The Real Deal

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Motherhood is surreal. I still have a hard time grasping that I have a daughter, a baby, a child that belongs to me. I spend my days tending to her but somehow it just never properly sinks in that she is ours, here to stay. It’s a huge life adjustment, and mental shift. Even though I had years of hoping and waiting and nine months of pregnancy to get used to the idea, it’s different until the baby actually arrives. 

My life is completely different now, which I fully expected; instead of going to work and otherwise generally doing what I please, I mostly stay home taking care of baby C and planning our daily lives generally revolves around her. It’s been a tough adjustment, and though I love her to absolute pieces, it’s still hard. 

I’m fairly certain I have a touch of postpartum depression. In the beginning (first six or so weeks) it was bad, but I think that’s more normal and most people probably have the baby blues to an extent. I had a really hard time, especially because we had breastfeeding and sleeping issues to boot. I was not in a good place, and I’m thankful my mom was with me nearly everyday for many weeks after J went back to work. I did, and still do, have a great deal of guilt because there are times that I wonder if we should have had a baby, if I can do this and then I feel awful because of how much it took to get here, and how many other people would give anything to be in our position.

When I had my 6 week postpartum check up my OBGYN asked how I was doing, I was still struggling pretty good at that point so she offered to put a referral in for postpartum support. They called a few weeks ago to set up an appointment, and I am seeing a psychologist this week. I am doing much better but I still have some struggles with my emotions; anxiety, guilt and feeling overwhelmed. I figure I may as well take advantage of the help that is being offered, even though sometimes I feel like I don’t need it. 

I wonder what people do who are in dire and immediate need, as from the time I spoke to my OB to the time I am actually seeing someone will be five weeks. That’s a long time when a person is struggling. Perhaps my OB didn’t sense an urgent need, but I’m not sure if she has any influence on how fast I get in.

I have also been asked by the public health nurses that I’ve seen how I am doing, and I did a sort of diagnostic quiz a couple of weeks ago to see where I fall in the spectrum of PPD. My score was low, indicating I’m doing pretty well, but it does fluctuate for me somewhat, and there are days that my emotions get the better of me. I’m grateful that there seems to be a lot of concern for a mothers wellbeing from my healthcare providers and that help is readily available (albeit at somewhat of a delay).

I feel like there are some people that are cut out to be parents, and take to motherhood (as I’m more specifically speaking about moms, not dads) easily. I am not one of those people. And that’s ok, I mean it’s not ideal because I have more anxiety about things in life now, and I think I will struggle with motherhood more than some. But I don’t think it makes me a bad mom, it just makes life a bit more difficult for me and that’s on me, not my daughter or my husband. Perhaps having someone to talk to will help with this but part of it is just my analytical personality shining through. Some days I have my stride and things feel great, but a good lot of the time I’m still a bit shell shocked and overwhelmed. I make myself get out of the house, we attend a mom and baby group and usually have at least one appointment for something each week. I am just trucking along as best as I can, and one thing I learned from infertility is one day at a time and one foot in front of the other.

*I’m not saying I have it harder than anyone else, but I think my personality and ability to cope coupled with my postpartum hormones are making things tough, for me. 

**Over the course of writing this, my appointment had to be rescheduled to next week, so to be continued on that…

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Life on the Other Side

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I’ve had intentions of writing about my birth story and what’s been going on with us several times over the past few weeks but every time I plan on it something else comes up, or the baby wants to eat (again), or it just feels like a frivolous thing to do with my time when there are a hundred other things I want to get done, or just take a nap.

Life is pretty tough right now, as there have been challenges since we came home, some normal newborn stuff, plus some extra stressors. Baby girl had a mild case of jaundice when she came home which made her a bit lethargic and difficult to feed. I was not to let her go more than three hours without eating as she needed to expel the excess bilirubin from her system to get rid of the jaundice. But given the fact that she was very sleepy she didn’t eat well, which was not helping with the jaundice, it was a vicious circle as you can imagine. In my province a home health nurse is sent to check on mom and baby a day or two after being discharged from the hospital. I think this is an amazing service, and couldn’t imagine not having it. Because of the jaundice we actually ended up getting 4 home visits so I was able to get advice and reassurance with breastfeeding issues, as well as have baby checked on without having to leave the house. We came close to having to be readmitted to the hospital based on the jaundice but it did manage to clear up on its own with time.

Breastfeeding has been tricky, and I figured it would be but i just didn’t know in what ways, and how badly it would affect all aspects of life. Initially it was a learning curve for both of us, with latch and positioning, plus waiting for my milk to come in. That didn’t take long and by about day 3/4 I was so engorged that my chest looked like something from the incredible hulk; swollen to the extreme, veins galore and rock hard. Couple that with the fact that baby wasn’t feeding well, and I was in a great deal of pain without being able to relieve the pressure. I was only able to get a few drops when pumping, hand expression didn’t work and  I was so swollen that there was nothing but nipple for baby to suck on, which didn’t really work and lead to cracked nipples, an upset baby and a distraught mommy. I was referred to a lactation consultant and luckily was able to get in within a day of the referral (my MIL has some pull in the medical field, which is also how we got in to the fertility clinic fairly quickly as well, thank goodness for her ties).

The LC confirmed that I was doing nothing wrong, though I felt like a pure failure as we had caved and used formula to supplement at times when I just couldn’t take the struggle anymore. She suspected that I was so engorged that there was fluid in my breast tissue which was making it difficult for my milk to be expelled, so when I was using a hot shower and warm compresses to try and get my milk to let down, it was probably making things worse by increasing the swelling of fluid and she suggest I use cold compress to get it under control. This was around day 6, and I had an appointment to see her again this past Friday. Things have improved in some ways since then, the engorgement is gone, and both myself and baby have gotten better at feeding, but now our issue is little C like to use me as a pacifier, and when she is feeding she spends maybe 10% of the time eating and 90% of the rest of the time just sucking. Not all of her feeds go like this, she was feeding well in the night when they were spaced out so I had plenty of milk on tap when she did feed and she would have a good sleep and be hungry enough to feed well.

That is until last night when I spent several hours going back and forth on the boob, trying to get her to feed, comforting her and trying to get her to sleep with no success. Last night was one of the hardest so far, and both of us shed tears, but managed to make it through with some help from daddy who somehow was able to soothe her to sleep at one point, for which I was grateful, but also made me feel like I can’t comfort my own child. There is a lot of guilt in this parenthood business…

So breastfeeding is probably our biggest challenge right now, just getting her to eat instead of suckling for hours on end. I know a baby is wont to have an evening witching time when they are fussy and want to cluster feed so I try and remember that when she behaves this way but it is a lot to take and I am hoping we fall into a bit more of a rhythm sooner rather than later. I have had success with the pump and there is a 3 oz packet in our freezer. That is only enough for one feed but going from being able to pump nothing, to about an ounce per pumping session is progress for me. I would like to pump more regularly just to have a milk stash on hand so dad can be involved and I might be able to leave the house without baby at some point but it is slow going and I find sometimes I am too tired to pump, or baby won’t go down after a feeding so I am not able to pump if I am tending to her. I am lucky in that I don’t have to pump, it’s not like I am going back to work, it is more just for my own sanity that I would like to have a stockpile but I am still trying to work it into our day.

Getting out of the house nowadays is a pretty huge ordeal, and generally takes two stages, one where I shower and get ready while baby is sleeping, and then I either wake her up to feed before we leave the house, or wait for her to wake up and feed. I am not opposed to feeding her in public but it’s probably more than I can manage right now. Plus I tried using a cover once while we had company visiting and it made things infinitely more difficult. I’m sure eventually we will get the hang of it, or I will be less concerned about people seeing my boob because I can’t live life without being able to take my baby out and worry about having to feed her. We’ve made it to a few doctors appointments, a couple of walks in our neighbourhood, and a trip to Babies R’ Us. Last week on our way home from the doctors, less than five minutes from home, we were rear ended while stopped for a red light. Luckily it was very minor, no one was hurt and the damage minimal but it was still terrifying at the time. We called 911 and had an ambulance come and check on baby just because she is so teeny and can’t tell us if something is wrong. She checked out fine, and has had no problems since but now I have the hassle of getting my car repaired, dealing with a rental vehicle, and I had to order a new car seat since our existing one was involved in an accident. It’s covered by insurance and I’d certainly rather have it replaced than take a chance but all of this is a huge pain in my ass, when I have to tote my newborn with me as I try and manage all of these tasks. One more stressor I didn’t need.

On top of the rest of that, the tenant that is renting our other condo unit gave us notice on Aug. 31 that they had to unexpectedly break their lease as one of them is having health problems which is causing them to relocate to a different city. They were not due to leave until July of next year, and this left us in a huge lurch to scramble and find a new tenant. Besides the economy not being so hot right now, we live near a university and tons of students move into our area in the fall, but being that our tenants didn’t give notice until end of August, to be out end of September, we were too late to try and get a student in our place. This has been a huge source of anxiety for us, we luckily have found a new tenant now but we dropped the rent $140 from what we were previously getting. Unfortunately we sort of screwed ourselves because the rental agreement stated the lease could be broken for a penalty of $1000, as opposed to the tenant being responsible for the remainder of the lease. You can bet we’ve rectified that in the new contract!

So life as we know it has been pretty topsy turvy, dealing with a new baby plus all the extras we’ve been facing as well. I’ve heard the first month to six weeks is the hardest so we are just taking it a day at a time trying to survive because the thought of struggling to keep my head above water for even another week seems daunting at times. We have a weight check for baby tomorrow, as she was not quite back at birth weight at the two week mark (but by day 16 she was) so that will also be a good indicator if she is getting enough to eat from me.

Our dogs have been great with her, and the one I was worried about is so protective. He barks when she cries (I don’t appreciate that, but it is kind of sweet), he is so interested in her and wants to give her puppy kisses (we don’t let him). He actually gets upset with us if he thinks we are not doing right by her, and he has actually nipped a bit at me to “protect” baby girl. That was not appreciated and he did get swatted but at least it’s at us and not her. 

J has been a superstar, he really wants to be involved, and feels badly that he can’t do more to help me when I am taking the brunt of the stress due to being her food source. He has a hard time not being mister fix-it and sometimes I find he is trying to offer solutions when what I really need is just support. I think he is starting to realize that but I know he hates the helpless feeling. He was home for almost two weeks with us and it was nice having him around but he got restless and bored watching TV for hours on end while I struggled with feeding. He is great with diaper changes, getting her bundled into her car seat and anything else he can do besides feeding. He is so in love and in awe of her.

It is difficult, the emotions are intense, and I feel like I am constantly failing, but when it goes well, even for a few hours at a time it feels like magic and we are a little family unit. I feel like I have so much more to say, but it changes day by day. I’ll get to my birth story at some point, but it went rather smoothly and I feel very happy with the experience I had despite a few not so great parts.

*I hope this doesn’t come off as too whiny but I want to be real about how tough it has been.