I Guess It’s Postpartum Blues

Breastfeeding symbolThe thing I’ve always valued about breastfeeding is that it is a symbiotic relationship. The well-being of baby depends upon mother, and the well-being of mother depends upon baby. We’re a partnership, and my motivation is high to keep us mutually healthy.

I’ve been through difficult nursing times, but I have never faltered in my commitment.

Until now.

I feel terrible. As if everything that could plague a new mother postpartum is hitting me all at the same time. My neck, my shoulders, my back, the headache; the incision; the nether regions; worst of all, nursing is excruciating. I mean excruciating. All.The.Time. This week I’ve had diagnostic work, a chiropractic adjustment, conversations with the doctor’s office, conversation with the lactation consultant, and tomorrow I’ll have an appointment with her. I think it’s a ductal yeast infection. I’ve gotten through that before, I can handle it for another 36 hours, right?

Except I was in tears at 3:45 this morning. Michael has a habit of chewing on me without drawing any milk out. I keep thinking there’s something wrong with the latch…or maybe he’s just not awake enough…or the position’s wrong. I mean, this is my fourth child. I’m an expert breastfeeding mom now. I ought to be able to problem solve my way through most things. And I did…he got his feeding, it just took almost an hour. An hour of experimenting with latches and positions, and a lot of chewing on skin that was already raw. I thought about the several dozen vials of breastmilk pumped out during the NICU stay. How long will that last? Can I just quit?

Sore, stiff neck and headache greeted me this morning, heaping insult upon misery. It was getting better for several days, then suddenly took a turn for the worse. Every single time I sit down to nurse, I do neck stretches. I really thought it would be improving by now. I knelt in the hallway folding clothes and crying. Julianna came over and gave me hug after hug, shaking her head and signing “cry,” to say: Don’t cry. Don’t cry. What I really wanted was a long, comforting cuddle with my husband but he was trying to get out of the house with Alex.

Three ibuprofen later I feel marginally human, but life seems pretty overwhelming. I can recite verbatim everything everybody’s thinking, about taking care of yourself, taking a nap, asking for help, etc. etc. I am taking naps, and how much more help can I ask? I’ve already hit up two people for chauffering services this week, and a dozen more have either brought or been loosely scheduled to bring food. We could stock our deep freeze and not cook for the next three months—and it’s wonderful, it will be so helpful to only cook half as much for the foreseeable future. But how can I ask more? I’m not the only person in the world with difficulties, and I’m sure mine are less severe than most.

More than likely this freak-out is post-NICU-stress related. Life keeps marching on, I keep trying to take care of kids and take back all the overwhelming burden that Christian had to carry by himself for ten days, and it’s almost Christmas and I’m having to say no to the kids’ school parties because I just don’t think I can do any more, which makes me feel horribly guilty. I’m not writing, I’m barely cleaning, just trying to keep up with the dishes and the laundry, and when I look around me I see people carrying burdens truly crushing. I don’t have any justification for flipping out over perfectly normal postpartum blues and ordinary health concerns. It just seems like there’s no end in sight, no time to just sit down on the couch and simply be. Be with my husband, mostly, just be, not crisis-hopping, not problem-solving how to get child care so he can work, not working out grocery lists long distance, not trying to communicate the latest unjustified bilirubin flip-out the doctor had today, not trying to figure out why they want to do yet another PKU test, not trying to work in another doctor appointment or diagnostic test, not tearing our hair out because Alex can’t seem to get himself together and we can’t juggle one more thing for him, not gnashing our teeth because Julianna’s lost some of her verbal skills and maybe it’s because we ran out of green tea three weeks ago and can’t seem to get any more made.

Life right now just feels like too much. It’s not just the last two weeks; the crisis of early delivery and NICU blindsided us on the back end of a long period of stress. I just want a few days to breathe, without crisis, without chaos, without the phone ringing twenty times a day from Sirius XM radio and the pediatrician’s office. I just want to be for a while. Is that so much to ask, God?