A Reignited Drive

Wyatt at his first appointment with me (Feb 2017)

Wyatt at his first appointment with me (Feb 2017)

    It’s easy to get complacent and forget why it is you do the things you do. Things become habit and even though you love whatever it is you’re doing, sometimes you need something to shock you into remembering why you started.

     When I started my pet sitting business I didn’t have any kids. I got pregnant not long after starting and by the time my son was born I had only been in business a bit over a year. At the time I honestly didn’t know if I could, or would even want to, continue my work. I decided to give it a go and was back working on a smaller scale when he was two weeks old. About a month after he was born I went back to the same level I was at before. I soon realised the challenge involved with running an appointment based business with a newborn. Keeping a schedule with diaper changes and breastfeeding breaks was hard, especially days where I would have multiple appointments in a row. But I kept going because my new baby kept my motivation front and center.

     That motivation had changed since when I first began working. At first it was just because I wanted flexibility that matched my husbands job. I never planned on having a traditional career, being a stay at home mother was always the goal.  We were fortunate enough that his income was enough to live on, I didn’t have to work if I didn’t want to, but I needed something that was mine. After Wyatt was born, I realized that extra bit of income could go a long ways in giving him more than either of us ever had—mainly a better education. We both graduated from a very small and rural school that wasn’t the greatest. Something we both agree on is that if we are able, we’d like to send our kids to private school and give them a much more expansive learning environment than we were able to have ourselves. When things got hard (like I was running late from stopping to breastfeed, Wyatt was crying through an entire appointment, we had an unfortunate diaper situation I was trying to handle in the back of my car, etc) I was able to remind myself why I was doing it and how I was working towards something better for my son.

Reese at her first appointment with me (May 2018)

Reese at her first appointment with me (May 2018)

     But over time you get into a routine and things get easier. You can start to forget what motivated you in the first place and everything just becomes repetitive. What happened was that I got into a rut. Wyatt was no longer breastfeeding and could be content through multiple visits with a toy, a snack, and a drink. I was getting a bit bored and unmotivated and told myself that when I had my second baby, I was going to take a large chunk of time off. Then Reese was born. I look at her and my why is suddenly so clear again. I look at her and remember all the things I want to help do for my kids.

     I am not naive. I know the adjustment of taking a 16 month old and a newborn to work with me will be hard and often frustrating. I have no illusions about still being able to do multiple appointments in a row and stay on schedule. I imagine that my new abilities will involve sticking to morning, evening, and weekend jobs when I can rely on my husband to be home with Wyatt. It will be knowing I can probably only ever swing one or two consecutive afternoon appointments because caring for two kids will make staying on schedule hard. And that’s okay.

     That huge break I told myself I’d take postpartum has already gone out the window. I was asked to do a cat sitting appointment and in a combination of wanting to get out of the house and having had my motivation reignited—I decided to do it. It was an easy job and I only had to take Reese with me. It felt good to stand there doing my work and look over at her in her infant seat, the same way her brother had been a mere 16 months ago. I know again why I’m doing what I’m doing and i’ll do it to the best of my ability—for my babies.

Entering a new phase

You’ve probably noticed that recently I’ve been more motherhood than business in this space. While I always strive to provide a good mix of the two, the reality is that I’m personally about to enter a new stage in life.  As someone who believes in striking an organic balance of work and mothering and in reevaluating based on your current life situation (even if I sometimes have difficulty following my own advice), I can’t ignore the drastic change about to take place.

    I only recently got to a stage with my son turning one a few months ago where I felt like I could take a forward step in business. I did more, I planned more, I hosted a workshop, I got into a good routine, and I felt like I was killing it. Now, I’m about to take that balance I’ve found and throw it out the window. As I enter this last stage of waiting on a new baby, I’m slowing way down. I’m preparing posts for DB+RB, I’m entering my last week of active pet sitting for awhile, and I’ve shut down all custom orders on my handmade page. I’m focusing on preparing for not only a newborn, but also the transition into mothering two children under 16 months!

    To be honest, the slow down transition is hitting me hard. I have an ever growing idea list that I want to act on, I know I’m losing tons of business in my handmade shop because I always do really well with Mother’s Day customs, and my pet sitting business just did it’s highest grossing month AND had three new client requests in the span of a week! Things are going great and slowing down and letting things pass you by can be tortuous. To not only see opportunity slip away but also to lose your income sucks. I am so happy to be able to contribute to my family and to making my sons life better than mine, while also staying home, and it kills me a little to know that I won’t be doing that for a bit. Of course, I know it’s for the best. To have the luxury of even taking time off and having an adjustment period is not something I take lightly. But that doesn’t make it less hard to do.

    We all know that newborns are notorious for being up all night and eating at all hours, so I think it’s safe to say that I will still stay active in DB+RB during those late night and early morning hours. I may not keep the same consistent schedule, I may not keep the same mix of motherhood and business, but I’ll be around and I’d love it if you stuck with me through this new phase!

    I love this community and am so happy with how it has grown and evolved in the eight months since it began. I look forward to seeing how this new life stage of mothering two under two changes this space. I hope it gives me new experiences to share with you, new ideas to bring to life, and even more advice and real world examples to help you balance whatever stage of motherhood and business you happen to be in.

Thank you so much for reading + being patient during this transition!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Preparing for the postpartum

    When you were pregnant, odds are you spent all your time prepping for labor, birth, and baby care. You likely didn’t do any preparation to make sure YOU were cared for in the postpartum period. We read pregnancy books, learn labor techniques, take parenting classes...but we don’t usually stop to educate ourselves and really think about what will happen to US after.

    How do we care for ourselves post-birth?  We can’t know for sure how we will respond to this period. In a million years, I never would have guessed I’d be dealing with postpartum depression. Would it have changed anything if I had taken time to learn about what postpartum was really like?  If I had more knowledge on what to expect and how to cope? I’ll never know, but what I do know is that this time I’m doing it differently. As I enter this last month of pregnancy, I’m putting focus on setting myself up for a better postpartum transition and a more knowledgeable understanding of the fourth trimester.

    Here are some things I’m doing in order to have a (hopefully) better experience this time around:

Reading  + educating myself

    I purchased two highly rated books to read in these last few weeks of pregnancy: The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson and The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou (with Marisa Belger + Amely Greeven).  Despite having 15 (yes,really, I counted!) labor/birth/pregnancy/pregnancy health/child care books on my shelf, it never occurred to me during my first pregnancy that I should also be preparing for the postpartum. Since I just had a baby 15 months ago, I skipped all reading about those other topics and these two books are my only focus.  

Preparing healthy food in advance

    With my first pregnancy, we spent so much time getting everything else ready for the arrival of our son that we completely neglected to prepare any food ahead of time.  Prepping food to freeze is one of the main things that literally EVERYONE and every resource recommends doing but we completely dropped the ball. I’m not saying that having prepared healthy food would have cured my postpartum issues, but I can guarantee that living off the Costco frozen and prepared food section made me feel much worse physically than nourishing myself properly would have done.  Would that physical difference have changed anything? Again, I’ll never know, but I do know that setting myself up for health and healing this time around is high on my priority list.

Not jumping right back into work

    With my first pregnancy, I worked while I was literally in labor.  For those that don’t know, I’m a pet sitter. I stopped taking appointments for people going out of town at 38 weeks but continued my regular visits for people who just worked long hours and let them know that after that 38 week mark, I couldn’t guarantee not having to cancel at the last minute.  I started having contractions on a Thursday morning, at 39 weeks and 2 days. I went out and did my regular two visits, dog walking through contractions, went grocery shopping for some last minute essentials, and Wyatt was born the next morning at 5:33 a.m. I went back to work 12 days later for a stand alone vacation job and went back full time at 3 ½ weeks postpartum, with my newborn in a Moby wrap.  I went back to work so soon because I was terrified of taking too much time off and losing clients. I put so much additional stress on myself jumping back in so quickly. This time, I’ve hired a wonderful helper who is going to take over during my maternity leave which will give me the chance to ease back in when I’m ready and not overload myself by doing too much.

    I would like to point out that work doesn’t have to be a stressor postpartum.  I let pet sitting become a stress by going back too soon and taking on work when I should have been resting and healing.  However, later on in my postpartum journey, the ability to get out of the house and not feel cooped up helped tremendously.  When I started Doing Business + Raising Babies around 8 months postpartum, the act of working on something I was so passionate about REALLY helped.  Work is not bad, you just have to know when to take breaks, when to slow down, and be able to recognize that you can’t immediately go back to doing what you were before at the same level.  This is why DB+RB preaches an organic balance of motherhood + business. What we are able to do is dependent on our season of life and we need to honor that to keep ourselves balanced and less stressed.

Saying no

    I am a notorious people pleaser.  Or at least I was. I would routinely do things I didn’t want to do just to avoid conflict and making people upset.  Since my son was born, however, I have been working on breaking this habit. When Wyatt was born, we had a home birth that ended in an unnecessary NICU stay (our midwife was amazing and the trip to the hospital was only a precaution because he had trouble breathing at first.  Long story short, the hospital did not react well to us having a home birth and treated us very poorly. There was fear mongering, a false diagnosis, and tons of unnecessary medications and tests run on our son). The week we spent in the NICU is the number one contributing factor to my postpartum issues, as far as I’m concerned.  But back to the saying ‘no’ part. I was too polite to say no to visitors while we were in the hospital. I was living in a crappy NICU room, not sleeping, being terrified by all these false things the doctors were telling me, not up for dealing with people at all. BUT I COULDN’T BE RUDE AND SAY NO. We had visitors Every. Single. Day.  And the hospital only allowed two people in the room at each time so when my husbands family was there, I had to haul my just-gave-birth and healing body out to a waiting room until they left. It was awful and stressful. This time around, I plan to say no to visitors unless I’m really up for it. Will it make people angry and upset? Probably.  But it will also allow us to jump into having people in our new baby space on our own terms and our own time. It’s important to realize that when you’ve gone through something as hard and complex as birth, no one's feelings matter but your own. You need time to process everything, heal, and bond. If people can’t respect that, that’s on them.

Making a postpartum care kit

    With my first pregnancy, my postpartum care kit consisted of necessities only.  Mesh underwear (lifesaver), the biggest pads in existence, ibuprofen, and peri bottle.  I think that was it. This time, I’m going big. I’ve stocked the necessities, but also extras just to make myself feel better and have something special to look forward to.  I’ve purchased the Push Thru subscription box for mothers (I even started my subscription a month early so I have a box ready to go!), I have an herbal bath soak and perineal spray from the lovely Emily of The Mindful Folk, and I’ve downloaded some new books on my tablet for reading during those late night breastfeeding sessions.  Treat yo’ self.

Placenta

    With my first birth, I had my placenta encapsulated, but with everything going on with the NICU and my hard adjustment to motherhood, I never got in the habit of taking them.  While I don’t think there are any actual scientific studies about the usefulness of ingesting the placenta, there is enough anecdotal and personal accounts of the wonderful effects it has to make me believe it could have helped.  There’s no denying that such a large and immediate drop in hormone levels post birth is hard for the body to handle, how could ingesting those hormones found in the placenta possible hurt? This time, while I am encapsulating again (and will make sure to actually take them!), I’m also going one step further.  Since it takes a day or two to get the pills back, I’ve made arrangements with my doula for her to remove and freeze a few very small pieces of the placenta for immediate consumption. One small piece a day will be blended into a smoothie with frozen fruit. Does this gross me out? Yep, kind of, can’t lie. But I am willing to try anything to not feel the way I did during my first postpartum period.  

 

    While none of these are sure fire reasons to avoid postpartum issues, the goal here is to prepare as best you can. Give yourself the knowledge and education to enter the postpartum prepared.  Don’t just assume everything will be fine and you won’t suffer from postpartum depression or other issues. Get educated. Get ready. Ask for help when you need it.

 

Postpartum thoughts + advice from mothers in the DB+RB community

Aryn @arynhinton

“Accept help! I refused to let anyone do anyone help me, if they didn't do it "my way" with my first. Part of it was PPA, as well. With my second, I was intentional about surrounding myself with those who lifted me up and I let them carry the load so I could heal.”

Vanessa @running_in_triangles

“I suffered from PPD after my second baby and was never planning to have another one because of it. But when I got pregnant with baby #3, despite being told it might not be possible, I was determined not to go through that again. I researched everything I could about ppd and was much more open about it. I think the act of being more prepared was what saved me, instead of assuming it wouldn’t happen to me like I did the first time. I also wrote a blog post about how to prepare for another baby after postpartum depression with more of my tips.”

Kylie @momsandbabessomersetwest

“Doing something special with baby #2 such as a play group or class once a week. Baby #1 got all of you and baby #2 has to share you so making time for each child is so important and baby classes are a great way to meet other moms going through the same as you are so BONUS you get to spend quality time with baby and you get to catch up with other mommys.”

Nina @realtorninabarr

“My second time around was much easier than my first, despite having a 2.5 year old running around like a mad man. It’s so important to tell people exactly what you need and want. There is no reason to keep it a secret or think that you might be asking too much. Everyone who offers to help genuinely wants to. Most of the time, I sent them off with my older son so that he got out of the house and so baby and I got couch/tv/nursing/bonding time. Lots of Netflix!!!”

Arista @aristailona

“Love this book [The Fourth Trimester]!! I had a rough Postpartum and I learned the art of surrender and to receive. To not be afraid to ask for help and allow yourself to process without judgement. My experience is the reason why I work with women during Postpartum time because it is truly our rebirth into reclaiming ourselves from maiden to mother.” #empoweredmother

Hannah @andoutcometheboobs

“I read this [The Fourth Trimester]  too and was really intentional about learning from my first and preparing better for my second, so lots of love to you for having the courage to do that. I was really honest and open with people about the changes I wanted to make this time round. I wrote lists of my intentions and how I was going to create my sanctuary, and put them on the fridge so everyone who came to the house could see them. I gave people specific jobs rather than accept general offers of help - one friend moved in for 10 weeks to help with my first born and she did three early mornings per week so I got the extra rest before birth and could devote myself to the new baby once he arrived. I think my main change the second time round was just throwing out all of the societal norms that I’d been brought up with and writing my own rules. Being true to your own needs will help you be a better parent, help you keep watch for if you need more support and give you strength for the hard times. Sending lots of love and strength!”

Brittany: The Positive Pregnancy Journey FB

    Brittany runs The Positive Pregnancy Journey group on Facebook which is a great support tool for anyone needing help or looking for solidarity and sisterhood.  From preparing for pregnancy, postpartum, motherhood, and beyond.

The mother I thought I’d be.

     When I was pregnant with Wyatt, I was obsessed with Montessori. The simplicity, independence, and the way that learning was tied into play really spoke to me and I knew that it was how I wanted to raise my kids. I bought a few books, started one, and got to work setting up a Montessori bedroom.

     And that was the end of it. I made it to page 17 of that book. Far enough to know I needed a floor bed and a baby level mirror. Far enough to know that as an infant, Wyatt would need high contrast black and white stimulation. He turns one in two weeks and just a few days ago, I picked that book up again. As I started reading, I fell in love again with what Montessori is. As I looked around at our growing collection of plastic, noise-making, light-up toys, I became more and more angry with myself. How did I get so far off of the path I had intended to take? I had such big plans for my mothering style. We were going to do Montessori, we were going to raise him as a vegetarian (then I got pregnant and started eating meat again), we were going to expose him to Spanish, we were going to do baby sign language. Guess how many of those things we are doing? Zero.

     As I sat there, trying to figure out how I got so caught up in everything else, I realised that I haven’t been balancing motherhood and business as well as I thought I had. Running two small businesses and an online community is a LOT and it is time consuming. And in my quest to balance it all, I let my mothering intentions fall through the cracks. I know now that it’s not just a balance of time, it’s an emotional balance of making sure that everything is completed to the best that it can be. Right now, I am not completing my job as a mother to the best of my ability. I’m not being a bad mother, I’m not neglecting my child or doing anything to cause him harm in any way, but I’m not the mother I want to be.

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     So I’m making some changes. We are selling and donating a ton of toys that don’t fit in with our vision. We are setting up our living space as a more kid-centric, Montessori environment. I am taking a step back from work. I can’t quit because I still need something that’s mine, but I’m putting a damper on creating new things for Etsy and mostly only filling orders and I’m passing on the majority of my pet sitting appointments to the woman who works for me. This space won’t really change because it’s rooted in motherhood and balance and that’s too important for me to step back from.

     All along I have been basing my ability to “do it all” on maintaining the same level of work that I did pre-baby. I never stopped to reevaluate and come up with a new level that fit my new life. This space is all about telling mothers that they can raise babies AND run a business and YOU CAN, BUT you need to be constantly reevaluating your situation based on what season of life you are in. It was easy for me to do the same level of work when Wyatt was a newborn who slept all day. I kept going at the same speed as he grew and became more interactive but I should have regrouped then and slowed my work down to account for his new activity level. When the time comes for baby number two’s arrival, I will reevaluate again. When Wyatt enters preschool, I will reevaluate again. It is a constant thing that we must be doing. Do not let yourself get burned out by going at 110% on everything all the time. Some periods of life and children allow for it, while some require you to take it down a notch temporarily. It’s time for me to do what I should have been doing all along and find the new balance that will come with that.

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Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

2nd Pregnancy Disconnect

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Maybe it’s because it’s my second pregnancy. Or maybe it’s because I spent only eight months not pregnant and everything from before is still so fresh.

    My first pregnancy was so active, active in the sense that there was always something to be done, keeping the fact that I was pregnant in the forefront of my mind. There were baby items to purchase, books to read, a room to paint and put together, classes to go to, new things to learn that I had no clue about before.  Now, here I am, freshly in my second trimester of my second pregnancy and I feel like I’m not even pregnant. This time does not consist of running around trying to make sure we have everything a baby could need. There are no newborn care classes to go to.  Since I just gave birth at the end of January, all of our baby stuff is still out and even being used. Outside of buying some extra cloth diapers and a double stroller, there is nothing to do.

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    This lack of activeness in this pregnancy makes me forget that I’m even pregnant. I feel like normal, my appearance hasn’t even changed yet. If I hadn’t seen it for myself on an ultrasound I wouldn’t even believe it. I mean, come on, I never even stopped wearing my maternity leggings.

    I can only hope that as I become more visibly pregnant, I begin to feel more involved and like it is real. There is just a strange disconnect and that makes me feel like a terrible person, even though I know that I love this baby.

I hope that I’m not alone in this feeling, though I find it hard to believe that I’m the first. I’m glad for this space to speak honestly and hopefully if anyone who reads is struggling or has struggled with similar feelings, you can find comfort in knowing that it’s a shared experience.  

Yours in business and motherhood, 

Brittany 

The Before

Before I gave birth I thought I would be a lot of things.

I thought I would be exempt from postpartum depression but i’m still struggling.

Chilling with his food pouch on a dog walk.

Chilling with his food pouch on a dog walk.

I thought I would be a homemade baby food aficionado, but I rely on boxes of food pouches from Costco to get me through a long afternoon of pet sitting or to occupy Wyatt as I rush to try and get something done.

I thought I would be an anti-germ freak but with four pets and never enough time to clean, sometimes the baby and his toys are a bit covered in cat hair and maybe even a little dirt tracked in by the dogs after playing in the yard. Sometimes he even eats pieces of food that he drops on the floor.

I thought I would enforce no screen time until age 2, but sometimes my husband isn’t home and I really need 15 minutes to shower and watching Baby Einstein or Handy Manny in the bouncer is the only way to keep Wyatt from crying and being upset while I’m out of the room.

I thought Wyatt would sleep in our room for at least a year, but after so many days of him accidently being woken up early by one of us or by a dog, we finally had to put him in his own room at 8 months.

Crawling around with dogs, one of his favorite past times.

Crawling around with dogs, one of his favorite past times.

Our expectations of motherhood before becoming mothers can be so off. What we thought we would be falls away to the realities of everyday life.  These expectations, whether they are from ourselves, our family or friends, or are what “society” says makes a good parent--it doesn’t matter.  We all do the best that we can and that’s all anyone can hope for.  

It’s so easy to let these these fallen expectations affect us negatively and make us feel horrible about ourselves and our parenting. Please, do not this happen to you.  Know that you are doing everything you can to keep your children safe and healthy.  A little floor food, dirt, or educational television does not a bad parent make.

 

Give yourself a little room to breathe, you’re doing great.

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Breastfeeding Woes

    When I was pregnant, I was so confident, or perhaps I should say cocky.  I hardly did any preparation for the birthing process, I just KNEW that I could do it and for the most part I was right.  I had an unmedicated home birth and while it was painful for sure, I never reached a point where I wished I had drugs.  Perhaps I was too in the moment to notice or perhaps the time that has elapsed has made me forget, but despite a loooooong five hours of pushing, I felt everything up until my son was actually born went good.  

    Preparing for birth had me reading a couple books full of birth stories by Peggy Vincent and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.  When it came time to prepare for breastfeeding, I did even less.  I did nothing.

    I assumed that breastfeeding would come naturally and easy to me.  When I pictured my birth in my head, I was holding my son immediately, we were breastfeeding in bed, and everything was great.  If you read my birth story blog post, you know that is not what happened.  We ended up in the NICU where they wouldn’t allow me to try to breastfeed because they wanted to be able to measure how much milk he was getting.  So I had to pump for the first few days and bottle feed him.  Pumping was awful, I was already getting very little sleep because I insisted on staying at the hospital.  The NICU rooms did not have doors, they had curtains, which meant that all the light and sounds from the hallway filtered in undampened.  Nurses were in and out every few hours through the night and I had alarms set every three hours to pump.  By the time I got up off the couch, pumped for 20-30 minutes, filled out a label on the milk bag, found a nurse to give it to, asked for a bag of previously pumped milk, got the baby up, bottle fed him, went the bathroom, and got laid back down, I only had an hour and a half left until my next alarm.  I would sit there in the middle of the night, pumping and wanting to cry because I was barely making enough to fill the bottles with how much they wanted him to be eating.  By the third day, they said I could try and breastfeed him once per day but still wanted to measure in bottles all the other times.  They sent in a lactation consultant to help me, one of four that I would work with, and after an hour of trying could not get a latch.  I was devastated and convinced it was a direct result of not being allowed to breastfeed immediately for for those first three days.  The next day a different consultant came, still no latch, and she told me I had to use a nipple shield.  It worked for a short while and I was able to feed my son for a few minutes.  She told me I might have to use a nipple shield every time and may never be able to feed him without it.  The next day, yet another consultant, this time actually letting me try more sans shield but again with no luck.  She was kind enough to tell me that some women just can’t do it and that I should probably just stick to bottle feeding and pumping.  To say I was beyond devastated at this point was an understatement.  On the last day, I saw the fourth and final consultant that the hospital provided who reiterated that I would probably have to just always use a shield or avoid breastfeeding at all.  I could not believe how these lactation consultants acted.  They were supposed to HELP me but it felt like all they did was tell me I couldn’t do it and crushed my spirit.  I knew at this point, that no matter how much preparing I had done in terms of breastfeeding, it would have done me no good with the set of cards I was dealing with. We finally went home and if you can imagine, my breastfeeding journey took an even worse turn.

    Our first night home, I tried to feed.  Nothing.  I tried it with a shield.  Nothing.  I tried every position I could think of.  Nothing. So I turned back to the pump.  It got to a point where I had no longer even the desire to try.  Even at home, by the time I was done pumping, getting up the baby, feeding him, and getting him back to bed, by the time I got back to bed myself I had hardly any time to sleep.  I was barely pumping enough to keep up with what he needed and by the third day home, I was behind.  As I stood in my kitchen, alone, in the middle of the night, having to put formula in a bottle because I was unable to provide him with what was needed, I cried and cried for what seemed like hours.

Baby's first chiropractor appointment!

Baby's first chiropractor appointment!

    This was supposed to be natural.  This was supposed to be easy.  This was not supposed to be happening to me.  After a week of crying myself to sleep every night, frustrated and angry, I had my postpartum follow up with my doula.  She asked me if I went to a chiropractor, and as it turned out, I had a postpartum adjustment scheduled for the next day.  She told me to take Wyatt and tell the chiropractor the trouble I was having.  I was not expecting much, but the next day we were off to the chiropractor.  I told her he wouldn’t latch and that we really had not been able to breastfeed for more than two minutes since he was born.  She felt around in his mouth, said something about the plates in his mouth being out of alignment and how that can happen after the birthing process and being squeezed out of such a tight space.  She adjusted it in seconds and said we should be good to go.  As soon as we got to the car, I tried to feed him and he latched immediately.  It was amazing.  I’m kind of convinced she’s a witch, the good kind, of course.  We never had any issue latching or feeding after that (besides an unfortunate thrush issue, but that’s another story).

Finally.

Finally.

    Still I was angry.  How did no one at the hospital check for this?  How did I talk to FOUR DIFFERENT BREASTFEEDING PROFESSIONALS and not a SINGLE ONE offered this up as a possible solution?  I could have avoided so much pain, anger, isolations, tears, and overwhelming sadness.  I could have breastfed immediately.  I have no doubt that this was a huge factor in my postpartum depression.  Even after the issue was fixed, it was hard to escape the spiral I was already going down as a result.  

    I urge you to not be like me and to actually prepare for breastfeeding if that is something you want to do.  Do not think that the advice of a medical professional is the end all, be all.  Get different opinions if you are not getting the care or results you want.  Just because four different lactations consultants told me there was nothing to be done didn’t make it true.  It just took me finding the right opinion from the right person to get my problem fixed.  I was lucky to have an amazing doula and midwife team to turn to when the hospital failed me.  

    There are so many resources to turn to.  If I had done any amount of reading (I brought Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding with me to the hospital, but never opened it), joined any breastfeeding group, literally done anything, I may have already known that this could be an issue and perhaps could have fixed it sooner.  

    I hope that none of you had to go through something like this, but if you did, you’re not alone.  If you’re currently going through it, know there are options, they just may not be the ones presented to you.  

  Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

 

On Birth Trauma and Postpartum Depression

     
     My journey to motherhood began easy and purposefully. My husband and I decided to have a baby and figured we would have a few months to get a head start on preparing emotionally and financially but one month later I was pregnant. I had an easy time conceiving and as it would turn out, I’d have just as easy of a pregnancy.

     My pregnancy was a breeze. Besides being a little anemic and having some hip pain towards the end, it was perfect.  I was 100% convinced that my birth would be just as easy.  Before I was even pregnant, my husband and I had researched and decided on a home birth. I scoured the internet and finally found the one home birth Certified Nurse Midwife in our area and as soon I was pregnant I set up my first appointment.

     My birth started out great. My water broke at home while watching tv. I had spent the day working (dog walking a cute Goldendoodle) and shopping (for groceries). I was a little nervous but also confident. This is what I had prepared for. I read book after book of birth stories and tales of midwives. I had watched home birth videos and looked at millions of pages of photos from birth photographers. I was ready.

Womans best friends. 

Womans best friends. 

     Having chosen home birth I was going at this whole thing unmedicated. It’s easy to say no to drugs when in order to get them you would have to pack up everything and actually drive to the hospital. However, I never even reached a point during labor where I wished I could get them. It was painful, for sure, but the pain was not as bad as I expected it to be. I was more tired than anything. I had reached 8 centimeters quickly and was overconfident that it would be over soon. My body, as it turns out, had other plans.

     During my labor I actively pushed for five hours. I walked around my house for what seemed like an eternity, stopping to push in doorways and over furniture. When it seemed like the end was near my midwife moved me into the bedroom and I finally gave birth while squatting. It should be said that I had a very qualified midwife. I trusted her completely with both my and my baby’s safety. She had been monitoring him with a fetal monitor the whole time and everything had been great. Then he was born.

     He came out not moving, not crying. His heartbeat had just shown up strong on the monitor a few minutes ago before she set it down to catch him. What had happened in those two or three minutes? She immediately jumped into action helping him breathe with an ambu bag. Her RN assistant gave the tiniest chest compressions. My doula called for an ambulance in case they needed additional help. In those moments time stood still. Was it seconds? Minutes? All my preparing and I had never considered a bad outcome. I was so sure in my choice to birth at home. So ready to avoid hospitals and drugs and unnecessary interventions. Had I made an unsafe choice?

 

Getting help breathing from the midwife.

Getting help breathing from the midwife.

     Finally after a couple minutes he was breathing on his own and crying. As I sat there in nothing but a towel and sports bra, the room suddenly filled with a police officer, two firefighters, and the medics who had all responded to the 911 call. I got to hold him for less than five minutes before my husband and baby were whisked away to the emergency room to double check that everything was okay. Having just given birth and sitting there covered in blood, I was not able to go. By the time I got three stitches and cleaned up, it was two hours before I got to the hospital. Everything seemed fine and it didn’t seem like there were any problems but the doctors wanted to put him on antibiotics (“because we just don’t know what he was exposed to at home”) and observe him overnight.

     Despite everything seeming okay with the baby, my husband was now throwing up and sick. The doctors forced him to leave because we were in the NICU and they could not risk babies getting sick, but as it turned out his “sickness” was just a bad combination of stress, dehydration, and lack of food and sleep. Luckily he was permitted back in a few hours later after he got to feeling better. By this time we were just waiting on some routine test results and having gone through a 12 hour labor and feeling gross, my mom came to sit with Wyatt and my husband ran me home to take a quick shower and pack an overnight bag. In the hour we were gone, however, things took yet another turn.

     As I stepped out of the shower I was greeted by texts from my mother, telling me that Wyatt was having what they thought were seizures and to get back quickly. As we returned to the hospital, an EEG was already underway and we were told he was, in fact, seizing. Over the next week they would do test after test trying to find a cause and they were all coming up empty. They ended up telling us after everything that it was most likely related to him not breathing on his own but they could not find anything about it in his tests and that hopefully after some time they would dissipate.   (After they found no cause and medicated him, we went to a follow up appointment with a different doctor at a different hospital.  She found no signs of seizure activity in his brain and we are now very convinced that the original hospital was just looking for problems where there were none.  Their poor treatment of us for our birth choices was extremely unsettling and at the time we did not feel confident enough to question what they were saying.  This feeling that they did all of these tests and medications without need contributed to postpartum feelings in a big way.)

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     We ended up spending a week in the NICU. It is impossible to sleep in the hospital. I had to wake up every few hours to pump and bottle feed (he was hooked up to too many wire to breast feed, plus they wanted bottles so they could monitor exactly how much he was eating).  Nurses came in every hour or so to check on him. Machines beeped. There was no door to the room, just a curtain so shining lights and voices from the hall creeped in. For that week I barely slept at all for I refused to go home and leave him alone. I thought that week would be the most stressful and that once we were home things would be fine, but again I would turn out to be wrong.

     The first week home was an adjustment. We were still bottle feeding expressed milk because Wyatt would not latch. The three different lactation consultants from the hospital were of no help. They kept repeating that sometimes it’s just harder for some people, that I should use a shield, that sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I sat there on my couch night after night, crying about how I was failing. The one night I wasn’t able to pump enough and had to supplement with formula was the final straw.  I took him with to me the chiropractor at two weeks old and like magic she adjusted the roof of his mouth and he latched immediately. I'm half convinced she was a powerful witch. After he begin nursing, he quickly started sleeping through the night much to our amazement. It seems things are finally looking up. I felt great and soon went back to work after only a couple weeks.  Since I am on my own with my pet sitting business, I started back slowly and took him with me on jobs by babywearing.

     Then yet again life seemed to have darker plans for me and as the weeks went on I began feeling less and less like myself. I felt tired even after sleeping 8-10 hours. I felt irritated at even the smallest of the things. Nothing made me happy. Nothing felt right. I cried. I snapped. I sulked. What was wrong with me?  I began to wonder if I had postpartum depression. After much internet reading it did not really sound possible since though I had some of the minor symptoms, my issues did not seem as serious as the lists suggested. I had no harmful thoughts, I was just sad. I did not want to run away and leave my baby behind, I just didn’t feel like myself. One day while browsing ebooks from the library, I saw a book by Brooke Shields about postpartum depression and decided to check it out. As I sat there reading one night, I could do nothing but cry because so much of it sounded exactly like me. It seemed I had finally figured out what was wrong. 

     I ordered another two books online and decided that since I seemed to be on the low end of the PPD spectrum, that for now I would try and work through it without professional help. As with my birth, I had no desire to be medicated and I had no desire to be under the care of a doctor. I do not recommend this, if you have PPD you should get help. I can admit that I was probably being a bit reckless but doctors are not my jam and for the time being I felt comfortable enough to handle it in house. Right now I am reading and learning and unpacking all of these issues that made my birth and my sons beginning so traumatic. I am angry that my body failed me on such a basic level. I am angry that my home birth ended in a week long NICU stay. I am angry that the hospital staff treated us so poorly because of my birth choices. I am angry that my son was medicated. I am angry that no one understands how I feel. I am bitter that I missed my moment. That first moment where you see and hold your baby for the first time. That happy moment. That happy moment that I was robbed of has turned me bitter and angry and twisted. I am angry my baby was taken from me before I even got to hold him.     

     If I had been at the hospital, would the fetal monitor somehow have picked up something different? If I had been at the hospital, would I have been forced into a c-section after pushing so long? Would not having him at home have changed what happened? Is it my fault? He is doing great now and having no problems but the guilt still needs worked through. I always wanted a large family and now I find myself afraid to even think of doing it all again and yet here I am, 7 weeks pregnant at almost 8 months postpartum. I still would not want to be hospitalized and plan to home birth again even though I know I will likely receive backlash from my family.

     I never expected the postpartum period to be this hard. I had dreamed of being a mother for so long. How could something that I looked forward to be causing me so much sadness and anxiety?  Postpartum depression is a difficult subject. I could barely admit having it to myself, much less others. I'm the one who chose a home birth that ended poorly and as a result I felt like I had to act like everything was fine and that I was fine with what happened, but in reality I was struggling harder than I thought possible. There is such a stigma surrounding it and such a large scale of how it can present itself that it can be difficult to realize you have it because it is not openly talked about and the symptoms can vary so much. It feels especially hard because it seems like I should have no reason to feel this way. Despite how poorly we were treated at the hospital for our birth choices, my son is doing great and thriving. I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

     Birth trauma and postpartum depression are very real and if you suspect you have postpartum depression, please contact your doctor immediately.