When the Happiest Time of Your Life is the Hardest pt.2

Welcome back.

I know I haven’t shared the birth story but long story short, delivery was long and rough and left me feeling very very beat up. My experience and recovery played a big role in my ppd. Everyone’s experience is different and today I’m sharing mine.

After we got past the breastfeeding hump I thought we were out of the woods. We were not. By week two (which conveniently lined up with K’s 36 hour trip to Chicago) I realized that the “baby blues” were full blown depression. I’m going to be super honest here and tell you how I felt at my lowest low.

The strongest feelings were loneliness and regret. I mourned the freedom and life I’d lost. I felt like a prisoner to my life. My days were the same over & over and my nights were long and lonely. My body wasn’t working correctly and everything hurt. I had a two week driving ban so I couldn’t leave the house on my own- with or without M. I didn’t really want any visitors but I hated being alone. I felt like motherhood wasn’t meant for me & I was failing. I told K that I “hated” this. I thought we made a mistake by having a child.

I know that my attitude and emotions rubbed off on K and stressed him out. He was balancing work (including my workload) and my mental & physical health and M’s wellbeing and his own health and lack of sleep. I knew I was draining him & ruining his newborn days, too. He was extremely concerned about my mental state. My parents were, too.

Two weeks after M arrived I called my doctor and, between sobs, choked out my symptoms to a very kind nurse. They had me in the following day and we worked out a plan and prescription. A few days later I felt like a whole new human.

With my driving restricts lifted (and K back home) I felt a little more confident to leave the house with M. And I realized that I have people who WANT to watch her and help me- so occasionally I can go out without her, too. I started to see her as a human- MY human; not just a baby or a life sentence or an anchor. I kissed her face more and sang to her and smiled at her gassy grins- even at 2am. A fog lifted and I realized that I am a mom and M is my heart in human form and these days will not last forever- for better or worse.

My mom and K saw the change in me as soon as it happened. We’ve been doing pretty great since then. Things aren’t always easy and I still feel like I’m working on a bond with M since we got a delayed start, but I am so grateful that we took action as soon as the ppd set in.

A few things I want to note…

Medication and mindfulness (and sleep) worked for me and I’m very grateful for that. I know this treatment plan might not work for everyone. It’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling and what you need. Talk to professionals as soon as you notice something is going on.

ALSO- I personally believe that it’s completely normal to mourn the life you “lost.” Having a baby is a HUGE change and it’s almost impossible to fully grasp what it will do to your present and future. In addition to the regret & sadness, I had no happiness or excitement about our future with M- and that was my glaring red flag. Stress, sadness, regret, and frustration are normal… but complete hopelessness is not. If something feels wrong, it is wrong. Don’t ignore it.

I am not a natural caregiver. Motherhood is not something that came fast or easy for me. Every day feels a little better and I gain more confidence. Some moms are naturals and some are more like me- and I think either way is great. Like all self care mantras, if you don’t take care of yourself and feel good you won’t be able to take care of others- and that includes your own child.

Family & friends have been so supportive and wonderful- including blog friends. We’re doing really well right now. M is sleeping a little better & our routine is a little more consistent; two things I desperately needed to happen. I know every day is different and new, but having the mental clarity to tackle it has been key. Hopefully this helps someone else and I can be a shoulder for women and future moms to lean on ♥

When the Happiest Time of Your Life is the Hardest pt.1

Before I talk about my struggles with motherhood and postpartum depression I want to say that our daughter is nothing short of perfection. My mental health is not a reflection of my love for her- it’s a reflection of my mental health. It’s also not a result of a poor support system- our family and friends have been incredible. They have shopped for us, made us food, held M while we nap/shower/do a load of laundry. They have offered to come clean or just keep me company on the lonely days. Again, my mental health is because of me- my thoughts, my hormones, my chemicals. 

It’s unfair that after battling through delivery mothers are given a scary, new, unpredictable baby. My delivery was not easy & it left me broken and hurt. On the way home from the hospital the “baby blues” hit with a vengeance. I’m not a doctor or expert; I’m just sharing my experience. PPD sucks and feels very lonely- I want to make it a little less lonely for someone else.

I’m breaking this up into two posts because it hit me in two parts in two different ways.

After being home for a day I realized that M’s nursing latch was not right and it was painfully tearing up my chest. Of course, now that the nurses were gone and I was all alone, things were suddenly bad. I powered through as best I could but at her first pediatrician appointment I asked about supplementing with formula.

Fortunately, M was getting enough food and her weight hadn’t dropped too low but our ped was very supportive and gave us samples so I could catch a break. Once we were home I hesitated to give her a formula bottle. I hated that I was “giving up.” I cried and cried about how weak I felt to give in to the pain and not do this thing we women are “made” to do.

*Before she was born I swore that if breastfeeding didn’t work out I was not going to beat myself up over it. We would just make the necessary changes and move on. Well… hormones and guilt and exhaustion all come into play once baby arrives. Knowing when to make a change is tricky and frustrating.

I did eventually give her a few formula bottles. Then I’d switch back and nurse her the next time. I also pumped during the formula feedings and got a little milk for her. (I was also concerned that my milk hadn’t come in fully.) Every single feeding I felt defeated. When I gave her formula I felt like a failure as a mom and selfish for wanting to ease my own pain. When I attempted to nurse I felt nothing but fear and pain and anxiety… and a growing frustration for M. I cried constantly.

We paid $120 for a breastfeeding consultation at a local resource center. Everything went smoothly there and I came home feeling great. And then we nursed at home and M’s latch wasn’t right over and over again. I bawled. I felt like I wasn’t meant to be a mom. I felt the crushing monotony of doing this day in and day out for months. I felt so, so hopeless.

My mom stayed that evening and kept M in the living room. K and I went up to bed alone and, in a moment of clarity and quietness, we made the decision to stop breastfeeding. Making that final, clear, black and white decision felt amazing. In a season of unpredictability and chaos it felt like we’d gain some control over something.

So on M’s one week “birthday” we quit breastfeeding.

Let’s talk about breastfeeding for a second. (I am not a doctor.) The general consensus right now is that “breast is best.” In history, opinions about breastfeeding have gone back and forth but right now I feel like there is a massive amount of pressure to breastfeed. Just about everyone assumed we were going to nurse. I didn’t even consider formula- I put no research or consideration into formula. We registered for all the nursing things- creams, pads, the pump and pillow and storage bags. We took a class at the aforementioned center and we decided we were going to give it a shot.

The night K and I made our final decision was the first night I put thought into our nursing situation. For me, these were the main factors:

  • I felt no joy or connection to M when we were nursing. On the contrary, I felt anxiety, fear, pain, and resentment every time she started rooting.
  • On the flip side, the few times I’d given her a bottle she was happy and I was pain free. She made eye contact with me and it was a peaceful moment between us.
  • I plan to return to work and didn’t want to figure out the logistics of feeding AND pumping enough for caregivers to use.
  • I didn’t plan to bf beyond 6 months tops.
  • While I respect the HELL out of mamas who feed their babies anywhere, I was not comfortable doing that. Even in my own house, if we had company visiting, I removed myself from the room and went to her nursery to nurse. I couldn’t imagine doing that for months and months.
  • She got the colostrum at the beginning of her life (but even if she hadn’t it would’ve been ok).
  • I really hated it. I never felt that moment of peacefulness when she latched.

Why am I sharing this? Because I was inundated with the pros and perks and facts of breastfeeding… but no one talked about the pros of formula feeding.

It still feels like a taboo opinion, but I love formula feeding.

I love that she looks me in the eye and holds my finger when I’m giving her a bottle. I love that ANYONE can feed her, including her dad or grandparents or caregiver. I love how easy it is to mix up a bottle and make her happy- whether we’re at home or out and about.

I am surrounded by extremely supportive people. Not one single person has given me flak about formula feeding- even my hardcore breastfeeding friends have cheered us on. And my respect for those who breastfeed is through the roof. It’s a tough path to take- it just wasn’t the right one for us.

A fed, happy, peaceful baby is most important. This post has seemingly focused more on breastfeeding and less on mental health, but having the confidence to make a decision and stick to it and feel good about it was such a boost to my mental health. I imagine it might help out another mom in the same way, too.

The second part of this mental health saga is much more ppd/depression heavy. I wanted to focus on breastfeeding this time, though, because there’s a lot of opinions out there and the pressure is insane- even when it’s pressure we put on ourselves. It was the first major mental hurdle I faced.

I am an open book (& total novice) when it comes to parenting M and surviving early motherhood. Please feel free to ask me anything or reach out if you’re struggling with something- either in the comments or via email (audreylou09@gmail.com).