Saturday, December 14, 2013

How Having A Baby Made Me Feel Like An Outcast

Earlier this year, hubby and I were blessed with our little girl. Girl number 4 to be exact. We're a bit like the Brady Bunch. Hubby has two girls from his practice marriage and I have a boy and girl from my practice marriage. It had been 6 1/2 years since my youngest was born, so I sort of felt like a first timer again. I honestly forgot all the sacrifice and hard work that goes in to being the parent of a newborn. Obviously I remembered, but I didn't really REMEMBER.

Luckily my labor and delivery were "easy"...aside from the scare when they put me on oxygen due to fetal braydycardia (slower than normal heart rate), the fact that there was no fluid when the doc tried to break my water, NICU being rushed in for the delivery and giving birth to a purple'ish-gray'ish baby due to the cord being wrapped around her neck twice. I stayed in the hospital for one night (the absolute minimum that I had to) and couldn't wait to get home with our little bundle of joy where I could keep her safe and smell her intoxicating baby smell all day every day.

The first 2 weeks were a breeze (apart from the cracked bleeding nipples due to baby-girl being tongue tied and the resulting issues we had with the latch/seal). She was sleeping for roughly 6 hour stretches at night, I was getting naps in during the day, she hardly ever cried, hubby was an absolute dream cooking dinner for me and the other kids at night and my diet didn't seem to be affecting her at all.

Unfortunately, the part about my diet and her not crying changed right at the 2 week mark. One evening hubby cooked an amazing meal that was particularly heavy in dairy. The following morning baby-girl was a total mess. Screaming, spitting up everywhere, not sleeping. She seemed congested, but I found out that was actually milk that wasn't making it all the way out when she was spitting up. I did a little research and found a lot pointing to the possibility of her having a sensitivity to dairy.

So, I cut it all out. Everything. Cheese, yogurt, milk, coffee creamer, butter, ice-cream. I also found out that I had to cut out a lot of baked goods too. Breads, muffins, brownies, cakes. It became almost impossible to go out to eat anywhere. Even going over to dinner at my mother's house was a pain. No one thought about the fact that I couldn't eat dairy and as a result, I had to sort of pick around whatever was on the menu for that night. I suddenly started to feel extremely overwhelmed and alone.

When baby-girl was 6-weeks-old, we went out of town for hubby's grandfather's funeral in Tallahassee. We had to stop to get me a rotisserie chicken on the way in to town because hubby's Aunt and Uncle, whose house we were going to, were making pizza for dinner. I sat on my own in the kitchen the following day after the service to eat my leftover chicken while everyone else was enjoying the Italian buffet covered in cheese and butter under the tent in the backyard. This was after I had to leave the church a quarter of the way through the service itself because baby-girl started fussing, and basically spent the rest of the day secluded from everyone else due to the constant feeding schedule that she was on at the time.

2 weeks later we drove down to Miami for a memorial that was being put on by the City of Miami (hubby's grandfather had been the Chief Medical Examiner for Dade County for over 40 years). We were staying at my mother-in law's best friend's house. She is an incredible cook and had all sorts of delicious foods for breakfast every morning...none of which I could eat. So I cooked myself some dry scrambled eggs and drank some black coffee while everyone else sat around eating biscuits, eggs with cheese and breakfast casserole and drinking coffee full of cream. I also missed about 3 quarters of the service that time too because, you guessed it, baby-girl got fussy. (I will also note that while I was in the lobby of the auditorium, there were 3 motorcycle cops sitting on the only chairs there and not one of them offered me a seat. Pigs. Oops, was that out loud?)

I felt like I should have just stayed home. I felt like an outcast. I felt the same way I did when I stopped drinking. People looking at me funny and asking me why. Being the only one there who can't eat what everyone else is eating. Interrogating my hosts about the ingredients of everything they prepared; Does the crust have butter in it? What is in the salad dressing? Is that cream cheese? Do you have any salad without cheese? 

I was frustrated to say the least. I was surrounded by people, yet I have never felt so alone. I tried to focus on the reason why I was feeling this way - my baby. She was worth it all, wasn't she? I contemplated giving up breastfeeding and putting her on formula. I had more than one person tell me that they would have done just that. Then I could pass her off to other people to feed and comfort so it wouldn't be all up to me. I could eat all that damn Italian food and all the pizza and breakfast casserole I wanted. Truth be told, I didn't give up dairy just for her, I gave it up for me as well. If she wasn't screaming and spitting up every 5 minutes, I would be a lot more sane. If I gave up dairy for me, why shouldn't I just give up breastfeeding for me as well?

I found myself crying in the bathroom on a few different occasions. I didn't want to complain to anyone because I thought; a) I would come across as a whiner. No one would understand and I would be met with more of the "why don't you just stop breastfeeding" comments. b) I would come across as a whiner. At least I was able to breastfeed. Lots of women aren't able to. c) I would come across as a whiner and be judged for being selfish about thinking of myself over my baby. So, I kept my mouth shut and dealt with it. I figured the baby and I had managed to overcome the latch/seal issue and from what I was reading, most babies started to outgrow the dairy sensitivity at around 3 months.

Well, baby-girl is now 6 months old and has only just turned the corner with the dairy thing. Seems now, for the most part, I can eat what I want and she is able to tolerate it. It makes me sad that I felt I had no one to talk to about the way I was feeling without being judged. Shouldn't we, as mothers, be able to talk to one another about anything to do with raising our child(ren) without fear of being criticized for what we are or are not doing? You're not breastfeeding? You must hate your baby! You haven't introduced her to solids yet? You must hate your baby! You don't use cloth diapers? You must hate your baby - and the environment! You don't make your own organic baby food? You must hate your baby! You're letting her cry it out? You must hate your baby! 

I don't regret sticking with the breastfeeding/no dairy thing. I am proud of myself for persevering even with all the challenges I faced daily. I have realized that my feelings of loneliness and frustration are not uncommon - if I felt that way, there must be other women going through similar situations. I want to let other mothers know that is it OK to reach out for support, advice or just a shoulder to cry on. If someone is going to judge you for how you choose to care for your baby, they aren't worth confiding in. I promise you, though, that there are many women out there who are understanding, supportive and non-judgmental. I wish I had reached out to some sort of breastfeeding support group.

I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back on it, it is all too clear.  It wasn't just the difficulties of cutting out dairy. I was suffering from postpartum depression. I had done strict diets in the past, such as the Atkins diet, and I never got depressed over it. It never made me feel lonely. After my first child was born, I was convinced I didn't have postpartum depression. According to my mother, it was primarily in the person's head. She never suffered from it, so surely I wouldn't. It wasn't until my second child was 6 months old that I finally admitted that was what was wrong with me. I made an appointment with my doctor and got myself back on track.

If I could give anyone struggling with any choice they make for their child some advice, it is to stay the course. If you feel it is the right decision for you and your baby, go with it. We, as mothers, have a unique sixth sense when it comes to our babies. If it feels right in your gut, it probably is. Stay strong, seek out support if need be, but whatever you do, don't give up. Allowing difficult circumstances or other people's opinions dictate how you care for your little one(s) will only cause you to be regretful of not doing what you believed in to begin with.

In addition to that, I think the most important thing is if you feel like you might be suffering from postpartum depression - get help. If you don't think friends and family will understand, go to your doctor, find a support group. Know that you are not alone! It is not all in your head! It is time we come together as women and stop being afraid of what people will think of us for our "weaknesses". It is time we stop looking at postpartum depression as a weakness. It is not a weakness, it is a condition. A serious condition. You are worthy of help and support and it is out there if you just reach out.

2 comments:

  1. Totally identified with your experience. My son has unfortunately still not outgrown dairy soya and legume allergies. I thought i would get at least family support with my decisions but on a day to day basis i do battle on my decision to continue breastfeeding a child with multiple allergies. The hospital just say all we can hope for is he grows out of them. It's is very depressing i think part of it is because mom's like us are kept silent so when it happens to other mums they have no support group it all falls apart this wasn't how the fairytale mothering experience was supposed to be. As my counsellor used to put it its like planning a vacation of a lifetime where you think your heading to tour Italy you learn the language you plan your trip you ge the flight but just as land you find out the destinations changed and your in the Netherlands your not prepared the landscapes so different and the experience you will have are different too. But if you can get your head round that you can equally enjoy the wonders the Netherlands has to offer.

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    1. Hi! Your analogy is so true! Motherhood is touted as being this magical experience and if you aren't perfect at every aspect of it, somehow you are failing. I'm sorry you're struggling with breaks feeding due to the allergies. It is so hard! I totally know where you are coming from! I hope it gets easier for you both!

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