Tag Archives: mother

A love letter of sorts

Dear #PPDChat Mamas,

I know yesterday was all sorts of hard for some of you.

That it was particularly hard for one of you in particular.

Just as last time, we rallied around you. We loved you. We tried to protect you and keep you safe. We did what friends do when they see a friend struggling. They reach out to anything they can in order to keep the car from crashing. To keep the crisis from escalating. We were not alone in our reaction. You are loved. By so many. You matter. To us. To others. To your children. To life. You.MATTER.

I am sorry if we upset you. But you see, it was out of love. It was out of caring. It was with good intention. I realize these are just words. That they may not change how you feel about what so many of us did together yesterday to SAVE YOUR LIFE.

To those of you who did what you could to save a life, do not place blame on yourself for the outcome. For the reaction. You did the best you could with what you had at the time. You rose above what most would ever do when faced with someone who so clearly stated suicidal intent. You bravely ran toward the crisis screaming STOP, gathering an army along the way.

The reaction? The outcome? Is not yours to own. It is hers and hers alone. You can still love her. You can still care for her. But she must process what happened to her in her own way even if that means walking away from us, walking away from Twitter. She needs to own that, not you. I’m not saying it will be easy. I’m not saying anyone is right or anyone is better. I’m just saying that all of us are only responsible for the behaviours of ourselves, not of others. As long as you know in your heart you did the best you could with what you had at the time and it was with good intention, rest easy. You’re not responsible for the outcome. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to let someone else own their behaviour when you feel you had a hand in causing it. But right now? Let go. Breathe. Know we have done every thing we possibly can to help. And now? It’s time to breathe. It’s time to let ownership lie where it may.

We’ll still be here should she ever decide to come back. With arms full of love, hearts open and willing, and minds free of judgment. I hope she does come back. In the meantime though, I wish her all the best. I wish her healing, peace of mind, and a stop to the downward spiral she feels stuck in at the moment. I know it’s dark there, we all do. Don’t ever forget you are loved. And don’t EVER forget that YOU.MATTER.

We love you. No matter what.

Love,

Me

Once upon a time

Once upon a time I was just a girl with a dream. A little girl who shoved stuffed animals under her Mickey Mouse shirt as she toddled across the living room. Then I’d pretend to have my baby, love it, and eventually abandon it in a corner for a different toy.

Then I grew up.

Had a real baby.

Learned really quickly there’s no abandoning a real baby in the corner. Even when I wanted to because every new scream or shriek caused debilitating anxiety or a new flood of intrusive thoughts.

No, real babies, unlike the stuffed animal variety, demand and require attention. They need to eat, they need to have their diapers changed, they require love and interaction. It’s hard stuff for a mom without a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Even harder for a mom struggling to keep the mental illness wolves at bay. By the time baby is ready to finally settle down for the night (even if it’s 2am in the morning), our brains are so fried from all the self-talk we’ve done throughout the day just to convince ourselves “Yes, I CAN make it for just 60 more seconds,” all we can do is sit there and stare at the wall. Like Zombies. Sure, moms without PPD are Zombiefied every once in awhile too. Motherhood is HARD.

I look back at the depths of my hell and wonder what I could have done differently. I examine it, searching for the one thing I did wrong – the one thing I should have done differently. What if I had asked for help here or what if I had educated myself as intensely before my first two pregnancies? Built in more social support? What if…

Here’s the kicker… even if I identify the ONE thing I could change? Would it matter? Who would I be today? Would I still be the Mama Bear I am today for families with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders? If I changed just one thing to clear my PMAD experience, would I be doing more damage than good?

Hindsight sucks when we look upon it with a longing to change things. Hindsight can be a beautiful thing if, instead of looking upon our past with a longing to change it, we look upon it with a desire to understand why we are where we are and how we’re going to get to our next place in life. Our past is full of building blocks regardless of how dark and negative. When we learn how to slide them all into place like a Rubik’s Cube, we solve the puzzle of our life and empower ourselves to move forward with an unparallelled strength.

Don’t look back in regret. Look back with a desire to understand and then launch yourself into your future. You’ll be amazed at how far you can go.

A Father’s Insight

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails grow up to be stoic and fearless, handymen expected to fix everything. At least that’s the hole into which society attempts to place men and has for some time now. Men are our rocks. Our shelter in the midst of the storm. Our protectors. As such, emotions are off the table for them. No tears. No anxiety. No fear. Fixers of all.

Men are human too. Capable of emotion. Sure, they may not process it out loud as we women so often do but they are capable of emotion in the face of life’s events. Men love. Men suffer heartbreak. Men hurt. Many may be silent about their loss or their pain. But every so often a man exposes his heart and offers invaluable insight into a man’s emotional world. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention.

I recently met Jeremy on Twitter. He blogs over at 2 Baby Dad about life as “An Expectant, Already Dad’s Blog.” His wife suffered a miscarriage. As we chatted, I asked if he would be willing to write about his view of his wife’s miscarriage. He agreed and posted his insight today after emailing it to me so I could read it over.

Jeremy’s account is raw, insightful, powerful, and honest. As I read through it, I felt the emotion building. By the time I finished, there were tears and my heart felt full as I exhaled. His words, the rhythm, the way he opens and then closes his experience embraces so vibrantly the experience of a father when it comes to fatherhood. There are emotions, even if “concealed by a wall” as Jeremy says.

I strongly urge you to go read Jeremy’s piece entitled “A Father, His Wife’s Miscarriage, and a Lost Unborn Child.” Share it with the men in your life. With the women in your life. Communication is key between husband and wife in the midst of any crisis. The better we understand where the other party is coming from, the better our communication with them will be when crisis hits. Please read this and pass it on to as many as you can.

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE

Yesterday afternoon, the tweet you see to your left was sent out by a friend of mine. Of course I clicked. Then I waited for my phone to fully load the page. Once it loaded, I scrolled through the article. With each new point, my rage increased. Not until the end of the article did the author even begin to show a shred of compassion for mothers who rely upon formula in medically necessary situations. Even then her compassion was thin and failed to mention mothers struggling with postpartum depression. A few back and forths about the article then Karen Kleiman posted a rebuttal. So did Ivy Shih Leung over at Ivy’s PPD Blog.

And now? I give you mine.

My mother nursed my brothers and I for 18 months each. Or that’s what I’ve been told. I’m sticking to it. I grew up thinking breastfeeding was normal. I grew up used to seeing my mother nurse my brothers. It was how they were fed. It wasn’t weird. Or strange. I wasn’t scarred by the experience. I was six years old when my youngest brother stopped nursing. Closer to seven, actually.

When pregnant with my first child, I knew I would nurse. Because breastfeeding is how babies eat. She, however, had other plans that first day. Not interested in the boob. Didn’t eat at all in the hospital. We were sent home with barely any instruction but by god, they sent a bag with free formula samples. Which I used when she was screaming at 10pm that night and I couldn’t get her to latch. We used three of those samples the first night. I woke up the following morning determined to make breastfeeding work. For us, it did. She latched and we didn’t look back for 16 months when she finally weaned. Breastfeeding was the ONLY thing I did right with her in those early days. I failed at everything else. I couldn’t handle her screaming. She nursed for an hour every two hours so I stayed on the couch. No outside support. I was modest, didn’t want to nurse in public, etc. Quick trips in between nursings became the norm for us. At three months postpartum, my doctor asked me how important breastfeeding was to me as my daughter screamed in her carseat next to me. Seriously? I left his office even more defeated than when I walked in. I left with no help. Clearly I had to do this on my own. She thrived, I broke down.

My breakdown continued into my second pregnancy, leading to an early delivery. Our second daughter was born with a cleft palate. Once again, I expected to give birth, nurse, and go home. I had higher hopes for starting nursing this time. Instead, later that evening, I was trained in how to use a Medela Symphony and clutched cold hard horns to my poor not yet full breasts. No one explained colostrum’s small production to me and the nurse even laughed at what I got that first try. Again, I was defeated. My biggest moment of defeat? When the nurse asked me what kind of formula I wanted our daughter to have.

“But, but.. I’m going to nurse her. She’s getting breastmilk.” I stammered.

“Honey, until your milk comes in completely, she needs to eat. What kind of formula? We have Enfamil or Similac.” the nurse stated.

“Enfamil.” I sighed and cried when she left.

And that was just the first day.

Let’s visit the day I was in the pumping room at the NICU and my daughter’s nurse started a feed with FORMULA just minutes before I exited with well over 8 ounces of fresh Mama milk. I made her stop the feed, dump the formula, and start a new one with my milk. Oh hell yes I did. Or what about the day of her G-tube and ear tube surgery when the nurses spilled 5 oz of her milk as they tried to get the Kangaroo pump to work? I was not nice.

At the same time though, I had to be okay with my daughter getting formula in those early days. Yes, I thought formula was evil. But when I couldn’t be there or have enough stored breastmilk at the NICU, if my daughter didn’t receive formula, she would have DIED. We had a toddler at home. The NICU was over an hour away. I couldn’t be there 24/7. So formula had to be okay. It wasn’t evil. It wasn’t non-nutritious. It was saving my daughter’s life. I needed to not feel guilty about what my daughter received. I needed to not think about how it was changing her gut flora. I needed to not be judged because damn it, I was trying as hard as I could but the pump only removes so much milk. I pumped around the clock – every three hours except for a luxurious 5 hour stretch in the wee hours of the morning when I let myself SLEEP. Sure, I could have stayed awake around the clock and made more to avoid the evil formula but again, I had a toddler. One needs sleep when attempting to care for a toddler. Or they win. Everything. And that, people, can get ugly fast.

I pumped exclusively for our second daughter for seven long months. During those seven months, I was hospitalized in an Acute Flight risk Mixed-Gender ward. I pumped every three hours there too. Pumping fed into my OCD. Clean, sanitize, run the kangaroo pump, pump, repeat. Every three hours. On top of caring for a toddler. On top of a husband working 70+ hours in the restaurant industry. On top of two dogs who ALWAYS waited to need to go outside until right after my let down whilst pumping and usually had an accident in the house. I made peace with a lot of things – lowered my standards for a lot of stuff. Because my daughter needed my breastmilk. I threw myself down the rabbit hole and wallowed there. I resented her. I hated her for what I had to do.

At seven months, I stopped. For my sanity, for my relationship with my family, for my daughter. We weren’t bonding. I was going crazy. When it’s a question of my sanity vs. breastmilk? My sanity will ALWAYS win. I cried when I bought formula. Expected to be judged and would have had a serious conversation with the person judging me. Possibly would have offered to invite them to my home to see just what it was I dealt with on a daily basis.

As I stated in Don’t Judge me, the manner in which baby is fed doesn’t matter. As long as everyone is thriving, that’s all that matters. Yes, we should be educated. But education does not have to come in a harsh form as it does in the “Pushing Formula is EVIL” article. State the facts. Be honest. Forthright. Respectful. Don’t make me feel guilty for my choices. If you have to preface an article with the following:

NOTE TO MOMS: Don’t read this if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty or overstressed. NOTE TO ALL: I’m not a therapist but a researcher in child development.”

Chances are you shouldn’t be writing it. I preface things with “vulnerable” here. But never with guilty or overstressed. And based on the article, it’s clear the author isn’t a therapist. If she were a therapist, she would have been far more compassionate and understanding. If she had read recent research stating “Postpartum Depression and difficulty Breastfeeding often go hand in hand” she may have been more compassionate.

Depressed moms may use formula more often than other moms. Breastfeeding is tough for us. We struggle with touch. We struggle with throwing ourselves under the bus because quite frankly, we already feel run over by the damn bus.

Motherhood is about making the right choice for our family. Not making the right choice for someone else’s family. Not about judging others for their decisions. Not about filling people’s heads with unresearched facts in a demeaning manner.

For the record? My daughter is extremely bright. She tested almost off the charts in verbal comprehension at four. So did her sister.

When their brother was born, he nursed like a champ. But then I had emotional crisis at 3 months. My medication combined with my stress killed my supply. He was diagnosed as failure to thrive at six months having gained only four pounds since birth. The pediatrician suggested I pump. I knew where that road led. I closed the milk factory and he switched to formula in just two days. He gained weight, I was less stressed, and we thrived.

Formula worked for my family. It wasn’t evil. No one pushed it on us. I made educated decisions to use it. It saved my second daughter’s life. It saved my son’s life. It saved MY life. The author states that if one cannot breastfeed, a wet-nurse or milk from a milk bank is an acceptable substitute. I agree. But at the time, I couldn’t even get my insurance company to pay for what I felt was a “medically necessary” hospital grade pump. How on EARTH would I get coverage for milk-bank breastmilk?

Don’t ever tell me Formula is evil. It saves lives. The end.

My breasts, my sanity, MY CHOICE.

BOOM.