Post partum blues? Not me.
….Is what I said when I was pregnant. I was so sure I would be in control of all of my emotions, as I think I did a pretty good job of keeping them in check for the whole 9 months of my pregnancy. No raging,
no crying for no reason (lie: I got teary eyed whenever I tried to talk to Sweet Pea in my belly), no excessive crying for no reason – pretty much just “regular emotional” me. BOY (gurrrrl) was I wrong.
As soon as Sweet Pea was born, I got 2 minutes of skin-to-skin time with her before she was whisked away to the baby space pod where like 25 doctors and nurses cared for her, then took her to the NICU. I could see my husband so worried, pacing back and forth. I was strangely calm, knowing that she would be fine. Even the midwife updating me on her status gave me pity eyes as she said “she’ll be okay…” over and over again. As I look back, I didn’t feel like a mom then. I didn’t feel much of anything except cold shakes and getting stitched up. I went to bed by myself – no baby, no husband – I couldn’t even pump because I left mine at home. I didn’t feel like a mom until the next morning when I got to hold her outside of the isolette/incubator.
That night started a downhill spiral towards the blues. If you read my post about post partum healing you know that: 1: my pump broke, and 2: I was woken up every hour and a half to two other mothers’ crying and hungry babies without being able to feed mine.
I was exhausted in the morning without feeling accomplished at all. The few drops of colostrum that I was able to pump was so pitiful that most of it just got stuck in the pump valves. You know that bit of beer at the end of the bottle that you don’t drink? I would’ve been so lucky to have pumped that much. When I went to the NICU, I held her and started breastfeeding her. She was latched on and sucking, but she wasn’t swallowing anything. Then, something happened that no “breast is best” campaign prepared me for. The nurse asked if I wanted to give her formula.
Of course I didn’t want to give her formula. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but MY plan and wish was to breastfeed exclusively. As in, only. But she was hungry, and I didn’t have anything for her. So I said yes. And she drank like a champ.
I felt defeated, and still exhausted. My sister came to the hospital to take care of me, and all I wanted to do was try and get some sleep. She turned away all my visitors, but I wish she would’ve turned away the nurse that was tending to me, as she kept complaining that I was never in my room. Listen, lady: it literally takes me one minute to walk ten steps. If I’m not in this bed, I’m in the NICU, on my to the NICU, or on my way back to this room from the NICU. There is literally no where else for me to be. Yet I still got in trouble. Dubya-tee-eff….
My sister picked up a manual pump for me while my Medela Swing was in line to get repaired, so after I was discharged that night I pumped my little heart out every 3 hours. 5 ml here, 10 ml there – but I managed to get 50 ml of liquid gold by morning. I felt so proud of myself for getting that much! I brought that Snappi container (clear snap top container – kind of like a “mini m&ms” tube) to the hospital and was so excited when it came time to use it. I breastfed for 15 minutes while the nurse put the bottle in the warmer and placed it on the chair beside me for when I was ready.
WELL. It turns out that she never actually screwed the nipple onto the Snappi, so when I went to get it, it tipped over and the whole thing spilled all over the chair.
I WAS FREAKING DEVASTATED.
I started crying so much. Literally crying over spilled milk. But not just milk – the colostrum that I was dying to give my so-far formula-fed baby. I remember texting Dan saying “ALL THAT WORK, WASTED!!!!” I wanted to rip the nurse a new one but couldn’t because this was the person taking care of my kid when I wasn’t in the room. I called for help a few times because I couldn’t move my busted bottom with Sweet Pea in my arms. The nurse finally came and cleaned up the mess, all she had to say was “Sorry, I guess I didn’t tighten it enough.” I wanted to scream: “No, you didn’t put it on, PERIOD!” It would have been nice if even one thread caught, but no – it was hovering on top just waiting for me to discover how extremely unattached it was. Ugh. She was actually really nice, and totally pregnant, but come on. Talk about composure, huh? I should’ve gotten a freaking medal for how much I bit my tongue. I finally calmed down but when Dan and my Mother-in-law came back, I started crying again as I told them what happened. Lots of tears. Lots and lots of breastfeeding-inadequacy tears. And then I fed Sweet Pea another bottle of formula, and she gobbled it up. Then I cried again.
The next few days of commuting back and forth to the hospital were starting to take their toll on me. My legs and feet were still swollen and even though I kept elevated them at night, they would slowly start to fill up through the day and felt like they would explode by the time we got home. I remember breaking down because the skin was just so tight and my legs looked like Twinkies.
When we finally took her home, the next few weeks became another frustrating blur of disappointment and fear of insufficient milk supply. I cried about not having enough, worried about her weight gain, and took 18 pills a day in an effort to increase my production. It helped that I had an amazing amount of support, but one night Sweet Pea would not stop crying and refused to latch on. It was like there was a force field around my nipple. She came within half an inch of with with her mouth open but would keep shaking her head and wailing. I gave her a bottle of pumped breast milk and she drank all of it. When I tried to top her off, she reacted the same way with the “force field.” I was paranoid that it was the end of our breastfeeding journey. Yup, after just one night. It was so easy to feel like a failure. By the time she was hungry next, she latched on no problem. What was I so worried about? Thankfully, she regained her birth weight by the next appointment which meant she was eating enough and growing.
I don’t know if this counts, but I wasn’t only emotional over bad things. I was emotional over good things too. I’d watch Sweet Pea while I was nursing her and just cry. I was feeding her. No, really. I was feeding her. This little nugget was thriving because of me. That’s pretty freakin’ magical. I’m an overly nostalgic person, but instead of remembering the past I’d envision the future. I daydreamed about taking her to Disney World and how excited she’d be to be dressed up like a princess or meet Ariel. I pictured her coming home from her first day of school so she could tell me how it was amazing and how many friends she made that day. I imagined the look on her face when she finally decides what to wear when she marries the man of her dreams. It’s all so exciting and extraordinary and that’s when I knew my post partum blues disappeared.