My Story: Megan Thornton, Part 2 {postpartum}

Read part one of Megan's story {the birth} here. 

My Story: At 6:19 am on Dec 19, 2013, my baby girl Maelyn was born weighing 6 lbs and 6 oz and measuring at 19 and ¼ in long. 

When they handed her to me, I just kept saying “my baby, my baby, my baby”. I could hear my mom crying in the background and telling me I did it. She was beautiful and I was so relieved and happy that she was out. My husband got to cut the cord.

Once they took her to get cleaned up they started trying to get out my placenta. This involved some more pushing and digging on their part. These poor nurses were up to their elbows trying to scrape out the rest of my placenta. Yes that was as pleasant as it sounds. It was actually super painful. I also started losing a lot of blood. Every time they pushed on my belly, huge gushes would come out. It was disgusting and weird. Once all that awesomeness was done, they put it one stitch and I went on my way to the recovery room. 

We took a few minutes to get settled and then I wanted to try and breastfeed the baby. I was actually really excited to try this. I had dreamed about it and had heard that it was just amazing and created such an amazing bond. I was way past the point of exhaustion at this point having not slept at all during a 38 hour labor but I was determined to feed her for as long as she wanted. I knew that not much would come out at first.

I knew that babies had tiny little bellies and that all she needed was the colostrum at this point. What I wasn’t prepared for was that she was just as exhausted as I was.

And due to the magnesium she had no interest in feeding. She just wanted to sleep. I just wanted to sleep. But I knew she had to eat. We had to establish this breastfeeding relationship. This was supposed to work. We tried undressing her and tickling her to get her to wake up. She would wake for a second and latch but then quickly fall asleep. The nurse said we were doing okay and at least she had latched. We would try again in two hours.


And then came the visitors. ALL the visitors. People were very excited about this new little baby of ours. I was too and I was excited that they were excited but I JUST WANTED TO SLEEP. And I wanted to eat but I still wasn’t allowed to for 24 hours. I also was stuck to my bed with compression devices on my legs to ward off blood clots.

Let’s just say I didn’t want any more visitors. But being the people pleasers my husband and I are, we didn’t know how to say no to people.

I suffered on even though at one point I was so out of it that I didn’t even recognize a friend of ours from softball. I thought he was one of the nurses come to take my blood pressure again for the millionth time. We had at least 20 visitors that day.

As the day went on, I still couldn’t really get maelyn to stay latched on for long. A lactation consultant came to our room. She suggested that I start pumping with the hospital pump and tried to help me get maelyn to stay latched. She was super pushy and grabby and didn’t speak English well. I was agonizingly tired and annoyed and she was not helping one bit. Later in the day, she came and said we’d just have to give maelyn formula. I was flabbergasted. I thought she was supposed to help me make this work. Not push formula on us. I was frustrated and angry. Eventually I gave in and let them give her a little formula by dropper. I already felt like a failure. Why wasn’t my milk coming in?

By Friday morning, I got to take a shower. It was the most glorious shower known to man. Or woman I guess.  I also got to eat. I had asked my husband to get me a mcdonalds breakfast sandwich for my first meal. That choice was a blessing . All that greasy goodness tasted like heaven. And it also made that first postpartum poop a breeze. We’ll just leave it at that ;)

We were told we would be going home that evening and we were pretty excited. I felt much better and was anxious to get into my own bed. We were hoping for maybe like 6pm but it ended up being after midnight because somebody couldn’t get their paperwork in order. Once we got home, we settled in for our first night. We put her in her swing and laid on the living room floor watching her. We were too anxious to sleep and spent most of the first night just making sure she was breathing. 

The next morning the visiting nurse came. She reminded me a bit of the lactation consultant. Kind of pushy and not much help. The first thing she did was look Maelyn over and weigh her. Once she weighed her, all hell broke loose. She freaked out saying that Maelyn had lost way too much weight and she needed to be seen by the doctor very soon. Being the week of Christmas, it was hard to get a hold of anyone and she probably spent a good half hour on the phone. I was crying now and again feeling like a failure. I had continued to try and breastfeed Maelyn every two hours around the clock but I was pretty sure my milk wasn’t in yet. Again, she said we would have to do formula. Again, I let her do it. But I literally felt like I was poisoning her. I had such a warped sense of what was okay and not okay back then.

I wanted the BEST for my baby and didn’t want to accept anything else. We’re all taught that breast is best. 


We got her into the doctor the next day and they were still concerned about her weight. They wanted me to continue to supplement with formula, breastfeed every two hours, and return in two days. FINALLY 5 days after she was born, my milk came in! I was so relieved! She was still pretty sleepy during the day and had a hard time staying awake for feedings but was doing better and even gained some weight at her next appointment. We would have two or three more weight checks until she was finally at a good weight. 

Once her weight had settled I was relieved but concerned about a new issue. It was something I had worried about since I got pregnant. I have a long history of anxiety and depression. During my pregnancy, I was a bit overly emotional about things but what pregnant lady isn’t. But now a week postpartum, I could feel some serious baby blues setting in. I remember the exact feeling. I was sitting on the couch and still hadn’t slept more than a few hours in the last week and an overwhelming sense of anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember thinking, nothing will ever be the same. I’ll never get to relax again. Ill never get to “go to bed” since she doesn’t sleep at night. Ill never be off duty. This will never end. This will never get better. And nobody understands.

Everybody said, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Well what if your baby wont sleep anywhere but in your arms and you can’t fall asleep like that?

 

My husband offered to take her but I knew I couldn’t sleep knowing that she was awake and I wasn’t there for her. Also because I was breastfeeding and had stopped supplementing, I figured there was no point in both of us being tired. 

Every night things got worse.. Every morning my husband would come check on us and I would just shake my head in tears. Meanwhile, people still wanted to visit and see the baby. It literally took every ounce of me to try to keep it together in front of company. I was still so incredibly tired and we were still struggling with breastfeeding. One particular time we had company and it was time for the baby to eat. I didn’t feel like messing with the cover so I excused myself and went into the back room to feed her. During this time it was not unusual for her to take an hour to eat. She was fussy and would latch and unlatch and cry a lot. I didn’t know then, that this was because of reflux. Anyways, so I had been feeding her for some time and my husband came and knocked on the door and said our visitors would like to see the baby. And I said, well they’ll have to wait because she’s eating. He responded that she’d been eating for an hour and just ate less than two hours ago. Well no shit Sherlock! Did he think I was doing this for fun? That I liked getting my nipples gnawed on and dealing with a crying fussing baby. I was just desperately just trying to get her to eat. That was a really bad night. I’d also figure out later that I had D-MER. Which stands for dysphoric milk ejection reflex. Yeah lucky me. That made things even more miserable. 

We also noticed about this time that she had started spitting up a lot and crying pretty much non stop. I did some internet research and figured out pretty quickly that she probably had reflux. We took her to the doctor and she agreed. I was so happy to have an answer. I was so hoping this was the answer to all my problems. This was why she cried all the time. This was why she never slept. This was why breastfeeding was so freaking hard. We got a script for zantac and practically ran to the pharmacy. You never want to have to give your baby medicine, but if this was the answer, I was ready. Later that night she got her first dose. Fingers crossed.

That night was…no different than any other night. She maybe cried a little less but still didn’t sleep. I still hadn’t slept. It had been weeks. I hadn’t slept more than an hour at a time in weeks. I was starting to unravel quickly. This was evidently not the answer to all my prayers. There was only one thing left to do. I called my mom. I needed her. I gave up. I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed her to take over for a night because I was starting to have thoughts that I won’t ever say out loud. Thoughts that I won’t even write on paper. Thoughts that no sane person would ever have. I knew things were bad because I had a hard time standing up straight and I had pretty much quit eating. I couldn’t do anything but rock the baby and stare off into space. She came over that night and took over. I told her to wake me up in two hours to feed the baby but she let me sleep and gave Maelyn formula. I slept 7 glorious hours. I was so grateful for the sleep but I still woke up frantic. I just couldn’t relax. And I was upset that Maelyn had formula. She had spit up most of it too which made me feel worse. I know my mom made the right decision letting me sleep but I was still sad. I needed to see a doctor and I knew it. Even with help, I was just still feeling so panicked all the time. 

I made an appointment with my ob and my regular doctor. They both agreed that I could up my anxiety medicine a bit and still breastfeed. There was some talk of taking some more serious meds and quitting breastfeeding but I didn’t agree to that. I kind of wish I would have though because things still didn’t get better for a while. I still wasn’t sleeping and maelyn was still very fussy at the breast.

I HATED breastfeeding. And I hated that I hated it. I was supposed to love it. What was wrong with me?

Why couldn’t I do anything right. I also felt like I had very little support when it came to breastfeeding. My husband did not understand for the life of him why I wouldn’t just switch to formula. He didn’t understand the overwhelming guilt I had about how poorly things were going. I also got the sense that it embarrassed and inconvenienced him when we had company. We had more than one fight where I was accused of feeding the baby too much. This made me WTF all over the place. 

Eventually I cracked and we decided to do formula at night so that I could try to sleep a little. We went through about 5 different kinds before we found one that she did well on. That was pretty stressful too and every time she reacted poorly, I blamed myself. Once we found a formula she liked (similac) I tried to sleep at night. But I still couldn’t. I knew that she was out there with my husband was likely crying and I just couldn’t relax enough to do it. Around this time, he started to crack too. In the first month or two he had been really good about trying to help me with the exception of some stupid breastfeeding comments. But now he was pretty much over it. He was tired. He was sick of me not sleeping. Sick of the baby not sleeping. Sick of worrying about us. Things were bad.

I think the universe knew that I literally couldn’t handle one more day of this and things started to change around the time that maelyn started to smile and interact a little. She also cried a little less and slept at least two/three hours at a time in her rock and play. Things were still tough but getting a little better. I went back to work when Maelyn was 4 months old. I also quit breastfeeding. 


I think those two things made a huge difference. I no longer felt like I was attached to this little needy being 24 hours a day. I had a purpose besides being a milking cow. I almost felt a little bit like me again. Yes I missed her like crazy. I literally thought about her 24 hours a day. But in the end, I needed that break. It made me appreciate her so much more when I got home.

Now that we are 6 months in. Things are soooo much better. She can smile, laugh, play, roll, sit up on her own, and eat baby food. She still has some reflux issues but rarely cries anymore. She also started sleeping through the night in the last couple weeks. Like 10 hours straight! It is sooooooo amazing after 6 months of broken sleep. It still takes 2-3 hours to get her to go to bed at night but I’ll take it. She’s really got her own little personality now and I absolutely love it. She’s a mama’s girl but always saves some huge smiles for her daddy. 

So I guess the lesson here is that it will get better. As cheesy as it sounds, its true. Will your life ever be the same again? No. But it will be wonderful in different ways. Things did not turn out according to “plan” AT ALL! I am a totally different mother than I thought I’d be. I never thought in a million years that I wouldn’t still be breastfeeding and that I’d be happy to be back at work. But you know what? That’s okay! She is happy and healthy and so am I. That’s all that matters. So if you are out there right now staring at the computer screen with bleary tired eyes and a new crying baby on your lap. Just know that you are NOT alone. Lots of people reached out to me to tell me that when I was struggling and I really appreciated it. I just wanted to do the same and hope somebody somewhere doesn’t feel quite so alone anymore. You got this mama!

Megan Thornton | USA | Mama to Maelyn, 20 months


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