I used to be obsessed with making New Year goals. I would create endless amounts of lists, all centered around bettering myself, my life, my work, my body, and my mind. I generally did a great job of sticking to them during January, primarily because they were new and fun, but also because the winter weather kept me cooped up inside and there truly was nothing better to do. But every single year the resolutions began to fade by February, and by April, there was never a second thought given. Because life happened. Things changed, work got busy, diets became monotonous. By the end of the year, good things and bad things had happened, and the next January brought that same renewed desire to change things for the better. But still the same old cycle repeated, year in and year out.
I finally realized that my whole resolution plan was centered around one thing: discontent. I wanted to change the things that went wrong. I wanted to get even better at the things that were going right. I wanted more, better, and best. I wasn't content with how things were.
In the last three years I experienced seven miscarriages. With each new January that rolled around, I found myself physically recovering from pregnancy loss — carrying extra weight, suffering from hormonal imbalances, feeling an emptiness and a depression from a tragedy that didn't make sense. And vowing that it wouldn't happen again. I would do XYZ, whatever it took, to “fix” myself, to stop the losses. I stopped using fragrances, stopped coloring my hair, stopped using all non-organic makeup. I stopped occasionally cheating with foods I knew I was sensitive to. I started exercising more, working on relaxing, practicing deep breathing. I saw a counselor and got rid of years of emotional baggage. I ate ever-increasing amounts of vegetables, took vitamins and supplements, saw doctors, and had tons of tests done to figure out every potential thing that could be wrong with me. My quest to stop the miscarriages, and to eventually have a baby, wasn't so much a “resolution” as it was a passion. I had strong motivation to make the miscarriages stop — they were physically, mentally, and emotionally devastating. I knew I couldn't control every aspect of my life, but doggone it if I wasn't going to make sure everything that I could control was perfect.
January 2015 found me in that same place, fresh off of miscarriage #7, in a new place of confusion and anger. I constantly wondered if I would ever someday be recovering from birth instead of failed pregnancy. I was almost too scared to hope that things could ever actually be different, but I continued to do everything I could to take care of my body, in hopes that things would change. I stopped eating all forms of sugar, meticulously tracked my diet and hydration, and started seeing a doctor who had a new plan to help stop the losses. I was hopeful, but still so agitated and afraid.
January 2016, which is truly just one year later, found me in a completely different place — one I never thought I would be in: recovering from birth. 2015 was a whirlwind that simultaneously lasted forever and whipped by in a blur. I got pregnant in March, which was also when I started prednisone and blood thinners to hopefully stay pregnant. I faced the terror of giving myself shots, I braved the mood swings of steroids combined with pregnancy hormones, and I threw up more times than I could ever count. But all of it was nothing compared to the desperate hope and horror I faced every second of every day that I stayed pregnant. I had been down the path of loss so many times that in some ways I expected it again. I hoped and prayed and pleaded with God to let me keep this baby, but all I could do was survive one moment at a time, with no guarantee for what the next one would bring. That was, by definition, living each moment by faith. Hope in things unseen. Belief that at the next ultrasound, and the next, there would still be a heartbeat. Trust that even through scary episodes like second trimester bleeds and renal pelvic dilation, things would all be okay. Better than okay. Normal.
For the last many years, all I've wanted was a “normal” body. Normal health. Not my weird plethora of allergies and autoimmunity. Not Hashimoto's, fibromyalgia, Celiac disease, and MTHFR. Not infertility, and certainly not miscarriage. Then all I wanted was a normal pregnancy. Normal symptoms, no complications. But I didn't get that either. So I started to expect that surely I would have a normal labor and delivery. A normal birth. A normal ability to breastfeed. My body owed me that much, right? After 9 months of puking and more than 500 shots? But, as I apparently must keep learning, there is no such thing as normal. My labor stretched on for 3 weeks but would never progress into active labor. My induction failed. My body rejected every possible chance to naturally deliver my baby, and later, to feed it. For all my love of natural health and holistic wellness, the only reason I have a baby today is because of modern medicine, surgical interventions, and processed food. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. Is it "perfect?" Nope. But is it good enough? Absolutely.
Sure, I struggled with feeling defeated and robbed for the first few weeks as I fed my baby from a bottle with "milk" that came from a cow and a laboratory and not at all from me. I berated myself and cursed my body for yet again failing me. Why, in the face of so much loss and struggling, could things not just be perfect for once? Why couldn't one thing just work the way I expected it to?
I'm not here to debate breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, because that's certainly not the point I'm trying to make here. Moms do what they need to do to feed their babies, end of story. Women do what they need to do to manage their health, beat infertility, succeed at marriage, survive parenthood, live child-free, overcome addiction, etc. etc. etc. We should never get on soapboxes to make someone who is doing something differently than we are feel badly about their choice if they're doing the best that they can. Sometimes we get to make choices, and that's great. But sometimes choices get made for us, and we make the best of them. It may not be perfect and it may not be our preference, but a decade of health problems, recurrent miscarriages, a complicated pregnancy, and an awful labor and delivery have shown me one thing: my idea of perfection will always fall short.
In the end, the things that really matter are much, much bigger than the failures that stack up along the way. That's a pretty simple truth but oh, so complicated when it takes a spin through my head. Does my son care that I have thyroid disease or that I couldn't vaginally birth him or that I couldn't breastfeed? Does he care that I am allergic to gluten? Does he care that I've spent more than a decade trying to learn to love my body and I still haven't fully succeeded? No. All my son knows is that I am his mom, and I am here to love on him, feed him, and make him laugh with my floppy top-knot buns.
While life never really seems quite that simple, it actually is. If I viewed myself through the eyes of my husband, my son, or my friends, I certainly wouldn't be hating on myself. The same is probably true for you, too. Whether you're struggling with infertility, chronic health problems, miscarriage, depression, or anything else in between, there's a chance that you need to let go of your particular definition of perfect, and choose instead to love yourself for giving your best. Our best doesn't always achieve the perfect results that we desire, but in the long run, I'd so much rather be real than perfect anyway.
about the author
Aimee McNew, MNT is a certified nutritionist and a writer who specializes in women's health, fertility, autoimmunity, and the Paleo diet. She is passionate about helping others find success through simplified nutrition. Her first book, The Everything Guide to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis: A Healing Plan for Managing Symptoms Naturally released in October, and has been the #1 bestselling new release in gluten-free diets. Order it from Amazon!
All opinions expressed on this site are strictly that: opinions. Nothing replaces the medical advice of your doctor. You are responsible for your own health.