Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dear Ehren: Six Months

Dear Ehren,

It’s been 6 months. SIX months. Seis meses. Wow. I cannot describe the relief I feel for making it to six months. For what seemed like forever, it felt like we’d never live to see that sixth month. I thought we’d be counting in weeks forever. I was terrified that it would never get better. I had no idea how much I was suffering with depression and anxiety. I tell you this because one day, I hope you have a child, and I hope that you and your partner will support each other just as your father has supported you and me throughout this struggle.

I always knew that having a child would be hard. I understood that things would change, but I never realized that things would continue changing on a daily basis. That it wasn’t the singular change of “here’s your baby.” It’s a tumultuous rollercoaster of ongoing change. There was no way to truly fathom the chaos that waking every 2 hours to feed a baby while recovering from surgery and suffering with an undiagnosed gallbladder infection would inflict on our lives. I didn’t realize that breastfeeding would be so difficult, and the entire world of feeding and mommy guilt that comes with it. I thought I understood that my awful childhood would surface someday and that I knew what that meant. I thought I was strong enough to do this, on my own, without help. I was so wrong.

It took 12 long weeks for me to walk into that doctor’s office and say “I think I have post-partum depression.” A full 6 weeks after the lactation consultant referred me. I only said something because I felt so perpetually angry. I had no idea that anxiety could make someone so angry, agitated, and miserable. That’s what it was, anxiety. I was so scared that I was doing everything wrong and ruining you before you even had a chance at life. I was afraid that the supplemental formula and donated milk I was giving you were the wrong choices. I was terrified to take you out in public in fear of you becoming hungry. I couldn’t go to a doctor’s appointment on my own. I was absolutely obsessed with feeding. I couldn’t quit breastfeeding and I couldn’t continue. Mostly, I couldn’t stand how much I felt like a failure.

When you have to do something 8-12 times a day, it becomes all-consuming. When you feel like you’ve failed at something 8-12 times a day, you feel like you’ve failed at everything. That’s how I felt. I felt like I had absolutely and irrefutably failed you. I couldn’t feed you. I tried so many things from pumping to medication only to find that I couldn’t make enough to help you grow. You quickly fell from the 85% in weight to the 2%. I had to supplement with formula. At least 8 times a day, I was reminded exactly how I’d failed you. I tortured myself over it. I felt like the whole world was judging me when you cried after a feeding in public. I could feel every mom staring at me when I fed you a bottle. Everything I did felt like it revolved around feeding and it was all wrong. It was a dark place. I started to question if your father and I had done the right thing in having a baby. I started to wonder if I was so un-maternal that I couldn’t raise you. I feared that I had ruined my life.

I did not tell your father that’s how I felt until after I let it escape my lips in a therapy session. This letter is also the first time I’m truly admitting that I needed therapy to cope with a new baby. I needed an impartial person to hear what I’d been through and just say “damn.” For me, it took a professional to coach me into realizing that I had experienced birth trauma, that I had given so much more of myself than I realized, and that I needed to make time for myself as well. It took professional help for me to really understand that what you and I have done in the past 6 months has truly been incredible. Against all odds, we’re still breastfeeding. Against all odds, we’ve bonded so remarkably well that not one psychiatric professional has questioned my devotion to you. Against all odds, we’re happy together. I’ve given you so much more than I even knew I had to give. You have shown me what it means to be devoted in a way that no other relationship could. I have learned that I’m so much more than I ever fathomed I could be. We have grown together in these last 6 months, and I am eagerly awaiting the next 6 months.

The fog has lifted. The help that I was so afraid to ask for has made a world of difference for me. I now look forward to the next 6 months. I am eager to see you crawl (so much that I get on the floor and crawl in circles around you as an inspiration), love to watch you try new foods, and absolutely melt when you laugh. Your favorite foods are mango and pizza crust (just like daddy), but you just kept picking up the broccoli and asparagus spears to stick them in your mouth like they are familiar to you (these are my favorite vegetables). You are a child that is truly a reflection of both of your parents, and it gives me such great joy to watch you develop your own personality. It gives me such relief that the terror and anxiety of the first 6 months are both unfounded and gone. The anticipation I have for your development has created so much joy in my life. I look forward to tomorrow, and the weeks, months, and years following. I am just so happy that I’m now truly here to enjoy it, and I hope that if you ever have a child that you can enjoy it as well. Just remember, the hardest things in life are the most rewarding. You, sir, are by far the most rewarding and difficult part of my entire life. My heart explodes with love for you, my whole being loves your father for helping me to create you, and my inner voice is now cheering me on for being so good to you.

I can only hope that one day you experience this love and awe with someone you adore. You are my sunshine.

Love always,

Mom

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dear Ehren: Twenty Weeks

Dear Ehren,

So much has changed and it's been such a whirlwind of chaos. One thing I am learning is that just once we have it all figured out, you change. In fact, you change so quickly that I dare not blink. Last week, I went back to work. A few weeks before that, we went to Montana. Most importantly, I started seeing a therapist to deal with my postpartum mood disorders. That was good for the whole family. I started listening to what other people are saying to me and I learned 2 things:
1) The past 18 months have been filled with absolutely awful and traumatic experiences for me.
2) I am a badass for all I've conquered in the past 18 months (and way before then!)

In the past 18 months I have lost a baby, struggled to conceive, constantly vomited, regularly dehydrated, extremely cautious with weight gain/loss, checked into the hospital for vomiting, controlled gestational diabetes, had countless NSTs, worked until the hour I went into labor, battled 56 hours of labor, attempted to push for 4 hours, submitted to a cesarean delivery, had postpartum pre-eclampsia, delayed breastfeeding, struggled with tongue ties, nursed/pumped/bottle fed you every 2-3 hours for 4 weeks, continued vomiting, admitted to the hospital (again), enjoyed emergency gallbladder surgery, EP'd for 3 weeks, worked to bring you back to the breast for 5 weeks, learned that I didn't produce enough milk, struggled with postpartum anxiety, developed postpartum depression, joined a parent group, traveled to Montana twice, took you to daycare, and returned to work. That's just the baby related big things. That doesn't include the HUGE changes at work, the two moves, family drama, or the way that my relationship has phenomenally changed with your father.


Quite honestly, the past 18 months were pure chaos. And for the most part, I should have been really miserable, but I wasn't. I struggled, but I wasn't miserable. I was excited about you. I was determined to succeed. I was focused. And now, I'm just coming up for air. I'm taking a moment to breathe. I'm listening to all of the people around me who are telling me what a phenomenal job I've done and noting how well I've coped. I'm finally giving myself the credit I deserve, because you deserve a mom who knows her worth.If I'm lucky, you'll let me be your role model - strong, courageous, brave, and confident.

I love you,

Mama

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dear Ehren: Week 6

Dear Ehren,

Little buddy, we've made it a 1/4 of the way to our first breastfeeding goal. What success! This has been the most challenging adventure I could have ever imagined, but I did learn a few things along the way. Yesterday, my dear friend Molli made the mistake of asking me what my thoughts were on her registry. Oh, little dude, I nearly wrote a thesis on everything from breast pumps to hydrogel pads. And then, when I was all done, I just felt relieved. Apparently, mama needed an outlet for all that information. I feel like we've lived through the toughest part of our feeding challenge and I now feel like I can better focus on your sweet smile instead.

Tomorrow will be our first appointment without dad. It's been 3 weeks since I had my gallbladder out, and you're still kicking me in the wounds. We'll see what the doctor has to say about that, but I'm hoping it's finally time for mom to be released from all of her medical restrictions. I'm ready to get a move on with you little dude. A bit of exercise will do us both some good.

These days your form of exercise is kicking off your swaddle, trying to roll, and headbutting mom and dad. You also really like to be carried and you're fascinated by the lights when we walk at night to the market. Your voice is changing and your pterodactyl cries are long gone. When you get really mad, dad says you sound like Flipper (you'll have to look that one up, it's an old TV reference). I'm hearing more coos and babble from you instead of all crying all the time. You're starting to change from little human to little person, and it's pretty awesome to witness. For week 6, we'll end this with the top 6 nicknames that we are currently using:

1) Flipper
2) Tiny Dino
3) Lil' Monster
4) Lil' Dude
5) Angry Elf (or South Pole Elf)
6) Sunshine

Much love and many roars,

Mama

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dear Ehren: One Month

Dear Ehren,

We made it a whole month. It seems like the longest month of my entire life. In that time I have spent over a week in the hospital where I had 6 holes cut into my abdomen. We have been to nearly a dozen medical appointments together, dad has missed 3 weeks of work, the family has attended 2 work parties, and collectively we've eaten more pizza than I care to admit. However, we are here and there's some good to this adventure. I haven't cried in days, you've had breastmilk to drink every single day of your life, dad can change a diaper in his sleep, and I'm not terrified to be left alone with you...anymore.

Together we are growing, learning, laughing, and exploring the world. I sing you songs, or at least the bits I remember, and dad smiles.Your noises are starting to change and we can tell a hunger cry from a pain cry. I am starting to recover, both from surgery and pregnancy, and work on a healthier motivated version of myself.

I had surgery to have my gallbladder removed on Tuesday after being admitted to the hospital on Sunday. Our adventures in nursing came to an abrupt end since you and I were separated for days. Dad was able to work from home and I have been pumping like a mad woman to keep my supply up while my 5 fresh incisions heal. All of our routines and patterns have been thrown out the window and caring for you alone has become somewhat difficult. Your dad, is amazing, and everyday is an excuse to fall a little more in love with him. He has been amazing through all of this and has been devoted in sitting by my side in the hospital and taking charge at home. I cannot imagine doing this without him. However, on some small level, I'll have to adjust because on Monday your dad goes back to work, and it will be just you and I again. It feels like we are starting over, but I'm looking forward to it this time. I love our snuggle time together and I'm looking forward to getting into a new routine. I know what to expect and I am excited.

Let's face the world together, one month at a time. There's so much to explore.

Love,

Mama

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dear Ehren - Weeks 2 & 3

Dear Ehren,

You are a baby who moves at his own pace. I have a feeling that this is how life with you is going to work. You haven't lost your cord stump, gained back your birth weight, or lost much of your fuzz, but you can hold your head up for nearly a minute and you smile regularly. Things happen at your pace, and I just have to hold on for the ride.

These last two weeks have been focused on feeding you. We've taken advantage of the lactation consultants, we're going to see a specialist about your (possible) tongue tie, and we're feeding you everything I can possibly make. Your pediatrician told me "Breastfeeding is hard work. If anyone else told you otherwise, you can smack them." and he was right. Unfortunately for us, we're not just breastfeeding. We're breastfeeding, and pumping, and supplementing with what I pump for you. Feeding you is an hour long event. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And it's exhausting. I wish I could say that it's all worth it because you're growing, but you're not. (At least you're not growing yet.) It's just something that you're taking at your own pace, while your dad and I do everything we can to give you just what you need.

I thought about giving you straight formula, and quitting this breasfeeding business, but the other day after grandma and grandpa fed you formula I caught a whiff of your spit up and I lost it. I threw up everything I had, and decided that all the pain and exhaustion of nursing and pumping was worth it to never do that again. So, I am resolved to figuring this whole thing out and not giving up on myself - or you.

Today marks the first day that is just the two of us at home. And it's already time to feed you. I've got a plan, but I've learned to be flexible with you. We both know you are running this show, I can see it in your smile.

I love you,

Mama