Thursday, April 15, 2010

Breastfeeding, Postpartum Anxiety, and Birth Control

I debated sharing all of this, but decided that I want to continue being real and sharing my challenges.  I’m not sure if it will make complete sense because I’m still making sense of it myself :).  But, it helps me to write things out, so that’s what I’m doing.  Just to warn you, this is a very long post :).  There are many different topics.  But, they all fit together, so I didn’t want to separate them!

Breastfeeding Problems...
Last week I had an appointment with my pediatrician and found out that Levi weighed 10.9 pounds… which is the 25th percentile… and his length and head size were in the 10th percentile.  I didn’t think a whole lot about it except that Levi is just smaller than my last two (which, I think he really is just smaller because his head size and length are smaller).

Fast forward to Tuesday of this week.  My midwife came over for our last appointment.  She weighed Levi and he weighed 10.10.  He only gained an ounce since last week.  We both recognize that the scales may be a bit off, but he needs to at least be gaining four ounces a week.  I started thinking back to the past few weeks and I realized that maybe he’s not getting quite enough.  Each day, he’s wanting to nurse more and more often.  He’s nursing on average 10-12 times a day still (sometimes more), and he also takes 4-6 ounces of formula.  Most days either in the morning or afternoon (sometimes both), he literally just sits at the breast all day.  I just don’t have time for that with the other two kids!  And if he’s not getting enough even though he’s doing that, something needs to change.

My midwife began telling me ways that I could possibly increase my supply (because I told her that I wanted to be encouraged to keep going!).  She said that I could pump after feedings and wake him up every three hours. 

I did that Tuesday night into yesterday.  I woke up in tears yesterday and couldn’t stop crying all morning.  It seems like everything hit me all at once.  All of the feelings that I’ve been trying to suppress and just “be strong” with came out.

Depression and Anxiety
Not only have I been struggling and anxious about breastfeeding, I’ve been struggling with my brother’s suicide (and the guilt that I’m experiencing because of that), struggling with the difficulty of having three kids 4 and under, and just having crazy hormones.

As I’ve discussed in the past on my blog, I struggle with anxiety as it is.  On a normal day with normal circumstances, I can deal with it on my own (well, with the power of Christ!). 
Yesterday I decided to look up the “symptoms” of postpartum depression, and I have many of the symptoms.  After talking to Robert, my mom (who is really worried about me), and my midwife, I decided that it was time to go in and see my obstetrician. 

I didn’t realize until yesterday just how constantly angry and frustrated I am at my family.  I didn’t realize how much I yelled at my kids.  I didn’t realize that Ethan’s constant crying and screaming might be related to my being stressed and anxious all the time.  Tuesday night Robert and I heard some crying coming from Ethan’s room.  He was standing by the door, asleep, crying.  It broke my heart and really showed me that I needed to make a change.  I want to want to enjoy being with my kids… I want to stop yelling at them for no good reason.  I want to stop worrying about the house and the little things that don’t matter.  But I just can’t stop on my own. 

I’ve also realized, through discussing this with Robert and my midwife, that the dip in my supply might be related to my anxiety.  If I can’t relax, then I can’t produce.  And the more anxious I get, the less milk I have.  I don’t think I could ever produce enough to breastfeed exclusively (as I’ve discussed in the past), but the amount that I’ve been producing lately is less than what I’m capable of. 
Anyway… back to the appointment with my obstetrician :).  I really like her.  She is midwife/homebirth supportive.  She understands my desire to do things naturally.  But she also agrees that I need to do something if it is effecting my family.  She made it clear that we don’t want to do anything to make me numb, or to make it difficult to deal with the things that I’m going through, but I need to do something to lighten the load that I carry.  I need something to help me “breathe.”  I need something to be able to help me move forward and begin to make decisions that will help myself and my family.  I need something to help me to stop being paralyzed and drowning in my anxiety.  I want to be able to enjoy my wonderful life and my wonderful family. 

We decided that it was time to be put on a medication for a while.  It’s a very low dose, and it’s completely safe for breastfeeding, so I can continue that.  It will help me to just pick myself up and move forward.  I don’t have to take it forever, but I will just take it a month at a time for now.  I’ve taken medication before and the only reasons I have ever stopped taking it were to start trying to get pregnant.  If I decide to continue this time, I can.  She also really strongly suggested counseling.  I had already talked to my mom about that yesterday morning, and I am going to go with my mom to her counselor whenever she goes next. 
I have struggled with taking medication because of the fact that it’s not “natural” and because maybe I’m not “relying on God” enough.  I decided that God allowed these medications to be made for a purpose.  I have prayed about it off and on for several years and always come back to that conclusion.

Decisions for Our Family
Robert and I have made some decisions that were very difficult, but are helping me move forward.  These decisions have been prayed through for a while. 
One of those decisions is whether or not to take meds… and deciding to take them has lightened my load already. 

The second decision is that with breastfeeding, I’m going to stop trying so hard.  The harder I try, the lower my supply gets.  So for now, I’m just going to breastfeed and supplement whenever I need to.  No more counting the ounces that I supplement (and trying to avoid supplementing at all costs).  No more counting the hours between.  Just breastfeed and supplement.  Levi likes to breastfeed so much that he won’t allow my supply to go down anymore, really :).  He won’t take more supplement than he needs because he will only drink a bottle if he’s really hungry.  I will continue taking all the herbs, but I’m not going to pump after every feeding.  I don’t have time for that.  I’m not going to wake Levi up every three hours.  I need my sleep in order to be a happy mama to my little ones :).  It feels good to just let go and to stop trying to control something that I can’t control. 

The third decision is with birth control.  This has been one of the things that has stressed me out beyond belief.  It shouldn’t be that difficult, right?  Well, it has been for me.  When I first got pregnant with Levi, we had decided that Levi would be our last baby.  After the first trimester, I started to feel that maybe I’ll still want another one.  I wasn’t sure that I was ready to be finished.  That feeling continued after the birth of Levi, despite the anxiety and depression that I experience after every birth, and despite what my husband wants.  We’ve discussed the Mirena IUD, Paragard IUD, vasectomy, birth control pills, barrier methods, NFP (natural family planning)… just about every method out there.  We aren’t ready to do anything completely permanent because you never know… we’re still pretty young :).  But, we are ready to make a semi-permanent decision.  I will be getting the Paragard IUD.  This IUD is non-hormonal, and it doesn’t allow the egg to be fertilized (which, if it could, that would be causing an unknown abortion).  It lasts for up to TEN years. 

I’ve struggled with the idea of “if God doesn’t want us to get pregnant we won’t.  And if he does, we will” mentality.  Why use birth control and try to control whether or not we get pregnant?  Well, Robert and I believe that every family knows what’s best for them.  We have prayed for a year or so about all of this, and the IUD is what we feel the most peace about.  And, you know what, God really is in control, and if He wants us to have another baby, we will.  We really feel God leading us towards adoption in the future.  And if we adopt, we want to adopt an older child that has been left an orphan.  There are so many unwanted children in the world; why have another one of our own when there are kids who need a home?  We’re still praying about this and will continue for a while.  Our little family is perfect the way it is right now!

Through all of these decisions, I feel so much peace.  We have finally made decisions that have been weighing on me for a while.  We are finally moving forward with things.  And, oddly, I feel like I can enjoy my family more because of this. 

I’m looking forward to the future.  I’m looking forward to raising the family that the Lord has given me to raise.  I’m looking forward to the ups and downs of life. 
Homeschooling, having a large garden, raising goats and chickens, going to the zoo and museums together, hiking and camping together, going for long walks around camp and the park, and just being a family are things I'm looking forward to now.  I am completely content with the family that the Lord has allowed me to raise and don’t feel like I “need” just one more. 

These decisions may be different than the decisions that you’ve made for your family, and that’s okay.  We’re all different for a reason.  We all have different convictions and desires.  I’m thankful for that.  And, again, I’m learning to be okay with being different. 


Amber Koter-Puline said...

I hope you'll reach out to all of us Survivor Mama bloggers out here! Bless you and take good care,

Jake and Annie Wetzel said...

I love seeing God work in you and your family! I feel like I connect with you on SO many levels! It's funny, when we first met we were walking through very similar situations. Even now, years later, we're still continuing to journey in similar paths! Well, I mean, I still think you're a little crazy for having a third kiddo already...I was with you on the first two, but the third...not yet!!! ;) Hehe!

I am praying for you as you continue through this journey. I can see that God is already doing so many things, and it's just perfectly in His timing! I'm thankful for the wisdom that God has given you and Robert! And I'm excited to see what God has in store for your sweet little family!

Sarah said...

Hey Girl!
I just wanted to say that I had the Paragard for 7yrs and it was the best BC I have ever used. (I have used everything). We are trying for another and I was able to start right away after it's removal too!

It's a great decision that I never regretted.

wholistic midwife said...

Courtney,you are beautiful not only in Gods eyes but also to so many others. I just wanted to tell you again how wonderful you are. Have you ever read the book "prayer for people who think too much"?