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Dear Postpartum Perfectionism

graphic images representative of pregnancy created by the author of a letter to postpartum perfectionism

NOTE (from the Project Director): As Michael Schreiner points out in his own blog, “Perfectionism is difficult to treat… while most people are poignantly aware that the attitude causes them undue suffering & distress, they’re also secretly proud of their life orientation & deeply afraid that if they were to let go of the compulsion to do everything perfectly, their performance would suffer & their lives would fall apart… This makes narrative therapy an excellent treatment option, since by separating the person from the problem it’s possible to view the situation more objectively.” By way of the letter that follows, the Dear Diagnosis project takes on a new leaf. Conversations hosted with any sort of externalized problem, are now welcomed here.

Let me just start by saying postpartum is rough, let alone when you creep in. Hormones and lack of sleep aside, my body is fighting and still healing from an infection. I want to say it doesn’t matter how my baby entered the world, but I would be lying. Although, you know that. You’re the one that told me it does matter, and it has to be a certain way! Look, I pass no judgment on how anybody else’s baby entered the world… but I find myself ashamed and frustrated by how my baby entered the world. Thanks a lot, Perfectionism. Everyone told me to prepare for my birth plan to go out the window, but you convinced me our plan was perfect. The plan really only consisted of ‘get baby out of my vagina’ and, instead, what I got was a C-section.

OK, rewind, I should give you a little gratitude here. Thanks to you, I was really good at being pregnant. Sure I missed the soft cheeses, turkey sandwiches and wine, but I genuinely enjoyed my growing bump and the feeling of having this ever-present sidekick. You were in control of our schedule and we knew all of the Do’s and Don’ts—that gave me confidence in being pregnant. I was terrified of giving birth but felt this weird sense of pride that I would get to experience labor & delivery. I was surprised when I went into labor a few days shy of my due date but, because I had you at my side and my birth plan in place, I was ready for our plan to take flight. Thing is, I was only prepared for our plan. The contractions started around 5 AM and got progressively stronger throughout the morning. I got things ready around the house, checked and re-checked my hospital bag and pulled out all of my postpartum care, which we had carefully prepped. You were proud that morning, Perfection, really proud of all the work I’d done on your behalf. Upon arrival in triage, the nurse told us “baby is breach and we’ll have to perform an emergency C-section.”

Fuck you, Perfectionism.

The C-section video was optional at the end of our labor & delivery class. Optional! As in, if you’re planning on a vaginal birth – you don’t have to stay to watch it. We stayed, but I still don’t know what the hell happened when they opened me up and yanked out my baby! Perfectionism, why did you have me focusing on just vaginal birth? Why didn’t you ask the questions and allow me do the research? I’d have known that a woman is more likely to deliver your baby C-section if your mother did. You make me feel jealousy every time I read someone else’s “amazing birth story.” You make me feel robbed of an experience to be otherwise proud of.

Cue the arrival of baby boy. You’ve continued to tell me our story was wrong. You’ve made me second-guess everything I do as a new mother. You even made me ask my husband if I would love him more if our birth plan had gone as expected. How did I let you influence me like that? You may forever be a part of me and this birth story of mine, but I won’t let you question my love for my son ever again. Do you know how amazing he is? Do you see how my body is finally healing? Do you get that I nourish him, bathe him, clothe him and cuddle him? I bet if we asked him how I was doing, he would say something along the lines of, “Fucking awesome, Mom!”

Female, Age 31
5 Months Postpartum

Dear Diagnosis Affirmation Key

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