That scary post-partum problem no one likes to talk about

Bloggers Note: The bulk of this post has been written for over a week. It’s just taken me that long to get up the courage to post it. In light of some very unfortunate events that recently transpired, today is the day. With the exception of a Collin update at the beginning, this is not a lighthearted or fun entry. /endnote

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*blows dust off the keyboard*

Hey, friends! Remember me?

So many times over the last six months I wanted to sit down and write to you. So many times my scattered mommy brain forgot. Well, I’m writing today because I’m taking a huge step next week and I want to have a record of my feelings so I can look back in a few months and see how far I’ve come.

First things first, however.

Collin is wonderful. He’s an 18-pound, 27-inch, bundle of pure joy. He’s always smiling – even when he has a sinus infection like right now. He’s eating green beans, peas and squash and we’re getting ready to try carrots. Rolling is his mode of transportation, but it won’t be long until he’s able to get on his hands and knees. He loves to play in his jumperoo. He also prefers to be naked. He’s established himself as a belly sleeper which, of course, freaked me out at first. He’s working on sitting up by himself. He’s also going through a phase right now where he has a meltdown if men he doesn’t know/remember hold him. So, basically, that’s everyone except Randy. Oh, and he looks darn cute in a newsboy cap:

easter(Amberlee Christey Photography)

As for me, I’m hanging in there. I’ve made it almost seven months pumping breastmilk. That’s one month longer than my goal. By the time Collin is completely transitioned to formula, he’ll have had breastmilk every day for eight months.

Exclusively pumping has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. If we were going to have another child he/she would be a formula baby from Hour 1. Although this is likely more information than you care to know, I figure you’ve read about ovulation, periods, surgeries and fertility medication induced hot flashes … and you’re still here. So, here’s the thing:

It dawned on me at about five months post partum that my breasts are not conducive to breastfeeding OR pumping. The reason Collin had such a difficult time latching is because my nipples just aren’t sensitive and, therefore, don’t draw out easily. Why it took me five months to realize this, I’ll never know.

As for pumping, I was never able to find a hands-free bra that was supportive enough to use with my G-inormous boobs. And, unfortunately, my breasts weren’t overly responsive to the pump, so I’ve spent almost seven months pumping one side at a time. Sometimes it would take me 45 minutes just to get enough milk for one bottle.

Imagine doing that every three hours around the clock.

It is utterly and completely draining – especially on the weekends when it’s just Collin and me during the day (his dad works nights and sleeps during the day). It has also put a complete damper on any socializing because by the time I get anywhere to visit it’s time to pump again.
You’re probably thinking, “Why in the HELL didn’t you just switch to formula, Lindsay?”

Well.

There are several reasons. First, I didn’t have the support where I needed it. Randy was very much against formula which is why I offered to “compromise” and pump. Second, the very first time I had to supplement with formula Collin got extremely gassy and uncomfortable – and I felt this unbelievable guilt come over me. In fact, I sat on the couch beside him and bawled. Logically, I never had a problem with formula. Emotionally, however, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Why?

I have no idea other than I have post-partum depression and I’m not myself.

I knew, given my history of anxiety, I was more likely to have post-partum depression or anxiety, which is why I was so adamant about remaining on my medication during pregnancy. Even though my logical brain knew this was highly probable, my overtired, overextended, new mommy brain didn’t recognize the signs until approximately four months post-partum.

One Saturday afternoon, as I was sitting on the couch pumping and watching Collin in his bouncy chair, I texted my friend Becky, who exclusively pumped for 12 months, and asked if she ever felt guilty pumping.

Her response?

“No, not unless he needed something.”

It was then I knew something was off. Here I was overcome with these feelings of guilt. Feelings of not being good enough for Collin. Feelings of wishing the work week would never end because the weekends were too overwhelming. Feelings of wanting to hide under a rock.

Yes, something seemed very askew; however, I marched on saying to myself, “I’ll give it another week or so. Maybe it’s just …”

Then, at the end of January, Collin got RSV – and we had to give him breathing treatments with a nebulizer. In the midst of all that, Randy got sick and was zero help. I blamed myself for Collin getting sick. I would look at him and burst into tears under the weight of this senseless guilt. Guilt I couldn’t shake no matter how hard I tried.

I felt like I was slowly losing my mind and begged my mom to come stay with me.

I can’t tell you how many times she asked why I was crying and I didn’t have an answer. Finally, she said, “Lindsay, I think you need to call your doctor. You may have some post-partum depression.”

As is typical with me, I felt compelled to read about PPD before I made the call. Let’s face it: I was in denial. I was afraid of people judging and labeling me – even though I’m very open about my anxiety.

What I found, however, had me immediately reaching for the phone. Here are symptoms of PPD as found on Postpartum Progress. I just listed the ones I’ve been dealing with on almost a daily basis:

  • You feel overwhelmed. Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.” More like “I can’t do this and I’m never going to be able to do this.” You feel like you just can’t handle being a mother. In fact, you may be wondering whether you should have become a mother in the first place.
  • You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this. You feel like your baby deserves better. You worry whether your baby can tell that you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much
  • You can’t understand why this is happening. You are very confused and scared.
  • You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you. You feel resentment toward your baby, or your partner, or your friends who don’t have babies. You feel out-of-control rage.
  • You feel sadness to the depths of your soul. You can’t stop crying, even when there’s no real reason to be crying.
  • You can’t concentrate. You can’t focus. You can’t think of the words you want to say. You can’t remember what you were supposed to do. You can’t make a decision. You feel like you’re in a fog.
  • You feel disconnected. You feel strangely apart from everyone for some reason, like there’s an invisible wall between you and the rest of the world.
  • Maybe you’re doing everything right. You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality. You do yoga. You’re thinking “Why can’t I just get over this?” You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.
  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy”.
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you.

Although, if you re-read what I’ve already written, you’ll see I’ve addressed a lot of these things before I even shared the bulleted list with you. There are three items I want to elaborate on – not being able to focus, feeling overwhelmed and having no patience.

If anything, those two things were the biggest indicators of PPD. I will walk into a room intending to do one thing and do everything BUT that. Hours later I’ll realize I still haven’t done whatever the task is. This occurs multiple times a day. And it doesn’t just happen at home – it’s at work as well.

I used to love family and large group gatherings. I very much looked forward to catching up with people I didn’t see often enough. Now, I find them utterly and completely overwhelming. It doesn’t matter how much I convince myself I’m excited, in the moment I lose my mind. Everything – whether it is baby spit up or a blowout diaper – is a catastrophe for me. And afterward I find it extremely difficult to calm down and relax. Also, I have no interest in small talk. No desire to talk about being a mom.

Now, for the anger and lack of patience. I’ve been harboring a lot of resentment toward Randy for a variety of things. I’m also very quick to get angry with him – even when he asks innocent questions. I have zero patience with people who ask me questions I’ve already answered time and time again. Now, you may be thinking, “Who wouldn’t?”

Well, my pre-baby self. In fact, I was almost too patient. Too nice. Too helpful. Now, post-partum, the pendulum is sitting at the other extreme. There have been times I’ve been downright mean to well-intentioned family, friends or co-workers.

And they don’t deserve that, but I don’t know how to jump this hurdle on my own.

I’d like to find my way to a happy medium. I’d like to feel like myself again. I’d like to learn how to cope with those overwhelming mom moments. I’d like to be a functioning part of society again.

That’s why I saw my primary care physician, who I trust more than any other doctor I’ve ever seen, and he recommended I see a counselor who deals specifically with postpartum issues.

My first appointment is next week … and I hope to get on the road to recovery.

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2 thoughts on “That scary post-partum problem no one likes to talk about

  1. Bravo for writing this, Lindsay. I’ve had to supplement with formula because I have a low milk supply and I have felt so awful and guilty for doing this, which is exacerbated by PPD. They first suggested I had a low milk supply when my son lost 12% of his body weight after birth and I remember coming home and crying fro 2 hours because I couldn’t provide for him. PPD makes everything harder in a time which is already so challenging, and I am glad you are reaching out for help.

  2. Exclusively pumping does suck. I spent half the time feeling guilty for not feeding him directly and the other half feeling guilty to not spending time with him and bonding because I was always hooked up to the pump.
    I’m glady you’ve realised your problem and are seeking help. I hope you get back on an even keel really soon. Motherhood is hard enough without PPD kicking your butt too. *hugs*

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