You know that question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Well, here’s my question: “If something you don’t want to happen is taking place and you don’t blog about it, is it really happening?”
I thought if I didn’t blog about this and kept it a secret then I could save myself the agony of actually admitting that it is.
But I can’t not blog about it.
It’s my story and it’s important to me. So here it goes.
My breastfeeding journey has unexpectedly come to an end. I am devastated. Heartbroken. All those words that describe anguish? This is where I would place all of them if I had the time or space or energy.
I’ve known this day was coming. Fretted over it. Worried. Nervously paced back and forth trying to figure out a way that I could make it work for longer. But I have finally come to a point where I know there is no other choice but to stop.
I went off my depression medication in early August. It was the same medicine I had taken for depression while pregnant with Brigham. I took it for seven months and it was successful in keeping me stable during and after pregnancy. But over the summer I became increasingly anxious with the prospect of renting our house and buying a new one. I jumped head first into this exciting conquest. When it didn’t work out it upset me and I didn’t handle it well. To me, I lost another game. And I hate losing.
I spoke with my therapist about how I started to go downhill within about a week of coming off the medicine. I told her that my body reacts very quickly to meds whether I’m coming off or going on. It was hard to believe that coming off medicine could affect my mood so fast but since I’ve done this quite a few times already I knew where this was headed. And it wasn’t good. But I kept it to myself anyway.
My therapist is smarter than that though. She sent me to new psychiatrist. I was nervous to see anyone or go on anything. She knew that I was still breastfeeding and that my goal was to continue for at least six months. But she told me that at the very least I needed to have an action plan for when we knew it was absolutely necessary to go back on my meds.
So I went to visit a new doctor. He was every bit the mood disorder expert my therapist claimed he was. He actually listened to me. Took notes. It was obvious that he truly cared about my health. If you’ve ever been to a psychiatrist you know that is most definitely not the norm. For any psychiatrist worth seeing, it can take weeks if not months to get an appointment. But due to a cancellation and shamelessly name-dropping my therapist, I got in within a week.
He was unlike any doctor I’ve ever seen. Not too quick to over-medicate. As a full-time working mom of two little ones the last thing I need is to be more tired than I already am. Together we came up with a good plan of action. I left his office with prescriptions in hand. And told him that as soon as I felt the need I would use them.
After Labor Day, Brigham came down with his second ear infection and decided that the whole sleeping-through-the-night thing was a terrible idea. He would wake up screaming two or three times a night. He could not be consoled. I can handle the no-sleep thing for maybe a week. But a month? Not so much. Add to it that I had pneumonia in both lungs and the downhill slide became steeper.
At first when Brigham cried I felt compassion. But throughout the month of September the sound of his screams morphed into the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Many a night I would throw up my hands in desperation screaming that I couldn’t do this anymore. Let me just say there is a reason why they use lack of sleep as a form of torture during war. A month of no sleep and a baby screaming is enough to drive anyone insane.
I felt myself becoming less patient with Landon. I was snapping at Naaman. I couldn’t concentrate at work. All I wanted to do was drive away from my life. Hop in the car, gun it to 85 and make way for Mexico. All the while I felt incredibly guilty for feeling these feelings. I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel like this. It wasn’t normal.
I remembered back to when Brigham was born. I was so happy. In a state of bliss. I remember people asking to hold him and I didn’t let them because I didn’t want to put him down. I was in love with my baby boy. But by the end of September it was all I could do to pick him up when he cried. The constant screaming was just too much. When he would start crying I would too. I was way more emotional than usual. Lack of sleep is my biggest trigger for falling back into a depressive episode.
My mom recognized I was not myself and stepped in to help. She took the boys for a night so Naaman and I could get at least one night of sleep. When Naaman got home from work we went to bed early. But before we fell asleep I broke down in tears. He put his warm hand over my cheek as I lay sobbing.
I sobbed thinking of the countless times depression has robbed me of simple joys throughout the past seventeen years. Each time I have miraculously survived. Even when I thought I’d never last. Even when I didn’t want to. I stood up to him. And if I couldn’t someone stood up on my behalf. But here he is again. Knocking at my door. Threatening my life and my happiness. Even though he knows full-well that he is unwelcome. Even though he knows that I have slammed the door in his face before. He returns anyway. Once again, the battle to reclaim my life begins.
Naaman told me that we’re just going through a rough patch and it’s going to get better. And deep inside I know that. Deep inside I know that Brigham won’t always cry and I won’t always be sad. And then he said the words I needed to hear the most.
“I’m worried about you, Molly.”
That’s all it took. Because Naaman knows me better than any other person on this earth. If he is worried about me then I know it’s true. He is my mirror. I can look at him and see far more than any sliver of glass could show. We both knew that I was at the beginning stages of postpartum depression. But I decided I am not going to let it happen. Depression has already stolen too many precious years of my life. I refuse to hand over more. Especially not the first year of my baby’s life. No, my boys are too important.
The next morning I found the crumpled prescriptions at the bottom of my purse. I dropped them at the pharmacy to be filled and picked them up after work. I stared at the warnings on the bottle for quite some time: Do not use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Damn it. DAMN IT! I was less than 30 days from my goal of six months. I didn’t make it. DAMN this depression for ruining yet another part of my life.
I wish I could describe how I felt when I took that pill. I’ve taken it before but it never meant the end of something so important. The end of one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The end of breastfeeding.
I thought about the last time I breastfed. It was Sunday, October 3rd. We had tried to feed Brigham a bottle at a birthday party but he didn’t like the formula. So I went out to my mom’s car. It’s amazing to me that I really didn’t care who walked by and saw. All I really cared about was getting my baby fed so he didn’t cry at the party.
The whole process was effortless. I pulled up my shirt, he latched and my milk flowed. Just like it’s supposed to work. Just what I had wanted. It was a beautiful moment between mother and son.
I wish I had known that that would be the last time I would breastfeed my son. I wouldn’t have been in such a rush.
The next day, when I got home from work my breasts were full and aching. Nature had come to an abrupt stop and it’s clear my body didn’t get the memo. Even though I thought I wanted to drive away from it all, truthfully I missed my baby when he was gone. I swooped him up in my arms and kissed his forehead. I sat down on the couch and started to pull up my shirt. The urge to nurse was instant and strong. Funny how it only felt like a duty in the beginning. But now, now it was mother’s instinct in its purest form.
Then reality smacked me in the face . . .
Molly, you can’t anymore. The medicine is already coursing through your body. But it can’t be in his.
That night before I placed him in his bassinet I held him. I gently rocked him to sleep. Tears dripped from my cheeks. A consolation prize for what should have been my milk. But I could no longer offer Brigham my milk. What I could offer him, however, were my words. I began to whisper . . .
I’m sorry, Brigham. I’m so sorry that mommy can’t feed you anymore. I know when you’re rooting at my chest wondering why I won’t let you nurse, you won’t understand. But I hope someday you will understand why I had to stop.
I hope you know how much I love you. If mommy didn’t need medicine to make her better I would have nursed you as long as you wanted. Please know that I’m sorry. Mommy tried her best. I want to thank you for giving me the chance to breastfeed. It was a dream come true.
He was fast asleep when I finished. Naaman walked in as I was wiping the tears away and asked why I was crying. I told him that I didn’t want to stop nursing yet. He said, “It’s okay, honey. You did great.”
I did, didn’t I? My journey to breastfeed my sons was not at all an easy one. While trying to breastfeed Landon, every single thing that could have gone wrong did. I was unable to nurse him for many different reasons. And even though Brigham was a latching champ, I had other breastfeeding roadblocks that I never imagined I would encounter. I still cannot believe I kept nursing after I had two huge MRSA-filled abscesses drained. And a case of thrush. And a new job started at eight weeks postpartum. And pumped in cars and bathrooms and supply closets. I kept nursing. For my son. For five months. For 150 days. I did not fail. I am scarred to prove it. Physically and emotionally scarred. And both my boys were worth it.
I have to get better. I have to stay well so I can take care of my family and myself. It’s just another part of my journey. I must accept.
I will miss breastfeeding. But depression cannot break the bond between mother and child. I won’t let it.