Making the transition to being a mom was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Read below for my story about my battle with postpartum anxiety, overcoming breastfeeding challenges and making the decision to quit my job to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.
Challenge #1: Anxiety
I have struggled with anxiety my entire life and decided to get off of my medication when I got pregnant for the first time. Each healthcare professional I spoke with had a different opinion about medications while being pregnant, which made me anxious about making the right decision. I was concerned about the possibility of having to wean my daughter off of the medication if she consumed it through breastfeeding. Getting off of my anxiety medication before getting pregnant was more difficult of an adjustment than I anticipated. Despite struggling while being off of the medication, I found a way to live a happy and healthy pregnancy.
As soon as my daughter, Palmer (“P”) was born, a rush of adrenaline and overwhelming feelings took over my body. I got a fever when I was pushing during labor, so I spent very little time with P before she was taken to the chorio nursery for six hours to get the proper antibiotics (as a precaution in case of infection). This was actually a blessing in disguise for me because after pushing for three hours with a fever, I wasn’t in the right state to bond with her.
I was still in the state of wondering how I would ever go to the bathroom and wipe myself again (which I had to ask the nurse to show me). Palmer was rolled into my room six hours later, wrapped like a tight, little burrito. The nurses left and there I was with this perfect little stranger who looked nothing like me (but was the exact replica of my husband). I was scared and didn’t even know how to hold her or feed her. I didn’t know who she was and no one told me that it’s common for new moms to not feel a sense of bonding with their babies right away. This was when my anxiety started to kick in, which made things even tougher.
My mom stayed with us in our two-bedroom condo in the city for two weeks and taught me everything I needed to know about how to take care of this perfect little person. Palmer was the best baby and slept very well. I, on the other hand, couldn’t sleep while she was next to my bed in the bassinet because I was worried she would stop breathing. The newborn baby was sleeping, but I couldn’t sleep for days…what was wrong with me? Worries, fears and doubts filled my mind 24 hours a day and I knew that I needed to get back on my anxiety medication. My family and friends that had babies didn’t experience any of this (that they told me about), so why was this happening to me? I knew I wanted to be a mom, but had I made a mistake?
My husband immediately went back to work because he had minimal paternity leave, so when my mom left after two weeks, I was all alone with P and still waiting for my medication to kick in (since it takes 4-6 weeks for your body to normalize). I was in charge of P on my own in the city and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Challenge #2: Oversupply of milk + breastfeeding
Another challenge that I faced during this time of waiting for my body to adjust to the medication was my oversupply of milk and constant engorgement. When I say oversupply, I mean that my dad’s t-shirt (Mens XXL since normal shirts wouldn’t fit over my breasts) I was wearing every morning would be completely soaked from milk. I hired a lactation consultant to help with my oversupply and she told me to stop pumping so that my body wouldn’t think that it needed to make enough milk for twins. This meant that my new norm was to have extremely large, sore, engorged breasts.
P had trouble latching every time she ate because my breasts were so hard, so I had to use a nipple shield for the first few weeks (which I now know is OK from working with Kate), but I felt like a failure every time I had to use it to feed her. I would overfill my 5 oz. haakaa on both sides at almost every feeding (that’s how much of an oversupply I had). Sticking frozen cabbage on my breasts after every feeding became routine.
I could never feed P in public because the milk would spray all over her face at each feeding and it was not a natural process like it is for other moms I know. I had to go to the car or plan lunches and dinners with people around her feeding schedule. Traveling was difficult for me because I would worry about where I would feed her or if she would nap on-the-go or not. These constant feelings of worry filled my mind every day and every night. Looking back, I should have stopped breastfeeding sooner, but eventually my breasts normalized a bit so I continued to stick with it.
I ended up exclusively breastfeeding (very few bottles and zero formula) for six months. I never let my husband feed her a bottle in the middle of the night because I didn’t see the point of waking up to pump at the same time. I could never skip a feeding since my boobs never regulated because I had so much milk (I tried a few times). Knowing what I know today about postpartum mental health, I wish I would have stopped sooner because it was not the healthiest decision for me to keep going. Palmer would have been just fine on formula, but I was determined to make it to six months. I am a very active person and exercise is a critical outlet for my mental health. Having breasts that were triple the size for six months was very challenging for me to workout and I didn’t feel like myself until I stopped breastfeeding.
Weaning was extremely painful and it took me about eight weeks. I wish I had Kate’s weaning blog post at the time, so please read it here. I am not ready for P to have a sibling, but I do know that when I plan on getting pregnant again, I will be staying on my anxiety medication and most likely switching to formula at an earlier age, which I now know is OK – thanks to Kate’s advice and guidance. Happy and healthy mommas make happy and healthy babies!
Challenge #3: Deciding to be a full-time SAHM
Being a full-time stay-at-home mom is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. However, it seemed to be a more challenging transition for me than for others. I had 12 weeks of maternity leave from my previous employer and with a few weeks remaining, I decided that I would not be ready to go back to work. This was a difficult decision for me but I was not in the best place emotionally and knew that I needed more time. Since part-time wasn’t an option at my previous employer, I decided to commit to being a full-time SAHM.
That transition was a lot harder than I anticipated. The days were long (especially when my husband would travel over night for work), but I found strength in doing it and it forced me to make new friends and be comfortable in my “new” skin again! I bopped around the city with my stroller and really found enjoyment in the ups and downs of a SAHM. I finally found my groove in motherhood and embraced the ebbs and flows throughout the first year of Palmer’s life.
That said, I still knew that there was something missing from my life. When my husband and I decided to move to the suburbs, I reached out to Kate to reconnect (we knew each other at Miami University) since we now lived near each other. Before I started working for Kate in October, I realized that I missed working and having something to myself (other than P). Bumble.baby has given me the balance I have been missing and made me realize that I enjoy working and helping other women. I find that it helps me be a better mom!
My best advice to new moms out there is to stick with 2-3 resources that you trust to get baby advice. There is an overwhelming amount of content and resources out there and it’s easier if you pick a few to turn to and block out the rest. Do your research and know that if you’re ever struggling, there is always help out there for you.
Kate has been a tremendous support system for me and I hope that by working for her I can help some of you with any struggles you’re experiencing. Motherhood has been a wild ride for me, on which I have learned more about myself than I could ever imagine. I hope that by sharing my story, some of you can relate and you know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Cheers to the chaos! #mentalhealthmatters
**This post is educational and not meant to take the place of your provider.