In 2002, I got pregnant with "10". I had lost babies before, so it was a high-risk pregnancy from the get go. The anxiety of possibly facing another loss was compounded with the extreme "morning" sickness I suffered from. I call it extreme because it lasted 39 of the 41 weeks I was pregnant. All day. Every time I ate and sometimes just when I SMELLED food. I lost 35 pounds in the first 6 weeks. It was THAT bad. Other than that, it was a fairly uneventful pregnancy, and at 41 weeks, I was induced. 28 hours later, with a little help from the doctor and a vacuum, "10" was born. Three stitches later, I was holding my baby girl. I was exhausted, but glad that she was finally here. Exhausted, relieved, happy, scared…just a few of the emotions rocketing through me at lightning speed. Then it was time to nurse her for the first time. That's when I started slipping downhill and didn't know it.
Since I was induced, my milk hadn't come in yet. No problem, right? I had read all the books and knew that colostrum came first and was enough to sustain the baby and the milk would come soon. That's how women's bodies work. It said so right in the books. What the books neglected to tell me was that sometimes babies are born impatient and hungry and if the milk wasn't there, they would latch, give up, cry, latch, give up, wail, latch, give up, and scream bloody murder. Then came the guilt. Maybe if I had waited to go into labor naturally, my milk would have come in. Maybe if I hadn't had a breast biopsy, my milk ducts wouldn't be fucked up on that side and my milk would let down. Maybe if I had pierced BOTH nipples instead of just one, they both would have stuck out equally. Maybe if my boobs weren't so damn big, she'd be able to latch more successfully and hang on instead of using my nipples as a chew toy. Maybe if I wasn't allergic to lanolin, I could use the ointment the nurses had and my nipples wouldn't be cracked and bleeding and I wouldn't cringe and cry every time she wanted to eat. Maybe I wouldn't hate feeding her. Maybe I wouldn't want someone to just take her and make her happy since I obviously couldn't. Maybe if I wasn't such a failure in life, I would know how to "do this" and I wouldn't hate life.
I remember sitting at home with her after my husband went back to work. She wouldn't sleep unless she was laying on my chest. If she was laying on me, she wanted to nurse. I would sit in the rocking chair trying to figure out if there was a way to kill myself and not have it affect her. She'd be better off without me, right? I mean, after all, her mother was a fuckup in life who was a drunk and a drug addict. Granted, I had been sober for quite some time, but that didn't matter. I was a failure and she drew the short straw by having me as a mother.
My husband saw it before I did. He saw me cry. All the time. He saw me get jealous when he held her and she wouldn't cry. He told me that she didn't look to him for food, so she was more content to just lay there on him. I didn't comprehend it. I just saw it as her liking him better than me. I was a failure, she knew it, and was happiest when away from me. Nursing was supposed to be "beautiful" and "natural" and "easy"…just like the pictures of the nursing babies and mommas gazing into each other's eyes lovingly. It wasn't supposed to be excruciating pain, bleeding nipples which caused her to spit up pink mild (which really freaked me the hell out!). It wasn't supposed to be one breast turning bright red and burning hot on one side because the biopsy screwed up the milk ducts and caused a blockage. It wasn't supposed to be me hating my own daughter. What kind of mother feels like that? What kind of mother puts her screaming baby in her crib so she can to in the other room and scream into a pillow? What kind of mother looks at her newborn and begs them to "please shut the fuck up?" Guilt, shame, remorse, repeat.
Here's what I wish someone had told me:
1. It's OK to stop nursing and switch to a bottle. A breastpump can be your friend, or you can switch to formula. It doesn't mean you’re a bad mom. The world won't end and you'll both be happier.
2. Get out of the house at least once a day. Take a shower, put on clean clothes, and perhaps even brush your hair. Just get out of the house and interact with people. Being with others will take the baby off of your hands for a few minutes and give you room to breathe.
3. Babies don't eat "about every 4 hours" like the books said. They eat every TWO hours and sometimes it takes them 45 minutes to get full.
4. If dying seems to be a viable solution, TELL SOMEONE. Find a friend, or another mom. Someone who isn't judgmental (or if they are, will keep their opinions to themselves) and TALK TO THEM. Having no support system is a BAD BAD BAD idea.
5. Everything is temporary. The crying and screaming won't last forever (yours OR the baby's), it's just for now. Keep breathing and wear ear plugs if it helps.
6. After-baby hormones can be WAY worse than pregnancy hormones.
7. Know that you are a good mom even if the only thing you are doing is feeding and diapering them. If you can't do that, find someone who CAN. You're still a good mom.
8. Fuck guilt and rejoice that infants have crappy memories and won't remember you going crazy.
Obviously "10" and I both survived. She was 8-months old when I got pregnant with her sister, but that's a story for another time. Every year on their birthday's I celebrate having kept them alive for another year. Thankfully, they both have a strong self-preservation instinct. ;-)