Tag Archives: postpartum

EAT Baby EAT (or Postpartum Depression SUCKS)

Ophelia arrived and we thought she was an easy baby. Easier than Declan, for sure! Then her two month appointment came around and we found out that she wasn’t gaining enough weight. In the two months since then, we’ve been back at the doctor’s at least every two weeks (and sometimes more) for weight checks. We’ve tried different formulas, different bottles, different nipples, and different positions. We’ve given her two different reflux medicines and probiotic drops. We’re working with an Occupational Therapist and talking about whether we need to see a GI specialist. We’ve tried fortifying the formula. We started solids early. The doctors are flummoxed and I am frustrated. The girl just does not want to eat. Every time we seem to be doing better and I start to feel hopeful, she plummets again. A slight fever or shots or congestion or a new person can send her spiraling downward and my mood right alongside. I was so excited to get through those first few weeks of baby blues without signs of the depression that I experienced with Declan, but it seems it was just waiting in the wings. Ugh.

Since I have not been able to persuade my sister (who has a 1-year-old and another one on the way) to travel 4,500 miles on 3 planes to come and save me from myself like she did the last time, I have started seeing a counselor for the first time ever. In our first visit it was just good to talk to someone who is being paid to listen. She gave me some tools and tips to try the next time I felt the darkness descending. While I am struggling to actually apply these while I am feeling sad, I think we’re off to a good start:

  • My biggest problem is dwelling on the negative. When Ophelia has a bad feed I immediately imagine all the worst possible scenarios. I focus on the unfairness of the situation and find myself dealing in absolutes – she’s never going to eat well again, we’re never going to get past this, I’m never going to be able to feed her in public or leave her with a babysitter (or even my husband, since she won’t eat for him!). One action to counter this is to focus on every positive thing that happens, no matter how small. I’ve been writing them down as they happen so that during a sad moment I can look back and hopefully recognize that things aren’t all bad. These can be directly about the issue at hand (Ophelia is hitting all of her developmental milestones and is a pretty happy baby; she loves solids so far and is really good at eating them for how young she is; she’s staying hydrated; she gained some weight), or can be about anything good at all (Declan pooped in the potty; we had a lovely Christmas as a family; I have super supportive colleagues).
  • I need to notice when I am placing expectations on Ophelia that result in disappointment when she fails to meet them. Instead of being upset and frustrated because she should have eaten 3oz but only ate 1, I need to change my language to “it would have been nice if she ate 3oz, but it’s okay that she didn’t.” This is a particularly hard one. Rational me knows that it’s absolutely fine if she has one bad feed, but irrational PPD me is angry that she isn’t eating as much as I want her to.
  • Related to that, I also need to stop making assumptions when I don’t have all the facts. One bad feed does not necessarily mean that the entire day will be bad. One bad day does not mean that she’ll never eat again. (Repeat and repeat again until I believe it.)
  • With all of these, I have found that it helps to have an external voice reinforce all of it since sad me does not listen to rational me. My husband struggles to deal with me on bad days and doesn’t know what to do, so recruiting him to be my voice of reassurance helps us both! He just repeats the same points – we’re focusing on wet diapers, she’s developing normally, she loves solids, etc., etc., – but it really helps to hear it spoken out loud by someone else.
  • The counselor also gave me some exercises to try when I feel overwhelmed – all designed to help me focus on physical sensations as a distraction from my emotions. These help if I can persuade myself to actually do them when needed!

Postpartum depression sucks. Or any kind of depression for that matter. If you haven’t suffered it then it is impossible to understand what someone is going through when they are in the midst of an attack. It’s not just about feeling sad. It’s about feeling so overwhelmed by sadness or anxiety or even anger that nothing else matters. It’s about knowing deep inside yourself that you are being completely irrational but being unable to stop. It’s imagining every possible worst case scenario and being absolutely convinced that they will all come true. It’s seeing yourself be horrible to those around you and being unable to stop. It’s not being able to see an end to the sadness and lacking the motivation to do anything that might help. It’s feeling overwhelmed, out of control, lost, alone.

I don’t really have a point to this post except that writing and sharing helps.

Here’s Ophelia happily eating solids to cheer us all up. Thanks for listening!

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Kid x 2

It would be great if you could experience having two kids before you have the first. Oh, the things you would then appreciate when you just have one! I had no idea! 

  • Mornings. It took me months to get into a good morning routine with Declan. Once we did, it was awesome. I would get up around 6, get ready, have my all-important cup of tea, then go get Declan up sometime around 7-7.30 and get him ready before we both left shortly after 8. My 30-40 minutes of peace every day was heaven. My chance to sit still, read a book, and drink my tea in silence. Now there’s a BABY to fit in. A baby who is sorta on a schedule but not completely. A baby who can’t hold her own bottle yet. A baby who can’t be put down for very long. Argh. I miss my quiet cup of tea SO MUCH. But on days that I get everyone up, fed, dressed and out of the house before 9 I feel so FREAKIN’ ACCOMPLISHED. Almost more accomplished than anything I’ve ever done in my career. It’s absurd. 
  • Sleep. Declan has only had one bad night so far since Ophelia arrived, but ohmygoodness was it bad. It was in the early days so O was still waking every 2-3 hours. Declan had night terrors around 10.30pm and would not go back to sleep. I ended up bringing him into our bed for the first time ever, where he woke crying every hour or so. Combine that with feeding Ophelia and trying to get her back to sleep each time and I was a giant mess in the morning. 
  • Quality time. The arrival of Ophelia means Declan and I don’t get to spend so much time together. I don’t get to put him to bed as often, and I miss the silly fun we would have. He’s been going to daycare on Mondays, which was always our day out together since it was my day off. We spend less time doing creative stuff and a lot more time watching TV. I know that as Ophelia grows I will be able to hang out with Declan again, but it will never be quite the same. Seeing him with her is amazing though. He sings her songs when she cries, strokes her head, gives her many kisses, and is fascinated by everything she does. I wanted him to have a sibling so much, it will be worth the disruption. 
  • And finally, dinner time. Sitting down to eat dinner together is definitely something I took for granted before. Now we have to work around Ophelia’s schedule and only occasionally will she let me put her down long enough for me to finish my dinner and tidy up afterwards. I get frustrated far more quickly when Declan is taking forEVER to eat, since I’m constantly aware that the baby might start fussing at any moment.

Ophelia is a million times easier than Declan ever was, but I’m still finding it hard. Breastfeeding only lasted a month. I’ve had days full of tears-for-no-reason. I dread putting her down for the night because it can take forever. I simultaneously can’t wait for the newborn days to be behind us, while realizing that once they’re gone they’ll be gone forever (we are two and DONE). I also do not want to hasten Declan’s growth even a little bit since it’s already moving too quickly and he’s so much fun right now. I wish I could freeze him at this age until Ophelia is a year old, then move things forward again. :)

Some things are definitely easier the second time around. I used to obsess about Declan’s naps – I don’t worry at all about Ophelia’s. When the darkness does hit me, it’s not quite so dark because I have Declan as a permanent reminder that this too shall pass. I’m less worried when Ophelia fusses (though admittedly she fusses a LOT less often than Declan did so this isn’t difficult). I’m not concerned about her starting daycare. I know that she WILL eventually sleep through the night. Christian and I WILL get some of our evening time back. We WILL be able to go out as a family again without an excess of planning and hassle. Is it easier to the point that we would ever consider another? Nope nope and nope. I’m 38 forgoodnesssake. 


 

Oh Ophelia

Ophelia Rose arrived at 1.43pm on August 23 weighing 7lb 2oz! Her birth story could not be more different than Declan’s. At exactly 39 weeks, my alarm woke me for work at 6.15am. I hit the snooze. When it went again at 6.24am, I hit the snooze, rolled over, and felt my water break. I hadn’t felt a single contraction, so it was completely surreal to be telling Christian that I was in labor. I popped downstairs to tell my visiting parents that we were off to the hospital so they could get Declan up and get him to school, and we headed out. At the hospital, they confirmed I had indeed “grossly ruptured” and put me on a pitocin drip since I hadn’t yet felt a contraction. I was undecided about an epidural this time, since part of me feared that the epidural was to blame for Declan’s long delivery and the fluid in his lungs that sent him to the NICU.  By 5cm, however, I was at an 8 on the pain scale and all doubts went out the window – the epidural man was called. After that took effect, we waited for me to start “feeling pressure” which didn’t take long. The delivery cart arrived, the doctor was called, and I started getting extremely nervous. I started pushing and … seven minutes and three contractions later … she popped out! It was ridiculous! What was even more ridiculous is that they placed her on my chest and within minutes, I had her latched and breastfeeding! After the trauma (there really isn’t any better word for it) of Declan’s arrival and our major struggles with breastfeeding, it was a miracle. 

Two days later I’m sat in the hospital room, eating a brownie while Ophelia sleeps, and waiting for Christian to arrive so we can be discharged. The first night was simply awful. She fed and cried nonstop from 10.45pm until 4.30am. I finally called a nurse in tears after the bazillionth feeding to have them take her to the nursery so I could pass out for a couple of hours. The next day and night were much better. Nurses gave me tips to help make sure she has enough at each feed so that she shouldn’t want another one immediately. The lactation lady helped make sure we were getting the right latch. I took full advantage of the nursery overnight and got quite a bit of sleep. I know damn well there are many sleepless nights, zombie days, and emotional breakdowns to come in the weeks (months, years!) ahead of me, but goodness. I could not be more thankful for a quick delivery, NO NICU (yayyyyyy!), and the ability to breastfeed. Here’s to home, Netflix, and a proper cup of tea. Welcome to our crazy family, Ophelia!

Thank you, all of you. 

One of the reasons I am struggling with motherhood is because I’m an extremely competitive person. To the point that if I cannot be the best at something, I don’t want to do it. If I can study to get better at something, I will. If it takes natural talent and I’m no good? I tend to give up. (Kind of like how Hermione was no good at flying and no amount of time in the library could help her). So I’m constantly annoyed that I can’t study to get better at being a mother. That I can’t get all the answers right and walk away with my A grade. And there’s certainly no chance that I can give up. 

I also have envy issues. Several friends have recently had babies. If their child didn’t spend any time in the NICU – I’m envious. If they post a photo of themselves with their baby and their eyes are NOT puffy and bloodshot from hours/days/weeks of crying – I’m envious. If their baby sleeps – I’m envious. Social media paints an incredibly rosy picture of motherhood. I mean, look at my own feed and you’d think Declan was a permanently happy baby and that I never spend Saturday mornings screaming that I cannot cope for one more minute before locking myself in the bedroom and making Christian entertain the kid all day. 

The one thing that gets me through? That helps me open the bedroom door and give Declan a cuddle? That helps me persevere with “aggressive sleep training” (my term) and will get me through whatever challenge is coming next? You lot. The people who comment on my blog and Facebook posts and, even more, the people who send me private messages and emails or call. Not to give me advice (I don’t want advice!), but to tell me your stories. Your crying in the NICU, your struggles with breastfeeding, your lack of sleep. The people who know that the oft-touted phrase “it gets better” is not the whole truth. Yes, it gets better, but then it gets worse then better then worse then better ad infinitum. You give me the reality that I desperately need, you remind me that I’m not alone. Thank you, all of you. Keep the stories coming. xxx  

 

Dealing with Daycare

I went back to work 14 weeks after giving birth and Declan went into daycare four days a week. I was fortunate that my employer was able to give me that much time off, even if it was unpaid. We are a very small organization and the loss of one full-time staff member means everyone else has to add even more work to their already-full plates. I am also lucky that they have agreed to let me come back four days a week.

I went back to work for two reasons. One, we need my salary. We can survive on Christian’s pay alone, but I don’t want to just survive. With my pay we can afford to do far more for Declan and can minimize the struggle. Two, it’s better for all of us for me to be working. I always suspected I might not be a very good stay-at-home mum, and I’m not. Being back at work has made me happier, more patient, and overall just a better person to be in Declan’s life. In an ideal world, I would be working 2 or 3 days a week instead of 4 for the same pay, but until that magical job opportunity comes along, I think we have a pretty good compromise.

I have had a lot of issues with daycare, however. The first place we picked we initially thought was wonderful. It is a commercial daycare with a relatively small number of children in each age group. It’s in the school district where we live, so Declan would grow up with friends that he would then go to school with. The manager I spoke to was great. After we started, though, I wasn’t happy. The manager had changed and I didn’t like the new one as much. Three staff members rotated through the baby & ‘wobbler’ room each day and it was very difficult to communicate Declan’s needs consistently to all of them (I had particular trouble with the middle-of-the-day woman, since we didn’t see her at pick up or drop off). I was never completely comfortable with their attitude. They made me feel like I was inconveniencing them when I had questions or wanted to make changes to how they were handling Declan. Christian didn’t feel the same way and thought I was imagining it, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. They also had a TV in every room and the kids seemed to spend a lot of time plonked in front of the screen. Even the little ones.

I looked at several other places, both commercial and home daycares, and couldn’t find any that I liked more or even as much, so we stuck it out.

Until today, when I found the older kids (2 and up, at least 15 of them, maybe more) unattended for over ten minutes. Some of the 1-year-olds were in there, too, being ‘watched’ by the older kids. There was only one staff member in charge of all of them and she was nowhere to be seen. When I then tried to talk to them again about Declan’s schedule, I got indifference. We are officially done.

I immediately went to visit one more daycare I hadn’t tried yet and (thankfully!) it seems wonderful. It is how I imagined daycare to be. Close to my office, very small number of kids, great toys and activities, no TVs, a curriculum for every age (including babies), a great ratio of kids-to-staff (not just the minimum required by the state), and staff that seem to care about the kids and my comfort level. So Declan is moving. I’m still going to struggle leaving him there every morning, I’m sure, but I feel really good about this place and hopefully things will be a little easier.

Here are some questions I now know to ask when picking a daycare:

  1. What is your child to staff ratio?
  2. How many staff members will be taking care of my child?
  3. Do you ever combine different age groups (for example at the beginning or end of the day)?
  4. What enrichment activities do you do? Do the children ever watch TV? What toys/activities do you have for my child’s age?
  5. Can you accommodate my child’s feeding/sleeping schedule?
  6. Can I call and/or visit during the day?
  7. What records do you keep of my child’s schedule, activities, and mood?

What else would you add?

Leaving your kid in the care of strangers is incredibly difficult. At the end of the day – as many of my friends have said – trust your gut.

Banned from Google

This blog post is a promise to myself: I will no longer seek baby advice on the internet.

I love social media. I like seeing what friends and family around the world are doing and sharing my life with them in turn (probably too much, sometimes). I love that I can easily video chat with England, do all my shopping online, and turn my random musings into a blog. Peoples’ comments on here and on Facebook in response to past posts about Declan were a huge help in getting me through those first few weeks (thank you). The internet is a wonderful thing.

But access to endless information is doing bad things to my mental health. The last few days I’ve fallen back into a deep baby-blue slump for absolutely no logical reason at all. Declan is doing well. He sleeps for slightly longer stretches at night and as a result I’m getting a decent-ish amount of sleep, too. He does a lot of fussing and what feels like a lot of crying, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s all that much. He’s started to think about smiling at us and his alert times in the mornings can be quite fun. But I’m thoroughly miserable and it’s all the internet’s fault. In the last 48 hours, Google searches have convinced me that:

  • He’s napping too much during the day
  • He’s not napping enough during the day
  • He’s napping in the wrong place
  • We should have a better nighttime routine
  • I’m ruining everything (and I mean everything) by rocking him to sleep
  • We’re not bathing him enough
  • He should be on a feeding schedule by now
  • He’s feeding too often
  • He’s not feeding often enough

It goes on. Trust me. There is no end to the list of things I have worried about and therefore googled. And the answers NEVER HELP. They just add to the confusion and stress, so that’s it. I’m banning myself. I’m going to try and trust my instincts and not turn to groundless* research and opinions online. (*Because, as Christian says, it would be impossible to do a meaningful clinical study of the effects of any of these things without royally screwing up a bunch of kids.)

It’s hard. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and there’s nowhere to go for definitive or even helpful answers. Postpartum hormones are squashing my rational mind again and turning on the tears. I’ve been looking to the internet in the hopes that the next article will put my mind at rest and tell me that I’m doing something right, but it never does. I need to stop.

By putting this promise down in writing and sharing it with all of you, I’m optimistic I will actually stick to it.

Goodbye Google.

Argh.

P.S. If you found this through your own frantic search for answers then you should stop, too. Make a cup of tea and call your mum (or sister or friend. Someone who will tell you you’re doing okay). That helped me.

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