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: He is here!

Motherhood&Madness

 

I may be especially absent over the next few weeks because my son is now in the world! Needless to say, all of my attention is on him and healing my body (which I for some reason did not think would hurt the way it does…silly me).

When I have sorted through some of my other work I hope to share my birth story here. It is probably the proudest moment of my life and one that has left me feeling stronger.

For the privacy of my son I will not be sharing his name, initials or pictures.

I finally have a therapist to see through the psychiatric program that specializes in women with mental health issues and pregnancy/postpartum. I have this therapist a lot later than I thought I would but I’m glad I have one now because I was ready to leave the program.

I look forward to sharing more of this adventure with you and hearing about your adventures with your own children!

Motherhood & Madness: A Guilty Parent

Motherhood&Madness

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: My Top 5 Fears

Motherhood&Madness

B and I recently completed our hypnobirthing course. For our last class, we were asked to think of our top 5 fears and rate them on a scale of 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest). I would like to share my 5 fears with you as I believe there is much about pregnancy, birth, and parenthood that we don’t talk about. Many parents are shamed for their fears despite the majority of parents having the same fears.

  1. I am afraid that B will not be there for me after the birth (ranked 5): Certain things in our relationship have me fearful that it will mean I do a lot of parenting alone. While I completely recognize that as the mom that is staying at home with our son I am going to do most of the baby care I am afraid that it will even extend into when he should also be caring for our son. B has verbally said that he will be there for the baby and the fear is still in the back of my mind. It will be a transition for both of us and we will have to negotiate.
  2. I am afraid about not knowing what labour and birth will feel like (ranked 3): This is a huge unknown for me as a first time mom. No one can accurately describe pain, and everyone experiences pain differently. I think this fear is mostly linked to me being nervous that I will not recognize when labour is beginning. Hypnobirthing is used to help manage pain but what if I can’t use it because the pain really catches me off guard? I just don’t know what this experience will be like.
  3. I am afraid that I will isolate myself and not socialize/lose friends because I have a baby (ranked 3): I already isolate myself from others and have been for over 2 years. I don’t want to use the baby as an excuse to stay away from people and experiences. I know that if I do this then I will plummet into sadness. I have heard of people losing friends after they have children and I think it’s more about being at a different stage in life. I don’t want to lose anything because I’m having a baby. I want to gain.
  4. I am afraid that I will not bond with my baby (ranked 3): Pregnancy is very abstract. I can see pictures of my baby, hear his heart beat, feel him move, see him move and I can even feel body parts. I still don’t see him as being something that is real. I do feel this has affected bonding and I know that actually holding him will make a difference, I still cannot shake the feeling that I will see him and after the initial high I will still feel detached. What parents wants to feel detached from their child?
  5. I am afraid that my baby isn’t growing (ranked 1): People keep telling me that I look small. When we think of pregnant people we think of a huge belly and I don’t really have one of those. I think this is also a common fear that will never leave me. Parents always want to make sure their children are healthy. I do know that I am growing as evident by the measurements done by my midwife, my belly pictures, and ultrasound pictures. Still, every month I wonder if he is growing.

These are fears. They are not facts. Many of my fears can be dealt with, with facts (ie: measuring my belly to ensure growth) and proactive strategies (ie: attending mommy and baby groups). We all have fears while pregnant and becoming parents. I think if we didn’t have fears then we wouldn’t properly prepare ourselves, open ourselves to different possibilities and improve ourselves.

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: Where is there space to be sober?

Motherhood&Madness

 

Photo: A pregnant person drinking and a circle around them with a cross through it indicating “no drinking when pregnant”.

Even before I knew I was pregnant I was strongly considering quitting drinking. I have never had an addiction to alcohol but I do have a history of abusing it as a teen and as an adult found myself either having just 1 or 2 glasses or completely binging and making myself very sick. January was one of those months where I spent an entire week binging and being hungover (and unknowingly 1 month pregnant. It will not affect how the baby develops). I hated how I felt, I hated what I experienced while drunk and I was just tired of it. When I found out I was pregnant it was the perfect opportunity to cut out alcohol. It is my hope that I will not drink after I give birth (I say hope but it is in my control). I want to get away from the binging. I find myself becoming very frustrated with being sober, regardless of the reason, because there is nowhere for me to go or no one that will be there with me sober.

In May, B and I went away for the Victoria Day Long Weekend to a music festival. I had a great time being with him, getting away from the city and our responsibilities and the music was awesome. What I struggled with was finding a place to fit in amongst all the people who drank, smoked and did drugs…it was basically everyone. Every person there was at least doing 2 of the 3 things mentions. Especially with the smoking I would find myself standing or sitting off to the slide to try and avoid as much cigarette smoke as possible. I couldn’t connect with these people because they were intoxicated and/or high and they showed no interest in connecting with me (B and I only knew our friend out of this large group of people). I knew that if I wasn’t pregnant I would have no problem fitting in because I would be drinking with them.

This is also extending into my everyday life as people, even B, do not invite me places because there is drinking. While I guess this is done out of respect for me it furthers my social isolation and brings about a great sadness that I find very consuming. I am doing an amazing thing with my body and people are telling me that there is no space for me.

Where are the sober spaces? Our culture views alcohol very strangely. Many believe that drinking is one of the few ways to have fun and having an addiction to it is seen as a deep personal flaw. We love and hate alcohol and the person depending on how much or how little someone drinks. Our cultural views and experiences of alcohol go above and beyond what I could even express here and I can’t even begin to imagine the experience of people who fight an addiction. In comparison, I have it easy. I’m just very interested in the isolating qualities that not drinking is having on my life right now. I strongly encourage you to check out the following two blogs:

Clementine Morrrigan: Intoxication culture is a bore

geoff: Sobriety as accessibility (https://livingnotexisting.org/essays/sobriety-as-accessibility-interrogating-intoxication-culture/)

Both bloggers are Toronto activists who are simply amazing. Both go by they/them pronouns.

Photo: “I’m sober, not boring.”

A lack of sober spaces is something I had barely thought about because I was fine with social and binge drinking. When I first heard geoff and Clementine speak at a conference a few years back I began to realize we did live in an intoxication culture that is very inaccessible and traumatizing. Again, I will never experience this reality the way someone with an addiction does and I am affected by the consequences of this culture as a pregnant person, someone who wants to limit my risk of alcohol abuse and as a person who wants to support her sober friends.

There have been great positive consequences to not drinking and I would like to focus on those for the remainder of this blog post.

  1. I am physically well- not drinking, in general, will keep me healthy. I reduce that damage done to my organs, reduce any damage that may be caused as a result of drunken shenanigans (ie: falling) and I eliminate being hungover which is hard on the body as it tries to restore its natural balance.
  2. I am mentally well- I was becoming a very angry drunk, starting fights and not enjoying myself. Not drinking allows me to stay in control of my mental well-being.
  3. I save money- this is a really big deal! The cost of consuming alcohol adds up very quickly. At the music festival, I spent $4 on a bottle of water which I could refill. B spent over $20 on drinks (each beer was overpriced at $12 each).
  4. I see the consequences of drinking- it was very eye-opening to not be the loud person, the person that causes the trouble and looks a little less than impressive. I enjoyed having control over myself and being present in the moment at the music festival. I don’t think important moments would have happened if I hadn’t of been sober. These moments really needed to happen.
  5. My risk of abusing alcohol is lower- if I am not drinking then I am protecting myself from falling back into the habits and patterns I worked very hard to change. I do not want to use alcohol to cope with negative feelings or as a way to enjoy myself. I want to cope in healthy ways and I want to be myself.

Do I have a solution for my current isolation due to not drinking? No, not at the moment. I am just doing my best to remember that I do not need alcohol in my life and that my life can still be enjoyable even if others cannot see it.