Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's not the same

PTSD is a weird, weird thing. We work on it quite a bit in therapy and it really has helped a lot. I have coping mechanisms. Sometimes I can see things coming and prepare myself. When Charlotte was taken to the NICU, I knew that going down there to see her was going to be hard. It was still worse than I expected, but at least I knew it was coming. When it sneaks up on me, though, it's even worse.

When I saw Charlotte in the isolette in the NICU, I started sobbing. Her amazing nurse was right there saying over and over again "It's not the same, Trish. It's not the same. It's not. She's big, she's healthy, she just needs to be watched a little bit. It's not the same." Of course, I knew all of that in my head. But seeing another one of my babies in that isolette hit me square in the stomach. It wasn't an experience I wanted to relive to be sure, but we got through it. It really wasn't the same.

Charlotte hates bottles. Don't get me wrong, she LOVES to eat. She's about 13 pounds now. At her 4 month check-up last week (Yes. FOUR MONTHS.) she was 12lb 11oz. She was about 40% on the weight chart for her ACTUAL age. Since she was actually less than 3 months adjusted, that's pretty big. She also scored out closer to 4 months for her developmental age (she's sleeping well at night and during the day, cooing, laughing, close to rolling over, etc.) so she's doing great. She's big and strong and healthy. But she HATES fake nipples. She has never taken a pacifier. She started out taking bottles well, but then I got thrush.

When you have thrush (thank you antibiotics) you have to boil everything every day. If you pump, you have to boil your pump parts, the bottles, the nipples, the pacifiers etc. Thrush is a nasty beast that is hard to kill. Since I had plenty going on at that point, I just didn't bother pumping and bottle feeding during the 3ish weeks it took to diagnose and finally get rid of it. And that's all it took. No more fake nipples for her.

Now when you try to offer her a bottle, she screams like she's being killed. She's an extremely good-natured baby. She does not like to be left alone at all (she's too young for separation anxiety, but I swear she has it.) but so long as you keep her company, she's happy 99% of the time. But do NOT put a bottle in her mouth. A pacifier doesn't make her angry, she just spits it out. But if milk is coming out of that fake nipple, it's catastrophic. She sobs her poor little heart out. Tears down her face, eyes all red, screaming herself hoarse.

We've tried a ton of different bottles and nipples. David's tried, his mom has tried, my grandma has tried, I've tried. I've been with her, I've left the house. We've swaddled, we've skin-to-skinned. Dark room and lots of noise. Nothing really matters.

Tonight I tried yet another new bottle. This is the Breast Flow bottles from First Years. They definitely are different than other bottles. The nipples are shallower and the flow works a different way. At first she seemed a little happier. She didn't gag on them, at least. (I think the shallower nipples made her less angry.) But it didn't last long. She worked herself right up into hysterics again.
David tried until I could see how frustrated again. He brought her to me and asked that I swaddle her up because he just couldn't fight her hands any more.

And that was when it hit me. The look on David's face was just like when we tried to get Robbie to eat and he wouldn't. My stomach twisted into knots. I took her, swaddled her and offered her the bottle. She cried and I just gave her my breast right away. She calmed down immediately. She nursed for just a few minutes and then passed out. I think all the fighting and crying just exhausted her.

A half an hour later, she woke up hungry again. I tried to offer her the bottle again with the same result. Finally I just got her ready for bed and let her nurse. She nursed longer than she has in months. I think she was afraid if she unlatched, someone would try to force that plastic nipple on her again.

It's exhausting and frustrating. I do have to go back to work in July, so she HAS to learn to take milk somehow. I have a decent freezer stash built up (about 100 oz) which was my original concern, but now I'm afraid she won't ever take it.

After she finally went to sleep, I sat in the silence for a long time. All I could think about was how much Robbie cried when we tried to feed him. What if I'm traumatizing Charlotte, too? What if she comes to hate food, too? What if she doesn't get enough? What if my supply tanks? What if something happens to me? What if what if...

It took a few minutes to realize it was PTSD running away with my mind. I've already talked to her pediatrician about it, and she's not too concerned. She thinks that if she truly refuses, we can get by with solids while I have to be away from her. I had planned on trying baby-lead-weaning, but if I need to go to cereal and purees to keep her going, I can. But I'd really like her to take a bottle occasionally.

In the mean time, I'm trying my PTSD exercises. I'm trying to use what I learned with Robbie to not make her hate bottles any more than she already does. We'll keep offering, but not forcing. Just because Robbie would prefer to starve than eat doesn't mean Charlotte will. I will just keep telling myself over and over again "it's not the same, Trish. It's not the same."


Friday, March 2, 2012


It's funny how life works. It seems like no sooner than you conquer one mountain, but there's another in the horizon.

Anxiety has been good. I'm not 100% cured, but I'm fully functional and I feel like myself again. Sometimes in the evenings, I get a faint feeling of not-rightness. But the days it blooms into full fledged anxiety are rare. Paxil is my new BFF.

Of course, with the increased mood has come the weight gain that my doctor warned against. I've managed to regain 20 of the 60 I had lost. I will take the 20 pounds over feeling like life isn't worth living, but I can't say I'm happy about them. I'm trying to cut back here and there, but I'm afraid to do too much for fear of losing my milk supply. I'm in the process of re-weaning myself off of soda. It's such a bad, bad, bad habit but I was really relying on the caffeine to get me through for a while there. And then the anticipation of the withdrawal headache kept me procrastinating doing it. But this week, it's on. That's a lot of wasted calories, so I hope that helps with the weight thing, too.

But that's not really even the biggest hurdle I seem to be facing currently. It's really my marriage.

Don't be alarmed, we're okay. Or at least, I'm confident that we will be. What it comes down to is that David feels neglected. And frankly, he has a right to. I'm pretty much a boob slave these days as Charlotte has decided she's anti-bottle. Between having to be at her beck and call, the fact that she's not reliably sleeping through the night (we do get the occasional 5 or 6 hour stretch, but it's infrequent and that's the longest stretch we get.), and just everyday mundane "stuff", there just isn't a lot of time left for him.

But when he gets (understandably) pouty about it, I get defensive. I feel like I'm letting him down. I'm angry that he's making me feel guilty, even though I know his feelings are reasonable. He gets overly dramatic, I get defensive and that just leads to even less connection between us. And it's became a habit.

A few weeks ago when we had this same argument, I asked what he expected with a newborn. He said he expected more than he was getting. I reminded him that we talked about this before we decided to have another baby and that he accepted what the first year was like. His response was that he thought it would be different. He thought the only reason things were tough after Robbie was born was because of the complications of his birth. Obviously he thought wrong.

I know that things are rough for most couples the first year. I have enough friends that have assured me that everyone goes through it. (At least, a LOT of people go through it.) He doesn't have that. He has friends in a similar stage of life, but none of them are in marriages that David is likely to think of as "normal." What the means is that when I am struggling to get a baby to sleep when he wants some attention, he somehow thinks it's a reflection on him. Or worse- a reflection on my feelings for him.
I've tried to reassure him, but there's only so much I can do.

There are certainly things he could do. He has a tendency to disappear off to his man-cave the minute Robbie goes to bed. That leaves me with the nightly chores and tending to Charlotte. He's not a lazy husband by any stretch of the imagination. He does more housework than most of the men I know combined. But he goes off-duty where I always remain on-call. It's hard to focus on paying attention to him when I know I still need to wash the dishes, there are wet clothes in the washing machine and Charlotte is going to need to be fed any minute. I wish that I could shut those things (minus Charlotte, of course) out of my mind, but I just can't. The curse of womanhood, I suppose.

The good thing is that I know this is temporary. Charlotte will eventually sleep through the night. Maybe next week, maybe next year. She will wean and my body will be my own again. I know it's temporary. But in the mean time, David feels unloved and I feel like a failure.

This family stuff is hard.