Cakey turned one this summer. In our nostalgia, we looked back over the photos from last year. My hubs had some videos on his phone from the first few weeks with Cakey; one video made it all come flooding back. This particular video was of our struggle with breastfeeding. I was trying desperately to learn a new skill (as was Cakey) and we were struggling. There was arching, crying, pulling off, pain, bloating, rashes… And that was just her. I struggled with mastitis, over production, sore nipples, exhaustion and horrible, awful anxiety.
Watching the video brought me to tears a full year later. Along with the guilt I feel/felt, which is a whole other post, I was struggling with anxiety.
I had nightmares, racing thoughts, I didn’t want to have anyone touch/hold her. I was afraid to leave the house. Afraid I would die and leave her motherless. I was worried of someone breaking in our house. I also had terrifying thoughts where I could almost see myself in various frightening situations like falling down the stairs with her, someone chainsawing through our bedroom, and periodically an ominous presence I could feel and almost see! That coupled with the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a high needs baby.
I was struggling. I knew these feelings weren’t “normal”. I struggled privately. Only a few close friends really knew the truth. It was incredibly isolating. Most of our family members couldn’t understand why we were acting so strangely. I couldn’t understand why everyone was so demanding of our time in those first few months!
I had panic attacks, numbness in my arms and legs, chest pain and difficulty breathing. We had seen our midwife shortly after Cakey’s birth who recommended I take fish oil supplements. But I stopped taking it after discovering that it made my breast milk sour. But when I became lightheaded and almost fainted during a panic attack; we knew it was time to seek medical help.
I saw my PCP. I was offered medication but that meant I would have to stop breastfeeding. (I wasn’t going to give up nursing after we had come so far!) So we opted to do nothing.
We had good days and bad days. We stayed home a lot and limited our visits out and our visitors in. It was exhausting. Even short visits were draining. We told each side of the family they would see the baby once a month. Which was still too much for me. After a 3 hour visit both Cakey and I would be worn out for several days.
It was hard. I learned new things about myself, my husband, our families, and a thousand other things…
I eventually “recovered” and the intensity of my terror eased. I am forever grateful to the support from my hubby, and my dear friends K & V and all the prayers. God sustained me during a difficult season.
I didn’t end up taking any medication for my anxiety because I was so focused on breastfeeding. It was more important to me to breastfeed my little lady than anything else. I think it was how I coped. Breastfeeding was something I could sort of control in a world where nothing was as it should be.
Looking back, I am still happy with my decision to breastfeed. It is so precious to me and I am glad I persisted. I am happy to report that while the anxiety was temporary the breastfeeding is still occurring!
I know that my decision is not right for everyone and I would have probably advised any friend in my situation to cease the breastfeeding and take the medicine! This post isn’t to shame anyone or guilt a struggling mom. This is simply my story and how I struggled, coped and survived. P