It's a natural part of parenthood to want to make sure we do everything just right—buy the right foods, get the right developmental toys, give our kids the right amount of screentime, perform the right amount and right kind of discipline. We're convinced that any little misstep is a failure and if we aren't doing everything just right, we're actively harming our children. And those expectations start before the baby is even born: The pressure to have a certain type of birth is ever-present, and sometimes we don't even realize we're torturing ourselves when we don't have to.
Ashley J. Gibson's recent Facebook post is a perfect example. She was soldiering through her marathon of labor, unmedicated and miserable, "I was in agony and trying to decide whether or not to get an epidural. I had no idea I was already at the very end of my labor and would be pushing Leo out within minutes," she explains in her post. "All I knew was that I was in pain and couldn't imagine laboring like that for what I thought would be a few more hours." Her husband was with her, providing lots of support and encouragement, but he said four little words that made a huge impact.
"I was trying to talk to him between contractions on the verge of tears and he lovingly spoke lots of support and some truth into my universe with, 'There's no trophy, Ashley.'"
Later, when Gibson was struggling with the decision to supplement her newborn with formula, he reminded her again. "I was fretting about supplementing with some formula those first few days and not wanting to feel like I was already failing at breastfeeding I heard those words again, 'There's no trophy, Ashley.'"
Gibson then goes on to drop some wisdom of her own that every parent among us will find comforting. "In today's world, it can feel like we're all competing for a trophy that doesn't exist. I literally thought in that delivery room that I would somehow be "less than" as a mother for tapping out and asking for the drugs. Like there would be a gold medal or AT LEAST a gold sticker on my medical chart for having a natural birth. And I felt like I was letting some invisible committee down when we bought formula to help him pass the amniotic fluid he had swallowed."
And while we feel so much pressure to get everything just right, Gibson's post reminds us that literally no one is keeping track, except us. "Since having this third sweet boy six weeks ago, I've given lots more thought to the invisible trophies we create as moms. Some society creates for us. Standards we try so hard to measure up to even though the contest is make-believe and we were made to live in community, not competition."
Like Gibson's husband reminded her, the rest of us parents need a reminder sometimes too. There's no trophy. "There's no trophy for delivering naturally vs. opting for an epidural or having a C-section. There's no trophy for breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding. There's no trophy for losing the baby weight the fastest. There's no trophy for the cutest delivery gown (FOR THE LOVE, it's okay to look like you just had a baby!!!). There's no trophy for the most creative birthday party theme. There's no trophy for how many activities you sign your kids up for."
There's no trophy, folks. There's no prize or award for running yourself ragged trying to get everything just right. Just do your best. Your babies will love you even if you never lose the weight, never pack a fancy bento box, don't look like a million bucks right after delivery, or give them formula. Just love 'em and stop killing yourself trying to win this imaginary game.