At almost 7 week postpartum, I'm finally emerging from the survival stage of having a newborn, and holy shit, the second time around is not as easy as I had anticipated.
Roscoe's first month with us was filled with weight checks, foot pricks, a biliblanket, praying for him to take a poop, and trying to get him to be awake enough to nurse. For an entire month, I could not relax. Actually, I probably just took my first deep breath a few days ago. I think thats why I'm now able to sort through all of this and iron out how I'm handling two kids. So far, not well.
Out of the 10 days on this earth, 8 of them were spent traveling back and forth to the medical campus where our pediatrician's office and lab are located. Three of those being doctor's visits that rarely produced good enough news for me to calm down enough to enjoy my baby. I was constantly waiting for the phone call that he needed to be admitted for dehydration or for a blue light stay to bring his bilirubin down.
I had some nightly postpartum anxiety with Jordy that lasted from 6-9pm every night, but after around 10 days, my hormones leveled out and things started progressing as usual with a newborn. So when I had Roscoe, I felt prepared to handle it because I knew it was coming. Well, the joke was on me.
I don't know if it's because he is my 2nd child or because of the minor, but constant, medical issues with him, but my anxiety this time around was much, much worse. I couldn't relax, I couldn't breathe, my skin was crawling, and I was in a constant state of "waiting for the other shoe to drop" and the bottom fall out from underneath me(well, us).
I was on my nightly walk with Roscoe the night before his one month appointment, and my mom called me on FaceTime. I immediately burst into tears in the middle of town while pushing a giant yellow stroller.
I told her I was so overwhelmed and in a constant state of panic. That I was resenting the fact that my life was so chaotic. That I caught myself wishing my baby older because I couldn't handle this phase of his life. That I dreaded every single time I had to nurse him. That I didn't feel like I was bonding with him because I was too worried about everything else. That I was afraid I didn't love my baby. And because of all of these feelings, and knowing how irrational they are, guilt followed and draped over me like a wet blanket. I felt like I was drowning and had no idea how to save myself.
After crying my way through town and talking to my mom, I immediately texted my doctor. "I'm afraid I have some postpartum issues, what can we do?". We came up with a plan and I made arrangements to see my counselor two days later.
At his appointment the next day, he had gained some weight(1.5lbs from his lowest weight, but not even a pound more than his birth weight), but acquired reflux that caused me to dread every single feed and now required ANOTHER weight check the following week. WTF. Can this kid(and mama) catch a break?
During the appointment and discussing how to handle his reflux, our pediatrician asked me how attached I was to breastfeeding him. And without hesitation, "I'm not" popped out of my mouth. I almost shit. If you had asked me when I was nursing Jordy how attached I was, I would have told you I'd move heaven and earth to continue. I held on with him so long, he literally sucked me dry. I had no pain when drying out because I literally had nothing left when we stopped.
But this time, this time I hated it. I resented the entire process. I felt like it was more work than it was worth. Roscoe was a sleepy nurser, so I constantly had to mess with him to keep him awake, therefore it was taking me almost an hour to get through a feed. I also ended up with two milk blisters and a clogged duct, which if you've ever had either, you know its hell on earth. On top of all of that, he wasn't gaining that much weight(I had two separate instances where he required formula supplementation), so was I really giving him what he needed?!
After my mom showing up here unannounced because she knew I needed her, a session with my counselor, and a nice, long chat with my sister-in-law, I was done breastfeeding. My state of mind, my connection with my baby, and our happiness was worth so much more to me than fighting to make it work. I wanted to enjoy feeding and spending time with my son. Not dread it because neither of us were happy. It's been almost 2 weeks since I last nursed Roscoe, and we are both much happier for it.
But, my stress and anxiety lingered. His reflux has taken some time to work out. The initial formula we put him on was no good. He was throwing it up hours after feeding and it seemed he was getting worse, not better(screaming for hours on end, mostly throughout the night). So back we went to the doctor to try and figure something else out. We added another reflux med and switched his formula, but lets make sure he doesn't have intussusception(the intestine folding into itself) or pyloric stenosis(a narrowing of the opening to his small intestine from his stomach). Excuse me? What?
So, my 5 week old darling boy spent 45min in a dark room while I held him so he could have two separate ultrasounds. One that required 20 minutes of following his bowel and intestines and one where he had to drink glucose water to make sure it was flowing out of his stomach and into his small intestine. Luckily, everything came back negative, and we just have a gnarly case of reflux on our hands. Okay, are we done now? Is it time to just focus on the reflux and maybe try and go day by day without worrying constantly something worse is wrong?
Going into child number two, you automatically assume it'll be easier because you've already done all of this before. WRONG! Every kid is different, and I learned that my two boys are night and day. I'm learning to not compare their situations and how they're progressing. To not worry that Jordy gained 3+ pounds his first month and Roscoe only gained half of that. That Roscoe's journey is his own, and we are navigating it as best as we can. That I cannot expect him to do things like sleep through the night(even though as of four days ago, he has been) and get on a schedule this early. To cut us both some slack in trying to figure this out. Because even though I've done this before, I really haven't because HE IS NOT HIS BROTHER.
So, I'm continuing my sessions with my counselor, I'm reaching out and asking for help(as best I can, because it's just not in my nature. But this is also something I'm working on in therapy), I'm continually telling myself that "this too shall pass", and realizing that things aren't going to go back to normal because, this is our normal now. Things will never be the same, how can I expect them to be? And honestly, this new normal means Roscoe is here. So I much prefer this normal than our previous one.
If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, PLEASE reach out. I immediately felt better after I did. Call your doctor, your mom, your sister, a friend, your spouse, ME, someone to help you through that dark phase. You are not alone. It is fixable, it is manageable.
Here are some resources for reaching out should you need them:
Postpartum Support International - 1.800.944.4773
PPD Moms - 1.800.PPD.MOMS or email@example.com
Professional photo by Annie Beth Photography
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