You may have noticed that things have been pretty quiet here. If you chalked it up to having a new baby, you'd be right. Sort of. Until this week, things were kind of grim as Lady Bean was CONSTANTLY screaming and I was losing my mind. Though she was thriving as far as weight gain, Lady Bean was not a happy baby, and I was not a happy mommy. For the first three weeks of her life, Lady Bean didn't sleep and when her eyes were open, so was her mouth. From the beginning we had had problems with my milk supply which left us supplementing my milk with formula. It also had me attached to a pump every two and a half hours and taking herbs and prescriptions trying to up my supply. I was pumping, adding formula to the pumped milk, and praying Lady Bean would be full and soothed. Initially we thought that Lady Bean was so unhappy because she was starving. Later we figured out she had reflux. Reflux that made her every meal painful and sleep impossible. It also made our stress levels skyrocket.
Now I've dealt with stress. And, I think I've done pretty well with it. I grew up with alcoholic parents who didn't get sober until I was 12 years old and divorced shortly thereafter. Then I buried both of those parents, as well as my aunt, my FiL, my second mom, cousins and friends. I think I handled the stress of these events pretty well. I feel like I am someone who rolls with the punches for the most part and don't lose my shit in an untimely manner. Not that I don't lose my shit, but I wait until after I've dealt with the crisis. In any event, this is why I never thought the stress of having a baby would knock me off my keel. Would I be stressed? Absolutely. Would there be rough times? Bad times? Hairy times? Sure. Would I lose my mind and suffer from postpartum depression? Nope. No way. I suspect it was this mindset that kept me from realizing that what I was feeling was not the normal baby blues or new parent stress but instead was postpartum depression.
After ten days of herbs, I started taking the milk supply prescription. Lady Bean was constantly awake and constantly screaming, even though she was no longer starving. Reflux was kicking her itty bitty ass and her prescription wasn't helping. I figure the angst, the insomnia, the sadness, the desperation, the soul sucking ickness, the inability to get a deep breath, the desire to just go away, these things that I was feeling, they were from being overwhelmed and over-tired. This was life with a fussy baby. I mean, you can't sleep when the baby sleeps, if the baby doesn't sleep. So I took each day minute by minute, sometimes second by second, chanting "keep her alive," and forced myself to do the things I needed to do.
I figured that I was just feeling the new parent stress and disregarded the big fat warning all over the milk drug and it's instructions that said that rare side effects include (both bold and underlined or basically saying "pay attention dummy") anxiety, agitation, depression ... or difficulty breathing. So for seven days I took the milk drug and slipped further and further into myself. I felt less and less engaged in my life and more and more agitated at the thought of spending another second alone with this little screaming person. I didn't want to pump. I didn't want to feed her. I didn't want to cuddle with her. I didn't want to change her. I just wanted to be alone. I counted down the time until Boo came home and I could give the baby to him. I was introspective and gave some thought to how I was feeling since Boo would ask me multiple times a day if I was okay. I figured, I didn't want to hurt Lady Bean, I didn't want to hurt myself, I just wanted to be left alone so I was overwhelmed and not depressed. I convinced myself, my husband, and my friends that I was okay, just tired. Even feeling totally incapable of getting ready for guests to come meet Lady Bean seemed normal-ish to me. It wasn't until I found myself sobbing in the shower for no apparent reason and unable to stop that I realized that I was not normal and something was really, really wrong.
I am lucky that I have a husband and friends who care about me and were able to step in and help when I said something along the lines of, "Um, I think I might be fucked up." When I walked into the family room wearing a towel and tears Boo knew that I was not okay. So with his, and some really good friends' help, I talked to my doctor and the pediatrician and worked on fixing me and our baby. I stopped taking the milk drug and Lady Bean started taking a special formula for reflux babies. Now Lady Bean is no longer awake twenty hours a day, screaming and inconsolable. And, with the drugs out of my system, I've been able to regain me. With the help of friends, I have been able to rest. I'm still not one hundred percent. I still have some anxiety (after all, if Lady Bean isn't screaming she must have stopped breathing since screaming was her modus operandi for three weeks) and some insomnia. But, I can breathe. I can laugh when I flick the air bubbles out of the baby medicine dropper like a heroin addict getting ready to shoot up. I can pick up Lady Bean and snuggle with her. I can sit her on my lap while I surf the internet and laugh with her about the latest celeb gossip. I can leave the house with Lady Bean knowing that if she has a melt down, I won't.
So, I is for infant formula. Infant formula has saved my sanity. Infant formula got me off the milk drug. Infant formula feeds Lady Bean in a way that soothes her reflux, allows her to sleep, and when she is awake, allows her to act like a baby and not a writhing, screaming banshee. Infant formula got my mind back in a place where I can say yes when people offer to help because I am not worried about me or the baby driving the helping person nuts. Don't get me wrong, I aspire to having a breast fed baby. I may not be able to feed her fully with my milk supply, but I have hopes that Lady Bean and her wicked reflux will be able to tolerate my milk in the near future. I am still pumping. I have storage bags of the stuff in our crisper waiting for a chance to be her dinner. But, I also have perspective. If she can't tolerate the breast milk in the next week or so, if she is a formula fed baby forever, well, it is okay. Some people might disagree. Some people might see me as a failure and instant death for my baby, but to them, I am enough of my old self that I can say fuck off. And, for good measure, kiss my ass. Lady Bean being formula fed doesn't mean that she is going to be sickly. It doesn't mean that I am a failure as a mother.
It does, however, mean that on those days when she is fussy, a normal fussy baby, and I need a break, I can pass her off to my husband, call a friend and share a bottle of wine (preferably while eating sushi) without worrying about Lady Bean getting loopy. Silver linings, if you will.