new this week?

Noodle and Boo: Holistic baby skin care

Through working with chemists who specialize in natural and holistic skin care, Noodle and Boo has developed exclusive formulas that nourish, replenish and protect especially delicate, eczema-prone and sensitive skin—including laundry detergent. Their signature, obsession-worthy scent—which is subtly sweet, pure and fresh—is the closest thing to bottling up "baby smell" we've ever found.

Mushie: Kids' dinnerware that actually looks great

We're totally crushing on Mushie's minimalist dinnerware for kids. Their innovative baby and toddler products leverage Swedish design to marry both form and function while putting safety front and center. Everything is created in soft, muted colors from BPA-free materials.

Plan Toys: Open-ended toys that last

Corralling and cleaning up the toys becomes less stressful when you bring home fewer, better, more beautiful ones. Plan Toys checks all the boxes. Made from re-purposed rubber wood, they're better for the planet as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Mushie silicone baby bib

Mushie silicone baby bib

There's no going back to cloth bibs after falling in love with this Swedish design. The pocket catches whatever misses their mouths and the BPA-free silicone is waterproof and easy to wipe down between uses.

$13

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

We're totally crushing on the soft muted colors that flow with our table aesthetics and the thoughtful high-sided design that helps babies and toddler who are learning to feed themselves.

$15

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Stocked with everything a new mama needs to care for her little one's delicate skin, Noodle and Boo's nursery essentials gift set is the perfect way to create a holistic and natural skin care routine from day one.

$45

Plan Toys doctor set 

Plan Toys doctor set

Ideal for quiet time and imaginative role play, we love the gorgeous planet-friendly doctor kit from Plan Toys. The rubber wood stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, syringe and reflex hammer pack up neat and tidy into the red cotton case should they need to dash off on a rescue mission.

$30

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Since we're buying and using hand sanitizer by the truckload these days, we're thrilled Noodle and Boo has made one we can feel good about using on little ones who cram their hands in their mouths 24/7. Not only does it kill 99.9% of germs, but it also leaves hands moisturized as well.

$10

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

A toy box isn't complete without a set of blocks—and this set is one of our new favorites. The sustainable, re-purposed wood is eco-friendly, comes at a relatively affordable price point and are certain to last well beyond multiple kids, hand-me-downs and even generations.

$30

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Because their products were developed for delicate and eczema-prone skin, Noodle and Boo's full line of skin care has become a favorite among those with sensitive skin of all ages. This set is the perfect way to pamper the entire family.

$48

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

No need to sacrifice safety or design with the sustainable dinnerware from Mushie. Their minimalist, functional dishes are perfect for serving up meals and snacks to your tablemates who might hurl it to the floor at any point. They're made in Denmark from BPA-free polypropylene plastic mamas can feel good about and dishwasher and microwave-safe as well.

$14

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

The best engaging, open-ended toys are the ones that are left out and available, inviting little (and big!) ones to play. These beautiful gem-like blocks make for addicting coffee table play for the entire family.

$30

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Energy-efficient design isn't just for grown-up real estate. This green dollhouse includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, electric inverter, recycling bins, a rain barrel, a biofacade and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation along with minimalist furniture we'd totally love to have in our own houses.

$250

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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20 baby names to set your child up for success

What do Jacqueline, Morgan, Madison and Parker all have in common?

They say picking a baby name is an art, not a science. But when it comes to figuring out which baby names have been linked to successful futures, there has actually been some scientific work on the subject.

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