Breast Pumps, Postpartum Depression, and Single Parenting

 

Disclaimer: This is a selfish post, but these are my feelings, nonetheless, and people read blogs for the feels, right? Oh, and for super mom brag posts. This isn’t a super mom brag post, this is just about the feels. This post was also written a few months ago, but pumping has finally gotten much easier for me. 

 

Breast Pumps, Postpartum Depression, & Single Parenting

 

This afternoon I sat at my computer, pumping milk while brushing up on some doula business topics before seeing a client. I was crying. The tears were not because the pump hurt, nor were they due to jitters related to my impending visit with a prospective client. I was crying because I felt sorry for myself.

It all started when I grabbed my pump and milk baggies out of the dusty box I had been storing them in. They had been in there for quite some time, back when Little a was still quite small. It’s the same little hand pump I’ve had ever since Big A was placed in the NICU nearly 4 years ago.

That little pump signifies success, but also a great deal of pain.

My little man, my Big A, spent the first 7 days of his life tucked away inside of the hospital’s NICU. I pumped every two hours to ensure that my little guy could get the very best food I was able to get for him. Those nights were spent in tears, being pinched by poorly fitted breast pumps. I couldn’t sleep, especially when I was sent home from the hospital, but my baby wasn’t.

This little person that had been living inside of me for 9 months was suddenly gone, replaced by some machine that attempted to stimulate the milk that was supposed to be for my little babe. It felt as if my baby had died, as if he had been ripped out of me and all I was left with were scars and that bloody milking machine.

When I would go to the NICU during the day, and I went every day and stayed as long as I possibly could. I would try to nurse him from my breasts. He had a lip tie, I was a new and very inexperienced mom, and the hospital staff were not inclined to help me. Big A and I had a very rocky beginning.

Several of the NICU nurses told me that I would have to switch to formula, because my baby would never latch right. One nurse in particular, who was very adamant that I formula feed, would feed him bottles of formula, instead of the breast milk I had worked so hard to pump every night for him. When I found this out, I requested that she not attend to my son any longer – I was livid.

I eventually was fitted with a better pump, the little hand pump I still have. With it, I was able to pump larger quantities of breast milk during the night so that the nurses wouldn’t be tempted to just feed him formula. When Big A finally got to come home, I packed away the pump and read everything I could get my hands on about breastfeeding. Even though his latch was always horrible and often hurt, he and I breastfed for 13 months without any supplementation.

I have no issues whatsoever with bottle feeding or formula feeding, but after Big A’s birth going horribly wrong, I was absolutely determined to have one thing go right for me, and that one thing was breastfeeding.

With Little a, her lips never touched a bottle. I was quite proud of myself for this. My little pump was used a few times during her breastfeeding, but only so I could pump excess milk to donate to local families in need. The aversion to my pump was still there, but it was made easier knowing that I was pumping for a good cause.

Fast forward to today, while I was pumping and crying. It had been two years since I used that breast pump. I had hoped to only ever use it with all of my babies if there was someone in need of breast milk locally. I had hoped that I would be able to stay at home with each and every one of my babies until they were done nursing, so that they could get their milk directly from the breast.

But today, I was pumping so that my 3 month old son would have milk while he was with the sitter. I had that same feeling I had all those years ago, that feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of my womb aching for the baby that had been whisked away from me and placed inside a NICU incubator. It was the same feeling I had felt within my breasts, the longing to have my new baby be the one getting his milk, and not a machine.

So many emotions were running through me as I pumped. At first, I wanted to blame his father for promises not kept. I felt like I shouldn’t have to be working away from home, when I was told I would never have to while the kids were little. I relived the feelings I felt when Big A was in the NICU, those feelings that I now know were signs of Postpartum Depression, which eventually became worse, but healed some after Little a’s home birth.

Having to constantly fight with hospital staff about my choice to breastfeed, all while healing from an episiotomy and bad birth experience had only made the depression worse. THOSE feelings, those horrible feelings, all came creeping back today.

As I left my babies to go see my client, I chanted to myself, “You can do this; You’ve got this”. I catch myself saying that a lot lately. It works. I conjured up what little bit of a smile I could and drove on to my consult.

I love what I do, I really do. I’ve wanted to be a doula for a very long time. It’s doing it alone that I never anticipated. I’m doing everything I always dreamed of doing, only, I had planned to do it with him, my children’s father, by my side. Now I’m doing it alone.

Like I said at the beginning, this is a selfish post. I know there are women who wish they could breastfeed, who wish they could have children, who wish they could work a job that they love. I try to write posts that are not all a pity party for me, but about the happy endings in my life and the joys that life has brought me. But in this situation, I’m still working on building the happy ending and to find the joy. Those things aren’t here yet, but I can see them. I’ve been working my ass off to get them and I finally see them closing in. But sometimes, in order to experience joy and a happy ending, you have to have a good cry over those who are not there with you when you finally taste that sweet achievement.

 

Spring is Upon Us

Spring is upon us,
Persephone emerges from below
Spring is upon us,
Demeter rejoices for her daughter is home
Spring is upon us,
Hades will mourn over his lost love
Spring is upon us,
Wildflowers emerge from their sleep
Spring is upon us,
Hedge Witches will forage and soon they will fly
Spring is upon us,
Hades awaits Mabon

spring upon us

Big Changes, Small Changes, Changes!

3 little monkeys.jpg

 

Things have been busy here in my neck of the woods. Lots of changes have been happening, some for bad, most for the better. Overall, I’m extremely excited at the direction my life has been going and I hope all these good vibes continue coming my way!

So what have the A Team and I been up to?

Bitty A is 4 months old now, but he’s already about the size of a 1 year old. He’s a chunk! He’s exclusively breastfed, cloth diapered, worn in wraps, and overall wonderful and healthy. Right now he’s been actively trying to crawl. It bugs him to no end that he can’t do everything his big brother and sister can do!

Big A is 4 years old. I’ve been slowly integrating preschool into his daily life and it has been going well! We don’t have any course books, and I don’t foresee us using any in the near future, but he’s doing well with what schoolwork I do present him with. I had planned on putting him in soccer this year, because he loves it so much, but the funds just weren’t there. I’m hoping next year, with a little better planning, I’ll be able to find a program for him.

Little a is 2 ½ years old. She’s semi-fluent in ASL and uses it often, but she loves to verbally communicate (quite loudly) what she’s saying, too. She likes to do preschool work with Big A and actually seems to have a little more patience than he does, so she’s been able to learn right alongside her big brother… one of the many things I love about homeschooling! She also enjoys helping me with my herb crafting. She’s one of the first ones to try a new (and toddler safe) tea blend I’ve made. She seems to have a natural love for plants.

Our local Pagan community has been blooming the last year. The kids and I have been working on becoming active within it. It’s amazing how much is has flourished since I first moved back to Arkansas! There have been talks of a Spiral Scouts troup forming locally. Once they do, I will definitely be talking to the tots about it and seeing if they want to join.

As for the bad changes, my health has taken a pretty hard hit. I had noticed a lot of my old chronic issues, ones that I had kept fairly well under control, began to resurface after I miscarried Baby Arthur. Then, during Bitty A’s pregnancy, I began having even more problems. Thankfully, none of these issues interfered with my ability to safely give birth to him at home, but they did begin to run down my body. Near the end of my pregnancy, the kids and I moved in with my mom just for a little extra help. It was greatly needed, because the last month of Bitty A’s pregnancy, and about two months after, I wasn’t able to work due to how sick I was.

However, with all of these health issues, both old and new, have come good things. It has caused me to delve deeper into herbalism, far deeper than I had before. The drive to feel better and to be able to be healthy enough to take care of my kids pushed me to the point that I needed to be in order to expand my knowledge of herbs. Thanks to a rigorous herbal regime, not shying away from Western Medicine when it was needed, seeing a chiropractor regularly, and working through some stress and grief that had been building up, I have finally gotten to a point in my health in which I’m able to get back on my feet.

Despite all of the ups and downs, my business and continuing my education have both been better than ever! I am nearly done with my doula certifications. I’m training through New Beginnings and Stillbirthday. Stillbirthday has been extremely challenging and has caused me to really reflect on the grief that I experienced when I went through Arthur’s miscarriage. But I need to work through that grief, so I have been very grateful for my training through Stillbirthday.

As far as my business, I have launched my doula business and it has gone very well! I work as a full spectrum doula, meaning I cover all aspects of birth and postpartum, including pregnancy loss and abortion. It is a very humbling job and oh so rewarding. With my doula business, I have also combined my apothecary. My herbal focus has almost always been on women and children, so combining it with my doula business just made a lot of sense. In the future, I might change this up, but for now, I love making oxymels for tots, pregnancy tea blends, and postpartum herb baths.

Combining my herbal and doula business has really helped me locally, in that I’ve been able to bring more awareness about herbal medicines within my local community. Very soon I will begin teaching family herbalism classes at a local store. I live in an area that is overrun with MLM essential oil reps, so it’s been nice to be able to use my presence as a doula to help share information about proper herb and essential oil safety.

And on that note, I will soon be selling my handcrafted herbal goods locally! I have a few local shops that have reached out to me and have asked me if they can carry some of my goods. Of course, I jumped all over that! I’m hoping to have my products in local stores sometime in April. One small step to help me get to the point that I can finally open my own brick and mortar apothecary… my dream!

All in all, the A Team and I have had a lot of ups and downs, but the ups are finally beginning to go way, way up. I pray to the goddess that they continue this steady climb up, because the gods know that the kids and I could finally use some good things in our lives.

 

How have you been? Do you have any big changes happening in your life?