Here’s why no one told you!

Looking back over my experience with postpartum anxiety, I started to wonder why the hell no one warned me about it.

As first time moms, we’re given loads of advice (some unsolicited), and all kinds of warnings about the new baby AND ourselves. We’re told about the signs and symptoms of the “baby blues” and postpartum depression.

We get the questionnaires at our OB-GYN’s checkups and even at the baby’s well-check visits: “On a scale of 0-3, over the past 2 weeks have you thought about harming yourself or someone else? On a scale of 0-3 have you found the joy in every day life?”

We even see the ads in the magazines they leave in the waiting rooms: “Are you feeling hopeless or empty? Are you experiencing rage? Are you having trouble bonding with your new baby? You may be suffering from Postpartum Depression!”

As with many other women I have talked to, these weren’t the feelings I was experiencing and I didn’t understand what was happening to me.

Because postpartum anxiety is more common if you have a history (or family history) of anxiety or depression, I should have seen it coming but NOBODY TOLD ME!

I’m an anxious person and pretty much everybody in my family has a history of anxiety and/or depression, so I just assumed I’d be an anxious mom BUT I had no clue there was anything other than postpartum depression to worry about.

The anxiety hit me like a Mack truck on steroids.

I felt like I had an itchy, wool sweater on in the middle of summer, and no one could see it but me. I couldn’t get this overwhelmingly uncomfortable feeling to go away.

There was a soundtrack to a Stephen King movie playing everywhere I went and no one could hear it but me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen to my baby that I couldn’t control.

So I was recently talking to my therapist who I still see from time to time (not enough) and we were discussing the way I was feeling a couple years ago after having my son. After going through a list of the crazies, she looked at me and asked: “Do you know why you weren’t warned about postpartum anxiety?”

“No, why??”

“BECAUSE SOCIETY TELLS YOU BEING AN ANXIOUS MOM IS BEING A GOOD MOM!!”

Holy lightbulb.

She went on with examples of the way I behaved during my most anxious time with my new baby: holding him constantly, never letting him cry, worrying about every little move he made, checking on him 85,000 times to see if he’s comfortable, breathing ok, and on and on. Then as they get older, anxious moms will hover (“helicopter moms”), and thus instill fear and anxiety in their children by never letting them explore or gain any independence.

Shit.

She’s right.

It’s not our fault that we’re anxious or nervous, but we’re praised for being excessively protective as parents. No wonder there’s no caution tape up warning us about the dangers that lie ahead.

Anxiety is a problem when your decisions are based off of irrational fears.

Checking the temperature in the bathtub before you put the baby in is a rational concern. Avoiding giving the baby a bath because you’re afraid he’ll die (even though you’re standing right there) is irrational. But that’s how I felt.

We need to speak up when we’re feeling unlike ourselves and ask for help. It sounds so cliché but it’s true. Think of it this way: You’re helping your baby (or child/children) by getting yourself help.

I know I can’t be a good mom to my babies if I’m not ok myself.

You don’t have to feel like you’re alone. Your doctor will understand (they’ve heard this once or twice before) and refer you to a mental health professional (if you don’t already have one) who specializes in postpartum care.

Or maybe you have older children and you’re just now understanding that you may need some help. That’s great!

You deserve to feel better.

Sincerely,

The Mom friend you never knew you had.

Girl, don’t go crazy. Go outside.

When I was in the height of my postpartum anxiety, I felt claustrophobic. I often felt like the walls were closing in on me and my very little home was getting smaller by the hour.

I was home alone with my new baby most of the time and afraid to do almost anything.

I didn’t even want to tell my husband just how scared of everything I felt in fear he might make some drastic change like quit his job to watch over me or take me to be evaluated where I would reach my inevitable fate in a padded room somewhere.

I wish someone had just told me to go outside.

Everything indoors is lifeless. The furniture, the decor, the pots and pans, the bedding. Nothing has life, it is spiritless.

Stepping outside, no matter where you are, can instantly change your energy.

Look up at the clouds. They’re moving, they’re alive.

Look at the trees. The flowers. A leaf. Watch them as the breeze makes them move.

Close your eyes and listen. There is life all around you, even if it’s just the sound of cars going by in the distance.

When I’m consumed with my own thoughts and fears and caught up in my mind, something as simple as stepping outside reminds me that there is so much going on outside of just me.

There are people all around me, there is life all around me. What is happening in my head is not as big and overwhelming when I breathe in fresh air, unlike the recycled air of our homes.

If someone had told me to just go outside, I might not have been hiding in my bathroom while my baby napped, sobbing to myself in complete fear and confusion.

So I finally did.

I buckled the baby in his car seat and just drove away.

I was so afraid of even just driving with him, for so many reasons, but I knew I needed to get out.

At first I just drove around aimlessly and then headed in the direction of a neighborhood I love. Up and down streets finding new little neighborhoods and beautiful homes.

I saw people out walking their dogs and people with strollers, people driving by me or pulling into markets. People were going about their days. The world seemed ok and it made me feel ok.

Instead of being a paranoid, anxious, inconsolable new mom, I was just another mom with a new baby driving in her car.

I went through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and got an iced coffee and just continued going from one area to another. (If anyone is looking for a new home, I can tell you where all the nicest, hidden neighborhoods are and which to avoid.)

The baby slept in his car seat and I listened to Jack Johnson (quietly) and started to breathe normally.

All of a sudden I felt happy!

My irrational thoughts and fears began to subside and new feelings of hope began brewing.

Suddenly I was picturing my life as a new mom with this beautiful new baby boy with actual pride and excitement! Getting to drive around with my iced coffee and baby who wasn’t old enough to ask where we were going suddenly made me happy!

I eventually made my way back home and opened a bunch of windows. Even though it was chilly outside, the fresh air made me feel so much better. So I decided to open them every day, no matter how cold it was, even just to get some fresh air in the house.

Even now, with a toddler and a 9 1/2 month old baby, I get overwhelmed. I lose my patience. I have anxieties. So I always know when I need to just go outside.

The other evening, my son was having a full blown tantrum over the contents of his dinner. He’s in a phase where he’ll eat 3 things: Pizza, French Fries or Pasta. If it’s anything else, he refuses it. Most days I give up and give in, but this day I had had enough and decided it was time to start eating some healthy foods again.

After about 45 minutes of sitting at the table with him (while feeding the baby in her high chair) and trying everything in my power, including patience, bribery and punishment, and being met with tears, whimpers and screams, I decided we all needed a break.

I said “that’s it! We’re going outside!”

I put the baby in her stroller and let my toddler walk next to me (because he refuses to sit in the double stroller and I didn’t need a second meltdown) and just walked through our neighborhood and returned a book to our friend’s mailbox.

We took the long way home and just talked as we walked.

Sometimes you need a change of scenery.

Sometimes you need some fresh air.

Sometimes we all (toddlers and babies included) just need a friggin break.

Girl, don’t go crazy. Go outside.

I’m Being Tortured By My Baby

I have been held captive for 10 months, 21 days, 11 hours and 26 minutes. My captor’s name is Chase and he tortures me with sleep deprivation. There was a period of about 2 weeks where he let me sleep, uninterrupted, through the night and I thought “Could it be? Am I free?” and then on a warm evening in early September, I was startled awake by the soft cries from the monitor next to my bed. They gradually increased in octave and I just knew….it wasn’t over.

SLEEPING! What’s that? For the first 5 months of Chase’s life, I thought I would be the first person to die from sleep deprivation. You literally feel like you’re losing your mind. At one point I wondered if I was really in a padded room somewhere walking around with a baby doll and too crazy to notice. No sleep does things to you.

I constantly called and texted every new mom I know (I say “new” mom because I felt like anyone with older children might be out of touch and I needed some fresh advice…someone who just got through the battlefield and was eager to show me the ropes) and asked if what I was going through was normal and what worked for them.

There were so many different pieces of advice but no one really gives you verbatim direction on what EXACTLY they did (because, who has the time to explain all that or feels like sending a 3 page text, ESPECIALLY a mom) so I am going to tell you EXACTLY what we did (and are currently doing) because I needed someone to do that for me.

Keep in mind every baby is different, but here is what worked for us:

We kept Chase in a Rock N Play next to my side of the bed from the day we brought him home from the hospital. We were determined not to use the battery-operated swing or vibration, (hahaha!!! you will literally do anything to get a baby to sleep) but that didn’t last long! The self-swing option was a life saver. Also, Chase had reflux as an infant so being in the Rock N Play at an incline made everything much easier for all of us. This is the one we used:

rock n play

Because he had reflux, Chase spit up a lot and it would make him cry because it burned, so the pediatrician prescribed Zantac for him. I was reluctant to put my infant on any kind of prescription medicine but let me tell you, if you were in pain every day, you’d take something too. I looked at it like this: My baby is in pain and I have the ability to make him feel better so why wouldn’t I give him something that I know will help?

I was breastfeeding Chase and swaddling him at night. He wouldn’t sleep unless he was swaddled and we continued to do so until he was about 5 months and began to struggle to get out of it, that’s also around the time he started to roll over. He also wouldn’t sleep in anything other than the Rock N Play but it got to the point where his legs were literally dangling off the edge!

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Around 5 1/2 months is when everything changed for us. We were moving into a new house, so we hadn’t set up Chase’s crib yet. We had borrowed a bigger bassinet from a friend, but Chase wouldn’t sleep in it for more than 2 hours (just long enough for me to finally get some sleep and then be awoken by an angry elf). He was also used to being elevated and all nice and snug so laying flat and without some kind of cushioning wasn’t happening.

Then a friend of mine told me about the “Docatot”, which is awesome! (not cheap, but awesome!) It was the perfect transitional tool we needed to get Chase from Rock N Play to crib because it kept him nice and snug and prevented him from rolling over.

docatot

This Docatot (picture is not my child, but it sold me!) was so great, I wish I had heard about it sooner (and no, they’re not endorsing me). I put the Docatot in Chase’s Pack N Play and he slept great! (Well, great for Chase at the time). So, apparently the Docatot is meant to be used as a co-sleeping tool, but Chase would NOT sleep with us. We tried. I even kicked my husband out of our bed so Chase could take his spot and he was still up every 2 hours. No thanks.

The other key for us was putting Chase in his own bedroom to sleep!! I didn’t really feel comfortable with the idea (and neither did my husband) but Chase woke up at the drop of a spoon (that happened the other day). Our bed was squeaky, my husband clears his throat and I roll around in my sleep and EVERYTHING woke Chase up. You can imagine my attitude towards my husband any time he coughed! So at about 5 1/2 months, we bit the bullet and set Chase up in his own room and he slept much better.

I always sleep with a fan, so Chase is used to white noise, which I think helped. We also got him a white noise machine and use it (two of them, actually) to this day.

Once we moved into the new house, we set the crib up and put the Docatot in that until Chase started rolling around on his own. He didn’t seem phased when I removed it, I just kept a close eye on him for a little while until I felt comfortable with him sleeping on his stomach. This all happened around 6-6 1/2 months, I’d say.

Because Chase wasn’t the best sleeper, I did a ton of research and asked my tribe of women what worked for them and the thing that stuck out the most for me was starting a “bedtime routine” where we do the same thing every single night so Chase knows it’s time for bed. Our routine consists of “tubby time” where Chase gets a bath in a quiet environment with dim lights. It’s his time to wind down. I have tried keeping the lights bright and having my husband in there with us, but Chase seems to sleep much better when it’s just the 2 of us in there and it’s quiet. (My need for having things done a particular way is hereditary, apparently.)

Then when he gets out of the tub, I lay him on our bed (he bathes in our bathroom) and I get him dressed for bed. He doesn’t like things on his feet, he tries to pull them off (lately) so I either put him in a feet-less pajama suit or a 2 piece, long sleeves and pants and always put him in a sleep sac.

 

sleep sac

(Again, not my child)

I have a weird OCD thing about temperature and get obsessed with the temp in Chase’s room at night. I am constantly worried that he is either too hot or too cold, so I sneak in there 500 times to make sure it’s just right. I’m convinced the thermometer on his monitor is lying to me. I have found that putting him in cotton pajamas with the lighter sleep sack for warmer nights and the fleece sleep sac when it’s cold works best. I really like them because I feel like he has a blanket wrapped around him all night.

Speaking of blankets, that was another question of mine: When is it ok to give him a blanky?? He sleeps with his lovie (AKA “Moo Cow”) but seeing him all alone in his crib curled up in a ball made me sad so I wanted him to have a blanket. We got the OK from his pediatrician once Chase was rolling all around and at first, the idea scared me so I tried it during nap time so I could watch him with it. I wouldn’t want to sleep without a blanket of some kind! Even just to snuggle it.

During his “tubby time”, Chase’s bottle is being warmed up (I give him a bottle of breast milk that I have pumped because it fills his belly for the night) and his daddy kisses him “Goodnight”. I feed him in his rocking chair in his room with the sound machines on. He also has room-darkening curtains (I highly recommend) so it’s nice and dark in there. After his bottle, he nurse a little (comfort) and usually falls asleep that way and I put him to bed asleep. Sometimes I have to walk him around the room and pat his back (he puts his hand over my mouth if I try to sing to him…if you’ve ever heard me sing, you’d understand..no joke).

I know you’re supposed to put them down “drowsy but awake” to sleep so when they wake in the night they don’t expect to see you there because they understand where they are. BUT…after letting Chase cry it out for nap time (more on that below) he was able to sleep better through the night and was able to soothe himself back to sleep. I have always put him down asleep when it’s his bedtime, I love rocking him to sleep and holding him a little while.

This “bedtime routine” might  a bit excessive but I’m telling you, if you have a baby that doesn’t sleep through the night or doesn’t nap well and you haven’t gotten a break, your eyes look like a raccoon’s and you know your baby isn’t getting the rest he desperately needs, you’ll hag upside down by your toes, if it helps. Trust me.

Nap time has been hell for us. I may have created a monster, but as I have stated before, I had post-partum anxiety and didn’t want to put my baby down very much. I held him a ton as an infant (as I think you should) and let him nap on me all the time. Granted, I didn’t have any other children to take care of so I allowed myself to take advantage of these precious moments and Chase slept on me while I watched t.v. (oh, I miss those days!!) or rocked him in his rocking chair, and sometimes he even slept on me while I wore him in his Baby K’Tan:

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I would actually be a great tour guide after months of driving all around town to get Chase to nap. I can tell you the nicest, most secluded and exclusive areas and the not-so-nice areas to avoid. I can tell you which places have drive-through coffees and which ones to go to if you’re trying to be quiet. Ask for Janet at the mini Starbucks. She makes the best 1/2 decaf skinny vanilla lattes and whispers when she sees you.

As everything else, this came to an end and Chase stopped falling asleep in the car and would only scream his tiny little ass off until we stopped and I took him out.

I’ve never been a fan of the “cry it out” method, but Chase just wouldn’t nap in his crib. I’d get him to sleep and then gently and sloooowwwlllyyyy lay him in his crib and he’d wake right up and scream (or pretend to choke, no lie) until I picked him up. So I was held captive in his room and rocked him to nap every day. It was sweet at first and then he stopped napping that way too! He was getting uncomfortable and wanted to roll around so he’d accidentally wake himself up after about 20-30 minutes.

I finally decided something needed to change after we had family and friends visit us and I was stuck in Chase’s room for most of their time here. I had tried letting him cry it out a couple times in the past but I ended up in the bathroom crying, myself. It hurt me to hear him cry and wonder where I was and why I wasn’t coming to get him. So, at about 8 1/2 months, I decided to do it and not look back because I realized he desperately needed to learn how to nap and it was my responsibility to teach him.

I bought books, watched videos, talked to my pediatrician and friends and decided to try letting Chase cry for 5 minutes then go in and console him. I would be putting him down drowsy but awake so he would get himself to sleep and I KNEW he was going to lose it and I KNEW that I needed to be strong because I wasn’t doing this TO him, I was doing it FOR him.

The 5 minute thing didn’t work. Neither did the 10 minute or even the 20. When I would go back in the room to console him, Chase would scream even louder, cry even harder and it would allllll start over again. SO, there were a couple times where he cried for an hour!! I finally would go in and get him, convinced he’d hate me and never trust me again. Thankfully, he didn’t and I kept up with it until probably the 4th day, he rolled over and went to sleep!!!! What the what?? Yeah, it was crazy. I thought: “No way, this is too good to be true” but the little man took a nap!

Now, I’m not trying to sell you anything so I can be honest and tell you this doesn’t always happen!! Sometimes I put him down and he cries and sometimes I just pick him back up or wait just a few minutes and then try again later. Sometimes he naps for 2 hours and sometimes 30 minutes, but at least he’s napping without any crutch.

Also, when I did this, he started sleeping through the night because he understood where he was, that it was sleep time and he probably didn’t feel like screaming for 20 minutes, it would just be easier to roll over, grab his lovie and go back to sleep.

But again, this doesn’t always happen, like I said in the opening statement, there was a period of about 2 blissful weeks where he was sleeping 11 hours straight per night and then BAM, just as soon as you foolishly tell people your child is sleeping through the night does he wake up every night at 2 AM just to spite you.

What can I say, ladies (and gents?)…we can just try our best…I have accepted the fact that I will probably be exhausted for a long time to come and I will never look like I’m 23 again because that bitch was rested!

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Post Partum Anxiety (AKA Depression’s bitchy twin)

Thankfully, people are finally talking about post partum depression and sharing their personal stories. More and more celebrities are starting to come out in the open and proclaim their journey’s of PPD and express their feelings, which is such a huge step because PPD isn’t anything new!

That being said, I hadn’t heard of Post Partum Anxiety. Of course, we know anxiety and depression go hand in hand but I feel like I was left in the dark about something I probably should have been warned about. A heads up. So here is mine to you, a cautionary tale, if you will:

After our traumatic experience with Chase in the children’s hospital, I was feeling really anxious. As I have said previously, I have always suffered from anxiety, but those 48 hours really sent me over the edge (my hormones, just after giving birth, didn’t make matters any easier. Let me tell you, even the coolest cucumber will be on an emotional rollercoaster after having a baby. If you haven’t had a baby already, get ready, this is no joke. And if you’re a mom, I need say no more. But read on, nonetheless).

When we got home, I had this overwhelming fear that my son was somehow going to die. Every second of the day, my mind raced, thinking and worrying about all of the possible ways he could get hurt or die and I felt it so strongly that I would get anxiety and panic attacks. I would hide in another room (usually the bathroom), and shake and cry but didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy. I literally felt crazy. I had these thoughts and unrealistic fears so frequently that I started to wonder if I, myself, was going to somehow hurt him when all other irrational fears passed (and I think THIS is why we don’t talk about these things).

For instance, I was afraid to give my baby a bath alone because what if he drowned? My mind went like this: “I would never let him drown, so I can put that fear aside, so what else could possibly go wrong? What if I let him fall in the tub?” Knowing I would NEVER do that, I would then get mad at myself, ashamed and embarrassed for having such a thought and I would wait until my husband got home to give him a bath so I wouldn’t be so anxious. I don’t know how much newborns retain, but I didn’t want Chase’s first memories to be of his mother sobbing and shaking and checking the temperature of the tub 800 times or come up with some OCD way of wrapping him in a towel afterwards or something.

I was afraid to iron a shirt in the same room as the baby because I was afraid he would somehow get burned, but again, I realized that was irrational. If he was alllll the way over there, HOW could he possibly get burned? So then I thought “would I purposefully burn him??” Of course not, so why would I have that thought in the first place. “I must be going crazy”. Needless to say, we had a pile of my husband’s wrinkled work shirts, which all ended up at the dry cleaners.

I was so ashamed and confused. I didn’t want to share these feelings that I had all the time because even though you hear of people talk about overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you think there’s no way anyone else is having thoughts like these and surely they’ll take my child away if I share them. A crazy lady who’s afraid she’s going to harm her newborn but also won’t let anyone else hold him? Lock her up!

Right after we got out of the children’s hospital, we had an appointment with Chase’s pediatrician. As stated in my previous blog post, Chase was slightly jaundice (in case you don’t know, some babies are born “jaundice” meaning your baby has more bilirubin than it can get rid of. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that’s made when the body breaks down old red blood cells. It leaves the baby’s body through urine and stool but some cases are worse than others. It gives your baby that “yellowish” look. Sometimes they need special lights, almost like a tanning bed, and others cases clear up on their own). Knowing some babies need the light therapy, I asked our pediatrician if putting Chase in the sunlight would help move things along for him. He said yes, that can certainly help, so I took his words quite literally, went home and sat outside in the sun with Chase for about 15 minutes. Keep in mind, it was early November in North Carolina and he was in pants and a onesie, perfect for that day. After that time, we went inside and slowly but surely, Chase started getting red.

Panicked, I called a client of mine who is a PA (I called her 523 times over the first few months) and asked her what this could be. She informed me that yes, putting baby in the sunlight would help, but not directly in the sun like I did. “The pediatrician told me to!” I cried, “But he meant to put Chase by a window for a little while, not outside in the direct sunlight, he’s too little and his skin is too sensitive”. I started shaking and crying and knowing I had just caused my baby harm I asked her if I had hurt him: “Did he get burned, did I make it worse, will he get a fever and die???” Will he be ok??” She told me to calm down, “You thought you were doing the right thing.” But that didn’t make me feel any better. I proceeded to call another pediatrician’s cell phone who discharged Chase from the hospital (she has probably since changed her number…or blocked mine), interrupted her family dinner and left a panicked voicemail about how I left Chase in the sun and I think he’s going to die. She called me back right away, mid chomp of her chicken salad, and asked how long I had left him in the car alone. “Noooo, I cried”, and explained the story and she said “I thought by your voicemail that you had left him in the car! He’s going to be fine.”

I wasn’t buying it. I went up to my husband in the kitchen (it was his birthday, by the way) and as I shook, told him I thought I was losing it and I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I knew that what I was feeling all day long was probably not normal. I said “I’m not ok” and he just hugged me. He told me everything was going to be fine, the baby was happy and “look, he’s not even red anymore!” I guess he was just hot from the sun he had never seen before. Poor kid.

I even called the pediatrician’s office one day in tears, asked for a specific nurse who I really liked (and asked for, personally, during appointments) and told her I thought I was losing it and needed an appointment. She very kindly explained that Chase’s pediatrician could not prescribe me Xanax and that I should call my own primary caredoctor. Thanks a lot, Lindsay.

For the longest time I felt this anxious or worse. I WAS prescribed Paxil but was too anxious to take it! I was afraid I would sleep too well and not hear the baby cry or that my milk supply would dwindle, even though they say otherwise.

I would get panic attacks when people would come over or try to hold Chase. I made everyone wash their hands (everyone should with a newborn), use purell, take their shoes off (still do), ask if anyone had been around anyone else sick, did they have all their shots, and I rarely left the house. Granted, it was wintertime and flu season and even the pediatrician told me not to take Chase into the grocery stores until he was a little older.

I know being cooped up in the house all the time didn’t help. Sometimes getting out makes a WORLD of difference. Even just driving to get a cup of coffee in the drive-through with the baby while he slept gave me a little perspective. (Chase LOVES being out and about now. I think he was relieved to discover the world consisted of more than 2 faces and 6 rooms).

The truth is, once I cried and told a girlfriend about the way I had been feeling and my worries and scary thoughts, she immediately shared similarly embarrassing (to her) thoughts and anxieties. Not everyone feels this way, but it’s important to know that you are not alone! I think the thought of isolation is almost as bad as the feeling of anxiety. We have to know there are other people out there who feel, or have felt, the same way. Our bodies go through hell and back from pregnancy to birth and the aftermath. Our hormones are sky high and then hit a brick wall. There’s no way you can keep a level head after that. Granted, some of us cope better than others, while some of us go whackadoodle! Up, down, left right and there’s no telling how you’ll feel or what crazy scenario you’ll come up with.

To give you some hope, (if you are currently going through anything similar) it took about 2 weeks for these irrational thoughts to start to subside. It did take months for me to start to back off a little with the baby and feel ok about others holding him. Some would argue that I’m still crazy and overprotective but I don’t care! He’s my son. I AM protective and don’t really care if I offend anyone when it comes to him. I’m not a bitch, I’m a mommy.

 

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The Worst 48 Hours of My Life

So my mom came and surprised us in the hospital after Chase was born. She flew to North Carolina from Boston to surprise us and it was so sweet and very emotional to have her walk into our hospital room. We were able to let Nick (my husband) go home for a night and get some sleep while my mom took over as secondary care giver.

The next day the 3 of us took the long (2 blocks) haul to our home with our new baby in tow. We spent our first day and evening with our son in his very first home and my mom flew back home to Boston the next day. I was nursing Chase and trying to get the hang of it, (which is no easy feat), while spending our 2nd day home when I noticed he was falling asleep right after starting to feed. Now, he had only been alive for a total of 3 days, so it’s not as though anything was common or uncommon for him at that point but I felt like something was off. I’m a worrier by nature, so Nick thought nothing of it. He was probably just tired, we decided. However, when he WOULDN’T wake up to nurse, I began to panic.

I tried everything I could to get him to wake up but he just wouldn’t. I finally handed him over to Nick and he tried all that he could think of: undressing him to get him cold and mad, tickling him, turning all the lights on to wake him, but nothing. I called the pediatrician and after hearing his state (plus, he was slightly jaundice) she suggested we take him to the children’s hospital. We couldn’t be too careful with a newborn.

Now, I remember taking our time because the pediatrician didn’t seem alarmed, and Chase was really just sleepy, as it seemed, but I’ll never forget when Nick put him in his car seat carrier and Chase didn’t move an inch that he looked at me and said “Get in the car. Now.” I knew we were in trouble.

The children’s hospital was really close by as well, thank God, but it was a long ride to say the least. I tried waking Chase up the whole car ride there and he wouldn’t even lift an eyelid. I was obviously already crying when we pulled up to the emergency entrance and when we got inside, they took us in right away.

As the first nurse checked us in and began asking questions, I could barely get the answers out. I was in complete panic. Something was wrong with my baby and he was only 3 days old. My mind started racing and all I could think of was “Please, God. Don’t take him from me.”

When we got into the ER to be examined, they took Chase’s blood and that, at least, got him crying but he was still extremely lethargic. They found that his blood sugar had dropped dramatically from what it is supposed to be. They tried giving him formula (I was breastfeeding but was willing to do whatever they told us) to get his blood sugar up, but he spit it all up. After a couple more routine tests, they sat us down and the ER doctors explained that they needed to admit Chase and he was going to need to have a full infection testing done. They explained that they needed to check his urine (this meant a catheter was required), his spinal fluid (a spinal tab would be required), and X Rays (his arms would be pinned above his head), and we would need to leave him for the spinal tap because they would need a sterile environment.

The doctor (who was extremely kind) explained that the spinal tap would be much like the epidural I got while giving birth to Chase. This broke me down. Not only was I not allowed to be there and hold him, but they were going to invasively stick a tiny tube into my son’s spine to extract fluid to see if he had some kind of infection.

I’ll never forget sitting in that waiting room while they did the spinal tap. Your mind takes you to some pretty dark places when you have nothing to do but think and wait. You learn a lot about yourself and your spouse in a moment like that.

After watching them put a catheter in my newborn’s newly circumcised penis and watching him scream in pain, I decided I couldn’t watch them pin his arms above his head to take his X Rays. I sent Nick in with him because I couldn’t take any more. I felt so helpless and completely alone. There’s no comfort you can give or receive when you’re watching your child in pain.

After every test, I grabbed Chase and held him and cried with him. I wanted to make the medical staff just do the tests on me instead. He was too little, too small, too new for all of this. Too innocent.

We were finally admitted upstairs where we would spend the next 48 hours waiting on test results, wondering if our new baby had meningitis, or worse. They would be pumping him with antibiotics (just in case he did have some kind of infection) through an IV in his tiny hand, which would be wrapped up in a cast made of a heavy stint and a diaper. This was awful because his tiny arm couldn’t hold the weight of the cast and he kept hitting himself in the head and face with it while trying to sleep.

They had an old, squeaky, reclining chair, a “couch”, and a little crib that looked more like a cage for a small animal. They us a few thin blankets and pillows. I couldn’t sleep and neither could Nick so we just took turns watching Chase while the other shut their eyes (eventually I just climbed into the crib with Chase to try to sleep, at least I could be near him). I was breastfeeding him every 2-3 hours and the nurses kept coming in throughout the night and day to check his vitals and push more fluids and antibiotics.

At one point, I sent Nick home to sleep because all we were doing was waiting. We also didn’t have anything with us as far as clothes or toiletries so I sent him home for a little while to try and sleep (which he didn’t) and gather some things.

The worst part was not knowing and just praying that Chase was ok. I had a lump in the back of my throat that was just waiting to break free with the sound of anyone familiar and close. It is extremely isolating, being in a situation like that without any family or childhood friends around. I felt really alone. There’s something about the way people who have known and loved you your whole life can make you feel safe. Even just safe enough to break down because I was trying so hard to keep it together and as parents, Nick and I were just trying to be strong. But as a daughter, I needed my own parents at that moment and I couldn’t have them, which was really hard.

After 48 hours of being stuck in that room, holding my little baby, watching him get poked, prodded, and examined, we were finally met with the team of doctors, PA’s, medical students, and residents who explained that all of Chase’s tests had come back negative. THANK GOD. They came to the not so clear conclusion that the combination of Chase being jaundice and not getting as much milk as we thought contributed to his drop in blood sugar. We had a lactation consultant come to the room and help me.

I HIGHLY recommend seeing a lactation consultant if you are a new nursing mom. They have all been such a huge help to me and were completely covered by our insurance. If it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have continued to nurse because I was paranoid that Chase wasn’t getting enough milk and that this would happen again. These women were truly a huge blessing! The lactation consultant in the children’s hospital was like an angel. She was so kind and helpful. I ended up using a nipple shield for Chase because he was having trouble latching and my nipples were raw and chapped. She saved me. She was like having my mom there. she was so gentle, empathetic and kind. Sometimes all you need is another kind woman around to make you feel ok.

We were finally discharged after 2 days and we got to pack up and take our healthy baby home, which was such a blessing and huge relief. On our way out of the hospital, I looked around for the first time and realized I hadn’t left that room once. As we walked down the hall towards the elevator I began to feel really guilty. Room after room of sick children, some of whom won’t get to go home. Their parents are in there just trying to make their child happy and comfortable enough to put their little minds at ease and not think about their illnesses and pains.

I had been thinking about how long 48 hours felt. How uncomfortable I was and how I just wanted to take our new baby back to our house, to all of the comforts of home. Meanwhile, some of these people are just praying to stay there longer because that means their child is still here. How seldom we realize just how lucky and blessed we are.

As I said before, I am an anxious person by nature, I always have been. But after this stay in the hospital, I was about to find out what it really means to be anxious. If I thought I knew about anxiety before, I was about to have an awakening like a sledge hammer to the head.  If I thought I knew what it was like to worry before, I was about to find out what it’s like to have your heart racing out of your chest while you shake and sob alone in the bathroom so no one can hear or see you lose your mind because you’re certain your child is going to die.

Enter in: Post Partum Anxiety…..

(This picture was taken early in the day before we called the pediatrician. Chase looks so tiny, only 3 days old!)

 

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(This was in the hospital. One of the items I asked Nick to bring from home was Chase’s Rock N Play so he could be more comfortable and I could watch him sleep better from the couch. His cast was so big and this was the only way he could sleep.)