Great Expectations

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It’s 11:00am. We have been up for four hours. The crockpot meal that should have started cooking two hours ago has half of the ingredients in it and the rest scattered across the counter. There are toys everywhere. Laundry in the dryer from yesterday that needs to be folded. I haven’t eaten yet for the second day in a row. We are all still in pajamas and the baby needs a bath but she won’t let me put her down long enough to get it ready. My toddler is crying to be held which I try to do one handed while the baby nurses in the other. I am crying. My toddler asks “Mommy Happy?” She will ask me later if I feel better. Because she has become so used to seeing me cry these last 7 weeks. I feel guilty for my toddler. I feel scared and overwhelmed. Scared by how I’m feeling. Because I know I don’t feel good. I thought if I just got the house cleaned I would feel better. But now I can’t get a handle on anything. Sometimes I look at the baby and feel angry. Sometimes crazy thoughts pop into my head. I’m afraid to walk through a doorway while holding her because I think I’ll hit her head on the door frame. Then I’ll think do I want to hit her head? What?!?! Will I end up one of those mothers on the news? I picked up a knife today and felt scared. I couldn’t even tell you why. Then I get that pukey feeling in my stomach and the panic sets in. This is post partum depression. And it is a bitch.

I posted this on a post partum support group I joined on Facebook after calling my husband to come home because I just could not calm down. It was one of the worst days. I saw a therapist later that day that gave me some tools to work with and upped my medication that night. Week 7 of this nightmare.

I should have known how I was feeling during my pregnancy that I would be more at risk for Post Partum Depression and Anxiety (PPD for short). But like so many others, I thought for some reason it wouldn’t happen to me. Sure I’ve had anxiety from time to time but I would never describe myself as depressed or “mentally ill”, I could control it on my own- I was “normal”- PPD wouldn’t touch me. Oh my the naivety. If I’ve learned anything it is that no one is immune and the illness does not discriminate.

I thought by having a natural homebirth I would spare myself from any baby blues, fall instantly in love with my baby and coast off into the sunshine empowered and euphoric. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Very, very wrong. My experiment failed. The birth was fast, intense, and traumatic. My birth story will have to be a different post, because I feel this story needs to be shared first.

The PPD started the third day after she was born. I had not been able to sleep (despite the baby sleeping) for the last 3 days. Not even an hour. I was soaked in sweat, shaking, with my heart beating out of my chest and hives covering my body including my throat. I thought something was physically wrong with me. I thought I was having some type of post natal pre-eclampsia. I kept telling my husband I needed to go to the Emergency room. I called my midwife and told her what was going on. She told me to get my toddler out of the house with a babysitter and head to my doctor because I was having a post partum anxiety reaction. That first week was hell. I couldn’t shower by myself because I was so afraid to be alone. I could barely walk because my legs would shake so much. I couldn’t eat. I had to take Xanax for the first time in my life to stop the panic attacks. By day 5 post partum I was having suicidal thoughts and scary thoughts towards the baby. I remember looking at the dry Christmas tree and thinking it was a fire hazard… then looking at the baby and thinking Well, if the fire takes us all that might be a good thing. I started Zoloft that day. The first time in my life I have ever been “medicated”. I did not go willingly but knew this was bigger than me. My Mother and Husband saved me that first week. Love is a powerful thing.

See when you have these crazy thoughts, you are self aware enough to know they are not how you really feel. Your brain has literally been “hijacked” as my therapist put it. The hormonal cascade has altered your brain chemistry so much that you literally are no longer in control of your thoughts. So they terrify you, and cause debilitating anxiety… and the cycle repeats. We have all heard the horror stories on the news of mothers harming their children or themselves which I look at completely differently now- how bad those mothers must have felt and what a tragedy it was that they couldn’t find help or didn’t know they needed it. A lot of times those stories are of mothers who thought feeling this way was normal or were too afraid to tell anyone or worse… had no one to tell. It is a terrifying thought to think there was a time where medication, therapy, and support groups did not exist especially as this illness affects up to 1 in 7 women. It is the most common “complication” of childbirth.

I desperately wanted that first week to be the baby blues. I kept telling myself “Once I get through the first two weeks and my hormones settle- I’ll be okay”. As two weeks passed, I tried to “fake it til I made it” because I desperately desperately wanted this to not be real. I remember having to take 20 pictures until my smile looked “real” enough to post on social media. Goes to show you that you never really know what someone is going through. When I went into my two week follow up with the post partum counselor through my OB, and pasted a fake smile on my face- she saw right through me and I melted into a puddle of tears. Then I thought “Well if I just get through the Holidays and December and find a routine- I’ll definitely be better by then.” As I changed the calendar on my refrigerator to February with a pit in my stomach I knew I was wrong about that too. I thought because I was “functioning” and no longer debilitated by crippling anxiety but was just “regularly anxious” that I was “okay’. I would measure myself by saying okay I got dressed today and ate something and smiled at my toddler so I’m fine. But the reality is I’m not out of this yet.  But damnit I am fighting tooth and nail.

I’ve never been depressed before and if anything this experience has made me realize how “normal” I actually was. High strung maybe, but within normal limits. It has been a humbling, eye opening experience. How judgmental I was thinking depression was a “choice”. It is not a choice. Waking up with dread in your stomach and feeling apathetic towards everything you once loved including your precious 2 year old is not a choice. Being so afraid to pick up your brand new gift from God because in your mind they represent everything that makes you feel bad is not a choice. Feeling so sad for yourself because you desperately desperately want to feel normal and you know you are missing a sacred time in your child’s life is not a choice.

I can’t help but wonder what type of “God’ or Creator would have this happen to mothers. Why? What purpose in nature does it serve? I have this horrifying memory of my pet hamster eating her young in middle school. Why would having offspring drive us to madness when it is one of the most joyful things on earth? It makes no sense to me.

This has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through in my life thus far. So much so that I highly doubt I will have anymore children. At least thinking this brings me some sordid kind of comfort at the moment. Why have I had to go through Hell and back to have children? I’ll never know. My best friend seems to think it is so I can help other mothers. Maybe she is right. I am unapologetically open after all. And maybe this post will connect with someone who is going through this hell with me and offer them comfort that this phenomenon did not just pick them. The only solace I leave this post with is that I know this is an illness. I know it has a beginning and then one day an end. And my end will come. Until then, I will enjoy the good days…. like today♦.

*There is a lot of stigma attached to PPD that many who suffer do not talk about it. The truth is it is incredibly common. I am lucky to have the support of my family, therapist, support group, and OB/GYN that I am progressing everyday and the darkest of days are behind me.

 

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A Mother’s Blessing

It didn’t occur to me to post about the Mother’s Blessing I had, but it was such a touching experience I couldn’t help but try to put it into words.

A little background on what a Mother’s Blessing or sometimes called a “Blessingway” is and how I came to have one.

I have read more books than I can count during this pregnancy on preparing for an unmedicated birth. Some really img_4820resonated with me, and some were a little too deep for my liking (making a mental note now to add the books I’ve read to my resources page). One book in particular I really felt spoke to me. It’s title is Birthing from Within. It was spiritual but yet still modern. It offered tangible advice- things you could actually do to prepare that weren’t all in theory but still placed emphasis on how critical your mindset is when it came to birth. It was the perfect balance between the physical and mental for me. It talked a lot about “birth art” which encourages you to just create in any way you want with regards to what you envision for your birth. The purpose is to help you connect to the pregnancy, analyze your fears and apprehensions while helping you overcome them through visualization. I actually loved making a few sketches. It had been a while since I’ve sketched anything, something I used to love doing. The instructions were just to create. Whatever came to your mind regarding your birth. My sketches were of how I foresaw myself in labor. In my sketches, I am calm and connected, surrounded by a protective force and powerful energy.

I really liked this quote I read along the way,

“Fear is the misuse of the most powerful tool we possess; the imagination.” – Hypnobabies

Why not envision a positive experience?

Another thing the book mentioned was this idea of a Mother’s Blessing or Blessingway- a traditional Navajo ceremony that made it’s way into mainstream.

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This was the back of my invitation

In the US, we throw most expectant women a “baby shower”. Where the mother is “showered” with gifts for the new arrival and cute games relating to babies are played. The one thing I find special about this tradition is most families get all they need to prepare for the new baby, all from the coming together of family and friends. It is a special showing of generosity and joy and maybe the last of that tribe mentality we have left. But somewhere along the line the Mother went missing from the tradition along with no mentions of the extraordinary event that is about to take place for her (the birth). A mother’s blessing is different in the sense that the emphasis is placed on the mother and meant to encourage, support, and empower her leading up to her birth and celebrate her upcoming transformation. Gifts are not really expected- but who can help buying cute baby things? I’m not sure if I am just incredibly sensitive but my daughters birth and becoming a mother changed me forever. It deeply deeply affected me. And I can only assume birth is this way for every woman, or at the very least, some. So this whole mother’s blessing idea seemed really attractive to me and in line with my journey.img_5984

One problem though, I thought for sure my friends would think I was crazy haha. I definitely am the odd one out when it comes to all of this crunchy parenting stuff. I didn’t know anyone who even thought about having an unmedicated birth let alone do something as crazy as plan a homebirth. So I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I thought what the hell… let’s just go with it. They’re my friends, they have already accepted my newfound hippieness at this point I’d hoped.

Traditional Mother Blessing’s can get very spiritual including group meditation, belly henna tattoos and paintings and even bathing the expectant mothers feet. To keep in line with my own comfort zone and personality as well as the women that would be attending, I put my own little spin on it.

My doula generously offered to facilitate, and my mom with the help from my mother-in-law, and sisters (in-laws included) wanted to do the more traditional baby shower stuff for me which I am incredibly grateful for.

15129508_10101397394936529_2387214674729171785_oI created somewhat of an “altar” displaying some of the birth art I had made, and some birth affirmations and quotes I colored. I wanted the women to know what I was up to all this time… and it was pretty;).

The “ceremony” started with all of the women sitting in a circle. My doula lit some sage to do a little mini cleansing which set the mood. I thought for sure my friends would be like what the hell is going on Ha and was super nervous. I am not good at being the center of attention, it makes me wildly insecure. My wonderful doula Angela then explained what a doula is and what her role will be at my birth. Sometimes when you are so immersed in a topic, you forget that others are completely in the dark. It didn’t occur to me that some of the women wouldn’t know what a doula was or had ever seen a “birth affirmation” before.

The first activity was to pass around a bowl of beads that were made from natural stones (considered to house energy and healing powers), and everyone say a silent blessing before stringing the bead on a bracelet. The bracelet I will then wear when I’m in labor to keep their blessings and energy with me. It actually came out so nice, I can’t wait to wear it. I liked it so much that I sat down with my daughter and said little blessings for her while making her own bracelet to wear during the birth.

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I was so afraid of the whole thing being awkward that I thought it would be fun if the mothers in the group told their birth stories to lighten the mood. Needless to say, I was so surprised when every single woman in the room wanted to say something- mothers and not yet mothers. The blessings ranged from encouragement to tips, to personal fears surrounding pregnancy and birth to just plain old compliments with some birth stories thrown in there. I consider myself fairly modest- I don’t take compliments well so I was startled by how sentimental everyone was. I didn’t expect such… admiration. My little sister even started to cry when it came time for her turn. I wish I had recorded it because in the moment I was too taken aback to absorb it all. And everything that was said touched me deeply. I also think the women (especially the older women) really enjoyed recounting their birth stories. (Again, I just have to emphasize- your births stay with you forever they are that profound. My 73 year old neighbor can recount hers effortlessly.)

The next activity was called the “Web of Connection”. Where yarn was wrapped around my wrist and then passed around to each woman and wrapped around their wrist and so on creating a circle of connection. When the yarn got to you, you were supposed to say something encouraging to the expecting mother. When it gets to the end of the circle, the bracelets are cut and the women can wear the bracelet until the mother is in labor if they wish. (I obviously didn’t expect anyone to do this- but my mom and sister are still hanging on to theirs ha) I told everyone they didn’t have to speak since they all had just said such nice things. I know I get nervous speaking on the spot, and I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. But again, I was surprised when everyone spoke. And the love received again was moving.

The next thing was for everyone to color a birth affirmation and write an encouraging message for me to see during img_5940labor. I plan on hanging them on the wall where the birth pool will be so I have them to encourage me when the time comes. The last ceremonial part was for everyone to take home a candle that matches the one I will have lit during labor. The women are to light it during my labor and birth to send positive vibes and thoughts and just be connected to me and the experience.

 

The whole thing felt intimate and special and feminine. All the feedback I received was positive, no one thought it was awkward at all but rather they felt they learned a lot from the whole experience. I was surprised to hear many of them say I was an inspiration to them. It’s funny that you never really know what people are thinking of you. In my head, I thought all of my friends just chocked up my passion for breastfeeding and birth as something I was “into” and annoyingly so.

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But I truly feel every woman that was there is now a part of this journey with me and will hold a special place in this 15123188_10101396813337059_8677773758327651720_obaby’s entry into the world. The experience will follow me well after this birth. It was a beautiful thing to feel so supported and loved and encouraged when the idea of homebirth or anything considered “different” is usually met with ridicule. I realized how much every woman there meant to me and how motherhood may sometimes feel lonely, but in reality we are all connected to every mother and woman out there through this tremendous thing we all did or are capable of doing.

 

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Maybe that “glow” we hear of is nothing more than the light radiating back at us from all of the women before and after us. I feel blessed to be able to share such a special time in my life with the women I hold close to me. And I suddenly don’t feel so alone on this journey. They made me feel special, and I think that’s how every pregnant woman deserves to feel.

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Pregnancy Woes and Wonders

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It’s been a while since I posted so I thought I would update you all on how the pregnancy is going.

In the last post about the pregnancy I wrote about the pitfalls of the first trimester. Since then, I cruised on through the second and am now a few weeks into the third. I can’t tell if it has gone fast or slow- a second pregnancy is definitely different in the sense that it is almost an afterthought. I can’t tell you the last time I looked at a pregnancy app or website where as the first time around I had those little weekly updates memorized by the first day of the new week. Like any other mom in the trenches, I am distracted raising a strong willed toddler who challenges me every day (boy is that another post – Hello miss independent).

My last post left off at the beginning of the second trimester so I will try to start there.

Many women love the second trimester, with the first trimester nausea and uncertainty behind them, a bump that is visible that draws excitement, but not yet large enough to cause discomfort… it is usually a time of pregnancy bliss. Of course for me, this wasn’t the case (I’m convinced I’m just not good breeding stock; pregnancy, labor, or breastfeeding is and was not easy for me- I  swear it’s a mix of luck, anatomy, genetics, and attitude… where is my luck, childbearing Gods?!). My second trimester was over the summer and it was a record breaking hot one. I almost felt as trapped in my house as I do during heavy winter. I would easily get out of breathe and weak if in the heat for too long, I could never seem to drink enough water and had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. The nausea subsided but man was I still tired. I ended up feeling trapped, isolated, and lonely causing a touch of prenatal depression.

In general, I think I have a tendency to isolate myself during pregnancy. I still can’t decide if it’s the lack of energy that causes me to nest, the hormones messing with my moods causing me to withdraw within myself, or if I’m listening to some ancient intuition telling me to slow down, rest and protect myself. I still haven’t figured it out. I really started to question whether being a stay at home mom was for me and started to wonder if the sudden mood change had nothing at all to do with pregnancy but more to do with the novelty of being at home full time wearing off. The jury is still out on that one. My plan is to see how I feel when this new baby is six months old, and maybe explore going back part time.

The first and second trimester also brought on another wonderful (insert eye roll emoji here) part of pregnancy: pregnancy weight gain. With my daughter’s pregnancy, I didn’t really have an appetite or gain any weight until about the half way mark. And then the appetite hit me with a vengeance. I was that cliché pregnant woman sending my husband out for milkshakes and going through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru for donuts multiple times a week. The appetite and cravings shocked me. Not pregnant or nursing, I am usually a three meals a day kind of girl, a slight sweet tooth, but not a huge eater. I have always been naturally thin and my weight was something that stayed relatively the same (don’t blame me- thank my mom for the genetics). This newfound appetite I experienced with my first pregnancy was new to me, but it was almost primal. I felt like I had no control, my body wanted food, High-calorie food and my brain told me to go get it. So, it was appropriate I packed on 40lbs by the end of the pregnancy. Watching my body change so much scared me the first time around. I didn’t appreciate it or see the beauty. All I could see was how FAT I was and for the first time in my life battled with body image. When I lost all of the baby weight and THEN some (I got really thin to the point of having to drink nutrition shakes from nursing), it made me realize that my body knew what it was doing all along. It knew I would need the nutrition stores for the demanding post partum period and to be able to produce enough milk to feed a thriving child. This has helped change my outlook this time around.

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Ask IM: When Breastfeeding Gets tough Beyond the Newborn Stage

Ask Instinctual Mothering

I am humbled and honored every time a mom, mom to be, or even the occasional father contacts me for advice or information. It never occurred to me that people would actually value my opinion enough to seek out my perspective, it is a shock every time! But it is truly an honor and a privilege to be able to share my perspective and experience with you all.

I thought it may be helpful to publish the questions I receive on the blog in a series titled “Ask Instinctual Mothering”. Remember, the answers are only my perspective based off of my own experiences and what I have read or researched. I will never claim to know all there is to know about pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding/parenting because I am still learning myself (and have no true accreditation besides a breastfeeding counselor certificate)! However; helping, encouraging, empowering, and sharing information with others is why I’m here typing. It is a true passion and gives me great fulfillment and I hope I can be of service.

I promise to only share real questions from real people and always with their permission (and never their name). If you find yourself pondering something yourself, please feel free to contact me with ANYTHING – even critical feedback! You can contact me through facebook, E-mail at Tmschult@gmail.com, or through the contact form at the bottom of this page.

Okay, enough blabbing. Here is the second “Ask Instinctual Mothering” installment! This was a message I received via Facebook.

When Breastfeeding Gets Tough Beyond the Newborn Phase

Hi Tara!! I hope you are doing great and feeling well!

I’m having a tough time and looking for some help. I’m feeling like I could throw in the towel on nursing my 9 month old. It’s become painful. She just wants to suck all evening and night. My nipples are tender and the one nipple has a milk blister which is painful. I feel like I feel her teeth when she sucks. And she pulls my breast away from her when she is nursing so it pulls my boob. I’m frustrated and yet I don’t want to stop. Any advice? 😢 Does it get better?  Did you ever want to give up? I don’t want to for her sake. I guess I feel defeated right now.

-Frustrated & Defeated

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