It is always so special to be able to connect with mothers who have been through similar obstacles and persevered, who have overcome difficulties, disappointments, fear, depression and hurt and come out the other side stronger, those who have gone on to become warriors who are kicking PND’s butt and done what others deemed as impossible, it is remarkable when women like this are able to open up, in all their honesty, their pain and their losses to inspire others. This is a very special story about a very special mama on her journey through motherhood, post-natal depression and exclusive pumping.
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A lot of my blog entries are kinda ‘woe is me’, pity parties and totally self absorbed, which is pretty much what depression is about. But, you know what? I’m still here, I’m still being a mother, I’m still pumping, which is a lot more than I thought I’d achieve around this time two years ago.
The first signs of depression started antenatally, looking back on it. I had a few nights of anxiety and crying to my husband, absolutely terrified and feeling some regret at being pregnant.
I turned proper bat shit crazy almost as soon as Moo was born. I’d suffered an awful birth, a ventouse delivery, hemorrhage, third degree tear, a blood transfusion, a general anesthetic. I didn’t have immediate skin to skin with Moo and breastfeeding wasn’t going to plan. My husband was due to leave at the end of visiting hours on day three and I just flipped out. There was no way he was leaving me there alone with this baby that I hated. I was moved to a private room, Moo was given to the midwives and the mental health team were called.
The breastfeeding went from bad to worse. Expressing drops of colostrum into a syringe and hour long sessions of trying to get Moo to latch were taking their toll. No one called on a lactation consultant (a job title that I didn’t know existed at the time). Instead, midwife after midwife tried to ‘help’ by forcing Moo’s poor bruised head to my breasts, expecting her to magically get it. I knew nothing of tongue ties, it was never mentioned, no reason as to why she couldn’t feed was ever offered. I needed to get out of the hospital, away from the over bearing staff, the strip lighting, the noise. I gave her formula and they let me go home.
I didn’t want this baby. She was such a fucking burden. She didn’t ever settle, wanting to be held all the time. I just wanted to sleep or be on my own. Convincing my husband to run away with me or give her away wasn’t working. Plan B was to kill myself. I scoured the medicine cabinet, but as far as I knew, gaviscon and lactulose wouldn’t have the desired effect. I was started on anti depressants instead of the medication for anxiety.
The midwife who visited me at home told me that I could still try breastfeeding. I’d woken up in tears the day my milk had come in, fearing it was too late. And so the adventure began. Nipple shields, worrying weight loss, keeping a feeding journal, the threat of ‘bottles or be readmitted to hospital’ was enough for me to start the viscous cycle of topping up. Pumping, a tongue tie snip (finally, at five weeks), a supplemental nursing system. I jacked it all in at five weeks. It was that or suicide. I didn’t have the means, or the guts, to see it through. Exclusively pumping it was.
All my information came from websites and online forums. The health care professionals around me were unsupportive, suggesting that trying was enough and that my happiness was more important. Bull shit. My baby was getting breast milk. And so the regime began. Pumping every two hours, sterilising, feeding. Holy cow, it was exhausting, but at least I felt I was doing something positive for this baby. I couldn’t love her, or care for her on my own, but at least she was eating gourmet.
Pumping has gotten easier over time. With the help of Fenugreek and Domperidone I met her needs at four months and ditched the formula that I never thought I’d have to use. Good riddance. I could drop pumps, freeze some, stop waking at night, Moo drank less and less. And now here I am, at 27 months, pumping once per day.
I can’t say when, but I started loving Moo. I could eventually tidy the house a bit, and cook some meals, and go out a little. I made some friends. I didn’t want to die, I wanted to be a mother to my girl.
Oh the guilt. The guilt at wanting to give Moo away, to put my hand over her mouth until the crying stopped, regretting having her, it’s overwhelming at times. I could cry about it forever. I’m still grieving about not being able to breastfeed. I think I’ll always feel incredible sadness. I still have mental days. I’ll get frustrated and anxious and short tempered. I want to hide under the duvet and just be still and silent. Just living is too much some days. But they’re rare now. Thank The Lord.
I don’t know what’s made me ‘better’. The drugs, the cognitive behavioural therapy, the time that’s passed. I think maybe it’s just Moo. She’s pretty awesome. I never thought I’d enjoy any of this, but every day I find moments of pure joy. I was told my milk would dry up, that I could never maintain a milk supply through pumping. But here I am (with help from the Dom), still going more than two years later.
There were times when I felt so weak, so broken. I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone a totally dependant human being. But, I’m still standing, and now I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’ve spoken to many women that have been through similar experiences. that didn’t get the birth they had wanted, that aren’t on the breastfeeding journey they longed for. I know there are lots of you out there, feeling so isolated. Please know that you’re not alone. Hang in there mamas, you’ll get there too.
PS: Is anyone else singing Elton John now?
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