All you can do is adapt and make good decisions for you both
You are 12 days postpartum and can't believe how much those 12 days have shaken your world and changed you forever. You always thought it was a cliché but you get it now: you get a lot now. There is still so much more to learn, but the pivotal thing you have come to understand is that you don’t need to control everything before it happens, but to retrospectively adapt and handle situations well, for the sake of your daughter and YOURSELF.
You were the most diligent pregnant person ever; prepared for every circumstance and researched the hell out of everything to make those all important decisions: Breastfeeding or formula? Reusable nappies or disposable? Do you live near good schools? What will happen in labour? How can you control labour? What name should you choose? Should you use talcum powder? The list goes on and on. The preparations weren’t necessarily the wrong thing to be doing; it's biological to want to prepare well for your unborn child. Now I think your efforts were directed too heavily at these types of things and not enough at yourself, at your happiness and ability to cope with the 50 unforeseen circumstances that will occur every day that you are a mother.
The current mothering rhetoric would side eye the shit out of you for that comment: how dare you think about yourself, don't you know every decision you should make should be solely about your daughter, this precious life you have deliberately chosen to bring in to this world. Well get this, you are your daughter’s lifeline, you (along with your partner) are her everything. What does a baby need more than the perfect labour, more than homemade nappy cream, (prepare yourself for this statement) more than breast milk – she needs her MOTHER! You had forgotten to prepare yourself for the all encompassing fact that you cannot control everything and for the sake of your daughter, you had to make peace with that, and do it quickly.
You didn’t have the labour you wanted; in fact at no point during labour did it feel like you had a single ounce of control over the situation. Not to get yourself wrong, you’re not entirely naive, you knew it was a distinct possibility that interventions would happen. But even knowing that, you built up an expectation, constantly telling yourself that in some way you could control what was going to happen. You read positive after positive story, also learning what could go wrong. What you didn't do is check that you knew how to actually handle the disappointment you’d feel when you didn't labour like a goddess. You had never felt so lacking in autonomy and hence had no idea how to handle that feeling. It's interesting, you truly thought you had prepared yourself, but in retrospect you deliberately didn't listen to traumatic or negative birth stories. You hyped yourself up and surrounded yourself with can-doers and positive advice. Even though you 'knew' it might not go well, you still deep down thought it would: you’re not ashamed to admit that.
The exact same thing goes for breastfeeding, in fact you sheltered your mind from negativity even more so with this one. Before you even got pregnant, you were a breast-feeder. You knew all the facts, knew it might hurt, knew it was time consuming, but you don't remember ever thinking you wouldn't be able to do it. 12 days in, you are bottle feeding your baby formula, pumping a small amount for some of her feeds. This feels deeply futile as the very small supply dwindles and hours in the day run out to continue pumping that 'liquid gold'. Not only does time physically run out, but so do the moments you spend with your precious first-born child. But knowing that does not stop you feeling an indescribable guilt. In fact, the word guilt isn’t a competent enough word for what you feel. You feel heartbroken and jealous of everyone who can breastfeed. You feel worried for what your child faces as a symptom of your epic failure, your main failure, the biggest failure. You feel like you have failed at 2 lives, yours and hers.
Sometimes now that feels like you are being dramatic. You pull yourself together, and look at your perfect child, content with a belly full of food. She is no longer jaundice, she finally is not a 'sleepy baby' and wakes on her own for feeds. She doesn't fall asleep constantly during a feed, she poops and wees, and fills up the disposable nappies that you bought in desperation, because the expensive reusables are way too big for your miniature monkey. We don't spend 30 minutes, 8 times a day screaming and crying, instead we feed in peace and she gulps down that liquid gold science, fills her belly and falls in to a milk-induced sleep, and we are both blissfully happy in those moments.
It's the other moments you now need to work on, you need to be happy for your child, you need to know that all you can do is adapt and make good decisions for you both, because your hero child needs a hero mother. Not a mother who has a degree in googling how to be the perfect mother, but a mother who has a degree in happiness and love.