Vital Signs: Ignoring postpartum depression and psychosis won’t make them go away

Another horror story. Another mom. Three beautiful girls who will never have another birthday, whose last memory will be terror at the hands of the person they trusted the most.

I don’t know the details. I don’t really want to know the details. I do know that this mother reached out, told her own mom she was “feeling crazy”. I do know that she had three babies in a row, and that the youngest was 2 months. I do know that there’s a strong chance that this was the result of postpartum psychosis.

And I know that this has got to stop.

Can we protect every family, prevent every case? Of course not. But postpartum mental health is taking a backseat when it should be sitting shotgun to every maternal and child health program. That’s a start, at least. We spend so much time worrying about a woman’s breasts, while we dismiss her mind. We worry about how hormones and birth practices affect lactation, while we disregard how they affect our emotions.

After we give birth, we are whisked off to the maternity ward. Our vital signs are monitored, but other vital signs are ignored. A mom who can’t seem to connect with her baby. Who is scared, and asking for help. Who is alone and voiceless. Her pulse may be steady, but her hands shake. Her breasts may leak colostrum, but her eyes may leak silent tears. And we ignore this.

GE-Healthcare-Dash-2500-v4-Vital-Signs-Monitor

OB/GYNs don’t see mothers until 4-6 weeks postpartum. In some cases, that will be too late.

Pediatricians see moms with their newborns several days postpartum, but they are focused on the infant. As they should be. We don’t expect a heart surgeon to be concerned with the diabetic foot of his cardiac patient’s wife.

When I see the role of lactation consultants and breastfeeding counselors growing, gaining more attention, more insurance coverage, I also see an opportunity. What if these professionals could be trained to screen for postpartum mental health issues, if they could recognize red flags and know how to refer families to the proper resources? What if they were trained to support families in their feeding journeys, with the goal being a happy, healthy family and not just a breastfeeding statistic?

With the state of our health care system, I don’t expect that an entirely new support staff can be instilled at every hospital, for the sole purpose of protecting maternal mental health. But when 1 in 7 mothers suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety, I think that constitutes just as much of a public health concern as the supposed risks of “sub-optimal breastfeeding practices” in developed countries. If we are going to focus so heavily on breastfeeding, could we at least give a little simultaneous attention to a mom’s mood while we inspect her breasts?

What happened to the Coronado family is sub-optimal. What passes as “support” for postpartum women is sub-optimal. There is no reason we can’t support breastfeeding while prioritizing maternal mental health. Both are important, but one has been systematically ignored, shoved under piles of paperwork, given lip service. We only seem to worry about postpartum depression in terms of how it affects breastfeeding “success”. There are so many things wrong with that sentence, with that mentality. It’s like worrying about prostate cancer only in terms of how it will affect sex and procreation. Biological norms are important, but support also means protecting those whose biology turns on them.

If we can only speak of maternal needs under the umbrella of lactation support, I can live with that. As long as those needs are met, I can live with that. As long as those needs are being met, maybe we can all live with that.

Survive with that.

Thrive with that.

 

 

An open letter to Chris Bingley: Your wife deserved better.

This is an open letter to Chris Bingley in honor of his wife, Joe Bingley, whom he lost to severe postpartum depression. 

Dear Chris,

I read about your beautiful wife Joe’s battle with postpartum depression, and I wanted to say… oh hell, I don’t know what to say. Because I’m afraid my anger about what happened to your wife will just feed your grief, and that is the last thing I’d ever want to do.

I write about the pressure to breastfeed, and what it is doing to women, and I hear stories every day that mirror what Joe went through. Women who suffer from a growing desperation, an inner knowledge that something isn’t right, even when everyone around them is willing it to be so; even when everyone around them is telling them it will all be okay if they just get some sleep, get some help around the house, or get over the “hump” of the baby blues.

And these women – more often than not – are seen by an array of healthcare professionals as they try to dig themselves out of this tunnel. The stories I hear have a common refrain – all they cared about was if the baby was breastfeeding. I came second. And all I heard was that breastfeeding was the most important thing a mother can do for her child and I was failing at that. This was my refrain, 5 years ago. I sang it and sang it until someone listened, until thousands of other women answered it with a song of their own. And our collective voices are rising, growing stronger by the day, shouting our song, screaming that we deserve more, that Joe deserved more, and that we will. Not. Let. This. Happen. Again.

PPD is a strange and mysterious beast; it’s not always tamed easily, and it feeds on different aspects of different people. For some, breastfeeding is a lifeline, the one thing they can do “right”. For others, it is the sandbag strapped to them as they are already sinking. But the problem is not breastfeeding. The problems is that we are so focused on breastfeeding that all of resources and energy are going to this one aspect of postnatal care – that we have forgotten that the mother’s mental and physical health should come first. I know most people will think that is a terrible thing to say – because doesn’t the baby’s physical and emotional health matter? But what they are forgetting is that a mother’s mental and physical health can afford to be a priority because there are other options to ensure the physical and emotional needs of the baby. Formula or donor milk can suffice. A father’s loving embrace, or a grandmother’s or aunt’s or uncle’s, can fulfill all needs until a mother is well. We are lucky to live in a time where moms can get well without sacrificing their babies’ well being.

But we are unlucky to live in a time where people are unwilling to see things this way.

Joe should have been helped. The professionals who she encountered should have looked at her face rather than her breasts. They should have seen she was sinking; they should have insisted that either a lifeline be thrown or a sandbag removed. There should have been protocols in place for her prenatal, delivery and postnatal care so that she was   screened for and treated for PPD. There should not have been so much pressure put on her to breastfeed; she should have been told that all that mattered was her health and happiness, and that her breastmilk or lack thereof had nothing to do with her worth as a person or as a mother.

I didn’t know Joe. I wish I’d had a chance to. I wish she could be one of the voices in our choir of healing and hope. That she could yell with us and demand better of our governments, our healthcare providers, and our society, so that no woman would be left to drown; so that no woman would ever have to sing that stupid refrain again.

Because I’m sick of the same old song. And I’m sure Joe would be, too.

Sending love from across the pond,

Suzanne Barston, aka The Fearless Formula Feeder

FFF Friday: Mental health, bottle feeding and self care

I don’t think this post needs much introduction. I specifically chose it to run this week, because it explains why I feel that the “I Support You” campaign is so integral to World Breastfeeding Week. Only by approaching each woman’s journey as an individual, personal, and valuable experience, can we hope to properly support mothers in their breastfeeding goals. 

Thank you so much, Anne Marie, for allowing me to share your story – and I hope the FFF audience will also check out her blog, “Do Not Faint”,  as she is a tremendous advocate for maternal mental health.

Happy Friday (and happy Breastfeeding Week, and “I Support You” week), fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Anne-Marie’s Story: Mama’s Mental Health, Bottle Feeding, and Self-Care

Many excellent, well-informed doctors helped me take care of my mental health before, during and after my pregnancy, and I feel both grateful to them and proud that I have become such a good advocate for myself. My talent for advocacy came in particularly handy when it came to making decisions about how we would feed our baby, because I received so much conflicting advice that I once burst into tears at the idea of another doctor giving me more information. To be fair, I did a lot of planning before we even tried to get pregnant, because I depend on twice-weekly therapy, anti-anxiety meds and antidepressants in order to function as a human being. In other words, there were many people over many months with many opportunities to offer advice, information and opinions, solicited and unsolicited.

Here is a list of my decision, in chronological order, based on the advice of various “professionals” and “experts”–

  1. Exclusive breastfeeding.
  2. Exclusive bottlefeeding: formula.
  3. Exclusive bottlefeeding: donated breastmilk from a close friend.
  4. Exclusive bottlefeeding: the hospital’s donated breastmilk during our stay (lawyers refuse to allow us to bring our own, but the head nurse in postpartum recovery managed to get permission to get me access to the milk bank because the whole thing was patently absurd) followed by our friend’s donated milk when we got home.
  5. Short-term breastfeeding, followed by bottlefeeding: a team of midwives, nurses and lactation consultants meet to discuss the stupidity of the hospital’s liability fears dictating our choices about feeding our son and it occurs to someone that a few days of my colostrum might actually do more good than harm, for me, my baby and everyone’s stress levels.
  6. Breastfeeding and bottlefeeding, followed by exclusive breastfeeding, once we have established that our son and his tiny liver are doing ok with the medicine that is in my breastmilk.
  7. Breastfeeding with intermittent Dad-administered bottles of my own pumped milk or formula.

The point of it all, really, is that this combination of my milk, donated breastmilk and formula has worked really well for us. But a combination like that would never have occurred to me without all the expert help and opinions I had, and I don’t think that many mothers consider doing anything like what we have done. Shouldn’t it at least be an option? Why is it breastfeed or formula feed? And why does “bottlefeeding” always mean formula?

My midwives talked with nurses and lactation consultants, because I had so much anxiety about feeding my baby. That wonderful team directed me to a pediatrician who specializes in breastfeeding medicine, and it is she who changed my entire outlook. The psychiatrists who warned against breastfeeding on meds meant well, but they knew about adult-sized doses and side-effects. My first clue should have been that one of them actually said, “Lots of our generation, including me, had formula, and we are all fine!” Can I get an eye roll for that line? This was hardly the evidence-based reassurance I was used to getting from the same doctor who had once handed me a whole stack of pages of medical journal articles on pregnancy and psychiatric medications. The pediatrician who helped us, an actual expert in actually feeding actual babies told me that the nursing relationship only works well if everyone is relaxed and happy. This is why she was thrilled to tell me that I could breastfeed on my medicine with safety, as far as the evidence showed, and that we could use our freezer full of precious donor milk to give us peace of mind.

She also taught me to relax about breastfeeding before I gave birth, because in her experience, a mother/infant pair can learn to breastfeed even if (heaven help us!) an infant should have a bottle or pacifier early in his life. That came in really handy when my son was born with a tongue tie that the hospital staff failed to notice. He could not, would not latch. The nurses fretted. I pumped colostrum and tried to stay calm, but it wasn’t until our breastfeeding expert clipped that tongue tie that we could nurse comfortably. In the meantime, we were happy to feed him from a syringe or a bottle, and we loved seeing his grandparents participate.

For the first three months of his life, my son had bottles of donor milk, and he breastfed, every day. I pumped for the ounces he drank to keep up my supply. By the time we ran out of donor milk, we were thrilled to see that he was showing no sign of any side effect from the medication in my milk. Unfortunately, he quickly began cluster feeding for hours right around the time I was getting used to exclusively breastfeeding. I had no time to pump for bottles; he was always nursing. After a night during which he nursed from 11 pm to 4:00 am, stopping only to switch sides or scream while his diaper was changed, I arrived at my therapist’s office in despair. I can’t manage my anxiety without sleep. Every doctor had told me that without at least a four-hours-in-a-row chunk of sleep every night, my mental health would suffer. My therapist asked about formula. I cried about how hard I had worked to feed my son only breastmilk. Then, I thought about sleeping, and bought formula immediately after leaving my therapist’s office.

I ask my husband to give our son a bottle when I’m feeling very anxious or stressed, or when I would just like a break, or when I would like to finish what I am writing. When I need to sleep or recover from a migraine, all I need to worry about is keeping myself comfortable, because I know that our son will be fine with the loved ones who care for him and feed him. Usually, I find that breastfeeding strengthens my bond with my son, that we both enjoy it and, for us, it’s extremely convenient. I also find that my anxiety and depression are much easier to manage when I have had enough sleep. My husband and I both get at least one break, every day, when we are “off-duty” and responsible for none of the parenting. When it’s my turn, that often means a bottle of formula. I am still trying to figure out why so very many people get so very upset about that. I honestly do not understand.

Mom, Dad and Baby are happier with the way our family does feedings. That short-lived experiment with “EBF” was absolutely miserable for me. It was a huge moment for me when that switch in my head flipped from “breastmilk or formula” to “do whatever it takes to be healthy and happy,” because I stopped believing that I could sacrifice my mental health for my child. All three of us suffered when I made myself a martyr.

Everything we learned about feeding babies along our rather strange journey has helped my husband and I in other areas of our relationship and family life. We check in with each other and stay creative in how we try to balance the trickier parts of this child-raising business. Sometimes, that means that one of us takes on responsibilities that may be uncomfortable so that the person who is ill or exhausted can try to get from “miserable” to “uncomfortable. A few bottles of formula have not transformed us into people who are happy all the time. But our approach to feeding our son has made us more creative problem-solvers, and that has definitely made us happier.

***

If you’d like to share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday, please send it to formulafeeders@gmail.com.

“Where is the mother in the discussion?” An interview with Walker Karraa on maternal mental health and infant feeding

Some of you may know Walker Karraa from her comments on our Facebook community page, or from her fantastic posts on Science & Sensibility. But I doubt you’re aware of the full magnitude of her bravery and dedication to issues surrounding maternal mental health. I recently interviewed Walker for a short piece on formula feeding and postpartum adjustment, and was so blown away by her answers – I was only able to use a few of her wise words due to word count constraints, so I’m thrilled she’s agreed to let me post the interview in full here on FFF.

Walker is a doctoral candidate at Sofia University, where she is conducting a study on the transformational dimensions of postpartum depression. She was also the founding President of PATTCh, an organization founded by Penny Simkin dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth, and is a perinatal mental health contributor for Lamaze International’s Science and Sensibility, Giving Birth With Confidence, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Midwives Connection. Like that wasn’t enough on her plate, Walker also served as social media manager for the Integral Leadership Review, and has her own social media consulting business, On My High Horse, and is currently working toward co-authoring a book regarding PTSD following childbirth with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, FAPA. 

I’m exhausted just reporting all of that. And did I mention she has two kids and is a breast cancer survivor? Yeah, she’s all that and a bag of reduced fat potato chips.

I hope you guys will appreciate the revolutionary nature of Walker’s discussion here – her opinions, while brilliant, probably seem uncontroversial to those who follow this blog, but they are quite “rogue” in the birth/maternal-child health community. I can’t thank her enough for being a dissenting voice and speaking up for the benefit of all women. 

FFF: Here on FFF, we see stories almost weekly which discuss how a perceived “failure” to breastfeed can lead to depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. Do you think the maternal mental health community has recognized how breastfeeding (or lack thereof) can affect the emotional state of new moms?

Walker Karraa

WK: I think that overall breastfeeding is very well addressed in the health psychology, and developmental psychology fields. What’s lacking is the reframe of the research to integrate more qualitative data, and methods, into the consideration of the full range of implications of breastfeeding from multiple perspectives—including the woman’s perspective.

In a 1985 Lancet article on maternal mortality, Allen Rosenfield asked the famous question, “Where is the ‘M’ in MCH (Maternal Child Health)? In the discussions of MCH, it is commonly assumed that what is good for the child is good for the mother.” (Rosenfield & Maine, 1985, p. 83). In many ways this is relevant in the discussion of breastfeeding and maternal mental health. Where is the mother in the discussion? And in what ways do we still assume what is good for the child is good for the mother? For me, this is all about reproductive rights and a deeper issue about our discomfort with women’s sovereignty over their reproductive, physical, and mental health.

The mental health community has responded to the growth in published data regarding infant health and breastfeeding. This has also been the funding stream for a large part of the last 20 years. But maternal mental health has yet to directly address a woman’s infant feeding choice as a part of her reproductive choice, rather than discrete periods of time that occur with as a continuum of events that are inextricably woven through reproductive events—none of which, taken by themselves, gives either the best data on mental health.

FFF: What do you feel needs to change in order for new mothers to be better supported in terms of mental health in general?

WK: I think one of the first calls to action must be for maternal care providers to get support in knowing that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are common and create the conditions for morbidity and mortality for mother and children. This is starting to happen, but still very slow. I think new models of medical care such as Dr. Michael C Lu’s life course model, which places the woman at the center of care, not the doctor. And, she is treated across the lifespan, not merely when she is pregnant. This facilitates better reproductive health in preconception and interconception, and uses a reproductive life plan for women and families from an early age. At puberty, to have a conversation with medical, nutritional, mental health providers as to planning one’s reproduction (girls and boys) would be ideal.

FFF: Many women struggle with the decision of whether to treat postpartum or prenatal depression/anxiety with psycho-pharmaceuticals, especially when they are breastfeeding. Why is there such mixed information and messaging about what drugs are safe, and what the relative risks are (ie, breastfeeding without meds vs breastfeeding on meds vs formula feeding and taking the meds)?

WK: Not having good information is a barrier to care for everyone involved. The OB/GYN or midwife, the social worker, the woman, her partner and family—when we don’t have good information, we cannot make informed choices. And for women in poverty, the risk is twofold. Specifically regarding breastfeeding, but also education across the board regarding psychopharmacology, pregnancy, and lactation. With organizations such as OTIS (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) and Motherisk, there really is no excuse for not having current evidence-based data regarding risk and benefit of untreated depression and anxiety, as well as risks and benefits of medications used to treat them.

Byatt et al. (2012) did a wonderful grounded theory study regarding community mental health provider reluctance to providing psycho-pharmacotherapy. 28 obstetric care providers (nurses, OB/Gyns, etc.) shared how they perceive community mental health practitioners as obstacles to psychopharmacology for perinatal women. The participants felt community mental health providers “99% of the time” discontinued a patients’ medication, and put women at risk of relapse. Secondly, Byatt et al., (2012) reported that participants perceived a lack of collaboration and communication between community mental health care providers and OB/Gyn providers, and that pharmacists also “further impede or delay depression treatment by not filling needed psychotropic prescriptions, often exacerbating women’s mental health symptoms” (p. 3).

FFF: Why do you think so many women express grief, guilt, and feelings of failure around the subject of infant feeding?

WK: Because that is their experience! And I attribute all of it to social constructs that are completely ingrained in medical, social, and mental health systems that have been made for and by men. The intentions of those men is not necessarily nefarious, and not really the point. It is that the constructs we have to measure ourselves (abilities and weaknesses) are made by men. We tell women from the get-go that they need us to be good mothers. They need our insight, knowledge, treatment, book, video, technique, services, product to be taught how to mother. This is so ironic, because so many of the birth movements have evolved from a call to empower women. But to empower, we have just made more systems of knowledge that mimic the ones we refute. That is not very popular to say, but it is true. The messages still given to women is that if they “know” something analytically, they are devoid of femininity, and if they “know” something inter-subjectively, they are devoid of ration.

Shame is a powerful force for women. And at no time in her life is a woman more susceptible to shame than early motherhood. If they are lucky enough to find a safe space to share their feelings without judgment, such as your blog, they are given the gift of voice. They can speak their truths.

FFF: Any tips for a mom who is having a tough time reconciling her use of formula?

WK: You know, when I was a doula, I had clients ask me to go buy formula for them so they wouldn’t be seen in public. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the birth of my second, I underwent two mastectomies before she had turned one. I learned that my body parts have nothing to do with my inherent ability to love her. My breasts were gone—off of my body, one in one hospital and another at a hospital down the road. I fed, nurtured, attached with, loved, and parented without them…and still do! So my advice is to write down on a piece of paper: My breasts have nothing to do with my love for my child. And keep it where you can see it. Memorize it, know it.

FFF Friday: “We have to do what’s right for our family, not what’s right for others.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

Shannon’s story describes – in exquisite, painful detail – how different pregnancy can be when dealing with a prenatal mood disorder. With all the talk of mental health lately, I find it discouraging that we still pay so little attention to maternal emotional well-being. I think when we become pregnant – and again once the baby is born – we become invisible. We are no longer women, with our own needs, desires, and emotional struggles; we become incubators, and then feeding receptacles. It’s okay to subjugate ourselves, because it’s self-serving to do anything but. We are expected to be happy, glowing, and head-over-heels in love with our offspring, ready to do whatever it takes to give them the best. 

But there is so much more to it than that. There is so much more to us.

Thank you, Shannon, for giving us a glimpse into how too many women suffer during their pregnancies, and beyond. And most of all, thank you for doing what you needed to do in order to take care of yourself as well as your child. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Shannon’s Story

Most women are fully aware of post-natal depression and are highly oblivious of prenatal depression and anxiety. You see, pregnancy is supposed to be this happy thing. You glow. You are growing a baby. You are becoming a mom. Total strangers are quite curious creatures and want to know about mom-to-be. Your family members spread the news among their friends. Prior to the first appointment, our entire group of friends knew. Who then, in-turn, spread the ‘wonderful’ news to their friends. All of whom made me the center of attention, which was what I was trying to avoid. I wanted life to continue as normal. I am not the center-of-attention type of person nor am I a type-A personality. Unfortunately, my pregnancy was beyond normal filled with severe prenatal depression, anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts. It was horror from the beginning.

I had major tendon reconstruction in my left foot a mere two weeks prior to conception. You would think two doctors in the same network with computerized access to my files would understand the predicament. How could I assume that? They were not on the same page; not even in the same book. My OB wanted a minimum of 35lbs. My podiatrist, on the other hand, wanted a maximum of 20lbs. That particular foot was braced and wrapped for my first three OB appointments. Both the OB and her nurse noticed and commented, but could have cared less. Quite possibly, could that have been my first red flag about how bitchy and cold this OB was? Maybe. However, I continued to go to her appointments.

Although I was discharged from the Air Force Reserves a few months prior, I still had the military mentality of being a gym-rat and keeping my weight in-check. Yes, in this day in age, that is great. Work out, be healthy; Eat right, be healthy. It was in-grained into my lifestyle. That almost perfect, athletic body was gone. I could not see past the ever-growing alien. Nor did I develop an understanding that I was supposed to gain weight. The weight gain was only the start of my life-altering struggles.

When I wasn’t highly denying the pregnancy to family friends, I raised my voice in terror. I wanted to disappear from this Earth; never wanting to leave the house, not talking about the pregnancy. To blatantly put it, I was becoming depressed caught up in the anxiety attacks, trapped in my own place, and terrorized by cameras. The flags where there. Yet, my OB, who I trusted with both of our lives to, ignored them. She asked the same questions every appointment. Never once asking about my mental health. I brought up the depression; she ran out of the examination room. She mentioned that my depression was not ‘deep enough’ for a mental health treatments. From that point on, I was repeatedly bitched at for lack of weight gain, for losing 10lbs prior to the 3rd month, hospitalized for dehydration and extreme nausea and most importantly, for continuing to use the gym. For me, the gym made me happy by equalizing the hormones in my brain. I felt normal for 2-3 hours. I swam competitively, ran on the treadmill and tossed 20lb weights like they were candy. Pregnancy is not a handicap, why must this OB believe I couldn’t do anything except walk? I cried prior to every appointment in fear of what new development to be horrified about. I cried after each appointment because I wasn’t gaining weight like I was supposed to. I checked into every appointment, but wanted to turn around and leave. My husband was actually supportive, listened to the complaints, witness the crying and was clueless on how to speak pregnancy without me overreacting in horror and terror. My pregnancy was far from normal and she wanted nothing to do with it. I could have followed a family request to switch, but I remained under her care.

I couldn’t get time off for the anatomy sonogram. I was on a days shift rotation at that time and worked 12 hour days. Needless to say, my work schedule didn’t sit well with either the scheduling nurse or the OB. They wanted the sonogram report yesterday. I didn’t want it done. Most importantly, I didn’t want to find out the sex. I was wishing this alien would leave my body. The earlier, the better. I was wishing for the sonographer to not find a heartbeat.  After the sonographer blurted out the sex of our child, I cried. I found out that we were having a baby girl. By this time, both families were extremely anxious for baby showers. Against our families wishes, I refused the baby showers. With my mental angst against the world, baby showers were out. I wasn’t in the mental capacity to act happy nor was I thrilled to see a camera. I was horribly petrified of cameras and mirrors. I didn’t want to see myself. There was no way that I could have gotten through a baby shower without crying or disappointing party go-ers. I was lectured about the so-called importance of baby showers and was called selfish for not putting my unborn child first.

I’m extremely anti-pink, so pink was immediately out. To blatantly put it, my husband owns more pink than I do. A baby girl is beautiful. She doesn’t need to wear tutus and pink to prove that. The thoughts of pink from my family members echoed sin and sorrow in my mind. My mother-in-law threw herself a grandmother shower and basically forced me into Babies R Us, Wal-Mart and Target to get ‘ideas’. The rule that I refuse to budge — absolutely NO pink. I painfully picked out some needed supplies. Did I get those supplies? No. What did I get from her co-workers? Ugliness, pure pastel pink ugliness. I do understand the thought was there, but why is it so difficult to respect the new mother’s decision? This made me hate my unborn child even more. I cried as I realized that my unborn child had to be photographed in clothing that resembled pepto-bismol vomit.

After being hospitalized for pre-term labor at 29 and 30 weeks, my OB’s colleague was appointed my care due to her vacation. He was an idiot and tried giving me medication I was highly allergic to. The doctor had zero bedside manner. None. He didn’t read my charts, missed the bright red band on my wrist with my drug allergy and refused to listened to the nurses who believed my daughter was well ahead of the suggested gestational age. By this point, my husband and I were discussing a switch to another OB. We finally had the third strike. How could we trust this colleague to possibly deliver our baby if he doesn’t understand medical allergies? He put me on bed rest. Four days later, I took myself off. The medication given to slow the progress of pre-term labor did nothing to ease the contractions. I returned to her care and 34 weeks, I immediately switched OBs. Granted it should have been MUCH sooner, but regardless, I stuck it out. Every legitimate complaint I had about the pregnancy was pushed aside. My daughter’s foot was painfully wedged in between my ribs, ripping apart the muscle. She acted blind about the problem, not feeling for my daughter’s foot or giving a suggestion about re-positioning her foot. Never once during my antenatal care, did she feel the position of the baby. Only measuring for growth.

I was debating about breastfeeding pumping at first, but soon felt trapped with my mother-in-law as she tried to take my bras into Babies R Us to find the ‘perfect’ pump. Neither one of her boys were breast fed. Quite honestly, she was living vicariously through me. She wanted the best for her grand-daughter, not some laboratory formula. She also had to take pictures of everything– Including the delivery (which I immediately shut down) and me feeding our newborn ‘properly’ with human milk. Every time my mother-in-law brought up the front row seat at the delivery, the terror re-surfaced. I screamed at her. I told her to watch the paint dry at her own place. I told her son will be the ONLY visitor until we go home. I wanted to deliver at a hospital without her knowledge.

The new OB immediately noticed the flags. She stepped in and talked with my husband and I about formula feeding. She mentioned that because of my imminent threat to develop postpartum depression, breastfeeding would have been the death of me. She understood the predicament and questioned the surgical scar on my foot. By delivery, I had gained only 22 lbs. Most importantly, I was still in MY clothing. Due to the severe depression and the painful position of my daughter’s foot in my rib cage, I was medically induced at 38weeks. She saved my life. Come to find out, she also saved my daughter’s life. Her placenta was in the process of rupturing. I had no symptoms to question that my daughter’s health was in jeopardy, just my typical every few minute Braxton Hicks.

As I checked into the hospital, the assigned nurse asked about my feeding preference. I gave her my formula requirement. All but one nurse happily understood. The night nurse was a so-called breastfeeding nazi and tried everything to get me to give my daughter the colostrum. The moment she woke me up to feed my daughter and pushed breastfeeding, I asked her to leave. The lactation consultant was nice enough to give me pointers on how to dry up my milk, if, and when it did come in. As my almost 9lb daughter was being examined by the pediatrician, she quickly noticed my daughter was approximately 41 weeks gestation. That would explain the partial placenta rupture.

As I talked with the OB the next morning, she made a comment that has stuck into my mind. Happy Momma = Happy Baby = Happy Family. My delivering OB in her greatness, worked with my husband and I on how to alleviate postpartum depression. Breastfeeding was out. Leaving our place with a newborn in tow was in. Talking to friends and family was a must. After the tumultuous pregnancy, our marriage has thrived and my husband taught himself how to bond with his daughter. My husband became a stay-at-home father for eleven months. Yes, it was a role reversal, but financially, it was our only option because I carried the insurances. He could feed her without needing me to pump. Most importantly, he could bond and developed his own style of parenting and feeding. After a year of infant and parental development, anxiety and challenges, I can happily say that postpartum depression has not reared its ugly head.

I’m all for breast is best for baby, but what many people fail to understand, in some situations, breast is not best for the new mother. Some mothers cannot breastfeed due to a medical condition, severe mastitis, surgery or a crazy work schedule. Some infants do not accept the mother’s breast. I could not stay home any longer than 6 weeks. Pumping in my line of work is not appropriate nor accepted. I work corporate aircraft flight planning and cannot step away from the flight planning desk for a five minute lunch break, let alone ten minutes to pump. We do not have a pumping room and work a twelve hour swing shift rotation. Pumping in traffic was also not an option. We have to do what’s right for our family, not what is right for others. Our daughter is an extremely healthy and active one year old. She’s absolutely perfect, formula baby.

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