Updated: Nov 4, 2019
I am a private person by nature. But I wanted to share our story, and work on being in the practice of sharing, as I'm sure there are those out there who share a similar story. Being a Mama has broken me more open than ever: strange, but I am choosing to embrace this new cycle of me.
I wasn't sure that I would be able to have children. I was diagnosed with PCOS - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome around 21, although I had shown symptoms since 16. PCOS is a condition
where, the hormone Androgen is elevated (and other hormones are inabalanced - it is a metabolic disorder), causing acne, mood swings, weight gain, hirsutism, ovarian cysts, irregular menses, and infertility. PCOS has been one of the biggest demons of my life. I've been actively searching for relief for years - I'll be 31 this year. With diligent research on herbalism, lifestyle changes, and guidance from a Naturopathic Doctor (with the addition of magic and chance), I was able to get my PCOS under control for at least one moment and conceived the absolute joy of a person who is now Johnny Onyx, created with my husband Johnny.
Now, to fast forward a bit, around 20 weeks we found out that I had a condition called Placenta Previa. Our placenta implanted right over/next to my cervix, and wasn't budging. This meant that I could not have the natural woman birth I was planning on having. Our birth was going to be a Cesarean and I was devastated and terrified: there was risk of bleeding, and I was considered high risk. I couldn't lift heavy things, and I was nervous about exercising. Still, we plundered on and planned for our sweetest, well-growing baby, all while I worked full time at an herb shop, and we moved houses when our rental was sold.
There were multiple aspects to the anxiety I was experiencing surrounding his birth - both my Grandmother and her mother passed in childbirth. My Grandmother passed from preeclampsia in labor, and her mother passed giving birth to her. I am the only female still living in that direct lineage. My own mother and I have been estranged for 13 years now - she is mentally ill, in a variety of ways - I cut ties with her long ago, as she did with me. Having wonderful women in my life since then, as well a mother-in-law who is immeasurably supportive and loving has been my saving grace. Best Grandma in the world. My son also has the best Grandpas a kiddo could ask for, and they love him dearly.
I am a pretty solid 80% of a naturalist, but I am so eternally grateful for medical technology. Without an ultrasound, I would not have known that I had Placenta Previa, and we both would have been at severe risk. A piece of advice I was given and didn't take: don't curling up and do too much googling. I'm a glutton for information and always have been. I read about how Placenta Previa came with the additional risk of Placenta Accreta and I was not prepared for the idea that I could lose my uterus. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to STOP GOOGLING and take time to breathe, and trust my body and my doctor. If you're reading this, I will give you that same advice. It's hard, I know. One thing that helped me was referring to his upcoming birth as a Cesarean Birth and less as a C-Section, as it felt less clinical.
Miraculously, I did not experience any bleeding whatsoever during pregnancy. I carried an entirely vegan pregnancy (to which my doctor had nothing critical to say about, respected my background in nutrition and supplementation) and my son was born healthy and over 7 lbs at exactly 37 weeks in a planned Cesarean Section. He was born so gorgeous - and is somehow more amazing and more beautiful every single second of the day. I hemorrhaged (lost a bit too much blood) but did not need to receive any donor blood. The procedure went very smoothly, and I handled the anesthesia just fine. I asked my doctor beforehand, as it was planned, if I could have as much of a "Gentle C-Section" as possible. I could have a see-through drape (they ended up just lowering it when he was born so that I could see the moment that beautiful dark haired starfish emerged), and immediate skin-to-skin. If you have a scheduled Cesarean and are interested in these things, ask your OB/GYN as well as the hospital.
The anticipation that day was the highest I've ever felt, and the most nervous I felt honestly was when they were placing the anesthesia needle, and Johnny was waiting outside. Once Johnny joined me, and everything began, I was purely focused on being ready for my sweet babe. They even asked what music I wanted when I arrived in the operating room. Not prepared for that, I chose Reggae as the safest feeling option. Johnny was in a Reggae band when we met, and continued to be off and on throughout our 11 years together. Johnny Onyx ended up being born to Down Pressure Man by Peter Tosh. He peed on me as soon as I met him. He was and is the most beautiful I've ever seen a creature, and filled me with love that never runs over but grows deeper.
The nurses in the hospital were mostly absolutely wonderful. We chose to only give him the Vitamin K shot, and hold off on vaccines until at least 6 months. My husband was right by my side, loving and changing diapers right out of the gate. By the time we were ready to leave the hospital (a total of 3 days) - sleepless - our Johnny Onyx was losing a bit too much weight. We were told by the pediatrician at the hospital to see our own pediatrician the following day. When we did, she immediately handed us formula and told us to feed him. He gulped it down. I'm an AVID label reader and just gave him whatever she recommended. It's funny how things get wild and your priorities jumble in a way you hadn't imagined.
My milk wasn't coming in. I saw every lactation consultant who went through our hospital room, and none of them seemed to sense any issues. I spoke to a lactation consultant over the phone and she told me to be pumping, I tried and couldn't even get an ounce. We were told to feed our baby every hour an half to two hours for almost a week - or two weeks - it's hard to say now. Oh yes you read that right - hour and a half. We were wrecked. Since he was 3 weeks early and he wasn't getting enough liquid right away to flush his system, he had pretty bad jaundice. We were going to the pediatrician every day for a week until his bilirubin numbers improved. We used the ready made formula - not organic - I could not even handle that decision. When I did see the recommended lactation consultant, she knew right away what the issue was: I had PCOS which contributed to what is called Insufficient Glandular Tissue. I didn't have enough "milk making tissue" to feed my baby. Oh this was easily one of lowest moments of my life. I cried for days, weeks. I was healing from a Cesarean birth (I also only took ibuprofen once past the hospital, because I'm stubborn as hell), and I was struggling.
I love my baby fiercely and was devastated. I still have residual guilt for not knowing that he needed more milk in the hospital (I know, I couldn't have known). I try not to have resentment for the lactation consultants that didn't clue me in at the hospital - how did only one of them know immediately - over a week later? I'm a planner - I could have planned for this. Instead I was so lost. I do have some thoughts on the push for breastfeeding. Yes: breastfeed if you can - physically and emotionally. But if you can't, it's OKAY. I really struggled with seeing that at the time. I have a close friend who went through a similar ordeal, and she was so wonderful to talk to, and was constantly checking in on me. The last lactation consultant I saw told me that if I was tied to breastfeeding that she would help me. I was. I can be really, really determined. I used an SNS - Supplemental Nursing System. I did this for 5 months. It was hard. It was really hard. I was so determined to give him my antibodies, what little I could anyway, and to be close with him in that way. Cleaning it so, so many times a day was challenging. But I was determined, and so was my husband. I could NOT have done it without my husband. I could not have done any of this without my husband, Johnny. He is an incredible father and despite the hardest year of our lives, continues to be patient and loving. That time period was so very challenging for us - we moved AGAIN when he was about 4 months old, too. We made it through somehow, and our super healthy, gigantic (2T and 3T clothing at 1 year old stage), intelligent, clever, extra sweet babytoddler is now just over a year old and thriving. He's been on Happy Baby Formula because I was also determined to give him Organic formula, regardless if it meant that we would eat a lot of rice and beans. Are you getting the idea now that I'm really, really determined? I also decided that although we are vegan for health and ethical reasons, feeding him formula that was laden with corn syrup was not something I was willing to compromise on. We tried soy formula for a brief moment and it did not agree with him in the slightest. Can you believe that there is not a good dairy free formula on the market that doesn't have brown rice or corn syrup? I fully understand the need for sugars as an infant, but I read as many labels as possible and was not satisfied with any other brands. Yes - I know about donor breast milk. This was the choice we made. If you are thoroughly in to nutrition like I am - let's talk about this!
The first thing I learned about parenting is: you can try to plan for "everything" but you might as well throw most of them out, or at least detach yourself. It's going to be the wildest and most unexpected ride.
On a postpartum note, I have also struggled with postpartum depression and more so: postpartum anxiety. Much less spoken about, and pretty damn challenging. I have some high highs and low lows, even more than a year later. I'm prone to racing, anxiety-driven thoughts. I can be a little obsessive compulsive. I have a my moments. But I always resurface. Some internal resiliency just keeps persisting keeps me continuing on and always striving for better, even when I struggle with the Why.
Friends and family are very supportive (even when they don't know it), and I have my favorite herbal allies: CBD oil, Lemon Balm, Motherwort, Milky Oat Tops, Vitex, Holy Basil, Brahmi (Bacopa), Schisandra, Cacao and Linden. Proper nutrition (I'm vegan and gluten free) - and Vitamin D as I'm chronically deficient and live in the Pacific Northwest. Note: those herbs work for me - but do speak to a Naturopathic Doctor, and do a bit of research before trying anything new.
I've been working full time since our babe was about 3 months old, and other large life things things have happened too - so I often am fairly overwhelmed with all that life continually offers. And yet - I am still always looking to challenge myself and be a better version of myself than before - and forgive myself and others when that's not the case. Every single day is a surprise journey, and this birth story continues - I am in absolute awe of our kiddo and our family every single day - his big bright blue eyes and strong curiosity is at the core of my whole heart.