Will the Trauma of the Pysch Ward Follow Me to the Maternity Ward?

Almost exactly five years ago, as a senior in college, I spent the night in the psych emergency room. Then, a week later, I spent another night in the same ER. The first time, I had naively expected that my new psychiatrist would react to hearing that I had been having detailed fantasies about killing myself by giving me more Zoloft. Turns out, his legal responsibility, since he was not 100% sure that I will not hurt myself if left to my own devices, I would not hurt myself, was to put me in the ER. My plan for that night was to go to a spring fling dance as a first date with a cute boy. Thankfully, my friends managed to convince him that I was sick and without cell reception in the hospital (true) so that I could tell him on my own time what had actually happened.

This was not some small college town emergency room. I went to Barnard College. My psychiatrist, then doing a fellowship of some sort at the affiliated Columbia University, was seeing me for free through some magical program, and his office was in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. That emergency room is a busy New York City ER with a separate place for psych patients that requires a security guard escort to open two locked doors before anyone can get in or out. Protocol required that this security guard walk with me from my psychiatrist’s office to the ER, I suppose because a fair number of patients have made a run for it or taken out their rage on their doctor. And rage is exactly what I felt. I expressed this by crying a lot, not hitting anyone, but I see why this protocol exists. I could not believe that I had no choice. I was not crazy. I just needed more meds. Clearly.

In a sense, I was right–compared to my roommate in the psych ER (aka HELL), I was 100% sane. Still known among the friends who visited me as The Cat Lady, this woman keened (there is no other word for it) unless she was yelling about her husband having killed her cat by not paying for kitty chemotherapy and threatening to kill this husband to avenge that cat. Why were we both in the same room? Because in New York City, if the police are called to a scene and someone is clearly lacking important mental faculties, they have to take them to the emergency room. Picture this: the palest, most scared college girl you have ever seen in the middle of a crowded and small psychiatric emergency room that is mostly occupied by unstable people, often homeless, that the police have brought in after being called about someone who is either out of control or unconscious.

I had nothing; not even my clothes. The nurses on duty when I got there would not even give me my psych meds. I started to go through withdrawal before a doctor finally got around to getting someone to give me the damn Klonopin. I got a migraine and the best they could do was Motrin, even though I had a prescription for Imitrex (hardly a controlled substance). It took me four tries before someone would give me Motrin; I would imagine that they are used to people lying about being in pain in stupid attempts to get pain killers. My own mother had to call repeatedly before anyone even told me she had called, let alone put me on the phone with her. She was smart enough to keep calling until she got me on the phone, though, because I certainly was not going to be able to call Arizona.

Finally, though, a nurse saved me. She looked me straight in the eyes and said “You are not the kind of patient I usually see in here, and you are a smart, polite, sweet girl. So I am going to tell you this: if you want to get out of here, you had better stop crying all the time. You’ve got to convince them that you are going to be ok, and right now, you do not look ok.” So I dried my eyes, took a deep breath, spoke calmly to the doctors and promptly slept through almost all of my remaining time the ER.

The story of how I got out and how I ended up back in again is long and convoluted, but I did go in the second time by choice–I had realized that I needed real, professional help as an inpatient, and the only way to cut through the bureaucratic red tape was to get to the “good floor” via the same ER. I thought I could handle it. I was traumatized all over again. That second night was spent in a room with two other patients. I can’t even write about this without crying.

Somehow, they had given my clothes to a friend, who had taken them back to my dorm–clear communication was not exactly possible. I showed up on “5 South” to participate in the inpatient program that would turn my entire life around wearing a two hospital gowns and dirty socks. I hadn’t even been allowed to wear my bra in the ER, so I felt pretty freaking uncomfortable in this psych ward where longer-term patients had on real clothing. I had to get special permission to wait in “my” room until my friend could bring my clothes. I wasn’t even allowed to see him or hug him. I never through it was possible to feel so grateful to see a hoodie and a pair of jeans.

After that day, things got better. I made the decision to care for myself and my self-esteem. I actually left school alone and spent time alone with whatever shreds of an identity I could find outside that Smart Girl persona. I will never forget the staff who helped me save myself, particularly the nurse responsible for checking in with me, one-on-one. His name was Michael. I ran into him once, and he hardly recognized me. But I got to thank him. I am forever grateful for the ten or so days I spent on “5 South” and, at the same time, I would not wish the hours I endured in the ER on anyone.

Unfortunately, when I think of hospitals, I think of that ER stay. Trauma teaches us to fear and stay the f*** away from whatever traumatized us. Every subsequent ER trip, I have refused to go until a friend could go with me (thanks, guys!) and one of my favorite things about being with Nathan is that he always stayed with me for the whole trip. (I used to get quite a few bladder infections. I tripled my water intake. That doesn’t happen anymore.) I am terrified that I am going to be locked away, stripped of everything I own and have no access to anyone, not even a doctor (it takes forever for a doctor to see you in the psych ER, worse than the regular ER because they know you’re stuck there for up to 72 hours).

I wanted a home birth for quite a few reasons, but mostly, it was so that I would not have to face this fear. I do not want to check into any hospital, ever, because no matter how many times a billion people repeat that I will have rights in there, I am not convinced. What if I go in and cannot leave? What if they take my baby away? What if they know, somehow, that I will no know what to do with a baby of my own? These are my nightmares. This is why I will have a doula with me in that room. There has got to be someone designated to back Nathan up in dealing with my fear, should it rise up after we check in. I may need Nathan, the doula and the midwife all telling me to breath. I may need narcotics to calm me down. But I will have a beautiful birth, and it will change me. My beautiful birth will teach me that I am powerful and strong. I will set up a birth plan with powerful and strong midwives to ensure that my rights are never taken from me.

My stay in the psych ER taught me the necessary lesson that I was much sicker than I had been willing to believe; my stay in the maternity ward will teach me that I have healed myself more than I ever thought I could.

Yale-New Haven Hospital, where I will prove to myself that I have come a long, long way.

No, I Don’t Want to Know the Gender. (And You Can’t Change My Mind.)

I was going to write some sort of intro to myself, since I have all these new readers now [yay! hi new readers! I love you!]. The gender of this fetus, however, seems to be a source of endless fascination to strangers, so I’m going to write about why I don’t want to know. Not because I need to justify this, but because it relates to actually important stuff people are talking about. Namely, gender and children and body issues.

Reason #1: I do not want to know the gender of this fetus until it is a baby I can hold in my arms, because I do not want to worry about raising Girls or raising Boys. I feel that I am qualified to worry over and take charge of raising my girl or my boy, but if I find out which I am carrying halfway through this pregnancy, I will research, gather information and obsess. I do not need that kind of anxiety. Here’s what I might worry about if I knew I were carrying a girl:

There is no longer a child too young to be assaulted by the friggin gender police. There are wigs for bald baby girls and “loungerie” for prepubescent girls. Rainbow Brite and Care Bears and My Little Pony and Barbie and other toys marketed to preschoolers look thinner (Candyland and Shutes and Ladders are now featuring thinner girls, too) than they did when I was small. Why a bear or a pony needs to be skinny and how anyone thought that Barbie could get any skinnier, I do not know. The Gap seems to have no problem selling a mini skirt for infant girls (their words, not mine). Wal-Mart, Target and Disney are actively marketing make-up for girls as young as seven, including anti-aging crap, and no one has ever bothered to study what the ingredients might do to a child’s skin.

But now, it appears, by age three girls equate thinness with beauty, sweetness, niceness and popularity; they associate “fat” meanwhile with laziness,  stupidity and friendlessness. – Peggy Orenstein, “Fat is a Preschool Issue

And a boy:

As for boys, about a year ago, the “news” media regarded an ad depicting a five-year-old boy with pink toenails as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Last year, my friend Avi, aka The MamaFesto, and her husband found themselves arguing with a waitress last year that their then-four-year-old son is, in fact, a boy with long hair, not a girl (yes, the waitress actually told them that their son just had to be a girl with that hair); this year, Avi also covered the absurd “news” on the Today Show that boys sometimes have long hair (gasp!) and adults’ cruel reactions to this shocking revelation. We’re all still waiting to see what happens when he starts sporting his new pink crocs, which he absolutely adores, in public this summer. Most certainly, someone will say something. Will he let it get to him? Gosh, I hope not. Wear neon as long as you can, little man.

Reason #2: I can stave off the waves of unecessarily-gendered stuff that will inevitably come into our home.

I do not have anything against pastel pink and blue, necessarily, but it’s more that I prefer bright colors like yellow, orange, red and green. I love stripes and polka dots in all the colors of the rainbow. If it’s a girl, I do not want her to own, especially before she is even born, anything that says “Princess” or “Diva,” especially if it’s written across the bottom. I’d just rather the baby were a few months old before we add tiny dresses or suits to the wardrobe. And since newborns can’t really play with toys, I’d rather just leave all that for later, too. Perhaps we will even manage to find out what the child actually likes before filling the house with the arbitrary Boy or Girl toys s/he is “supposed” to like.

Reason #3: I would rather hear about how stupid and annoying we are being for waiting to find out than hear every stranger’s advice on how properly to raise girls or boys.

While I am sure that every stranger who asks “Boy or girl?” will have excellent advice on how to raise a real gentleman or how not to raise a stripper, I will hear it all when I’m walking around with the actual baby. I wish I could apologize for all the trouble we are causing by waiting, but I can’t, because I don’t understand why anyone needs to know.

In short, I just don’t want to deal with the fact that we live in a culture that produces crap like this stuff I saw (again in Peggy Orenstein’s blog) at least until after I give birth:

Fisher Price’s “Brilliant Basics” girls’ and boys’ teething ring/rattles which highlight both gender hyper-segmenting and the downward creep of Kardashianization: The set for your “darling baby girl” features a purse, diamond ring and charm bracelet; your  boy gets a saw, hammer and wrenches.

Girls need to cut their teeth on materialism, apparently.

 

At least our boys get to make stuff, right?

The Mom Pledge: Do Unto Others, Even Online

I found this because its founder posted a lovely comment on my post about breastfeeding bullying. I got on board right away! Part of me wants to include fathers, but, you know what? I haven’t seen too many dads go for the jugular when commenting on each other’s parenting practices. So, as I sit here, 9 weeks pregnant, watching the baby I nanny thrill herself with her new ability to make reach out and grab onto her toy (it makes a crinkly sound! whoa!), I solemnly swear that even when someone, somewhere insists that I am up to know good, I will be kind.

I am a proud to be a mom. I will conduct myself with integrity in all my online activities. I can lead by example.

I pledge to treat my fellow moms with respect. I will acknowledge that there is no one, “right” way to be a good mom. Each woman makes the choices best for her family.

I believe a healthy dialogue on important issues is a good thing. I will welcome differing opinions when offered in a respectful, non-judgmental manner. And will treat those who do so in kind.

I stand up against cyber bullying. My online space reflects who I am and what I believe in. I will not tolerate comments that are defamatory, hateful or threatening.

I refuse to give those who attack a platform. I will remove their remarks with no mention or response. I can take control.

I want to see moms work together to build one another up, not tear each other down. Words can be used as weapons. I will not engage in that behavior.

I affirm that we are a community. As a member, I will strive to foster goodwill among moms. Together, we can make a difference.

I want to talk a little bit about each one of these points.

Leading by example: I firmly believe that the best way to encourage others to change unhealthy habits is to model the healthy version of a behavior. You may notice, if you go through the 100+ comments on my bullying post, that I have chosen not to engage in insulting the woman who attacked me. I was upset because she didn’t know me but assumed that she knew enough to tell me “You’re not trying hard enough” and to imply that I’ll be a terrible mother. I’d rather not do the same to her by saying I feel sorry for her kids or calling her names. (This does not put me above a good, enthusiastic F*** YOU! – entirely appropriate.)

Pride, Integrity, Leading by Example: I see two sides to this. On the one hand, insecurity and fear, secret or not-so-secret fear, cause us to lash out. My biggest fear about motherhood is that I will be selfish. If I can manage to have enough pride in my own mothering, I hope to avoid interpreting some blog post that has nothing to do with me, personally, as a blogger calling me selfish. Understanding that I feel pressured or sad or disappointed and not lashing out, but rather, feeling those feelings–that is something I want to model. That is integrity, because it is honest. On the other hand, pride in our families allows us to write about all this, put it online and face the consequences bravely. There is no community if nobody speaks up. Talk, talk, talk, and someone will thank you for proving that she is not alone! I want to model that, too–no shame. Speak up.

Respect for other’s choices and healthy dialogue: I have been working in child care for long enough to have learned that not even the family that looks perfect is not and that every mom does the best she can and still feels like she’s not doing a good job half the time. Even if I want to change someone else’s mind about some child rearing decision, it strikes me as counter-productive to start the conversation from any place other than one of respect. Nobody makes a real change because they have been shamed into it. My mind has been changed, and only through a healthy dialogue. This is how learning happens.

I think I covered the cyber bullying thing…

A platform for those who attack: Not here. I consider myself a mental health blogger, and as soon as the discussion stops and turns into ridicule or stubborn repetition, I stop it. Thankfully, it has only happened once, and on the old site for this blog. Oddly, I was also accused, then, of being inflexible for not stopping my meds and meditating my way out of anxiety. (I happen to know quite a bit about certain meditation techniques, since I grew up in a family that meditates, and I also happen to know that my Guru, a true Indian Guru, was not against Western medicine.)

I want to see moms come together: Rather selfishly, I want a supportive community so that I can feel better about my go at parenthood. It’s going to be hard. There’s going to be guilt. There will be joy. I want to share it all. Moms, especially moms who are sensitive to the issues we’re talking about today, make for one helluva nurturing community. I want that for me. I don’t want sharp words directed at me. So it just follows that I will nurture others and keep my words soft.

I do affirm that we are a community. There has never been a time when women mothered alone. Parenthood is not a job that can be done in isolation. The very idea is absurd. My sister, a developmental psychologist, learned at a professional conference (you’d be surprised at how much of that field is about primate research) that mama gorillas who are ostracized before their babies are born never learn to breastfeed properly. Without the community of other primate mamas, they can’t do it. Their baby’s die. Obviously, with all this technology and our huge brains, we should be able to do what a gorilla can’t. But why? Why not sit in a circle and help each other feed, entertain, stimulate each others’ babies? Why not take a few minutes to tell a struggling mama that she’s doing a good job? It doesn’t have to be this hard. I refuse to contribute to any model of parenting that says we should go it alone.

A Therapeutic Therapy Poem

This poem takes my breath away in its honest, simplicity and in the way it resonates with me. April is National Poetry Month, so… happy early Poetry Month!

PS A therapist photocopied this for me from an old New Yorker, when he happened across it, because I had mentioned Sharon Olds. It meant the world to me.

The Space Heater

Sharon Olds

On the then-below-zero day, it was on,
near the patients’ chair, the old heater
kept by the analyst’s couch, at the end,
like the infant’s headstone that was added near the foot
of my father’s grave. And it was hot, with the almost
laughing satire of a fire’s heat,
the little coils like hairs in Hell.
And it was making a group of sick noises-
I wanted the doctor to turn it off
but I couldn’t seem to ask, so I just
stared, but it did not budge. The doctor
turned his heavy, soft palm
outward, toward me, inviting me to speak, I
said, “If you’re cold-are you cold? But if it’s on
for me…” He held his palm out toward me,
I tried to ask, but I only muttered,
but he said, “Of course,” as if I had asked,
and he stood up and approached the heater, and then
stood on one foot, and threw himself
toward the wall with one hand, and with the other hand
reached down, behind the couch, to pull
the plug out. I looked away,
I had not known he would have to bend
like that. And I was so moved, that he
would act undignified, to help me,
that I cried, not trying to stop, but as if
the moans made sentences which bore
some human message. If he would cast himself toward the
outlet for me, as if bending with me in my old
shame and horror, then I would rest
on his art-and the heater purred, like a creature
or the familiar of a creature, or the child of a familiar,
the father of a child, the spirit of a father,
the healing of a spirit, the vision of healing,
the heat of vision, the power of heat,
the pleasure of power.

 

from The New Yorker, January 22, 2001
Conde Nast, New York, NY

Copyright 2001 by Sharon Olds.
All rights reserved.

Sanity Sundays: Put Down the Pregnancy “Guide”

I find that books about pregnancy provoke anxiety. And I’m not alone. This article over at Slate, for example, backs me up pretty well:

17,000,000 Weeping Pregnant Women Can’t Be Wrong: The mean-girl advice of What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Allison Benedict confirms my resolution to stay as far away from that particular book as possible when she explains that the book’s

just-us-girls approach can at times be comforting (Did I ever tell you about the time my mucous plug came out?) or gross (Did I ever tell you about the time my mucous plug came out?), but most often it’s passive-aggressively terrifying. (Oh, your mucous plug hasn’t come out yet? Huh. I’m sure it will. But for a tiny fraction of women, a dysfunctional mucous plug latch means you have three days to live. Consult your physician.)

So, today, I thought I’d start the first of a series of tips I’ve picked up about how to stay sane and well-informed about pregnancy. What’s a girl to do when her options are either “passive-agressively terrifying,” condescending or impersonal? I asked my therapist this very same question the time she asked if I would please return the 17 pregnancy books I had checked out of the library last fall (months and months before we were even thinking about starting to try for a baby). The answer is astonishingly simple:

Talk to real women.

Of course, the key is to talk to women who remain positive about pregnancy and birth. It’s pretty important to avoid the mom who tells she was not and you are definitely not up to dealing with the pain, and instead, to seek out the mom who would love to recommend a good birthing class where the instructor will help you understand all your options for dealing with pain during labor. I have found quite a few positive moms and pregnant ladies on the internet by reading blogs and through Twitter. But today, I found the best resource ever: The Doula.

“My mamas call me whenever they want to, and I will talk about whatever you need. I’ll listen to every detail about that last appointment, even if you and I are the only two people on the planet who are excited about it.”

She’s more expensive than a book, yes. But she’s supported a few moms through a few births, even at the very same hospital I’ll be using. I can call her with any pregnancy or birth question, and she will try and find me the answer.

And she makes cookies. And tea.

She encourages moms to sign up for doulas as early as they want to, because her fee is the same, no matter when you sign on together. I’m going to meet with a few more doulas before I decide, but I’m kind of ready to be this lady’s best friend. (I don’t have that many friends in New Haven… it gets a bit lonely… But that’s another story.) Whomever I choose, it will be happening fairly soon. Because why look it up on a book or search engine when you can just call your friendly doula?

Did I mention she made me tea and cookies?

You can find a certified doula through DONA international’s website; I will probably end up using someone working towards her certification, because the fee is lower. But as it turns out, doulas are friendly with each other, too. They’ll happily pass along names so you can meet with as many as you’d like before deciding. It’s a bit like finding a therapist–you want someone who feels like a friend, but who won’t judge or worry about you the way friends and family do. A good doula doesn’t give advice, she just helps you find out all the information you need to make up your own mind. I am officially endorsing doulas as sanity savers.

What I Eat For Love…

Sardines! Despite the fact that I have never met a fish I didn’t really enjoy eating, I was nervous about eating sardines. I don’t know why, because I have no problem with canned tuna. I think I was picturing opening a can and seeing whole fish, with eyes. But no. It was just cooked fish. And the bones being inside? That scared me. But actually, I can’t even see them. Here’s the amazing part: wild-caught, practically mercury-free fish for $2.59? I got two lunches out of that. I put it on toasted bread, mixed with mayo, put cheese on top and broiled it. Like a tuna melt, only safer and, actually, more delicious!

These came in extra virgin olive oil and lemon (there was a little lemon round in there!). I want to try the ones that come in marinara sauce, too. Oh, and the Wild Planet brand? BPA-free cans. Score! [This is not a paid endorsement. I don’t know the Wild Planet people, and they don’t know me. I didn’t even get free sardines for writing this.]

So, why sardines? Here’s a breakdown of the nutrition content of sardines, all the things they contain that are good for us, especially those of us who are pregnant, in order of % daily value:

vitamin B12: 283.6%

vitamin D: 109.2%

omega-3 fats: 86.6%

tryptophan: 78.1%

protein: 44.7%

phosphorus: 29.5%

vitamin B: 320%

vitamin B6: 19%

vitamin B2: 17%

Bonus points for tryptophan, which helps blood flow and is chemically very similar to the meds I take for migraine (triptans), something Jan the Amazing Nutritionist researched for me.
What about mercury? Well, sardines have just about the lowest mercury content possible. They’re tiny, first of all. Big fish have big mercury levels, because they need to eat little fish. Little fish have mercury in them, so big fish get whatever is in the water plus whatever their meals have absorbed. But sardines are at the bottom of the fishy food chain, which means that instead of eating other fish, they eat plankton or algae or whatever is at the bottom of the sea. The New York Times says about seafood and mercury that “among the sea creatures with the lowest known levels of mercury are shrimp, oysters, clams, sardines, anchovies and herring.”
The conservative estimate is that I can eat 12 oz. of these kinds of fish each week. That’s about two sardine melt lunches and two dinners that feature shrimp. Yum!

Belly Pictures–8 Weeks

In an effort to do something original for my belly pictures, I figured out how to make DIY temporary tattoos. I’m going to apply one at 8, 12, 16, etc. up to 40. Today, I am officially eight weeks pregnant, so here’s the first set:

7 Weeks Pregnant (Ultrasound!)

How Far Along? Seven weeks, five days.

Courtesy of www.thebump.com.

Maternity Clothes? I need to wear maternity tops sometimes, because my bust line is expanding at a truly shocking rate. (Seriously. The women in the nursing bra store this week were actually shocked. And they sell bras to pregnant ladies and moms every day.) My pants are getting tight–anyone want to donate those neat hidden-panel jeans? The Gap doesn’t sell them anymore. :(

Weight Gain? Somewhere around 8-10 lbs, I think.

Stretch Marks? Probably in the bust area. Too soon for the belly.

Sleep? I was sleeping like a rock, sometimes at random, but now the need to pee is interfering sometimes. And lots of naps!

Best Moment so Far? Seeing that heart beating strong and clear!

Movement? Bug was 1.3 cm as of Thursday, so no.

Gender? We have decided not to find out until the birth. More on that. It will get its own post.

What I miss? I miss my 34D size and the bras that went with it. And the lack of pain that went with it.

Symptoms:

  • My first symptom was a food aversion–coffee. I drank some. I vomited. The next morning, even the thought of coffee made my stomach turn. So far, coffee is the only “food” I really can’t stand.
  • Then, the super-human sense of smell kicked in. It was a Thursday, which I remember because I had therapy. The patient before me had been wearing perfume, and even though my therapist could hardly smell it, she had to open a window for me, the smell was so strong to me! It was nice perfume, but I felt sort of like I was trapped in Sephora. I still can’t go near a Starbucks or even sit next to my husband if he has spent much time in one. Cigarette smoke, like the kind that lingers in the hallway here (someone is smoking indoors!) gives me headaches, too. It does make food taste better, the super sense of smell! Oh yeah, and I predicted what we were having for dinner at my sister-in-laws house from the sidewalk outside the house, through the kitchen and past closed doors.
  • I get nauseous, and it comes and goes, but I don’t throw up (thank goodness!).
  • Cravings: cheese! and more cheese! Grilled cheese, in particular. They vary daily–cheese is the only constant.
  • TMI WARNING: Skip this bullet point if you don’t want to read more about my bra size. Did I mention the expanding bust line? It’s one of the most painful things I’ve felt. I’ve gone from a 32DD/34D bra size to a 32FF/34F (F also = DDD) in under a month. I’m happy for all you pregnant ladies who didn’t have cleavage and now love your mama cleavage, but I want my D cup size back! I am sleeping in a sleep bra (they make these for nursing mamas) because if I roll over too quickly, it hurts.

What I’m looking forward to? I’m looking forward to looking pregnant. I know that it’s a little ways off, yet, but I want to leave this weird in-between stage behind with the clothing. Regular tops and bottoms are just a bit too tight, but the maternity tops and bottoms just look too big.

What I’ve Learned about Pregnancy: No matter how much you know in advance, you’re not prepared. Mostly, I cannot believe how this tiny thing is living inside my body and taking it over. All those symptoms? They’re caused by an embryo the size of a blueberry! What?! No matter who said that to me beforehand, now that it’s my body, I find myself shocked and awed.

Milestones: First ultrasound! Heartbeat! The doctor did a transvaginal ultrasound. She didn’t say why, beyond that it lets us see more detail, but I suspect its because my meds carry an increased risk of “physical malformation” – interfering with the development of, in particular, the baby’s face, but who knows what else could happen with the mix of Effexor and Klonopin. It’s best to keep an eye on things. I don’t think she said so, because that would probably make me anxious. But maybe it’s her standard procedure. I don’t know! I do know that what we saw was absolutely incredible. This image totally fails to capture the enormity of that experience.

Click on it to see the full image! I labeled this stuff myself. Oh, and there is a yolk sac, because the placenta hasn't finished developing, but it's not shown in this image.

Emotions: Completely ecstatic! I’m so happy we’re announcing this to everyone.
I told my employers, too, and they just really happy for me! I love my job. They’re really happy to welcome me back after I recover from giving birth and for me to bring the baby with me. I don’t have to be separated from either my baby or “my” baby! This is the best week ever!

Bug is Here!

I have been dying to tell everyone for weeks, but we wanted to wait a little while, too. I was afraid that Lewis was going to spill the beans, but he showed remarkable self-control for such an enthusiastic dog. I’ll post more soon–details about how I found out, how I told Nathan, symptoms, first ultrasound picture. But for now, I am just so happy announce to the world that I am pregnant! According to the doctor, I’m 7 weeks, 3 days along.

I know that it’s early, but I’m not superstitious. I figure that if I have a miscarriage (at this stage, the chances of a young, healthy woman like me are about 15% or so I’m told), I want your support and love. Strangely, though, I’m not worried. Bug is here and strong and growing fast. In fact, I’m not really worried about anything. Pregnancy suits me very well, and seems to have eradicated my anxiety! I’m enjoying that while it lasts, trust me.

And, finally, I apologize for the fact that Lewis does not sit like a normal dog. We have never understood why he sits with his legs splayed like that and hope that none of you are offended by his lack of modesty.

She’s not a Lactivist. She’s a Bully.

I didn’t quite understand what had happened to me until I came across this sentiment online: “I often feel bullied by lactivists just because I had to use formula.” It’s not important where I found that or what that debate was about; the important thing is that when I read that, I realized that I had been bullied this week. For real. By a real bully. She claims that she is a lactivist, fighting for better education about breastfeeding and less manipulation by rich and powerful formula companies. (Have you ever seen a formula commercial? They are manipulative, and that’s just the beginning.) I don’t want to give space to her options, mostly because the thoughts of a bully don’t deserve space, but also because they don’t really make any sense.

The Bully’s first email appeared to be a fair question, supportive in tone. That’s how she got me to engage. I answered her question. I explained (apparently it was too much to ask that she read the blog post I wrote about my heartbreak over not breastfeeding) why the medications I take, in combination and at my dosage, might make my milk supply dangerous. A baby fed with milk I produce might fall asleep and find herself unable to wake up. His brain might not be able to properly regulate respiration.

The Bully pointed out that Klonopin, the medication that worries me most, is not listed as a “do not breastfeed while taking” medication on the reputable website InfantRisk. Now, I knew this. I brought this to my doctors’ attention. The problem is the combination, I repeated, of Klonopin and Effexor, which is completely unstudied. I have explained that to true lactivists, and they understand. Even if they think they might make a different choice, they at least understand that my terror of harming my potential child with my breastmilk is too much anxiety for me to bear. They understand why I am asking for donor milk, particularly from a friend whose baby girl is due in June who happens to be the healthiest person ever. They offer support. Not the Bully. Donor milk isn’t good enough, says she. Not feeding the baby from the breast will increase the risk of death by SIDS! Not exactly true, by the way. There’s a correlation between not breastfeeding and a higher risk of SIDS, but no causation could possibly be proved. Women who breastfeed are also more likely to be educated about how to prevent SIDS, which rarely happens anymore, anyway.

But then, she threw this grenade:

You clearly have not tried hard enough to find an alternative medication.

That just mad me angry. And I told her that I was angry that she had questioned, after she read a few websites, the decision that I made about my family after I talked to all those doctors and did all that research. I also told her to stop contacting me and to seek professional help. Of course, she didn’t stop. Bullies don’t stop. She laughed at me. Finally, she said this:

Good luck being a mother. I’m sure you’ll be great at it with such an inflexible attitude.

I wrote back, which I probably shouldn’t have done; more importantly, I blocked her email address. Those words sting. In my own deep dark places, I will never have tried hard enough. At anything. Ever. I will, according to my own worst fears, fail at motherhood. I engaged with this bully because she said out loud the things I fear when I am being irrational and hating myself. I understand that she is wrong, however. I know that I could not have tried harder, and that I will be a good mother.

The point of this post is that bullies will find a way to keep getting at you, to keep going until they find a weak spot.

Breastfeeding activists will suggest that you find a second, third, fourth opinion if anyone tells you that you cannot safely breastfeed, that you should give up trying if it’s painful or that you should give up trying to increase a low supply. They will happily and calmly discuss statistics about infant and mother health. They will concede that, in some cases, breastfeeding is not possible for medical reasons. They will point out that many women give up because they do not receive enough support and ask me if I feel supported. Then, they will offer any knowledge they have about alternatives (like donor milk). These women are not bullies. They simply want to roll back the influence that formula companies wield over new mothers. They simply want breastfeeding to be made easier for women. They are not cruel. They do not call other women terrible mothers.

The World Health Organization explains why breastfeeding is so important. In fact, the WHO has issued an international code of breastmilk substitutes. Here’s why:

The 27th World Health Assembly in 1974 noted the general decline in breastfeeding related to different factors including the production of manufactured breast-milk substitutes and urged Member countries to review sales promotion activities on baby foods and to introduce appropriate remedial measures, including advertisement codes and legislation where necessary.

The United States is not among the countries who have pledged to abide by this code. American formula manufacturers are not held to these rules. And this is why we need breastfeeding advocates. This is why I do not mind when women ask me if I am sure, if I double or triple checked, that the milk I will produce will be unsafe. This is why I am determined to use donor milk as exclusively as possible. I say this not because I want to pick a fight with any mother who uses formula. It’s going to be really hard work to collect and safely store donor breastmilk. I have the time and resources to do that. But I do not want to support any corporation who breaks rules specifically designed to encourage better nutrition for infants. And even formula companies admit that breastmilk really is better.