If you missed it, I shared Part 1 of this series yesterday, detailing my birth experiences with my two sons. Today I’m picking up where we left off- going home.
Both times we went home with our boys and things were crazy like they are for all parents of newborns. With my firstborn my husband tells me that I had a little bit of the Baby Blues. I don’t remember having them (I mean, I remember being emotional at times, but what new mom isn’t?). Looking back he remembers it a little more clearly and I trust his memory on that.
Our firstborn had bad reflux and had difficulty breastfeeding so it was a very tiring time and I do not remember it very well. He was constantly wanting to eat and never satisfied so I spent most of my time nursing him and pumping as well because I had major supply issues. I did work with a lactation consultant and our doctor, and we tried many things to get my supply up and help his reflux, but our son struggled with his reflux and latch issues and so it was not easy. And adding insult to injury, I had double mastitis and breast yeast infections during the first week. After a couple weeks my sons weight loss was so bad that we transitioned to me pumping and supplementing with formula to help him gain weight. I know that supplementing with formula will affect a baby’s demand and therefore will affect a mom’s milk supply, but we did what we felt was best for our family at the time. He was a much happier baby when we began supplementing. He put on weight and seemed to struggle less with his reflux. Eventually my supply decreased and I stopped pumping. Believe me, I wish I had breastfed longer and tried other things to make that work. It is a source of guilt to this day, and I very much wish that I could go back and make it better.
Outside of the demands of feeding him and pumping I did do a decent job taking care of myself. We had a small apartment that was easy to clean (my husband did most of the cleaning anyway) and I really did nap whenever our son napped. After a couple weeks we adjusted, life became easier, and my emotions leveled out. I even managed to do OK when my husband had to go to Belgium for a week for work and I was left to take care of myself on my own. By the time my son was about 2 months old life with the baby was much more routine and I even felt good enough to ham it up on my Birthday, as evidenced by this flattering photo.
My experience with my second son was different. Like I said, our birth experience was not what I had hoped for. I wanted to VBAC, and I think I had prepared myself for the fact that I might labor and fail at a vaginal delivery, but mentally I did not prepare for the possibility that I would not go into labor and therefore wouldn’t even get to try. In forming my labor plan my midwives and I had agreed that I did not want an induction with my second baby unless my body was showing signs of getting ready to labor. No “cold-start” induction, if you will. I was worried about the risk of uterine rupture and how my body had responded to the induction during my first labor experience. That was the decision I felt at peace about, but like I said, for some reason I never imagined that I wouldn’t go into labor, so I was thoroughly disappointed when we ended up scheduling the c-section and even more disappointed the morning of the c-section when I still had not gone into labor.
Coming home after giving birth to my second son I was relieved that things had gone well and that he was healthy. He was an amazingly content baby (he still is!) but I still carried the disappointment of our experience with me. I felt like I had failed again. Failed to do what my body was naturally supposed to do. And that somehow it was all my fault. And then we had trouble breastfeeding. Again. Which just added insult to injury. Another way in which I was failing my son.
As contented as my newborn was, this go around I had a 2 1/2 year old and a much larger house to take care of. Well, my husband again took most of the care of the house, and he encouraged me to let things go a little while he was at work, saying that he could handle them when he got home- but I had a hard time doing that. I was functioning and taking care of my sons, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. My husband, mom, and others took good care of me for the first two weeks, but after he went back to work and she went back home things started to take their toll.
When I would be up at night to feed my son, my mind would begin to churn with these extremely negative thoughts about how awful I was as a mother. I would just weep and weep. I felt such tremendous guilt over every little thing that I felt had gone wrong or worse that I had done wrong. Nearly every night was a battle in my mind and heart. I cried through many of those late night feedings and struggled to get back to sleep afterward. The negative thoughts and heavy guilt would visit me in the quiet moments during the day too, but I worked very hard to keep them from affecting my 2 1/2 year old son. I would sometimes put a cartoon on for him and sneak off to the bathroom to cry and let some of it all out. Despite my best efforts at hiding my feelings I know that they did affect him some. I very clearly remember one afternoon when I felt suddenly overwhelmed with sadness I quickly handed the baby off to my husband and retreated upstairs to our bedroom so that I could lay down and cry for a while. He saw my tears, though, and as I was on my way up he asked, “Daddy, why is mama crying?”.
Even though I knew my thoughts were irrational I truly felt like I was a terrible mother and I was ruining my sons. They were perfectly healthy and our life was good, but I just didn’t feel that way. I had major guilt over failing to give them a natural, vaginal birth. And even more guilt about not breastfeeding for very long. I couldn’t shake the profound sadness and guilt that I felt. My feelings caught me off guard. I was surprised to feel this way because I had not experienced anything like this with my first son’s birth…
I’ll be back tomorrow with Part 3 of this series, in which I’ll detail what helped me. I initially wrote all my thoughts out in one post but it was beyond too long, so I’m breaking my experience up into three parts. After my 3 posts I am looking highlight other women’s experiences. If you would like to share your story of surviving Postpartum Depression or the Baby Blues, I would love to feature you as a part of my series. Please email me at marymarthamama @ gmail .com if you are interested in being a guest blogger. I’m hoping that this series will help women who may be struggling as they walk through those early days of motherhood.
Let me just give a little disclaimer- I am not a medical professional and this post is just me sharing my experiences. It is not meant to be medical or psychiatric advice. If you are experiencing any symptoms that concern you, then please reach out to your doctor, midwife, family, friends- anyone around you and get some help. There are a number of resources online like Postpartum Progress and you can even call hotlines such as 1-800-PPD-MOMS.