Motherhood & Madness: How my Son has improved my mental health

 

I apologize for my frequent absences. I am balancing work, trainings, being a mom and partner as well as trying to find time to just do nothing. I will write here whenever I can and when I have something to say.

I spent a decent amount of time during my pregnancy worrying about developing postpartum depression/anxiety. So far, this has not happened. I have actually found that becoming a mom and my son has helped improve my mental health.

  1. My son is an amazing source of love. Having this little human that adores me makes me feel amazing. He smiles and laughs at me, reaches for me and my love for him is beautifully overwhelming. This is the best type of love I have ever felt.
  2. My son reminds me how amazing the little things are. Everything is new to him and he is very interested in many of the things adults take for granted. He also reminds me how amazing our bodies are. We don’t realize how amazing it is that we can hold our heads up, bring our hands to our mouths or move our bodies around. He is learning all of this right now and it is amazing to watch and know that I also went through the same process as a baby.
  3. My son is helping me get more sleep and eat better. I am exhausted most of the time. I have only felt rested once since my son was born. Since he does wake multiple times a night I do go to sleep earlier to ensure I get as much as possible. I eat better because breastfeeding takes a lot away from your body. I need to keep giving it more so my body can sustain my son and myself. We are starting solids soon, using Baby Led Weaning (BLW) so I will be eating much better because my son will be eating the same foods.
  4. My son has given me purpose. Before I had my son I did feel like I had a purpose. Since the birth of my son, I feel like my purpose is more complete. I love teaching him, exploring with him, being with him and I want what is best for him. I am constantly researching ways to ensure he grows and develops in a healthy way and I love knowing that I am contributing to him becoming the best he can be. I enjoy being a parent.

 

Motherhood & Madness: I knew this would be hard but this is REALLY hard.

I am staring at the computer screen trying to think of how to illustrate to you how difficult I find my life now. This does not mean I hate it, it just means I spend a lot of time wanting to throw my hands up in the air and say “fuck it”. After having my son, I was supposed to not work for a year. This did not turn into a reality. B was supposed to be actively involved. This did not turn into a reality. I am trying to hardest to balance caring for my son and work to bring in money. I also take on the¬†majority of the responsibility for the physical chores and mental work (ie: noticing my son’s needs and what our household needs to function). I am not different from the millions of women and femmes that are in these beautiful and strenuous loving caretaker roles. This is new to me though and the adjustment makes me want to rip my hair out.

I finally know what sleep deprivation feels like and it feels like stupid. I am very forgetful and cognitively slow. I never feel rested. I always feel like I’m pushing myself and running on fumes. I find myself spending longer in the bathroom or shower when I can so I can have more time to myself. I bubble with rage when B says that he’s tired because I know he has slept longer than I have. I cannot for the life of my figure out why B has time to watch a movie and I don’t. How is it that he has finished 2 books since our son was born and I have started 4 books and abandoned them all?

I am trying to balance everything because I need to radically accept that this is what is happening in my life. I was life-balance_23-2147533397given a colouring book day planner and have started to attempt to organize my time. I have decided to dedicate 2 days a week to each of my jobs. None of these days will be weekends. All the other days will be solely dedicated to my son and to doing enjoyable activities during his naps such as reading, colouring, meditating and whatever else I want. I want to enjoy my son and when I am worried about fitting in work I do not enjoy him. He deserves all of me.

Well, a new year is a chance for a new me right?

I wish you all a very happy new year and that 2017 brings you one step closer to wellbeing ūüôā We got this!!

Motherhood & Madness: How Radical Acceptance is Changing My Life

Motherhood&Madness

 

It has been awhile! So many things have happened aside from giving birth to my son that I have really struggled to prioritize everything that needs to be done.

My son is almost 2 months old. These have been the most wonderful and challenging 2 months of my life. Around the third week after my son was born I found myself feeling very frustrated with the changes that were happening. I was sitting in the rocking chair around 3 am trying to get my son back to sleep. I was finding it very difficult and I sat in the chair saying to myself, “I hate this! I want to go to sleep!” I was coming closer and closer to tears. It suddenly dawned on me that I need to radically accept that the situation was happening. I needed to accept that I would find myself up at 3 am a lot (and I am every single morning without fail) and that my son would be fussy for various reasons. I needed to accept that my role as a parent involves sacrifices to ensure my child is fed, comfortable and safe. Radically accepting this doesn’t mean I’m ok with waking up at 3 am, it means that I am going to accept this is my reality because fighting it will do nothing except cause me pain.

I realized in that moment I also needed to change the narrative in my mind. Instead of thinking about how much I hate being awake at 3 am I decided to start thinking that these are bonding moments. Every moment I spend with my son is an opportunity to bond with him. I can see the positive effects of the hours I spend with my son such as getting his first real smiles and him looking to me for comfort when other people are holding him and he is upset. It’s an amazing connection that is worth the few months of broken sleep.

Radical acceptance and changing the narrative have made the past 7 weeks more enjoyable. I am not always successful since lack of sleep can increase emotions like sadness and anger and I am still successful most of the time as I acknowledge that this is allowed to be hard, I am allowed to be upset and that regardless I am doing the best I can for my son.

Motherhood & Madness: I could not have asked for a better birth

Motherhood&Madness

 

My son is now 16 days old! I am able to look back on his birth with memories that involve less physical pain and really appreciate how amazing my birth experience was. I would very much like to share my birth story with you and I would love to hear yours as well!

On Thursday, September 22nd, I went to see my Midwife for a regular check-up and I also was given the stretch and sweep I asked for to try and get labour started. I was 39 weeks and 1 day. While I had no medical reason for this non-chemical induction my overractive uterus (constant practice contractions that would not go away no matter what) was causing me great discomfort and sometimes pain. There were no guarantees it would do anything and I didn’t hold out hope that anything would happen (technically have no proof that the sweep did bring on labour, he may have come the day he did anyways).

On Friday, September 23rd in the afternoon, I began to experience mild cramps that felt like a period cramp. I had been experiencing these on and off for the past few weeks as my body prepared for labour but they hadn’t meant anything. These cramps started happening more frequently and for longer. Something, I don’t remember what, prompted me to put a panty liner on (I think I had felt like something was coming out and didn’t want to wreck my clothes) but I figured it was just regular old discharge. Around 7pm, I felt like I had peed myself and ran to the washroom. There was no pee but there was another liquid. My water broke! I can’t remember if it was before or after my water broke but my mucus¬†plug also came out. I had all the signs that labour was starting!

I lay in bed and tried my hypnobirthing meditations and visualizations to help me get through the contractions which were growing in strength and gradually getting closer together. Despite everything I was trying and had prepared none of my comfort measures were working. Looking back this may have been because I had been allowed to labour alone. My midwife would later tell me that if she had arrived earlier (or if I had a doula) my comfort measures probably would have been more effective. I became the most concerned when I was in the shower and began violently shivering (I did not know that shivering is the body’s way of releasing tension during labour). I contacted my Midwife a handful of times because I felt like my contractions felt stronger despite being 6-7 minutes apart. She said that I seem to be coping well the contractions (doing my best to breathe through them) but I had decided that I wanted to change my birth plan. I was in a lot of pain and didn’t want to give birth at home, unmedicated anymore. We agreed that she would call me at 7 am on Saturday, September 24th and that would be when we could probably head to the hospital and I could have an epidural. “Whatever you want is what I want,” she said to me. My Partner and I called his Mom to see if she could drive us to the hospital. She came over (it was around 2 am or 3 am).

My Partner began to pack our hospital bag and get the car seat ready. At one point my partner was in the washroom and I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to poop. I bolted up in bed and yelled, “I NEED THE WASHROOM!” My Partner quickly got out and I went and sat on the toilet. My body began involuntarily pushing. The sounds that came out of my mouth were sounds I never thought I’d make. I guess I could describe it as a grunt. I can see why people say birth is primal. I became moderately afraid that I would give birth, unassisted and have my baby fall into the toilet. I had my partner call my Midwife and after speaking to me (it was very hard to talk on the phone while experiencing painful contractions and involuntarily pushing) she said she was coming over. My Midwife arrived, along with the Student Midwife, around 5 am on Saturday, September 24th. They checked how dilated I was and I was told I was 9 cm! My Midwife said that since I only had 1 cm to go it was safer to give birth at home (home births are completely safe, I’m talking about reducing my risk of giving birth in the car) rather than put myself in a car and head to the hospital where I wouldn’t even be able to get pain drugs because I was basically ready to push. I agreed to stick with my original plan of having a home birth. By the time my Midwives had set up their equipment (about 20-30 minutes) I was dilated to 10 cm and ready to push. The Midwife in charge of caring for the baby was called and she arrived within a few minutes.

I tried pushing on the birthing stool, on my back and very briefly on all fours and ended up doing most of the pushing on my back with my legs supported. It was the most comfortable position for me. My Partner stayed up by my head and told me that I was doing a great job, that he loved me and other words of encouragement. He responded to my demands of “don’t touch me” very well (touching during a contraction felt horrible) and let me hold his finger (seriously, just one finger was all I wanted) during my rest between contractions. As time passed, I kept asking my Midwives how much longer and where the baby’s head was (I admit that I probably slowed down the arrival of the baby because I was embarrassed about pooping myself so I wasn’t pushing the way I should have). They kept saying “soon” and eventually I said, in a joking way, “You’ve been saying soon for over an hour. That’s not soon!” Once the baby’s head got past the pelvic bone I could feel the pressure and burning pain and the only way to make that stop was to get the head out. I was asked if I wanted to see or touch the head but I said no, that I just wanted to get the baby out. Eventually, the head was born, my Partner saw it, and I felt the pressure ease a little bit (a neck is smaller than a head after all). The hard part was over and now all I had to do was give birth to the rest of the body. As I pushed the Midwives got in there with their hands to help get the rest of the body out. I did stop pushing at one point and said, “Ow” because it was hurting but as soon as I was finished saying “Ow” the baby slid out and was placed on my chest.

I was shocked at this fairly large, purple and puffy baby that had been placed in front of me. We confirmed that it was a boy and he had a good cry. After about 3 min, when the umbilical cord stopped pulsing (meaning my son had gotten all of the blood he needed from the placenta) my Partner cut the cord. I was very happy he did because he wasn’t sure if he would feel like he would want to. I delivered the placenta utilizing active management with no problem (it’s now in our freezer and will be¬†buried under a tree when we buy a house). My son was born on Saturday, September 24th, 2016 at 8:25 am after 13 hours of labour. He weighed 9 lbs 8 oz, was 21 inches long and had a 37 cm head. He’s a big boy and shares a birthday with my best friend!

One thing that amazed me was how I needed every person that was there. If my Partner or a Midwife stepped away for something I felt a little more helpless. That may sound bad but I mean that together the 5 of us were stronger and I needed every person there to make the space feel comfortable and safe. Each person helped me give birth and we were a great team!

I really could not have asked for a better birth. It was exactly what I wanted. Am I going to rush to have baby number 2? Hell no! Pregnancy and birth are a lot of work and the recovery time has shocked me! While some may be able to get up and do everything they want after giving birth that was not me. I had some tears so moving and walking were very painful for awhile. I still have some pain but mostly feel it if I sit down to quickly, sit on the toilet, walk slowly or stand. If there’s one thing that gets to me it’s feeling this pain and having the bleeding. While all of it is normal, it¬†has made it difficult for me to interact with my son the way I would like to. I am getting there though and plan on setting up a little play area for him today so we can do some quick tummy time when he wakes up!

B has been a massive help! He took two weeks off work and while I thought the two weeks would be great bonding time for B and his son, B has also been an amazing support to me while I have been healing. These past 2 weeks have been a special time for our little family. Tomorrow is my first full day by myself with my son. I am nervous but excited. My Mom will come by at some point and I do have some outings and appointments that will keep us both active.

Please feel free to share yours in the comments. Good or bad, it is important to own our birthing experience so if you did have a traumatic birth you can recover from it and learn about how you may want it different if you choose to give birth again. Sharing our birth stories also teaches others about birth. While nothing really prepares you for what birth will be like, it is good to read others experiences to get an idea. Thank you so much for reading my birth story.

Motherhood & Madness: A Guilty Parent

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I am 38 weeks pregnant today. My baby can come any time now! This is a happy and scary time as any day could be the day that labour starts. Unfortunately, I have been battling a mild form of irritable uterus. This is not officially diagnosed but when I saw my midwife yesterday and continued to describe my symptoms she started using language like “overactive uterus” and “irritable uterus”. Researching it, I find it fits my experience. For about 3-4 weeks I have been experiencing frequent uterine contractions that cause tightness and pressure in my belly. This is very uncomfortable and is causing me to become inactive, have difficulty sleeping, and making me very unhappy. The suggestions of staying hydrated, emptying my bladder, lowering stress, and limiting movement do not work at relieving the contractions. It is especially difficult to manage the hydration and emptying my bladder is impossible. I have found some relieve with laying on my side with pillows behind and in front of me and trying to truly relax.

Where does the guilt come in? That’s why I wanted to write this blog in the first place. When I saw my midwife yesterday and told her about my continued experience with my uterus, she offered to do a stretch and sweep. ¬†This procedure is non-drug way to kick start labour. While in the office, B encouraged me to get the procedure done but I was so overcome with fear and guilt that I said I would think about it and if I decide to do it then I would do it next Thursday at my appointment. I trust my midwives to offer me non-medical solutions to my pregnancy woes and they would never force me to do something unless my life or my baby’s life were at risk. There is nothing wrong with having a stretch and sweep at 38 weeks pregnant. I still found myself feeling like a horrible mother for doing something to my body to make my body arrive before he wants to. I feel like I am being selfish for wanting to get him out because I’m uncomfortable. It also made me nervous that doing the procedure means I have an idea of when my baby could be born versus right now where I have no idea. This baby is still an abstract idea to me and the potential of having him arrive hours to a few days after a stretch and sweep makes my head spin. I feel a lot of emotions and I would like to cry.

After another night of discomfort, knowing there is something I could do to bring on labour and make the discomfort stop, I decided to call my midwives to see if I could come in sooner than next Thursday. I am waiting to hear back. I still feel immense guilt. I am trying to manage this guilt by reminding myself that my baby is ready to come out. Babies can 100% survive outside of the womb at 38 weeks (I believe I was born at 38 weeks). I think some deep breathing and meditation is in order as I do not need the added stress.

Thank you for reading this post. I really needed to get this out. There is a lot about pregnancy that we keep to ourselves and I think more needs to be known about the physical and emotional things that happen.

Motherhood & Madness: Pregnancy meets psychiatry

Motherhood&Madness

A few weeks ago I had my first appointment at a local women’s hospital in their psychiatric program that supports pregnant women and mothers with mental health issues. It was a very different experience from my other psychiatric encounters and I don’t know if I could explain why. Possibly because the concern is not only my but also my ability to maintain a healthy pregnancy and eventually people a healthy mother to a newborn. More scrutinized! That’s what it feels like! This was also the first time I have ever spoken with a female psychiatrist.

It has been difficult to shake the unsettled feeling that I have had since I left the psychiatrist’s office. I feel like I was answering her questions and then later in the conversation when I would bring something up that was related to a previous question she would say something like, “Oh, why didn’t you say that earlier?!” Well, maybe because you asked the question in a way that didn’t make me think a particular experience was relevant, or you didn’t understand something I had said or you didn’t let me finish a thought. For example, she asked me if I had ever experienced abuse. I said yes, that I have experienced emotional abuse from intimate partners and “so-called friends” when I was younger. Later on, when I gave specifics about what the “so-called” friends would say as it related to another question she said, “Oh, you were bullied! Why didn’t you say that?” I just smiled and laughed as she flipped back a few pages to make notes. I said my friends emotionally abused me. That is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Maybe you should have¬†asked earlier how that emotional abuse looked in each scenario? Just a thought.

This psychiatrist also disagrees with my borderline traits diagnosis which according to a colleague is common in this program. No one wants people to have a borderline label. This is a label I am 100% ok with so saying it’s not good is not something I would like to hear. I have found the borderline label to be a nice, all-encompassing name, to give my experiences and this psychiatrist ended up breaking my experiences into little pieces and giving each one a name. Here is what I wrote on a Facebook Group about it:

“I found it interesting that the psychiatrist didn’t like my current “borderline personality traits” diagnosis. Every psychiatrist has their own view of our experiences. So what she ended up giving me was major depression, generalized anxiety (I have never had that diagnosis before) and then said I have severe reactive interpersonal sensitivities. I feel like she just broke down my experience into small chunks, making them seem separate when they are really deeply connected. All of my emotional pain really stems from my sensitivities and I am worried that these professionals will just focus on how to make me less sad and less anxious and ignore the “interpersonal sensitivity”.”

I will have to wait and see how the counsellor I am assigned to deals with these different labels but I do not know if I feel very hopefully. I think I will ignore these labels and the assumptions that come with them and focus on what I know will be my biggest barrier: getting myself out of the house (which the psychiatrist bolded and said must be addressed ASAP).

The part that sent terror running through my body was how casually the psychiatrist talked about psych drugs. I know that this is her job and for many people psych drugs are not a big deal but for me, it is a huge deal and actually a life or death situation. The psychiatrist did acknowledge that I do appear to consistently experience the suicidality side effect of psych drugs and said that there is no reason I should be on psych drugs right now. The fear set in when she said that if at any point I start going downhill then it is something she would suggest ¬†to me. She said that it’s important to have a healthy mother for a healthy baby. Trust me, I do understand that. I want a healthy mother for my baby. I just have no reason to believe that psych drugs will create that health. They have never created that health. I have made amazing progress in my life without psych drugs.

Some good things did happen in this meeting. The psychiatrist was very happy that I am not married to the idea of breastfeeding. She asked me if I planned on breastfeeding and I explained that I’m open to it, would almost prefer not to and care more about the baby being fed then how the baby is fed. She was very vocal with her approval as she explained that some women refuse to consider bottle feeding and then when their baby or their own bodies have difficulty with breastfeeding they become extremely sad and at risk for postpartum issues. Breastfeeding is one way to feed a baby. Some women do not want to breastfeed, some women physically cannot. Some babies cannot physically breastfeed because of mouth issues or their bodies reject breast milk.

She was also glad that pregnancy wasn’t giving me mood swings. I explained that if anything it has calmed me down and given me time to think about where I should put my efforts. This is another protective factor.

I know I wrote a lot of bad. I’m still giving this program a shot. I know I need support and will need it a lot after birth. This is just beginning and I need to see where it all goes. I know that I can advocate for myself and the more we all get to know each other the better it can become.

 

 

Motherhood & Madness: Things No One Tells You About Being Pregnant

Motherhood&Madness

When B and I were becoming pregnant and then when we found out that we were I was very nervous about how the hormonal changes would affect my mental wellbeing. I am happy to say that I have not experienced the mood swings that many pregnant women report which I was most fearful of. What has gotten to me the most are the physical symptoms that the hormones have caused. Throughout the past 23 weeks, I have tried to remember the end goal and that is to deliver a baby safely and love my son with everything I have.

There are a few things I wish I had known before becoming pregnant. I think it speaks to our overall lack of education about pregnancy. Much of what I am going to write about is unique to me. Some pregnant people have it “better” or “worse” but I do believe that every pregnant person has a few shocking moments in their pregnancy that scare or annoy them.

  1. Fatigue and nausea can mean you cannot function at all. My nausea was constant for almost 3 months. My exhaustion may have been for about a month. My first trimester was basically me laying around not being able to do anything. I found myself feeling useless as I could not show affection towards B, help with chores around the house, I couldn’t get to work and most times I could barely get up to feed myself, let alone eat enough in a day.
  2. Needing to pee becomes the most annoying thing your body does. I have sometimes found myself holding my pee too long or not drinking a lot of water because I am so tired of having to go pee. I find the need¬†or at least the sensation, to pee has increased with the movement of the baby. He will wiggle around so much sometimes and the push on my bladder has me hoping I don’t wet myself.
  3. Bleeding will happen and it can mean nothing but it will scare the shit out of you every single time. In my second month of pregnancy, I had 3 instances of bleeding, with the first one being heavy enough (in my opinion) to go to the ER. A doctor determined that the bleeding was not the result of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. The cervix becomes more sensitive during pregnancy and can become agitated easily which sometimes results in bleeding. Bleeding should always be taken seriously when there is a pregnancy.
  4. Pregnancy is not always enjoyable. The media shows pregnancy as filled with glowing pregnant people, fun baby showers and of course, the happy end result of having your baby. I didn’t start enjoying my pregnancy until recently, probably the past few weeks. Many pregnant people spend so much time worrying about the condition of their baby, endure horrible symptoms and some face a strain on their relationships. Your clothes stop fitting, you can’t eat all the foods you normally do and you need to plan for something that is going to change your life forever! I can’t imagine being pregnant when I already have a child! Some pregnant people have such a tough pregnancy that they don’t want to have any more children where they need to be pregnant. Pregnancy is HARD!
  5. Pregnancy is dangerous. I did know this but it always feels different when it’s happening to you. I live in a country with a low maternal death rate but the risk is always there. The hormonal changes can really throw your body out of wack, creating new health problems that you possibly would not have gotten if you had not become pregnant (ie: high blood pressure, diabetes). People who do have existing conditions like diabetes or immune system deficiencies are at a higher risk for things to go wrong. Doctors need to closely monitor some pregnancies. Again, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

In the end, I trust my body and my midwife to get me through my pregnancy. I love feeling him move around and have recently been able to see my stomach move as he kicks me. It’s amazing to witness and I am honoured to be carrying this potential for life.

What do you wish you knew before you became pregnant?