Thursday, September 12, 2013

Breastfeeding Part 2

As I sit here writing this, I realize that my inability to breastfeed is probably 50% of the reason I developed postpartum anxiety to the extent that I did (uh, coherent?). Breastfeeding is one of those things that I thought I would have no trouble doing. I knew how to change a diaper, bathe a newborn, get a baby to sleep and swaddle. I took birth classes and felt prepared to bring a baby into this world the old fashioned way. I felt confident that I would be able to have my baby sleeping through the night by 12 weeks (she does!). So never in my wildest dreams did I think that I wouldn't be able to produce enough milk to nourish my offspring.

The issue I have with the world is this: there are not enough resources for moms who have trouble BFing or who choose not to. If you google blogs about babies and feeding them 90% are about breastfeeding and how glorious and wonderful it is. You have to really know how to trick the google gods to get a result for a formula feeding mom. Or wait, is it just that formula feeding moms don't put it out there that the formula feed? The best, and possibly only, resource I found was Fearless Formula Feeder. She provides practical knowledge about feeding your baby formula and support for those who choose/have to.

Speaking with moms on message boards and moms in real life I learned quickly that there is a feeling of shame associated with formula feeding for many moms. The problem here is that formula feeding is way more common than LLLI wants you to believe, and just like BFing moms need support, so too do FFing moms. How do you know when to increase ounces? What are the signs to look for for a formula intolerance? When do you know to try a new nipple flow? Should you hold your baby back or more upright? Unless you are going to call your pediatrician every time you have a question, it would be helpful to have more resources for FFing moms. I know the BFing community would be bullshit about this, because then it might seem like we are encouraging FFing feeding (and who cares if we do?!), but it's really unfair that FFing moms are so often left in a dark place, alone, feeling ashamed. 

No, I never in my wildest dreams thought my first baby would be exclusively on formula by 10 weeks, but you know what, she was. And she is really fucking cute, healthy and will grow up to be whatever she wants to be because what she eats today won't matter on her college application. What will matter is that she had parents who loved her, encouraged her to be curious about the world and learn, and who supported her in achieving her dreams. Who cares what she ate as an infant? And who's business is it of anyone's to judge me or her for that? I wish there were more resources for moms like me, because even if I know there is no shame, I still feel like I have to explain why I am formula feeding every time someone asks. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Postpartum OCD

When I first sought help for my postpartum mood disorders we all thought it was just anxiety. Even my doctor thought that. She started me on a drug that I had taken before for anxiety however she started me on a lower dose. Over the 10 days that I took it I would start each day hopeful that it would be better than the day before but by bedtime it was evident that I was significantly worse with each passing day. 

The red flag for my doctor, which led her to the additional diagnosis of postpartum OCD, were the terrible horrible thoughts I was having. Every day I was struck by the fear that my baby and/or I would meet our demise in some freakshow fashion. One night I lay awake in bed fearful that someone was going to break into my baby's room, kidnap her and chop her into a million pieces. I know. Totally fucked. I was hesitant to even share that because I don't want to be judged but the truth is, this is real and maybe there are other women out there wondering "what the hell is wrong with me that I am thinking these terrible things."

The difference between postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis, in regards to thinking these terrible things, is that a woman with PP OCD is totally repulsed by these thoughts and would not act on them. In my case they result in paralysis and an inability to function normally, including not being able to leave the house or leave the baby in anyone else's care. I was terrified that if I told my doctor that social services would show up and take my baby (I've been assured they won't). 

I've been doing sone reading and learned that postpartum OCD is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Woman who experience it don't know why, and many, like me, don't feel at all depressed or tearful so it can cause confusion since everyone talks about postpartum depression but no one talks about these other postpartum mood disorders. The lesson here is that if you or a friend is experiencing this, know that it is a valid concern and no one is going to judge you for it. The most important thing during the postpartum period is a healthy and happy mama, because without that you can't have a healthy and happy baby, or marriage, or life.

Finally I think tomorrow will be a better day than today...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Coming Out of the Closet

I'm not sure what feels dirtier to me... Admitting to the public that I couldn't breastfeed my child or admitting to the public that I have postpartum anxiety. In regards to the former, at least I tried, right? It's not like I just shoved a bottle of formula in her face the second she was born (and really so what if I had. Who the F am I to judge another mother?). I put in all the energy I had to breastfeed this baby and it just didn't work for me.

But admitting that I am mentally unstable and medicated? That is a challenge. Postpartum mood disorders are like the elephant in the room. Your friends and family will ask if your breast feeding, if your perineal tearing is healing, if you had a c-section, what kind of birth control you have chosen, but no one (well rarely) will ask how your moods are. No one REALLY wants to open up that can of worms because they are afraid of what you might say. 

I think people saw me start to crumble at the edges before I admitted it myself. I think this because looking back multiple people gave me "the look". The one that says "you seem a little unstable but I'm afraid of offending you since this could be new motherhood and I think you already don't like me anyway so lets just talk about the weather shall we?" There was one time when I even offered an opportunity to some family members... I said "I think I might go back on meds to help with my transition to work" which was given a "oh yes, that could be a good idea. Are you hungry?"

No one asked. I wanted someone to ask because I couldn't cough it up on my own. The day I cracked and called my doctor was a rough day. I opted to call my PCP since I felt like I would fall off my OB/GYNs radar... they would treat me and then send me packing. Maybe not, but in a moment of clarity I knew I needed to talk with someone who would be caring for me for many years, not just when my uterus was carrying my offspring. Anyway, it was hard to admit even to her. She said "tell me what is going on" and I sat there stunned for a moment... you could hear my blood in my eye sockets it was so quiet.

I'm angry. I am always fucking angry. I am only not angry when I have my baby. I can't breathe. I can't sleep. I can't eat. I can't stop eating. I want to run away. I feel guilty about having to go back to work. When my baby is out of my sight I am paralyzed. I freeze right where I am until I can see her again. When she so much as whimpers, I jump out of my skin, worried that something terrible is about to happen. I never let her cry. Every time we get in the car I think silently "if we get an accident please please please let it not be serious." I can't drive or go for walks without picturing our terrible demise. I don't let anyone else go up and down stairs with my baby. I don't let anyone else bathe her. I don't let anyone else change her diapers. There isn't another person in the world that I trust right now.

That's what I told her. And she told me not to worry. That there was light at the end of the tunnel. That this is far more normal than I might realize and that I was a good mom. I needed to hear that. I slept really well that night.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall...

I always felt bad for Humpty Dumpty - he was never able to keep himself together. It's like life was playing a big freaking joke on him all the time and every time he got back on that fucking wall someone would push him off again. Well, that just isn't cool.

I'd like to say I never felt like Humpty Dumpty, but that would be a lie. Over the past 10 weeks there have been many times when I felt like I had finally pulled myself together and would be ok and then some asshole would come along and knocked me off my wall again. 

My real break came one day when the world was just out to get me. The baby was napping. The dog had to be at the groomers within half an hour. I had to go to the grocery store. Baby would need to eat when she woke up. Frantic I scooped the baby into her carseat, herded the dog into the car and bolted. Once we dropped the dog off that's when the baby started to fuss. Ok I'll stop by my parents on the way to the supermarket and feed the baby. 7 minutes later in their driveway the baby is screaming. Fuck fuck fuck. Make a bottle in the backseat. Oh shit. Where is the formula. My mind reels as I dump my diaper bag out in my parents driveway, pushing my screaming child at my dad. TAKE HER! 

My formula is on my kitchen table. I am reminded of my inability to perform a simple bodily function, since i cannot breastfeed my child. Tears run down my face as I drive away and I scream at myself WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU?! I can't provide breastmilk OR remember her formula?!

I race to the gas station around the corner. No formula. Flying to CVS I finally get formula and am back within 20 minutes. My mom has a quiet baby. As soon as the pacifier comes out she wails. Here have a bottle. Shhhh baby. It's ok. I'm sorry baby. 

After the grocery store I get home and call the dog. Oh no oh no. I left her outside and she must have ran away. Standing in our backyard I cry... I can't even take care of a dog anymore. It's not until I go to call my parents that I remember she is as the groomers. 

This was the day I called my doctor. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


"Are you going to breastfeed?" Yes

This is a question that I was asked at every single prenatal appointment. Every. Single. One. Of course I was going to! I've read the studies and jumped on message boards. I know that this shit is the best, and my kid, she deserves the best. I even watched YouTube videos on proper latching, read books about what to eat, drink and wear in order to make the best milk for my baby. I was fucking prepared.

The day my baby was born, was a wonderful most spectacular day. Within half an hour of being born she wiggled her little body to my boob and latched on. Yes! I thought, this is it. I have a perfect baby with a perfect latch and la-de-fucking-da, we are winning at this. Even my midwife told me she was doing it right. The lactation consultants visited us twice in the hospital and you know what they said? You are doing a great job!

And then the pediatrician told me my baby wasn't gaining any weight and in fact had lost almost 12% of her birth weight (10% is a preferred max). Huh? But she's latching! She's doing it right! What do you mean she is losing weight? "How do you feel about supplementing?" she asked me, all of 7 days after having a baby. I hadn't slept. I wasn't sure where I was. "Huh. Oh, that's fine." No it wasn't. My heart said no, my brain even said no, give me a couple more days! but my mouth said OK. Ok.

I didn't see a lactation consultant for 3 days. I was still nursing first and then giving a bottle, but I hadn't started pumping yet because I didn't know I needed to. No one told me, I was ill informed and mostly just tired. When I finally saw the lactation consultant she told my my baby was "not moving any milk" and that my milk wasn't in. Huh? Ok ok. To the OB/GYN I went, where I found out that I had postpartum hypertension which, in some cases, can delay the onset of milk production. I learned that this is fact, because for 3 weeks I had blood work 2 times a week to check my liver enzymes and on the 3rd week, 2nd test my liver was normal, and the next day I had milk!

At this point it was not enough to feed my baby exclusively, but it was enough that I felt good about pumping and giving it to her in a bottle, and nursing her in the middle of the night when I was toofuckingtired to pump.

And then a couple of weeks passed and I realized that I was never leaving my house. Or eating. Or sleeping. Or talking to adults. I was pumping, feeding my baby, showering, pumping, baby feeding, pumping, feed baby, etc. It went on and on and on like this. I was pumping 8-12 times a day and making, max, 6 ounces a day. And feeding a baby a bottle. And washing 8 bottles a day. And trying to get said baby to sleep anywhere but ON me BECAUSE HOW DO YOU PUMP WHILE HOLDING A BABY?! It was alienating, tiring, and just depressing. Finally, I thought I was ready to stop pumping. But I found out that I wasn't. Not mentally. My brain shattered and my boobs ached. My heart broke for my sweet little baby who would get no more breast milk. Was she going to have some terrible disease as a result of MY inability to be a PROPER mother?! Would she be obese? Develop childhood lymphoma?! WHAT had I done to my baby??? I bet Kate Middleton hasn't had any issues with HER perfect royal boobs.

Determined, I thought well... I won't pump but I will nurse her and then give her formula. It worked for all of a week before she caught on to the fact that the bottle was easier to eat from and whenever I offered a breast she pulled away and cried. Oh no, oh no. Are those tears or breast milk covering my shirt, I can't tell anymore? Here, have a bottle little girl. Please, just stop crying. What is wrong with me? Maybe I have insufficient glandular tissue? Yes, that must be it because then it isn't really my fault that I'm a failure, right? RIGHT? Maybe my prolactin levels are terrible. My thyroid must be fucked. DO I HAVE INVERTED NIPPLES?!

In fact, none of that was the case. Yes, I had postpartum hypertension which delayed my milk. I asked my OB what happened in the olden days when that happened and he said "well... they got a wet nurse, or gave the baby animal milk or... in some cases the baby would suffer from malnutrition and die." In the scheme of things, formula ain't half bad to have a healthy baby who got SOME breast milk during her first 2 months.

Do I feel good about not being able to exclusively breast feed my baby? Not particularly. But I would rather have a healthy, happy, well fed baby and be a happy, healthy, well fed mama and well sometimes that comes in different packaging then we expected... for me and my baby, that comes in a package from the store and once a day comes from the boob. For now I still let her comfort nurse. She doesn't get enough breast milk that the medication I am now on will effect her, but while the medication is doing its job these next couple of weeks I still need her to comfort nurse for my sanity. I think she knows, because now that I've stopped trying to force it multiple times a day, she will nurse once a day and every once in awhile will smile up at me with that big goofy grin that says "you're a good mama."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Postpartum depression is a real thing. It is nasty, it is fierce and it will ruin a woman (and her family) in the time you can change a dirty diaper. What they don't tell you during pregnancy, is that postpartum anxiety is AS nasty, fierce and ruinous.

I was at my 6 week appointment, following the birth of my beautiful baby girl, when they handed me this piece of paper. It looked like a multiple choice test; each question asked me something about my mood and/or behavior and I was to rank each one on a scale of 0-4. The higher my score, the more likely I was to have postpartum depression... OK... "Do you feel like harming yourself?" 0. "Have you had thoughts of harming your baby?" 0. "Do you cry for more than 3 hours a day?" 3 hours? Uh... no. 0. There was a series of 10 questions or so, and only on one did I answer higher than a 0: "Do you blame yourself for things?" 1.

No questions about vicious anger, a desire to run away, guilt about being an inadequate parent, guilt about being an inadequate wife, or the paralyzing fear I felt every time my child was out of my sight for more than 30 seconds. So, maybe those things were normal? They weren't on the survey! What did that say about me?! Well now I am sure that what I'm feeling must be normal "new mom bullshit" so maybe I won't bring it up. What if they call social services? Ok... Ok, stay cool.

I went into my appointment, and handed them the piece of paper. My blood pressure was a little high. Great. Now I'm having a stroke. My doctor came in and he was oh so wonderful. Having a good doctor is important. My cervix is closing and my uterus feels great. Excellent, that must mean I am healthy and everything is normal right? Wait are they going to ask me about my quiz? Yes. Oh... they said I am good. Ok. Well maybe I'll mention that the other night I cried for just 1 hour, not 3... but it was just that one time so maybe it is normal.


I failed their test. Or rather, that piece of paper, their "Postpartum Depression Survey" failed me.