Brooks Thomas: A Birth Story

To read Emory Catherine’s birth story, click here. To read about my postpartum experience with her, click here.

Brooks Thomas Redinger // Born Saturday June 15th, 2019 12:04pm // 7lb 12 oz // 19.5″

Our sweet Brooks has been here for over a week. I just adore birth stories, and treasure writing out my own to look back on when all of the beautiful, hard, painful, wild details have gotten a bit fuzzy. Here’s Brooks’ birth story!

Prodromal Labor & Early Labor

Almost a week before Brooks actually made his arrival, I experienced the hell that is prodromal labor. Seriously, this could be used as a torture device. Since I have an “irritable uterus,” I’d been having strong Braxton Hicks contractions for over a week–but they were never timeable or regular, just very uncomfortable.

On Sunday evening, Matt, Emmy and I were sitting eating dinner and I had a very strong contraction that actually made me laugh because of the intensity. And then came another. And another. Four minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds – 1 minute long. And this went on for over an hour. We decided to text our midwives and have my parents go ahead and head this way (a 2.5 hour drive) so that they could be here with Emmy when we decided to head to the birth center.

But about an hour later, they abruptly stopped. I tried bouncing on the ball, walking, telling baby it was okay to come–but nothing. Done. Enter the emotional rollercoaster of prodromal labor.

The next Friday I was woken up at 5am with similar contractions. Every five minutes, lasting a minute, for over 2.5 hours. These were even MORE uncomfortable. It was so hard to make the decision to ask my parents to come again, since my mind knew these could fizzle out. But I was nervous about who would take care of Emmy (I think ultimately this anxiety is what contributed to my labor taking a few days to really kick start), so we asked them to come. Sure enough, an hour or so later, they fizzled out. I went on a long walk, and they kind of picked back up to the point where I needed to breathe through them. And on we went through the day with very uncomfortable, borderline painful contractions that were simply inconsistent.

After chatting with our midwife, we decided to come in later that morning for a membrane sweep. It’s here that I’ll start the swooning over our birth team, since I want them to know just how amazing and supportive they are. I was at 2cm and about 50% effaced, and the sweep went fine. Cindy encouraged us (since my parents were in town) to go on a date, so that we did. We headed out for a lunch date, bought Emmy some new shoes at Nike, and I got an ice cream cone from Kilwins.

On and on these annoying contractions went until they fizzled around 10pm that night.

Labor & Delivery

As frustrated as I was that these contractions weren’t the “real” thing, I was able to get some rest until at about 12:30am I was woken with a VERY strong contraction. Definitely had to close my eyes and breathe through it. And then, about seven minutes later, another one. Strong. Intense. But definitely not getting my hopes up. And then they came. Seven minutes apart, 1:10 long, for about two hours. I got in the shower to see if that would help, and that’s when Matt woke up and came to check on me. He suggested I text our midwives just in case, and Cindy asked if I wanted to head to the birth center. I replied, “Probably home for just a bit more, but if they keep up like this it won’t be long.” And not as soon as I could hit send, WHAM came a brutal contraction that I had to moan through. I immediately texted Cindy back, “Never mind think it’s time to go.”

We arrived at the birth center around 3am and I was checked and only at 4cm, 50-60% effaced and at a -2/-3 station. I should’ve probably been encouraged since I’d clearly made progress from 2cm earlier in the day, but these contractions were so painful that I thought surely I’d be at least a six. I hopped on the birth ball with my head resting on the bed and worked through contraction after contraction as we waited to see what my body was doing. My vitals and baby’s were checked and we were both doing great. I decided to get in the shower, which was surprising since during Emmy’s labor getting in the shower was actually my breaking point where I decided to transfer to the hospital, but thankfully this time the shower was heaven.

At this point I was VERY tired. I’d had about two hours of sleep in 24 hours, and these contractions were killer. Unfortunately, even with their intensity, they were still oddly far apart and not lasting as long as we wanted them to. I kept falling asleep in between each contraction only to be woken up moaning through the next one. (I’m SUPER primally vocal during labor.)

At some point I asked if I could get in the tub, and Cindy recommended I be checked so that I wouldn’t get in the tub too early and stall labor. When she checked me I was at 6cm, which again was disappointing since I felt that I should be at a 7/8 based on the intensity alone. But, Cindy, being as amazing as she is, celebrated the 6cm and said it was the perfect point to get in the tub.

The tub was amazing. Felt so good. But it also made me insanely sleepy, and I dozed in and out which made my contractions become even further apart–the opposite of what we wanted. So Cindy suggested I get out of the tub and walk around to try and really get things going.

The birth center was quiet (we were the only ones there) and dawn was breaking–along with my mental strength. The contractions were SO PAINFUL and I was losing it. I started sobbing, saying I couldn’t do it anymore, saying how tired I was, saying how much I missed Emmy, and just crying in general. (A good doula would probably note here that this is generally a great sign! When mom starts to say she can’t do it anymore it means the end is often nearing!) I sat in the rocking chair in one of the rooms, watching the sun rise, and cried through a few more contractions. Matt gave me an incredible pep talk, and told me that physically my strength was NOT failing, but that mentally it was and I needed to keep my head in the game. I knew he was right–my body was strong and still had the reserves to see this through, but I had to mentally fight just as hard. We had a verse that we kept praying over me throughout labor, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, for God goes with you.” (Deut 31:6 & Joshua 1:9) and we both would repeat it out loud.

We went back to the birthing suite and I got back on the ball. At some point the intensity ramped up even more, and I tried the nitrous oxide (laughing gas). It was helpful for about 50% of the contractions, but it’s no epidural. It’s kind of like having a strong cocktail. It’d take the edge off the mild contractions, but do nothing for the intense ones.

At some point I got back into the tub, and started vomiting (thankfully Matt had grabbed a sickness bag). Classic transition signs! I hate that I vomit during labor (who wants to throw up on top of a contraction?!) but I try and accept that it’s just my body doing the work it needs to birth a baby.

Around 10:30pm I was checked again and I was at 8-9cm with a bulging bag of waters. Cindy said that she was confident that once my water broke, I’d progress to a 10 almost immediately and be ready to push. She said she’d like that to happen naturally, but that she could break my water for me if that’s what I wanted. I decided to wait and see if these super intense contractions would do the trick, but they wouldn’t. I asked Matt if he thought I should have her break my water, and he recommended I wait for 10 more contractions. TEN!!!! I didn’t even want to have ten more contractions PERIOD, let alone wait through them to make a decision! But I did. I kept breathing and moaning and yelling and after 10 or so contractions I asked Cindy to break my water. (Note: I think it’s around this point that the other midwives arrived, but I can’t be sure! All of sudden they were just all there!)

I knew that having my water broken would make the contractions even more intense and painful, but I needed progress to be made. So Cindy broke my water and immediately I felt his head move down into the birth canal. And, as predicted, immediately the contractions became almost unbearable. I tried nitrous again but it wasn’t even touching them. Cindy asked if I could sit on the toilet since it’s a great position to push in, but as soon as I sat down I threw up everywhere! (Side note that midwives/nurses are the absolute best since they get puked on and pooped on and literally all of the bodily fluids and are still so kind and like “omg no big deal!” when really you’re mortified.) I immediately wanted off the toilet and decided to get back in the tub.

The water felt good but the pressure in my back was excruciating. Two of the midwives were reaching underwater to try and provide counter pressure through the contractions, but it wasn’t enough. I literally wanted someone to take a sledgehammer to my back. They suggested I move to a hands and knees position, leaning over the tub wall. Honestly the thought of even moving made me want to scream, but somehow they got me in that position and were able to provide enough pressure to take the worst part off.

This is when it gets to be the worst pain of my entire life. (So sorry if you’re reading this preparing for a natural labor! You can do it! Promise!) I was screaming like a banshee through each contraction, gripping the side of the tub and pushing as if my life depended on it. Matt and the midwives kept encouraging me to control my pushing and blow my breath out, but I was on a kamikaze mission to push this pain out. The “ring of fire” is a very real thing, and doesn’t just last through one contraction.

I was told to get into a lunge position (LOLLLLLL) and in my head I think I cursed them out, but thankfully just said “no” out loud. But they were adamant, and so they picked my leg up to get me into position. Lots of screaming. Matt was at my head trying to get me to control my breathing. At one point Cindy said that once he was delivered, she’d pass him up through my legs for me to catch him. This was wildly encouraging because it meant the end was near.

With a few more screams his head was delivered. I reached down and felt it, and waited for the next contraction to come so I could push his body out. And then he was there. Up between my legs, and I grabbed him and brought him to my chest. The instant relief was mind blowing. I’d done it. He was here.

12 hours of “real” labor, 20 minutes of pushing. Welcome, sweet Brooks.

The midwives quickly moved because his cord was wrapped around his neck twice–which explains why labor took quite some time and contractions had a hard time getting closer together and longer: he couldn’t really drop down properly because the cord had been shortened by the wrapping. Thankfully he’s a strong little dude, and was never in distress at any point.

He opened his eyes immediately, and just looked around. It’s common for babies born in the water to not cry, and cry he did not. He just looked around and took in the world. Such an amazing moment to just sit and watch his first moments of life on the outside.

After he was born, Matt cut the cord and I handed Brooks to him so I could deliver the placenta (which took a few more very painful contractions–much different than my experience with Emmy), and then we moved back to the bed to snuggle up for the first hour. We ordered McAllisters for lunch, had his newborn exam done in the bed with us, and initiated breastfeeding. I took a shower. And magically, within four hours of him being born, we were headed home to rest and bond in our own space. (I get teary-eyed thinking about saying goodbye to Cindy as we loaded up the car, since she’s just the best and I absolutely couldn’t have done this without her.)

One of our sweet midwives Abby performing Brooks’ newborn exam

Brooks Thomas, you’re a chill little dude, and have been since the moment you arrived. We love you so stinking much, and remember to always be strong and courageous, and do not be afraid, for the Lord your God goes with you. (And mommy and daddy, too.)

Thoughts on Adding Baby #2

I had to check the last time I posted a blog. It was five months ago, which is actually sooner than I thought, but I also hadn’t posted for four months before that. Basically, motherhood = quicksand for blogging. 

I’m 34 weeks pregnant today with baby boy. His sweet sister is 20 months, and I’m having all the feelings about adding another child (let alone a boy!) into our family. I’m documenting this for my own “dear diary” sake, but I’m taking you along for the ride.

Physically
Physically, this pregnancy has been much harder than Emmy’s, even though I’ve been about 100% more active. With Emmy’s pregnancy, I spent almost all of the time on the couch. Not because I felt terrible (although there were those days), but because I was just lazy. Now I’ve got a toddler to chase after, and I try and get to the gym twice a week. Pilates has also helped a lot, but I’m still dealing with SI joint pain and restless leg syndrome–which should be used as a form of torture if it isn’t already.

Emotionally
Woooooooooah doozy. I’ve got a lot of feels. Mainly because I, like most parents of one child, am having a *really* hard time thinking that I can love another child as much as I love Emmy. I know, I know–I will be able to and it’ll be amazing how much my heart can expand (as much as my hips? hopefully). But that’s no consolation for what I’m feeling now as I walk through the “big feelings” stage with Emmy. She has no clue what’s going to hit her. She’ll be 22 months when he arrives. Bless it.

Thankfully, I know that I was obsessed with my little sister when she arrived, so I’m hoping Emmy takes to the role as I did. I also know that grace upon grace upon grace for our little girl will be super important. She’s not even two, for crying out loud.

I also am having a hard time wrapping my head around caring for two kids. Honestly it seems impossible, but thankfully there are those of you who do this for a living and are still alive, so that gives me hope. I just can’t wrap my head around getting two kids in and out of the car, run errands, whatever. Like, I’m already sweating thinking about that. Two kids + fluctuating hormones + a Florida summer = WOW that lady needs a towel or a shower or both.

BOY?!
Not going to lie, my first thoughts when we found out it was a boy (even though my mama gut had told me it was a boy from very early on), was, “What do we do with a boy?!” I only have sisters, Matt only has a sister, and I’ve really only babysat girls. I’m actually still wrapping my head around what it’ll look like to add a boy to our family. My one comfort in this nervousness is that we KNOW that God is the one who knits families together, and he’d only send us the one right child for us. And THAT makes me excited.

What’s his name????
Because I sometimes think we’re part of the royal family (Emory *Catherine* is a nod to Princess Kate), we keep our babies’ names tight lipped until their arrival, just like the royals do. There are only three people who know his name: me, Matt, and Emmy. And Emmy can’t really say it, so our secret is safe ;) We’ve had complete strangers ask if we have a name picked, and we don’t even tell them.

Will you have more? Is this the last one since you’ll have a boy and a girl? 
I don’t love that everyone asks this, but I know I wonder it about my friends, too. Honestly, we don’t know! I can see us both being “done” and adding one more–but I think only time and experience and listening to God’s will for our family will tell. Postpartum was REALLY hard with Emmy, and if it’s the same this go-round then I’ll obviously be less inclined to have a go at “third time’s the charm.”

Will you breastfeed? 
Also, another interesting “not your business” question, but I seem to be into answering those, SO: yes. I will breastfeed. I will maybe breastfeed for one day. I will maybe breastfeed for one year. I will maybe breastfeed until it makes you uncomfortable. Breastfeeding was insanely difficult and painful with Emmy (did you see a lactation consultant? did you try essential oils? was she checked for a lip/tongue tie? it was probably your latch. #momgroups) and while we tried a lot of things, ultimately it was not the right decision for us to continue (mainly thanks to PPA and DMER, google it) and we stopped after about 8 weeks. I’d really love to go longer with baby boy, but obviously my mental health has got to come first, so formula is never off the table.

Will you try for a home birth again? 
No, we are delivering at a birth center this time. Honestly, laboring at home (for EIGHTEEN HOURS) was so so so hard. I thought that it would be all comfy cozy and help being in “my” space, but I think it actually made it worse. I felt trapped once nighttime came, and had a hard time getting in the right head space. I think a birth center will be the best of both worlds for us. They’ve also got nitrous oxide (laughing gas) if I need it to take the edge off (they compare it to having a cocktail, and it wears off immediately once I take the mask off if I don’t like how it makes me feel). Another huge perk of a birth center is that they’ve got anti-nausea meds on hand–which will be amazing if my body decides to vomit like the exorcist with this birth like I did with Emmy’s. #transition

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Obviously, despite all of the trepidation I’m feeling, we are beyond excited to meet our sweet little guy. I can’t wait to see what he looks like, if he has hair, what his personality is like, etc. I can’t wait to hold him against my chest once he’s born, and to make him feel safe and loved like we did with his sister. And I can’t wait for her to meet him, and hopefully she’ll realize he’s here to stay.

And no, his name is not Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

xo, A

 

Emmy’s 10 Must-Have Baby Items

Now that Emmy is O N E (!), I thought I’d compile a list of our top 10 picks from her first year. These items are the things we couldn’t live without, and are BOTH Emmy and Mommy approved! (I asked Matt for his input and said, “If you had a friend who was pregnant, what’s the #1 thing you’d tell them to get for the baby?” And he said “A really good mommy” #heispresh)

1. A Baby Carrier // Our favorites are the Solly wrap and the Wildbird sling. Vastly different (yet serving the same purpose–a close, cuddly baby and a hands-free mama or dada), we’ve used both in different stages. Only wanting to get one? I’d choose the Solly. It’s softer and has less of a learning curve. Matt personally loved the Solly and refuses to wear the Wildbird, even though they’re both neutral colors. #men

 

 

2. Footie Jammies // This might be obvious, but also might not be. Emmy has spent at LEAST half her life in footie jammies. And if she’s anything like her mama, she hates having her feet cold. Our top brand picks are Burt’s Bees (size up) and L’oved Baby (true to size).

 

 

 

3. Books // Also obvious, but there are some real hidden gems out there. Check out:

4. PBS Kids App & Netflix // Yes this is technically two things, but the use we’ve had for Emmy from both has been amazing. I think there’s some science about how every minute a baby watches TV an angel loses its wings or something, but Little Baby Bum (Netflix) and Super Why (Netflix & PBS app) have saved us both many times. PBS Kids App is free, Netflix is….however much Netflix is.

 

 

5. Promptly Childhood History Journal // This is so much MORE than a baby book. It covers pregnancy through age 18. That might sound overwhelming, but it’s got manageable prompts, and once they turn one you’re only filling it out once a year. Plus it’s beautiful. This will be such an heirloom.

 

 

6. White Noise Machine // Kid can’t sleep? Please tell me you’ve got a white noise machine going FULL BLAST. We have this one, and it’s the loudest BUT it’s broke after 9 months of use. Thankfully the manufacturer sent us a new one (like four weeks later, ugh). We also have this one and use them both. Don’t think you’re using white noise if it’s on the lowest volume setting. The white noise they heard in your belly is apparently equivalent to running a vacuum, so turn the dang machine up!

 

 

 

7. Solly Swaddle Blanket // This was gifted to us by my friend Madison and now it’s my #1 baby shower gift. They’re a little pricey so moms often won’t buy for themselves, but this is the most buttery-soft blanket EVER. It’s super lightweight (so great for Florida), and huge so you can legitimately swaddle a baby in it. I’m convinced I’m going to use it as a scarf or something once we’re done using it as a baby blanket.

 

 

8. Ingenuity High Chair // This has served the purposes of both a Bumbo and a high chair. The tray stores under the seat which is GENIUS and is also dishwasher safe.

 

 

9. Boppy Lounger // Emmy probably spent *too* much time in this, but whatever. It was great to put her on and feed her a bottle, or just for her to lounge while I cleaned up, did laundry, or took a shower. We literally just put this away for good like three weeks ago, so it gets plenty of use!

 

 

 

10. Love To Dream 50/50 Swaddle: This thing was the BEST and Emmy slept so well in it. It allows babies to keep their hands near their face for self-soothing, but is snug in the chest for them to feel like they’re still being hugged. Once you’re ready to start working on arms-out swaddling, you can unzip one “wing” at a time to allow baby to adjust. Seriously worth EVERY PENNY.

Mama Bear

We hear her little coos from the monitor, her way of soothing herself to sleep at night. At seven months old we’re teaching her to sleep independently, and she’s done so great. It’s as if she’s saying, “Yes, mommy, I like peace and quiet, too.”

My husband and I smile when we hear her. I’ve got a glass of red, he’s got March Madness.

“Do you ever think about her dying?” I ask. She’s not sick. She doesn’t have cancer or one of the eleventy billion genetic disorders you learn about during pregnancy. She hasn’t even had a cold yet. So I’m trying to gauge if this is my post-partum anxiety speaking or if it’s just part of being a parent.

“Yes, actually, I do,” he replies.

Oh. So it’s the latter.

****

Everyone warns you about the worry that comes with being a parent. You worry about them falling, about them sticking their finger in a light socket (what is a light socket, even?), about them getting their feelings hurt by Sassy Sally in the second grade.

But no one tells you about the quiet moments where you’re studying their little features: the way the tips of her fingers are redder than the rest of her hand, the way she scrunches her nose when she smiles, the way her belly button looks like an upside-down smiley face—no one tells you that when you’re studying them, you’re begging for them to imprint in your memory in case one day they’re gone. Really gone.

It’s too hard to talk about these things, these fears. We talk about our babies growing up, “Oh these sweet little toes won’t be around forever because you’re going to grow up and be a big girl with big toes!” But in those quiet moments, studying their features, we’re begging God to let them grow up. To keep them safe. To not let them die.

****

I start crying. My husband mutes the TV. I’m overwhelmed by the fear of my losing my baby. He grabs my hand, “She’s not ours, you know. She never was, and she never will be.”

I know what he’s talking about. She’s God’s child. We have no ownership over her. We only have the distinct honor and privilege of being her parents here on earth. “We just have to be grateful for the time we have with her until she’s gone, or hopefully, until we’re gone. God has a purpose for her life here until she’s back home with Him.”

No one warns you about these conversations. No one prepares you for the anger you have at this truth, that they’re not really yours and that one day she will go home to her Father. You can only protect them from so much, Mama Bear.

****

I think about how brave she’s been in these first seven months of her life. The trauma of being born, the shots, the painful reflux, the learning about the world and that mommy and daddy willcomebackwepromise! How stinking resilient she is, how resilient all children are. And I think about how very not brave I’ve been. How very scared. How very not resilient.

It’s so backwards, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be armed with resiliency as adults? I’d love a big glass of toughness with a side of quick-to-recover and roll-with-the-punches when I sit here thinking about my baby girl dying and what that would be like.

I sit with these fears and try and plan for how I can prevent them. The measures I can take to protect my children from the destructive hands of death. The food I feed, the car seats I choose, the cribs, the safe sleep, the germs, the watchful eye, the GPS.

But she’s not immune, and I can only do so much. And that’s scary. It just is. There aren’t words to soothe that fear, there aren’t classes I can take or books I can read. But I must remind myself: it’s okay to be afraid of that. It’s all right to just sit with that fear, studying her toes and her wisps of hair and how she kind of snort-coughs in her sleep.

Because she’s not really mine. She’s His. And as scary as that is, it really should be the most comforting thing in the world because His love is greater. His love knows no end, no beginning. He formed her in my womb and He calls her His own.

And guess what? He calls us His own, too. He knows our mama hearts. He knows we’re scared and would do anything to protect our sweet babies. We’re His daughters, and He is holding just as tightly to us as He is our babies.

So let’s study their features. Let’s hold them tight. Let’s face the fear head on, knowing that we have the God of Angel Armies by our side, regardless of the way our story, and the story of our babies, writes itself.

 

Postpartum.

As I write this, we’re sitting waiting for Hurricane Irma to hit. Writing about the hardest period in my life (the postpartum period) seems fitting to do while we wait for one of the worst natural disasters to hit. #eyeroll. This is a long post, and full of heavy stuff, but I think I’m only starting to feel okay because of other moms who’ve walked alongside me and shared their stories. So here’s mine. I so, so hope it helps another mama know she’s not alone.

I’m three weeks postpartum today, and I finally feel like the fog is starting to lift—if the fog was a toxic, deadly fume that came with total sleep deprivation and anxiety like none other.

I’ll start at the beginning and work my way towards today…

Emory was born at 9:43am on Sunday, August 20th after a borderline traumatic labor experience. But there was a magic to the hour or two following her birth; her daddy and I were smitten, she was beautiful and healthy, and I was unbelievably thankful to have the pain of labor behind me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the end of things.

You always hear stories about how in love you fall with your baby as soon as you see them. And there were definitely feelings I’ve never experienced, and I would’ve definitely given my life for that sweet child immediately, but there was not this beautiful afterglow of labor where I spent time ooh-ing over every feature, falling in love with her and feeling this immeasurable bond. In fact, none of that happened. I had a pretty significant tear that required some extensive suturing, I was exhausted beyond all understanding, and  I was emotionally starting to process what had unfolded and how we didn’t get the home birth I had so wanted.

Within a few hours (I think?) we were moved upstairs to the mother & baby unit. We said goodbye to our sweet nurses, and said hello to a new set that were…well…less than that. I mean they were nice, but our L&D nurses really set the bar high.

Once we got “settled” into our new room, things started to really hit. My hormones were plummeting, and as someone who suffers from anxiety disorder to begin with, I was starting to get super emotional and scared over everything. Was Emmy breathing? Was she cold or uncomfortable? And mostly…was she eating?

We had latched her on within an hour of birth. And by “we”, I mean the baby nurse. I honestly don’t even remember it. But let’s just say, it did some damage. And when we tried again once we were in our new room, she refused to latch to my other breast, so we went back to the damaged side and, not surprisingly, did even more damage.

Emmy was going 6-ish hours between “feedings” and my anxiety was skyrocketing because I knew I wasn’t doing something right. The night nurse had me try a nipple shield, which actually just messed up the other breast instead of helping. I was still in a huge daze and would watch her sleep, picturing the clock ticking by each minute that she hadn’t eaten. Eventually, the lactation consultant came by and her words were, “Oh man, your nipples look terrible.” Thanks. So comforting.

Since Shands is a “baby-friendly” designated hospital (super pro-breastfeeding, pacifiers are a no-no, and formula is definitely not the standard), we knew breastfeeding would be pushed hard and fast. So to hear that we needed to start supplementing her was kind of shocking. Since I had so much trauma to my breasts already, there was no way we could keep trying to get her to latch. So that started a cycle where I’d pump to stimulate milk production, hand express what little colostrum I could get out, feed that to Emmy via a syringe, and then finger-feed her formula (using a syringe to feed her through a feeding tube against my finger, so she’d still have to suck for food). It was exhausting and emotional and painful.

Once the pediatric team came for her 24-hour evaluation, they weren’t happy with how little she was feeding. There were talks of us having to stay another night until we could figure it out. The pediatrician mentioned a lip/tongue tie, but she didn’t think Emmy had that issue.

But the lactation consultant did.

And so began the battle of whether or not we needed to “fix” a tie that did or did not exist. Eventually, an OT who was also a lactation consultant came in and cast the deciding vote–that she did not have an issue and was just too tense to feed. We were to try and coax Emmy to relax her shoulders, but my tissue was still too traumatized to even attempt feeding her at the breast.

Eventually, we were told we could be discharged, as long as we saw our pediatrician and a lactation consultant the next day. I was exhausted, emotional, scared, and just had a general feeling of malaise. My parents and sister came to visit us in the hospital, and I just remember feeling so sad. For no real reason. I wanted to go home and I didn’t want to go home. I was so scared that Emmy wasn’t okay. When the nurse came in to do her heel stick, and Emmy wailed, I sat on the bed next to her holding her hand just weeping. I felt like I could throw up. I knew it was just a little prick, but I felt every cell in my body writhing in anxiety and fear.

I was also surprised at how much pain I was in physically. I remember hearing that once the baby is born, you go from “a ten to a zero on the pain scale.” As my cousin said, I’m calling bullshit on that. It was so hard to walk to the bathroom, and even sitting up hurt.

Finally, around 7pm, we were “discharged” and told we needed to wait for the transport team to wheel us out of there. Our nurse gave us an insane amount of information, from everything on SIDS to when to call 911 to “bonding” with your baby.

Then shift change happened, and we were forgotten about. We waited for over an hour for the transport team to come, and they never did. We kept asking, but we didn’t have a nurse assigned to us anymore since we had been “discharged”, and we just sat in our room waiting. I started sobbing. I was so tired, hadn’t slept, and was slowly being consumed by a fear and anxiety that was growing like weeds. I couldn’t stop crying. Matt finally took Emmy and walked down the hall (a MAJOR no-no) which caused the nurses to freak out immediately. Which, frankly, was exactly what he wanted, and told them they needed to find someone to get us out of there ASAP.

Within ten minutes, we were finally wheeled out. Matt went to go get the car, and I held Emmy, still sobbing, wondering why this wasn’t this magical “going home” moment I so often saw. It was past 9pm, and was dark and silent and hot out. While waiting for Matt with the car, the nurse who had wheeled me down proceeded to tell me about the last mom who had to wait 2 hours to get discharged and how it was even worse for her because her baby had just died.

I think I broke at that point. I stopped crying and just fell into myself. I was terrified putting her in the car seat, and cried all the way home because I didn’t know if she was breathing or not. When we got home, I got in the shower and had a complete panic attack. I felt like I was losing my mind. I vividly remember wanting to climb the walls, wishing Emmy would just go away so we could have our old life back. I didn’t want her anymore. I just wanted Matt and I to be able to crawl into bed and snuggle and watch TV, not deal with our crying baby who I didn’t even know how to feed.

I didn’t want to hold her. I didn’t want Matt to hold her either, because I wanted him to hold me. But she was hysterical (um, who wouldn’t be at less than 2 days old and in a totally new place and pretty freaking hungry). Thank God for my sweet husband, who turned a steamy shower on and sat on the bathroom counter for three hours with her because the steam and noise calmed her down.

I laid in bed feeling like the worst mother on the planet. I couldn’t calm my baby, I couldn’t feed her, I didn’t want to even hold her, and my poor husband –who was also sleep deprived–was now being forced to sit for hours on end on our bathroom counter. Just writing it makes me sick to my stomach.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such a combination of fear and anxiety and sadness. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t stop crying. I would just shake and feel like I was going to vomit. And it didn’t stop.

I remember wanting to take this picture during a meltdown, because I just KNEW that there would have to be another side to this season and that I’d want to reach back and hug this girl.

The next day I knew something was wrong. I knew I wasn’t doing okay, and that I needed help. I’d cry and cry and cry each day, because I just couldn’t do it. Unknowingly, we weren’t feeding Emmy enough because we didn’t know anything about formula feeding, and didn’t know that we needed to be quickly increasing her feeds. God had his hands on that girl since she somehow didn’t starve.

Our pediatrician saw us the day after we got home, and helped us understand that we needed to feed her more. And gave us the contact information for an amazing lactation consultant, who came to our home the next day, after giving me tips on how to quickly heal my damaged nipples.

When she arrived, she got Emmy to latch immediately. It was a miracle. We did a weighted feed: For perspective, we were feeding Emmy between 5-10mL of formula at each feed. From one feed at my breast, she ate 68mL. 68!!! Poor baby really was starving.

I finally felt like I was doing something right. Emmy didn’t scream after eating, her color was less red and she was totally calm and drowsy after eating. I wish I could say our breastfeeding journey was magical from that point on, but it wasn’t. It’s still full of pain and exhaustion and not knowing if she’s eating enough, but I think I’m too traumatized from our early induction to formula to switch.

About a week and a half postpartum, when Matt was back at work, I was still in the throes of reeling anxiety and finally decided I needed help. We made an appointment for me to see a nurse practitioner at UF, and she quickly adjusted my anxiety meds and got me a referral with a psychologist. Within two days of the adjusted dosage, the tunnel vision started to lift and I felt like I wasn’t drowning. I even made it a few days without crying! Things started to look up.

You’re probably wondering if I suffered/am suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety. None of the practitioners I saw thought so, they just thought I was dealing with the normal (albeit terrifying) thoughts and emotions that come with the postpartum period, but that because I suffer from an anxiety disorder, those feelings were amplified and I wasn’t processing them well.

We’re three weeks out today and let me tell you, it’s still hard. Really hard. Nothing prepared me for this. I think I knew I’d be emotional. I knew breastfeeding would be hard. I knew I’d have a physical recovery. I knew I’d be sleep deprived. I knew things would be scary.

But what I didn’t anticipate was having every moment in time where I felt all of those things at once. It is simply engulfing when you’re sleep deprived, anxious, terrified, in pain and trying to keep your new baby alive. There’s no room to breathe.

People tell you “you’re doing such a great job!” and “you’re a wonderful mom!” and you just want to slap them because sure, that’s really sweet, but you don’t feel like either of those things. You feel like a terrible mom, and someone just telling you otherwise doesn’t exactly help.

So what am I doing that is working? One day at a time. Stay on my meds. Reach out for help when I need it. Let Matt take an early morning feed so I can sleep a little more. Get out of the house. Write about it. Pray. Let other mamas hold me up and listen to their stories. Know I’m not alone.

I keep praying that each day, each week, it gets a little better. A little easier. And I hear it will. But for now, I’m sitting trying to remember all of the “things that work” tactics as we sit with our sweet newborn, awaiting one of the worst hurricanes to hit Florida in the last 25 years. Nothing like a little natural disaster to keep the postpartum period interesting, eh?

If you’re a new mama, and feeling any of these things, please reach out. I want to hold your hand and walk with you. I’m still in the weeds, but we can be in the weeds together. We can do these hard things, I promise.

xo,

A