Breastfeeding.. love in every drop – Guest Writer Siobhan Barwick

All I ever wanted to be was a mother. Ever since I was a young girl, I had a way with babies, and dreamed of the day I’d be blessed with my own.

That day came before I knew it, and my life felt complete, as I held the most perfect little boy in my arms.

When I fell pregnant, my husband and I had decided to do what we thought was best, and that was for me to breastfeed. I never thought about it, as for me, it was the norm. My mother was a CHN, LC and midwife for many years, who breastfed my siblings and I long in to toddlerhood. Because of her experience and knowledge, I knew I could turn to her in times of need.

After a traumatic, long and exhausting birth, I cradled my son close to my body and was waiting for him to do the ‘breast crawl’ and latch on to my nipple. He opened his mouth and I put my nipple it. He began to cry. I tried again. He screamed louder.

What was I doing wrong? I had laboured for over 2 days, was rushed to theatre, was numb from the waist down, and all I wanted was to nurse my newborn! I thought it was as easy as putting your nipple into their mouth….how wrong I was! Luckily mum and my husband Chris were by my side to help relax me and assist with our son’s latch.

Still, I felt it to be unsuccessful. It was midnight by this stage and I had to go to the ward. The whole breastfeeding experience got worse. Due to the anaesthetic, I was unable to move my lower body, meaning I had to call a nurse every time Isaac stirred. Each one that came in had a different approach in assisting a latch; one nurse would grab my nipple and shove it in Isaac’s mouth, another would try and stimulate Isaac’s reflex by moving my nipple up and down on his top lip. He was jaundiced, so I had to feed every 3 hours. My nipples were blistered and bleeding. I wasn’t able to sleep because of the fucking bell going off 24/7, I was sweating heavily and felt extremely irritable. I needed to get home!

I was ready to give up, but my dedicated and some-what stubborn nature prevailed. We got home and that night my milk came in. Finally! I began feeding him standing up, as he was latching properly, but knew it wasn’t a long-term thing. At last! We discovered the perfect positions, and after a few days, my confidence started to show.

The hard part was over! Right? Once again, wrong. I had an oversupply of milk, a fast letdown, vasospasm, Isaac had a CMPI (Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance) and throw PNA in the mix! He was constantly windy. I’m talking, leg curling, fist clenching, lung screaming pain. My poor baby. I felt I had failed. My nipples were raw from him sucking all the time and no matter what I did, he just couldn’t get comfortable. Sleep was an issue because of the other things, and I began to feel like I was drowning. In the midst of this emotional roller coaster was also the whole journey of becoming a ‘first time mum’. Overwhelmed is an understatement.

There’s social media, Google, parenting blogs, parenting websites, breastfeeding websites, family, friends and insignificant others all bombarding you with conflicting information and opinions. The hardest part was yet to come. I thought that when you have a child, you want to breastfeed it. I thought that most women breastfed, that it was the normal thing to do. Apparently not. I felt quite isolated in a way. I was one of the only mothers I knew who was breastfeeding, and more importantly, because I wanted to, and not because I felt I had to. I felt sad for the babies that had mothers who didn’t want to breastfeed. I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t want to, especially to begin with. How do you make a decision like that, even with scientific research and studies to show the benefits? I do realise that some mothers literally can’t exclusively breastfeed, but also know that when there’s a will, there’s a way! (I do respect other mother’s decisions)

I had no idea that breastfeeding was such a HUGE deal in society, and that women were trying to #normalise breastfeeding through the use of social media. Wow! What a lot of shit to digest. So much judgement from random people about a baby being breastfed in public! What an upside-down world we live in…

“While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby.”

-Amy Spangler

When Isaac was about 6 months old, not sleeping, wanting to breastfeed 24/7 with an emotional wreck of a mother, I decided to use the power of social media to find me some other like-minded friends. I found lots of different Facebook groups, one in particular that struck a nerve was the Human Milk 4 Human Babies Facebook page. It was a Facebook page used for breastmilk donations for women with low supply, prem babies or mothers who just didn’t want to give their child formula or cows milk. My heart swelled as I began to scroll-faith had been restored. So many women were offering their liquid gold to others in need. I HAD to be apart of this beautiful act of kindness. Isaac never took a bottle/dummy. Just needed a nipple (haha). I had so much EBM in the freezer that I was thinking about chucking out. Sooo glad I didn’t!

Over the next 6 months, I was able to donate to an amazing mother who fed (still feeding @ 23 mo) through a SNS due to lack of milk glands. Every time she would come to collect milk, I’d look at her beautiful son, and feel so proud that I was able to help him thrive, not to mention forming a friendship with the mother.

Fast forward to now and Isaac is 21 months old. Our breastfeeding journey is still very much alive, but as your child gets older, a whole other can of worms is opened.

“When are you going to wean him?”

“He doesn’t NEED breastmilk anymore, he’s over one!”

“You’ve made a rod for your own back. He will only sleep if you feed him and depends on you.”

“Wean him when he’s finished teething.”

“When’s he going on a bottle?”

“You’re STILL breastfeeding!?”

Unwanted opinions from family, friends and others. You just can’t win. You don’t breastfeed and you’re a ‘bad mother’. You do breastfeed past 1 and you NEED to stop and get your pre-baby independence back. I will breastfeed OUR child until WE are ready to finish our journey, and that is entirely up to Isaac and myself. No matter how much you try and educate people with studies from the WHO etc, views cannot be changed. Breast is best.

The past 21 months have been nothing short of amazing, exhausting, testing and most of all rewarding. I have grown as a person, a mother and partner. My view of the world has changed, and my resentment towards my mother’s decisions all those years ago have finally made sense. I appreciate everything. Every sunrise and every sunset. Since giving birth, the saying ‘life flashes before your eyes’ has finally hit home. Each day rolls in to the next, and each waking moment, I’m able to see our perfect son learn and develop. As a mother, you’re never going to please everyone. Motherhood is about you and your child. What works for you, may not work for another, and vice versa. What every mother needs to remember is; you’re doing a fantastic job! You are enough. You are loved. You are more than just a mother, you are YOU and most of all, YOU know what’s best for you and your child. No amount of information, social media or opinions are going to change the maternal bond you have with your child. I’m so blessed that Isaac chose me to be his mother.

” The life of a mother is the life of a child: You are two blossoms on a single branch.”

-Karen Mazezen Miller

We are the Face of Motherhood: My Story on Postpartum Anxiety

Generally when people think of Mental Health, they think of the stigma that’s attached to it. “Insane, Incompetent, Pity.”   So, I reckon it is fair to say that Mental Health is something that you never like to admit to having.

“Living with Anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room and the only one you can hear.”

I have always battled some level of anxiety, even from a very young age, that was caused by a situation that was out of my control. Growing up, it’s safe to say that I had a terrible dysfunctional family who exposed me to terrible things like alcoholism and violence. So typically with any form of family violence, it would come in waves of good and bad periods. But what always remained the same was the continuation of the cycle. Looking back, I never really thought that I had anxiety. I was just conditioned to feel that what I experienced was normal. I never approached a general practitioner or psychologist, and my parent’s probably just thought I was an oversensitive child.

So when I found out that I was pregnant with Lucas, the thought of having a child terrified me. I was 27 years old when the pregnancy was confirmed, so I thought I was mature enough to be able to manage becoming a Mother. I was in a stable and solid relationship, content with where my career was heading, and I considered myself a responsible person. But for some reason it did not sit right with me. I remember being told by my Dad to never have children, so there was always this self doubt. Also, I had never been around babies, never changed a nappy, never burped a baby, never taught how to hold them the correct way. So I felt out of my depth!

“More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year in Australia.” ~ Panda

By the time Lucas was born, he absolutely without a doubt terrified me. I didn’t know what to do with him. I kept asking myself, “when am I going to love him?”, “why am I struggling?”, and “what is wrong with me?” In all honestly, I just didn’t know how to be his Mum. I was living day to day, with the hope that something might just click. Around ten days postpartum, I developed an extremely high fever, body aches and heavy bleeding; so I instinctively knew that I had developed an infection. I ended up being readmitted into hospital with a bad case of endometritis, which is an infection or inflammation of the inner lining of the uterus. Plus to top things off I had a bladder infection and mastitis. After a consultation with the ED gynaecologist, I was going to be administered a high dose of IV antibiotics and was advised not to breastfeed Lucas. I was told that it would be unsafe and harmful for the him. I was devastated!

My husband remained brave through it all. Even though I was struggling,  Chris was amazing. He just got stuck into parenthood, and kind of carried the load. He managed the task of nursing a ten day old baby on his own whilst I was recovering in the hospital. I remained there for about three days recuperating, and once I finished my course of antibiotics I could start breastfeeding him again. So for about a two weeks I was pumping and dumping and it had a huge effect on my supply, and this caused my anxiety to spiral. In the end anxiety drove me to quit breastfeeding, which is my biggest regret because breastfeeding is something I have such passion for now. A part of me was crushed and I accepted that I had failed as a Mother.

“When you find yourself locked in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor because you’ve just had enough, that does not mean that you have failed as a mother. Being a mother is hard. That is not failure. This is fact. Remind yourself of that.”

When I returned to work, Lucas was about 6 months old, I was unable to fulfil my role. I would spend the morning crying when it was time to drop him off. I remember when I was having buddy training, I ended up bursting into tears because of my inability to cope with the changes. It was pretty embarrassing! Things began to calm down when Lucas became a toddler, but I was still a helicopter parent. Forever holding him back for fear of him hurting himself. Whenever he got sick I mollycoddled him. I was taking him to the doctors for the smallest things. I was just constantly under duress, my poor brain must be fried by the constant arousal of neurons. I constantly doubted myself as a Mum.. But.. I need to remind myself that there was a few challenging factors that most (term used loosely) families don’t face. My husband was away.. ALOT! Most of Lucas life he was absent, which at the time was awful but we had to create a means to an end. We also live in a state which is thousands of kilometres away from family, so being able to reach out for support was impossible.

But it was only within the last 18 months where I have been formally diagnosed by my GP. There were days where I was barely able to function. My worst symptoms were heart palpitations and panic attacks. Honestly, it would literally stop me in my tracks. It was truly an awful experience, but I am so thankful that my husband came with me as support to speak with my GP. These days I manage my anxiety with medication, and blogging has helped ease my stress. It can be very healing.

“Recognising the signs of anxiety is not always easy, as you can have anxiety without the symptoms of having depression. Some symptoms that stood out to me was. Heart palpitations, irritated easily, nausea, difficulty sleeping, dizzy spells, trembling, dry mouth, sweating, feelings of dread.”

So.. let’s stop the stigma of mental health and start supporting each other. If you recognise these signs of a friend or loved one, talk to them about it. Make it apart of conversation, because you never know.. they may have been reaching out to you but never had the courage to start the conservation.

Much love

Melanie xoxo

{Do you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your obstetrician or family doctor. Need more information? Visit PANDA for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear that yourself or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and/0r visit your nearest emergency department.}

We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression by Mommy in Flats

Lion Fox & Co are privileged to welcome Jamie aka Mommy in Flats. Jamie is from the USA, the youngest of five, mother to four, and wife to one (although some aspects of the idea of a sister wife are appealing). Growing up, she was a quiet introvert who much preferred reading to running around outside or going places with lots of people. Not much has changed…oh wait four kids later and she doesn’t have time to sit still much less concentrate on a whole book. Jamie can be found, running around her house after a crazy two year old, snuggling a sleepy infant, or feeding two (always) hungry growing girls.

In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness month, I am kicking off a series on real women’s experiences with mental health and motherhood. Every week day in May, a blogger or guest blogger will share her experience struggling with mental health and motherhood. Check in here to read their stories and for warning signs and advice on how to spot PPD, PPA, and other mental disorders. Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need. Have questions or need support please join the discussion on Facebook.

Did you know that Postpartum Depression affects more American women than breast cancer, than sexual assault, than eating disorders? Sure, you hear about the random woman who shows zero interest in her baby or maybe a woman who can’t get out of bed and thinks of self harm. But, what about the rest of us? What about the ones who continue to put their feet on the floor and carry on day after day. We’re here to tell you that the face of PPD is varied. A smile can mask symptoms of sadness, fear, and anxiety.

In the USA, Postpartum mental disorders affect roughly 20% of new mothers (the statistics are hard to pin down because many women go untreated or unreported- this also doesn’t take into account those suffering with general anxiety, bipolar, and other mood disorders). That’s approximately 4% more than women who will experience physical assault, 8% more than women who will experience breast cancer, and 10% more than women who will face an eating disorder each year. Yet, there is no ribbon for mental health disorders. No fundraisers. No one is walking to end depression or anxiety associated with motherhood. In fact, we’re afraid. Afraid to speak up and admit that our mental health is affected. Afraid how outsiders will perceive us. Afraid what our friends and family will think of us. Afraid of how our status as a good mother will change if we admit just how much we struggle to get through each day.

When someone has a physical ailment, a doctor examines her. She is diagnosed through a series of tests that can (hopefully) accurately pinpoint the cause of her distress. At that point, she can begin to treat it with traditional or alternative medicine.

When you have a mental disorder, there is no definitive diagnosis. Anxiety looks very much like mania or ADD. Depression can mean days spent in bed or it can simply be the inability to focus, irritability, and impatience. A lot of times, these disorders not only mimic each other but coincide. So, the person with bipolar may also suffer from anxiety. Or someone with OCD may also struggle with depression. This further confuses the diagnosis. Often, even when there is a history of episodes, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what one is struggling with. Is it bipolar or anxiety coupled with seasonal depression? Is it ADD or a mix of perfectionism and compulsivety?

If you can get a concrete diagnosis, that is only half the battle. Next, what do you do? There is no magic pill to fix depression or anxiety or even bipolar. It’s all a mix of trial and error. This may be why so many women go undiagnosed or untreated. The road to help is too hard.

I have had four babies. I have had at the very least heavy baby blues with four babies. I have sought help at least two times. Yet, it took a severe series of never ending panic attacks (if I had to describe hell on earth that would be a close description) for me to get real, reliable, steady professional help.

Why? I mentioned to my doctors my second time around that I was struggling badly. I was prescribed estrogen (which I never took since my mom had breast cancer, which puts me at risk) and an antidepressant that didn’t work along with some anti-anxiety pills. I don’t know how many times I visited my family doctor those first few months. Not once did she refer me to or suggest I might want to see a psychiatrist. I chugged on and got over it. Why didn’t she see my pain (pain I was desperately expressing to her time and again) and really treat it? She did (at my request) give me a list of therapists. I thought about calling one of them. In the end, I made it through without any successful treatment (I will be talking more about my experience next week). It makes me wonder why we don’t have more thorough mental care for new mothers (first time or sixth)?

Our goal with this campaign is to show you the many faces of motherhood, to raise awareness, and remove the stigma associated with post (and pre) partum mental health struggles. There is no one experience, no one sign, no one symptom that encompasses all women. We are the face of motherhood and we are here to share. We are here to support. And, we are here to show you that you are not alone. One in five new mothers in the USA will experience some sort of Postpartum mental health issue this year, and here are our faces.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit PANDA for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear that yourself or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and/0r visit your nearest emergency department.}