The Pacific Northwest girl in me has always been attracted to the idea of being a crunchy mom. I’ve never been super granola, but I lean left politically and am environmentally conscientious. I still eat some processed foods, but I clean with vinegar and baking soda and use a neti pot to treat sinus infections. Doing the mom thing naturally seemed, well, natural to me. Minus vaccinations, which are non-negotiable in my book, the hippie canon of breastfeeding and babywearing seemed pretty legit to me. I set out with the best of intentions, and although I did treat my baby’s cradle cap with (what else?) coconut oil, most of my crunchy plans went right out the window.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted a midwife. Lucky for me, my insurance covered that, and I was assigned to a team of certified nurse midwives. I shared with them my desire to tear naturally and labor as long as I could without pain medication. This was solidified for me during my labor and delivery class, where the nurse warned that an epidural meant I’d be confined to my bed. I liked the idea of laboring in different positions, and I certainly didn’t want anything to slow it down. Of course, that was all before I knew that my labor would last for 29 hours. By hour 20, I’d had enough and was asking for the anesthesiologist. The birth was difficult, and in the end, an obstetrician delivered my baby using a vacuum, which required an episiotomy. Goodbye, birth plan.
OK, so the birth didn’t go as I’d intended, but breastfeeding was something I absolutely wasn’t going to budge on. I was exclusively breastfed as an infant, and I knew all the benefits of breast milk: antibodies, lower risk of asthma and allergies, and fewer ear infections, to name a few. To my surprise and dismay, my baby girl didn’t latch right away. The nurse squeezing colostrum into a spoon seemed neither natural nor sustainable. It wasn’t much better at home, and at her two-day check-up, she’d lost too much weight. I tried everything in the crunchy book to boost my milk supply: consultations, herbal supplements, lactation cookies, pumping around the clock—and my baby still had failure to thrive. So this wannabe crunchy mama went to the store and came home with a tub of formula.
Clearly, I sucked at breastfeeding, but maybe I could get diapers right. I’m not going to pretend that I was ever going to go the cloth route, although I remember my mom having a diaper service for my baby brother. Cloth diapers have come a long way since the days of ducky safety pins and flatfold cloths, but when I heard my earth mama friends refer to a poop stick (technically, it’s a swish stick for flushing disposable inserts, but still), I knew I was out. If I just couldn’t do cloth, surely I could at least commit to hypoallergenic, plant-based, eco-friendly disposables. Well, my newborn’s angry red rash said otherwise. Her poor little rear-end didn’t care that her diapers were biodegradable. I dutifully covered her in vitamin E oil… and then put her right in Pampers.
I held out hope that I might still be able to earn my babywearing badge. I figured that between a sling, wrap, and structured carrier, I’d find something that worked. Unfortunately, after multiple YouTube tutorials and in-person interventions, I still didn’t feel secure or comfortable with any of them. During one ill-fated visit to the farmer’s market, I must have re-wrapped my baby half a dozen times before I gave up and went home—without my locally grown, pesticide-free raspberries. I used a Baby Bjorn a total of three times: on a hike, at the pumpkin patch, and on our trip to the Grand Canyon. At home, my little one was perfectly content to hang out on her activity mat and in public, I found that I just really liked the convenience of the travel system.
I felt like a failure—a bottle-feeding, stroller-pushing failure. It wasn’t until after similar experiences with my second baby (although I’ve been marginally more successful at wearing him) that I realized something: I may have failed at being crunchy, but I haven’t failed at parenting. The fact is, I have two happy, healthy children. It’s just that rigid adherence to a set of practices doesn’t work for me in my real life as a mom. So I compromise. My babies’ first foods are organic, homemade purees, but they get goldfish crackers, too. I co-bathe with my toddler and use phthalate- and paraben-free baby wash on my infant, but when I put them to bed, it’s in their own bassinet or crib. My choices may make me a little (OK, a lot) less crunchy, but they don’t make me any less a good mom.