Monday, November 20, 2017

Get it done!

Things with baby boy are starting to get easier. There's a bit more rhythm and also, Adam can stay home with him while I do stuff. So it's time to let my to do list grow.

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This week :

01. Run, do skip yoga
02. Scan poster board photos and save on hard drives
03. Price frames for unframed artwork
04. Blog posts
05. Travel blog posts
06. Rip some more CDs
07. Post more albums to Facebook
08. Begin Moby Dick
09. WEBSITE(s)
10. Begin database
11. Figure out Upworks
12. Choose newborn photos and print
13. Put together shadow box
14. Touch up bedroom paint
15. Take passport photos
16. Get passport applications
17. Make those phone calls (TUESDAY)
18. Make marathon training plan
19. Plan road trip and budget
20. Vacuum cat room
21. Hang artwork
22. Catch planner up to date

Friday, November 17, 2017

My breastfeeding journey

This is a post that is going to be very hard to write...I don't even really want to write it, honestly. NOT writing this post is keeping me from writing other posts or doing my to do list or moving on with life. I know the first step is writing it down. If I don't write this out, I'll be stuck forever in this shitty place feeling shitty about what happened and never really able to accept it and move on. Ugh, so I'm gonna write it now. I'm not breaking it up into multiple posts. I'm just writing the entire thing out

My hopes, before giving birth, were what I considered to be pretty small; 1. Give birth naturally, vaginally, with no pain killers and 2. Breast feed exclusively for at least a year. Neither one of these things has happened and I am honestly not ok with it. I THOUGHT that I would be fine with any outcome. What I didn't know is how much society judges mothers and how much judgment I had put into the world and how much pressure I would feel.

Sometimes, I feel incredibly stupid. I didn't really do any research into breastfeeding. I knew exactly how it was supposed to happen and had seen it done...but I didn't even really know what a good latch was. When I started having problems with breastfeeding, I felt really stupid that I didn't have a pile of research in front of me to help me get through it. What the fuck was wrong with me? What I didn't understand at the time (and even now, understanding it doesn't make me feel better) is that our culture has a really fucked up narrative around breastfeeding. I knew, intellectually, how to breastfeed and was told by my culture that I would naturally breastfeed, so I didn't even consider that it would be difficult...also, you can see every fucking flyer and pamphlet on latching and still not know what it's gonna feel like.

So anyway, after they took baby boy out and put us both in the recovery room, I first just put him down on my chest and pulled my nightgown over him. I breastfed immediately and all the nurses said it was perfect latch and great. I was doing the football hold and it was supposed to be fine. But I was also suffering from sleep deprivation and wasn't allowed to get out of my bed. I couldn't stand because I had just had surgery. I had been in labor for 40 hours before the surgery, and I was on a fuckton of pain killers, so I was tired as fuck. Immediately, though I didn't know it at the time, I was doing it wrong. Our latch wasn't good and I wasn't feeding him enough. I didn't feed him enough overnight. I did fine during the day, but he would cluster feed in the evening. I thought cluster feeding was getting in six feedings, so when I did the math of how I was feeding him, I thought I was doing it enough, but I wasn't. Baby boy was sleeping 5-6 hours over night in the hospital. One nurse casually mentioned that I probably shouldn't allow that to happen very often...but she also said cluster feeding counted as several feeds. So I wasn't getting good information. I was also putting clothes on baby boy and myself, not realizing that a good breastfeeding relationship happens with a LOT of nakedness and skin to skin. When I was corrected on that, I stopped putting clothes on baby boy and proceeded to keep him naked against me almost constantly.

While in the hospital, I continued to feed him too little and every time we tried to feed, it was a huge fight. He wasn't latching, and I had an idea that he wasn't very good on my right breast. So for a couple of days, I would rip my right nipple out and try to relatch. What no one told me is you have to break the seal the baby creates, so I was pulling my nipple out against a strong suction, essentially just tearing the shit out of my nipple. Before I left the hospital, both of my nipples were cracked and bleeding and bruised. I wasn't feeding enough and baby boy continued to have uric acid in his diaper. (This is a sign of dehydration.) I was in constant pain, and on top of all that, I was also convinced my milk hadn't come in. Again, the conversation here is that your milk comes in and you're engorged and in enormous pain and you feel a letdown when you feed. None of those physical sensations happened for me, because they don't happen for everyone, so the nursing staff allowed me to continue believing that I wasn't producing milk. On the day I left, I was instructed to continue to wear a bra, at all times, because I WOULD BECOME ENGORGED. It was ordered to me. No one told me that not everyone becomes engorged or leaky or feels their milk let down. I went home believing my milk hadn't come in.

When I got home, things just got worse. Prior to leaving the hospital, I knew baby boy was jaundiced, but the pediatrician said he was fine...said it was the lighting at the hospital. This was not true. Jaundice isn't normal or fine, and I have no idea why our society has decided it is. During the first week of breastfeeding, baby boy wasn't pooping enough, if at all, and he wasn't peeing enough. All of his diapers were somewhat dry, even when "wet" and they all had uric acid. I knew this wasn't a good sign, but I didn't understand how bad it was. Every time we tried to feed, it took forever and was a constant fight of him screaming and me crying. I kept shoving his head to my boob, because I needed him to latch, and he kept having trouble with a good latch...all of our positioning was wrong, no matter where I sat or how I tried to position us, I was uncomfortable. My back hurt, my nipples were bruised and cracked, baby boy was mad all the time and slept too much, I often couldn't stay awake during night feedings and would fall asleep throughout the whole night and skip night feedings. It really wasn't a surprise that when we visited the doctor a few days later, he had lost way too much weight and was jaundiced to the point of considering hospitalization. I was told to supplement formula.

Later that day, they decided not to admit baby boy, which I thought was a relief. I really wish they had chosen to admit him. Maybe I would've gotten the help I needed.

Instead, I began formula and pumping. For almost two days, baby boy stopped latching. Fearing "nipple confusion" (a term I'm now convinced is a total myth), I was feeding him with a syringe. I still wasn't feeding him enough and I wasn't supplementing enough. Because of the "breast is best" campaign, I believed formula was damaging and that not giving enough breast milk would have serious consequences. (This is a total lie.) I felt like a total failure. I felt like I was being robbed of an opportunity to provide in my child what I was rightfully supposed to provide for him. I was getting mixed messages; some people were trying to tell me formula was poison (a total lie) and that baby boy would get sick if not given breast milk, while others were telling me he would be fine (true).

The day after supplementing with formula, baby boy did gain some weight and we were sent home for Labor Day weekend, with instructions to return on the following Tuesday. During this time, he still had uric acid and still wasn't pooping enough...at one point, he hadn't pooped in three days. I still wasn't supplementing properly, because I wasn't given exact directions on how to do so. Despite disclosing my autism to every medical professional, no one communicated with me properly. Everyone was continually vague. What I needed were specific instructions on how much to feed him and how often. This weekend was a hot mess. I was so anxious I couldn't leave the house. I was in intense pain every time I tried to feed. I felt guilty every time I gave him formula, and therefore, didn't give him enough formula. I still didn't know I had a horrible latch. Because of all this, we ended up in the ER Sunday afternoon. It was a total false alarm but it ended up being just what I needed.

The doctors in the ER and hospital also gave me incorrect information, but I was finally able to have a long conversation instead of being forced into a fifteen minute visit. I was told that he was wetting enough, which wasn't true at all. But it made me feel better. I asked for a lactation consultant, but they all take Labor Day off. I was given the option to stay in the hospital one more day to see the lactation consultant...and I almost stayed. But the hospital was a terrible set up with no great place to sleep and I just wanted to go home. I was assured by every member of the ER and hospital staff that I had made the right decision and was being a good mom, despite it being a total false alarm.

Somewhere in the next couple of days, I saw the doctor and was assured he was gaining weight, saw the lactation consultant and told her all I wanted was to pump exclusively and was given instructions for that, pumped two ounces of milk (the only time I felt like my body was actually capable of breastfeeding), and saw the doctor again and was told that baby boy had gained for a bit but then had gone down in weight.

The next week was rough. I finally did enough research to learn that our latch was awful. I attempted to pump exclusively, but it would take several sessions to get even one bottle of breast milk. I couldn't figure out how to feed baby boy and how to pump. I was getting even less sleep than usual, which meant, again, I fell asleep overnight and missed feedings. I also ended up back at the doctor and learned that the weight had gone up and then back down and really, we weren't on track. So I took a couple days off from breastfeeding. I hated the pump, so I took it all apart, donated it to Goodwill, and never looked back. I continued to have constant panic attacks and found leaving the house to be nearly impossible. By this time, my nipples had healed and I knew just how often to feed baby boy and set an alarm on my phone to ensure I was up and feeding as needed. Finally, after a confirmation that we were back on track with weight gain, and with having had a few days off from breastfeeding, I decided to give it one more try.

During this time, I learned just how important a poopy diaper is and found myself celebrating each one. I also learned that formula does not negate breast milk, so no matter how much formula we needed, any breast milk was also beneficial.

Over the next weekend, I put baby boy back on my breast. It was incredibly disheartening. Again, I was naked all the time and doing skin to skin. He would latch, but I now knew it wasn't a deep latch so he wasn't getting as much food as efficiently as he should. It did hurt, but not as much as before, and my right breast was generally useless. I stopped using my right breast entirely. It wasn't a fight to latch, but I could tell it wasn't a good latch, and so feedings took several hours. I did supplement with formula, and I did it properly this time. However, my panic attacks returned. I was still constantly stressed out and worried, and I just felt awful because I kept trying and trying to fix our latch and it was not working. One day, he had a drop in poopy diapers and that was the end of it for me. I knew a drop in soiled diapers might mean he wasn't getting enough food, and I could just see a drop in weight and going back to the same struggle. As much as it hurt, and it hurt so much, I decided to put him on formula and to stop breastfeeding.

Within a few days, I was a more normal human being that I had been for the first two weeks of his life. Over the course of the two weeks, I started to learn what a fucked up culture we have around breastfeeding. There are all these myths and lies, and hyperbole like calling breast milk "liquid gold," and not nearly enough support. All of the videos and blog posts I looked up for how to latch showed these tiny boobs with perfectly perky nipples. There is a lot of propaganda about how "perfect" breast milk is, but that's all largely based on lies. I also learned that for two weeks, I had been starving my child. I didn't know what the signs of dehydration were and so I didn't understand that I wasn't giving him enough food. The real reason he slept for so long in his first week was because he didn't have the energy to be awake because he didn't have enough food to give him energy, this is also why he didn't poop for three days. If a body doesn't have enough food to make poop, then it can't poop.

I felt so awful for starving my own child...

But then I realized that the education around breastfeeding is super fucked. I swear, they gave me a dozen flyers on SIDS and even made me sign a paper than said I had watched a video on SIDS. But for breastfeeding? One paragraph in a huge book full of tons of information. So I was recovering from major surgery AND sleep deprived, but I was supposed to read a BOOK!? Yeah, right. Despite logging every feeding and every wet and dirty diaper, no nurse ever told me I wasn't feeding him enough. Because there are zero resources for mothers with autism, no one communicated with me in a way I could understand. The "lactation consultant" in the hospital simply analyzed our latch, said it was good, and left us alone. (She did this TWICE, and the latch wasn't good.) The lactation consultant I saw out of the hospital helped me once during our visit and then never returned my e-mails again. (Ok, she returned one, but that's it. She didn't return any other emails or phone calls, and she didn't give me a follow up appointment where she might've been able to help me with my latch.) As much as every piece of propaganda wants to assert "breast is best," no one actually wants to follow through on the support needed to ensure that.

And despite all of this and all of my hurt feelings, I also know that the hormonal fluctuations that occur during breastfeeding are what caused my constant panic attacks and debilitating loneliness. MAYBE if everything had started off fine, and we had latched well, and I had fed him enough...MAYBE I could've handled the constant anxiety that came with breastfeeding and recovery. It's hard to say. A lot of my triggers were tied in my inability to feed my child and the cultural ideal that I wasn't a good enough mother. What I know now, rationally, is that formula was probably always the best option for us. The constant sensory overload and uncertainty of breastfeeding was really way too much for me.

Despite my rational understanding of the situation, and despite KNOWING that baby boy is fed and that's all that matters, and despite understanding that formula is the real liquid gold since its invention actually saves lives, and despite my understanding of my mental health needs, I still feel incredibly inadequate. I feel like I lost an opportunity to provide for my son in a deep and meaningful way. I feel redundant and disposable. I don't know when I'm going to feel better.


The only truly useful thing I found regarding the logistics of breastfeeding is this video. I wish the hospital had required me to watch this.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Weekly thing...

Three weeks between to do lists is no big deal, right? We're just at that age where baby boy doesn't REALLY have a schedule and I feel like I wake up every day and try to figure out what is happening and how I can fit in my life. Sometimes, I want to blog and then sometimes I actually do blog. I figure, if I just keep trying, then I will eventually get on some sort of schedule. HOPEFULLY!

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This week :

01. Walk, do yoga
02. Scan poster board photos and save on hard drives
03. Price frames for unframed artwork
04. Blog posts
05. Travel blog posts
06. Rip some more CDs
07. Post more albums to Facebook
08. Begin Moby Dick
09. WEBSITE(s)
10. Begin database
11. Figure out Upworks

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Baby Boy IV

Dear Baby Boy,

Just a few days ago, you hit your official two months, and here I am writing MORE! It seems things are always ever changing with you.

Yesterday was vaccination day. I had been looking forward to this day, viewing it as your suit of armor against all the dangerous germs of the world. Prior to your vaccinations, I was basically terrified of everyone, thinking they might carry the single bug that might take you down. I had hoped vaccinations would make me feel so much better and also give us permission to go more places!

It was somewhat good and somewhat bad. On one hand, I DO feel better. On the other hand, our "rules of engagement" still haven't really changed. We're gonna continue keeping you away from the general population because of the danger of germs on someone so small.

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Except, you AREN'T small anymore. You weight in at 14lbs 3oz at your doctor's visit. You're getting SO BIG that I even had to change your clothes from 0-3mos to 3-6mos...a month early! Maybe you're going to end up tall and big like your Uncle Ryan or your Uncle Mike. I guess time will tell.

Vaccination Day was kind of hard. The needles they used for the three shots you needed seemed WAY TOO LONG! When the nurse stuck you, you screamed and then cried and it broke my heart. I almost cried, but I held in my tears...even though the nurse said it would be ok to cry. (Some of my friends have told me they cried when their children were vaccinated.) Later that day, you had a fever...another milestone. It was less scary than our first trip to the ER. I called the nurse hotline, got the info I needed, bought some Tylenol, gave that to you, and then everything was fine. Your fever went down and finally broke overnight. I was very proud at how I handled it and you really didn't seem bothered at all, honestly.

You are such a chill little person who rarely fusses or cries.

You're also starting to grab onto things with your tiny hands and you're starting to hold your head up sometimes. All of this change in such a short time, and I'm really not ready for it, honestly. But you're healthy and happy and everything is going so well, which makes me and your dad very happy too!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Baby Boy III

Dear Baby Boy,

Today is your official TWO MONTH-IVERSARY!!!!

You have been alive for two months now. Which really means I have managed to keep you alive for two months. So probably, I'm the one who deserves a high five right about now.

The good news is that after our initial struggle for the first couple of weeks, I have managed to keep you pretty fucking happy all the time. You are what people would call a "good" baby. (Later in your life, I will teach you why attitudes like that are actually shitty and make people feel bad, but that's for later.) The truth is, you're just an average baby. You eat and you sleep and you poop (really massive, loud poops, right in the middle of eating) and you laugh and you smile and you grunt and you fuss and you cry...and you do it probably less than some babies and probably more than others.

But I digress...

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The bottom line is that you are growing, you are healthy, you are not broken, you have not gotten sick, (you have been scratched by the cat once, though...it was an accident), and you smile and turn and look at me like I'm the best person in the world. That feels really good. (You also do that for your dad and grandma and sometimes for our friends who are holding you...because basically, babies think anyone is the coolest person in the world when they are being snuggled.) You like to look at things, but you're not really into grabbing anything yet. You do love to kick your feet. You have the cutest smile ever, but you also have the cutest frown. (I'm entirely biased on this matter.)

On my end, things have been less easy. Your current physiology requires you to be demanding of my time, and I always seem to be running behind when it's time to wash bottles or take a shower. My physiology has led me to frequent panic attacks and a mean case of depression. It's hard for me to find joy where I usually do, and I wonder if I could find more joy in you if things were different for me. But things are what they are, and there's little I can do to change it. However, you do make me laugh every single day, and that's a really good thing.

I am enjoying seeing you grow, and everything does seem to get easier, incrementally. I look forward to what happens over the course of the next month.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Postpartum Anxiety

One of the things you'll hear a lot about regarding pregnancy, is Postpartum Depression or PPD. It's definitely a buzzword of the now, and there is a lot of awareness drawn toward it. A lot of women, even those without previous mental health struggles, find they suffer from Postpartum Depression for a variety of reasons. For some, it's the transition that is so difficult. It seems like you know what will happen with a baby and then it turns out to be a much larger struggle and becomes PPD. For some, it's a traumatic or difficult birth experience. Even having a relatively smooth birth that happens to end in an unplanned c-section can be enough to trigger PPD in women. In particular, women who really wanted a natural vaginal birth and weren't able to achieve that, may feel a lot of residual guilt...even though it's not their fault. There are myriad other reasons why women might suffer from Postpartum Depression and there is currently a lot of awareness about the issue, trying to make sure women are aware, that they understand they are not alone, and that they understand they can get help and not have to suffer for months.

However, PPD isn't the only mental health issue that affects women postpartum. Some women, of course, already experience mental health disorders and might find that the postpartum period exacerbates those issues. This isn't always addressed, I think because people assume that those women already have care providers and can get the health they need. Two other issues that are starting to come to light in the postpartum period are Postpartum Anxiety and Postpartum PTSD (which I think might have a different name). In particular for the PTSD, men and women partners of pregnant women can experience this too. (In fact, the partners of pregnant women can experience any of these issues as well, because they are affected by the changes following birth and can be deeply affected by anything that happens to their partners or their child.) Unfortunately, fewer people are talking about postpartum anxiety or PTSD...in part because it's just totally ignored. The medical community and our culture do a great disservice to women by dismissing whatever they experience. Because of this, the very idea that giving birth in our current culture could cause any sort of trauma is not really recognized as valid...which just highlights the sexism inherent in our culture and in care for women.

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When it comes to the various postpartum mental health issues, I'm personally at high risk for PPD, and that is really what was the focus of all of the flyers and lectures I received. But what I've really been suffering from is heightened anxiety, to the point of being debilitating. (And honestly, I think also PTSD, but that's unconfirmed.) During my pregnancy, I suffered from heightened anxiety, but I didn't have any triggers for it. I knew this was due to hormone fluctuations which can have a HUGE impact on mental health...though no one really wants to talk about it. (So many issues with healthcare for pregnant ladies.) Even though my OB told me that there would be hormonal fluctuations after birth and while breastfeeding, it didn't really sink in until I was in the thick of it.

I wish I had been able to step outside of the throes of postpartum anxiety, because I think it might've saved my breastfeeding relationship. But I couldn't, because I couldn't even leave my house...actually, I couldn't even leave my living room. For six weeks after the birth of my son, I didn't enter my bedroom for more than a few seconds at a time. I set myself up in the living room, on the recliner, with a bassinet next to me, and that is where I stayed for almost 24 hours a day. I went to the bathroom and I sometimes went to the kitchen (but sometimes didn't) and I did leave the house for walks...because I was ordered to do so to recover from my cesarean section without catastrophic consequences. I managed to walk around the block three times a day, for the most part, for the first three weeks. And then I did start having longer walks. And eventually, I ran a few errands, even attended a two yoga classes. It took everything in me, and five weeks of constant anxiety, to get to the point of being able to leave my house FOR AN HOUR AT A TIME.

Finally, after about six weeks, Adam's housing on Put--in-Bay changed and he was moved to the hotel where he works. I came up here to be with him, because I wanted to get up here. I love this island and I have friends here. But also because I wanted to be with Adam and to have help. I THOUGHT I was ready for this, but I think I was wrong. I've been struggling with panic attacks and they've gotten worse. I'm considering going home early, because I just want to be back in the safety of that recliner.

I don't know what I'll do and I don't know when I'll feel better (and yes, I know I have resources for doctors and stuff, but I don't know how to get to them). But I just needed to write it down and put it out in the world.

Writing is the best way I've ever found to process my feelings and my struggles with mental health (and now autism). I've been writing online in some way since the late 90s, and regular writing is always more helpful than not. I have no solution and I have not conclusions and I haven't even fully processed what I've experienced, but I had to write it down.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Back at it?

I really want to get back into a regular blogging schedule and to post more than stuff related to pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. So I'm TRYING to bring back my regular to do list AND Fat Tuesdays. Forget all the travel posts and photo shoots I have to post! That's just adding too much to my pile of things I find hard to accomplish while I'm still feeding a baby every few hours. Luckily, I'm staying up at the island for the remainder of the season, which means I have a second person to help me! (HOPEFULLY, I won't feel too guilty about passing off the baby while I access the interwebs and do THINGS.) I know it's Tuesday, which isn't my usual "to do list" day, but I just have to get started or I NEVER will!

Some of these items are just gonna sit here because they require equipment I have back home in order to complete them. I just want to start a list again and get back into a blogging rhythm again.

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This week :

01. Walk, do yoga
02. Scan poster board photos and save on hard drives
03. Price frames for unframed artwork
04. Blog posts
05. Travel blog posts
06. Rip some more CDs
07. Post more albums to Facebook
08. Begin Moby Dick
09. Rejigger 101 Things List
10. Begin database
11. Figure out Upworks