Chronic Illness During Flu Season

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So, a friend from my mommy group and I had planned a playdate at the library yesterday. But she texted me in the morning saying her son had been up since 2am projectile vomiting and crying. Poor kid. I suggested she call his pediatrician. She got back to me later saying her son has a viral cold and he must’ve picked it up from the baby that was visiting them on Wednesday, since *she knew the baby’s older brother had a cold*. And she hopes BG doesn’t get it but “oh well it’s good for their immune system”…because we just saw them the day before a shared toys so we were obviously exposed.

I call BULLSH*T

There is no advantage to an infant being exposed to a virus. With a stuffy nose/sore throat/swollen glands it’s hard to nurse. BG isn’t old enough to blow her nose and those snot-sucker-thingys are crap. And they are not old enough to take *real* cough medicine, only this homeopathic pseudo-remedy junk. So NO, it’s NOT a good idea to expose an infant to a cold or any other virus. Continue reading

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Postpartum Anxiety (PPA)

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I *think* I’ve safely crossed over the treacherous landmine that is Postpartum Anxiety and I *think* I’m ready to talk about it. I’d also like to know about your experiences (all 3 of you that still read my blog) if you’ve experienced PPA or PPD.

First off, I was SO happy to have my baby that I didn’t want to admit anything was wrong–not to myself and not to anyone else.

At first it seemed “normal” because every first-time-mom is nervous. For the first month or so, all the mommies in my mommy group would avoid leaving the house unless they had to. But about the time that the rest of them appeared to be loosening up, getting out more, and visiting with friends and family is when I started clamming up.

I’m trying to remember how it all started…Mr. MLACS had to leave me to go back to work up North when BG was just 3 weeks old. I had some PTSD from BG’s pediatrician–he was a dick and their office was rude to me. Now *normally* I would raise hell and I did, a little bit, but I was exhausted and vulnerable. I was literally afraid that if I went against his advice then they would report me to CPS and peg me as an unfit mother. This, of course, was me overreacting, but the fear was real and they were bullies. I won’t go in to detail, but this was a factor in the onset of my PPA.

Obviously Mr. MLACS being gone was a huge factor. I was alone and scared–when BG cried a wave of panic would wash over me as I fumbled to figure out what she needed. When I couldn’t soothe her I would agonize over what I could be doing wrong and if this was normal and was she ok? I had no one helping me and the thing is–I didn’t want anyone’s “help” except for Mr. MLACS. I felt so insecure and paranoid and embarrassed and vulnerable that as much as I wanted someone to be my *hero*, I also didn’t trust anyone enough to even allow them to try. I needed my space. I needed to figure it out for myself. Luckily moms from my birth group knew Mr. MLACS was gone and several offered to help and would ask me if I needed anything when he was gone. It was hard for me to accept their kindness, but sometimes I did.

Then while he was gone BG didn’t gain weight like she was supposed to and it was awful…AWFUL…the guilt that I was failing my little girl…that I hadn’t recognized her cries as hunger cries…the fear and shame that I was unable to meet her needs…the urgency and panic I felt to fix myself… My ordeal–my struggles–with breastfeeding are definitely the largest contributing factor in my PPA.

Our family situations are another factor. My Mom passed away in 2009. My dad is a narcissist and after a lifetime of tumult with him, I finally cut him off last year. My sister is BSC (batshit crazy), unstable and unreliable. My extended family (aunts, cousins) have never been close. And just before BG’s birth, Mr. MLACS’s mother and sister revealed that they too are BSC and we have not spoken to them since she was born. So yeah…this is a lot of baggage to deal with during the physical and emotional sh*tstorm postpartum. One of the biggest symptoms of my PPA was that I became obsessed with this family drama. I was consumed by my anger and sadness toward these people that hurt and disappointed me. My therapist kept telling me to stop thinking about these issues but I couldn’t.

So these circumstances, in addition to the fact that I’m already diagnosed and treated for depression, encouraged my PPA. Please note: your life can be perfect like Mary F*ing Poppins and you may *still* develop PPD/PPA. I’m just outlining how my own PPA came about.

How it manifested…

1. Intrusive Thoughts

What if…I kept thinking of hypothetical scenarios with bad, horrible, or unspeakably terrifying outcomes. I would be driving, approaching a particularly perilous blind curve, and images of a car flying around the corner and colliding in a head-on collision would flash through my mind–the thought would come and go in a matter of seconds, but would spark a stress response in me that lingered. I would cut vegetables with a knife 5 feet away from my baby, but thoughts of the knife slipping out of my hand and flying across the room and hurting my baby would zip through my head.

2. Nervousness

I don’t want to call it paranoia, because that word has a lot of negative connotations and intones that a person is delusional. I was sane. But…I was on edge. Particularly in regards to people wanting to hold my baby. I knew I could say “No”, but then I’d have to deal with peoples’ response. So I avoided people a lot. I pushed away people that offered to “help” me by taking care of the baby so I could shower or nap while Mr. MLACS was out of town. In my defense, BG didn’t like being held by anyone else or people getting to close to her, so I truly felt/still feel that it’s my duty to protect her personal space so that she is comfortable. Some babies are super easy-going and cool being passed around. Not BG.

I was nervous about everything though, not just people interacting with BG. My nerves were raw. Sometimes I would be so incredibly tense and BG would cry inconsolably and I would feel like I was having an out-of-body experience, like I couldn’t even cry…I would go numb and have to just sit down and breathe until I could function again.

Wow…this is actually really hard to talk about…

I could go down a list of potential PPA symptoms and check boxes, but that’s exhausting. Trust me, I met all the criteria.

I was constantly trying to behave “normally” even though my feelings and instincts beckoned me to act strangely. My confidence in myself as a person and a mother was shaky at best. I felt unworthy, ashamed, afraid, frustrated, confused, sad, and…alone. I shared my frustrations with particular situations with Mr. MLACS, and he would try to soothe me and apologize for not being able to fix everything. When he was home he would do everything (grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, taking care of pers, bringing me water or anything else I needed when I was nursing, etc.) But I still felt alone because there was this sh*tstorm of thoughts and emotions inside of me that I couldn’t begin to articulate or justify. I was short with him most of the time, and I felt a little guilty but I just didn’t have the patience or energy to be polite. God bless him, he took it on the chin and carried on.

I’d like to say that there was a clean and tidy resolution to my PPA, but there wasn’t. I went to therapy weekly. I took Motherwort herbal tincture–it really helped to take the edge off. I did my best to avoid triggery situations. I tried “mindfulness” excercises to keep a healthy perspective. But even with all my efforts, there were parts of every day where I would find myself *coping* through episodes of acute anxiety. Some days were good, some were ok, some were bad, and some were insufferable. I should add–nights were much harder than days because BG had her “witching hour” from about 6-9pm. A LOT of shrill crying and me feeling like curling up in a ball in a corner (I didn’t).

I didn’t want to add Zoloft to the ridiculous amount of medications and herbs I was already taking. But just before BG turned 6 months old, we decided to take a dream vacation to Costa Rica. My anxiety kept building leading up to our departure and crescendoed just before take-off. I was overwhelmed with fear. I went so far as to actually fill a prescription for Zoloft. And part of that (fear) is PPA, but another part is that I just couldn’t believe that my dream vacation could come to fruition because I wasn’t sure I had enough good karma saved up.

However, I prayed a lot–both in gratitude and also to ask God to protect my family, especially my baby. And I asked my Mom and other guardian angels to watch over BG too. And once we touched the ground in San Juan, CR, a lot of my fears were conquered. And the vacation was amazing. And when we got back, I realized I felt a lot better than I did before we left. Maybe because I faced some of my fears. Maybe because I was 6 months postpartum and my hormones shifted. I don’t know. But BG is 7.5 months old now and in the last month or so I’ve started to feel and act much more like myself.

To summarize: PPA f*ing sucks. You have no control over whether you get it, but you can control how you react to it–GET HELP. Find a therapist (like mine) who is certified in treating PPD/PPA. Reach out and talk to people–I started talking about my PPA, like in casual conversations I’d be like “Yeah I want to go see a movie but my PPA is kickin’ so the thought of leaving BG is not something I can handle”, you know, all nonchalant about it, with a shrug. Because f*ck, from what I read like 1 in 6 women suffers from PPD, so it shouldn’t be stigmatized (it is though). And if you have a friend with PPD, please understand that they *want* to feel and act “normal” but they are struggling and embarrassed, so encourage them by telling them they are a good mom, that having a baby is hard even though it is amazing, and if they need anything you’re just a text or a phone call away.

XOXO,

MLACS


A Tale Of Two Boobs: Part 3

When we left off at ATOTB Part 2, I had begun taking Domperidone and established a good supply and all was right with the world (roll credits)…

But this is real f*ing life and I’ll remind you it’s called My Life As A Case Study, and everything about me is either “acute”, “chronic”, or on a good day “in remission”. There are no happily ever afters in regards to my bodily functions.

So true-to-form, breastfeeding has continued to be a fight.

Starting with: Chronic Mastitis

I think I had Mastitis in ATOTB: Part 2, when BG was around 3-4 months old. I took antibiotics and then discovered silverette cups and healed right up.

But then I got Mastitis again when BG was about 5 months old and I was determined to just muddle through it and let my body fight it on it’s own because I was NOT going to take antibiotics, especially stronger ones that would prevent me from breastfeeding.

So I suffered. I had patches of staph all over my body and I was completely worn down. Then I looked for natural remedies and I started drinking a concoction of apple cider vinegar and honey that seemed to help…but then it got worse again. At my wits end, I mentioned it to my therapist (who is also a birth/postpartum guru) and she told me to take Echinacea and Calendula tinctures. I drove directly to the store after therapy that morning, bought the stuff, and by the next morning the patches of staph had all but disappeared and my nipples quit throbbing. I practically wept with joy because I didn’t feel like complete sh*t after several weeks of pain and fatigue.

Then I had some trouble with plugged ducts, and I started taking sunflower lecithin on top of the echinacea/calendula. And that got better too.

Around the time I started these herbal tinctures, I started to have chronic mouth sores (or mouth ulcers) which are actually common in people with inflammatory bowel diseases like UC, and I already had a special steroid mouthwash for such occassions. These were some of the worst I’d had though–so bad I couldn’t eat sometimes due to the pain. And usually they only come about when I’m “flaring”, but I was not showing any symptoms of a flare. So I just sucked it up.

Around this time, BG turned 6 months old and I rejoiced in the fact that–against ALL odds–I had managed to EBF for 6 months, which was my initial goal. I may have felt a little bit smug, thinking “I got this now. The worst is behind me. I can do this indefinitely.”

Ha. Ha ha ha. HA.

Here I was, starting to fret that BG might not want to wean and that I’d have to make a decision about when to stop. You know, because I was thinking that it would be my choice since, ya know, I had become so proficient at breastfeeding–with my trusty herbal tinctures and my Domperidone and all.

But every time I would try to back off the Echinacea, the staph would return both on my nipples and in patches on my body. My “guru” told me I should only take it when I had actual mastitis–at the first sign of it–but this left me confused and bewildered because the “signs” were always there. So WTF. I just kept taking it.

The mouth sores were ever-present for several weeks and no amount of mouthwash and L-lysine could give me relief. Two sores would pop up (on my inner cheeks, my gums, my inner lip, and even on the sides/underneath my tongue) and as those 2 sores began to disappear, 2 new ones would appear! I was at my wits end so I emailed my GI nurse (my UC specialist) and asked her if there was anything besides the prescribed mouthwash that might help. My UC nurse was skeptical and even in the absence of other symptoms she deduced that I was likely “flaring” and asked me to take *steroids*. If you have a chronic illness then you probably understand why I balked when she said that. Even though these steroids (Uceris) are not systemic and far less sh*tty than Prednisone, I still don’t want to take them unless I’m in a full-blown flare. And even then, I will usually flare for  several weeks before I “relent” and submit to taking anything. But the GI nurse insisted and I really like her so I totally *lied* and agreed to start the Uceris. Nope.

Ironically it dawned on me that the sores came about when I started the Calendula tincture. So I quit taking it. And dontcha know…those mouth sores went away…naturally, only *after* I spoke to my GI nurse and lied to her. And I’ll have to lie again (because of course now the truth is not an option) and tell her the Uceris worked.

I am a piece of work, I know.

So mouth sores, solved! Back to the boobs…

I should probably tell you now that I have named my boobs. The one that (apparently) makes more milk and is easier to nurse BG on, is called “Business boob”. The one that is slightly less useful is called “Casual boob”. Business boob is the one I’m always having problems with.

At 6 months, BG got her first tooth! And we started feeding her solids–I make organic pureés for her now. Most recently she’s been cutting her second tooth and while she doesn’t bite (much) she is rough when she nurses…

So I got a blister on my business boob.

The blister popped.

It left a hole in my nipple.

Yes, I said a HOLE in my nipple.

Which became inflamed. And the hole just kept getting bigger.

Thus, I have spent these last couple of weeks scrambling trying to “fix” it. Like, by myself with no help from anyone (guru, doctors, lactation consultant, etc.)…

WTF was I thinking???

My boob was *throbbing* with pain. It radiated throughout my entire breast, around my ribs and up over my shoulder.

Somehow, I have kept nursing BG. But we’ve both cried. Her, because when she latches and especially if she grates on my wound–I will yelp and scare the sh*t out of her. Also, BG likes to nurse for long periods of time and I can’t let her “camp” on my tattered business boob, so I have to unlatch her when she’s done eating, even if she’s asleep, which wakes her up and pisses her off.

So finally, I went to see the lactation consultant (LC) this past Thursday, to show her my wound and ask her what to do. Mind you–I am still fully committed to using my Silverette nipple cups. I have eschewed every other theory in favor of the theory that *breastmilk cures everything* (kind of like the crazy Greek dude who believes windex cures everything in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”)–I believe in my soul that the silverette cups, which bathe my nipples in milk, are my saving grace. Because of you recall in ATOTB: Part 2, they really did save my a**.

So I went to the LC and she was very sympathetic. She clucked when I showed her my wound. She suggested I get this “triple nipple ointment” (TNO) which is a combo of anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory ointments. She suggested I rinse off my wound post-feeding, apply TNO, and try to let it stay dry and see sunlight.

I was like “Okay great!”

But I was lying *again* because you can’t use ointment with silverette cups and whyyyyyy would I want to dry out my wound when breastmilk and Jesus Christ are all I need??!

Riiiiight.

So I suffered through the weekend. I started using wound wash to rinse my wound in between feedings. I convinced myself that it’s ok to take 4 motrin (800mg) every 5 hours instead of every 6-8 hours. I convinced myself that the yellow stuff oozing out of my wound was a sign of healing. I convinced myself that it actually hurt less to latch. I convinced myself that this new Wish Garden “Happy Ducts” tincture I bought was helping and would waylay my chronic mastitis, so I bought like 12 ounces of it.

Yeah, I was losing it.

Ok, you’re right.

I had obviously lost my f*ing mind.

It’s just too bad Mr. MLACS wasn’t home (he is away at work until next week) as he might have been able to see through my bulullsh*t and gotten me the help I needed.

Yesterday I began to panic and flip-flop between thinking “everything will be ok” and “OMG my boob is going to shrivel up and fall off and how will I feed my child?!” I called and got an appointment today with Dr. Angel (my beloved OBGYN). As he entered the room, I took off my silverette cup and showed him my ooozing nipple wound and he cringed–which made me feel validated. I said “Most people would stop nursing, right?” And his eyes got big and he emphatically said “Oh yes, most would.” And as he looked closer I asked “So that yellow stuff, that might mean it’s healing, right??” And he said “Well, it can in some instances. But THIS is NOT one of them.” And my face fell in defeat and I said “So…it’s an infection?” And Dr. Angel said “Oh yes, definitely an infection.” And he said I need to dry it out–no silverette cups–use the TNO ointment and take antibiotics. I panicked and sputtered “But, but, but the nipple cups protect me! I can’t stand for anything to touch my nipple!” And Dr. Angel suggested gauze, which I balked at because I’d have to rip it off ten times a day to nurse, so we settled on non-stick pads.

And if you read this blog then you know that I trust Dr. Angel implicitly. So I did as he said. And I just nursed BG and it didn’t hurt much at all.

So hopefully the antibiotics/TNO/dry healing will work and allow me to keep nursing. Because I love it–I love caring for BG this way.

But I am counting the days until she is 12 months old and we can quit without the trauma and hassle of switching to formula. And I am worried about what might happen in the meantime, as we still have nearly 5 months to go.

Because surely, this is not the end of my troubles…

October 12, 2013

2015-10-12-12-31-22--393727939Today is my EDD for my first pregnancy, my first baby, that I lost (on February 25th 2013). I’m holding my BG and nursing her, but I still have tears in my eyes…we should be celebrating a 2 year old’s birthday…

I’ve never mentioned this (I don’t think?) but I always attach little silk butterflies to the silk bouquets I place on my Mom’s grave–symbolic of my 2 little butterflies in heaven. When we were in Costa Rica recently (will tell you about that later) I saw tons of butterflies. I knew these were my little butterflies and my mom.

I see you, little butterfly. I see you ❤

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