No, I am not okay

www.sparklystefka.comDays 2 – 17 of my son’s life are some of the most stressful days of my life.  To be completely honest, I can’ remember when every detail happened.  It’s hard to think back on those days, because my heart hurt so much, my body was still exhausted from pregnancy, labor and birth.  My emotional capacity was stretched to his limit.  I am struggling to write this because I want to be accurate with the story, but my memories are cloudy.

He was born weighing an impressive 7 pounds and 10 ounces.  Approximately 48 hours later at our home visit he dropped 6 ounces. I was disappointed, but not shocked. We began supplementing C with donor milk. His first non-meconium diaper was orangey-mucousy.  Our midwife consulted with his doctor, we were only given the option to take him to Children’s Hospital, we could not get in with his doctor.  We didn’t go to Children’s that day.  I still wonder if that was the right decision.

Since he was still having adequate wet diapers on the 1 oz supplements, and his diapers returned to normal newborn diapers, were starting to feel comfortable with how things were going.  When we saw the doctor and he was down a full pound.  I honestly can’t recall if this was the doctor visit where his tongue tie was discovered and clipped.  I think it was. My husband couldn’t be in the room for it, but I knew it was the right decision.  My heart ached to much to see the pain he was in, and I was trying to hard to be strong.

We saw the midwives again at home one or two days later, and he was back up in weight.  I had a breakdown with the midwives.  The stress had been too much, and I was so tired.  He was such a sleepy baby, and I knew the normal breastfeeding advice didn’t apply to us.  Yet, almost no one understood our unique challenges, and even fewer who could advise us.  I felt like such a faiure.  They assured me that I wasn’t and that I was doing an amazing job.  He had a touch of jaundice, but no one was concerned.

I think it was the next day we had a doctor weigh-in and the scale said 7lbs 1ounce, five ounces less than the day before with the midwives.  In the hall, I heard the medical assistant tell our doctor the weight.  I will never forget hearing my doctor’s exasperated shout, “Seven-one?” I wanted to die. I was crushed.  I worked so hard to educate and prepare myself since my daunter had weaned 11 months before.  Apparently, none of it mattered. I was not making enough milk and my baby suffered because of me.

My emotions took control the next afternoon.  I could not get him to wake up in the afternoon for a feeding.  I did it all, tickle foot, get him naked, gave him a bath.  I insisted that we take him to the hospital.  My husband tried to reassure me and convince me otherwise.  I wouldn’t listen, I knew if he was sleepy he wouldn’t eat.  If he didn’t eat, he couldn’t poop.  If he couldn’t poop the jaundice would get worse.

We got to the hospital, all four of us, and there was no valet.  I went in, while H parked the car.  I checked him in and they quickly moved us to triage to avoid extra germs in the waiting area. The scale showed his weight was under 7 pounds.

They asked all the questions, but because we’re “crunchy” every one wanted to know about water birth and cloth diapers.    Normally, I would talk about them until the cows came home. This day, I couldn’t care less. I felt defensive, tired, scared and stressed. My daughter was attempting to play with every medical instrument within her reach.

We were moved to an examination room and they wanted to do a blood draw to check his bilirubin levels and his electrolytes.  Z freaked out, she yelled at every staff person who entered the room “Don’t touch my brother!”  H had to take her for a walk.  I was alone, with my sweet, tired baby, and my dark thoughts.

I knew I was failing, and I couldn’t believe things were actually worse this time around.  I did everything right: I expressed colostrum in pregnancy, took all the correct herbs, teas, drank enough water and even lined up donor milk.  I was supplementing at the breast exclusively with a home made SNS.  None of it mattered, I failed.

They came back in with the results: bilirubin was fine, electrolytes were fine.  I was instructed to keep supplementing and follow up with my doctor the next day.

My husband gently reminded me that everything was okay and I was doing a good job.  He could have said, “I told you so” but he never did.  He is so wonderful.

Looking back, I can see that part of the problem was his tongue tie, he couldn’t transfer milk effectively in addition to my low milk supply.  Even though I was doing it all “right” he didn’t have the tools he needed until we clipped it.

Everyone loves babies.  I think everyone loves mamas too.  However, sometimes in society we fixate on how wonderful it is to have a healthy baby.  It is wonderful, but it is only part of the equation.  I think it is similar to an every day exchange many of us do without thought.  Someone asks “How are you?” and the response is, “fine.”  If instead we say, “Terrible, tired, or angry” people are taken aback.

Now, few people mean to imply that they have no time, interest or concern for unhappy emotions or experiences, but we generally don’t know what to do with such honesty and unpleasantness.  It carries over to postpartum life.  People ask about the birth, the baby’s healthy and mom’s health.  We struggle with anything beyond  the normal response.  It’s a shame.  We lose out on an opportunity to be vulnerable, to connect with a fellow human, to reach out to a struggling soul.

Sometimes babies are not healthy.  Sometimes moms have trauma from their birth experience.  Sometimes breastfeeding is a train wreck. These emotions are relevant, and we need a place to be honest about them.

Yes, I was so happy to have our little boy.  Yes, my birth experience was ideal.  I was thankful, but not okay.

I thought I could educate my way out of my first traumatic postpartum experience, I could not.  Those emotions were under the surface and triggered by my son’s inability to gain weight normally.

I thought I could prepare myself enough to avoid the ugliness of it all, but none of the preparation stood up to the fears revisited and intensified.

This has been so hard to write, It’s not fun to revisit.

I am not a mental health professional.  I don’t want to offer advice when I’m not qualified to give any.

Yet, I wonder what your experience was.  Was breastfeeding smooth?  Was your baby healthy?  Did your birth plan fall apart?  Did your birth or postpartum time trigger a previous traumatic experience?  Did you get help to deal with these things? What wisdom would you offer to an expectant or new mom?



  1. Nothing went smooth for my whole pregnancy, birth plan, or post partum. I split up with the father at 3 months pregnant, I developed gestational diabetes, and struggled with depression throughout the pregnancy. I wanted a natural birth only to end up getting a scheduled c-section. I struggled with breastfeeding because of inverted nipples, which resulted in my son getting jaundice so bad they had the Bili lights on him and even sent us home with a portable one. I feel like I dealt with everything in stride simply because I had to. I asked for a ton of help and received it from my OB and from family. My advice is always ask as many questions as you can, informed decisions are never regretted. Also, ask for help! My sister told me 5 years after her son was born that she had suffered post partum depression and never told a soul. I asked for help while pregnant and feel like that kept me from suffering alone.

    • SparklyStefka says:

      I am so glad you are asking for help. It is hard for many women to do so. You are a strong mama. Jaundice can be so stressful, so many babies get it. All of mine had a touch of yellow, bili-blankets are a blessing. My heart goes out to your sister, I am so glad she made it through.

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