Marriage for me is a serious thing, so it was never an easy decision to make when I decided to marry someone with bipolar illness.
Problems pile up when a mental health condition tries to steal the scene. The idea that it is a lifelong condition and a life-threatening one at that is undoubtedly overwhelming and poses a severe threat to any relationship.
Motherhood brings a lot of happiness and a ton of pressure. You start to worry about much stuff, such as the baby should always be in perfect shape, the sweats, the diapers, the milk, the smell – everything should have to be perfect. Trying to be the perfect mom makes motherhood a crazy journey.
My mother had a history of bipolar illness, that is the reason why my doctor advised me to undergo therapy to be able to handle the possibility of having mood swings right after or weeks after giving birth.
Every trial is God’s priceless gift to me that He patiently wrapped in fears and miseries, boxed in anxiety, tied with a plain-colored ribbon, with a card on top saying, “You can do it, my precious daughter, I am with you!”
My Millennium Bug
Seventeen years ago, as everybody was fearing the millennium that was approaching because of the threat of the Y2K bug, I never thought that it would hit me earlier than expected.
My husband out of nowhere packed his things and left us without a word, and my youngest son who was very close to him got depressed and fell ill.
I distinctly remember how I listened to every tick of my watch, stared at the wall of the hospital, walked to and fro the hallway hoping for good news, and then the doctor came out breaking the news no one wanted to hear. The inevitable had happened. I will no longer see my son go to school because I had to walk him to his grave, the most painful phase of my motherhood journey.
I thought that was all, but no, God was not done yet. Another surprise came a month after, another sad news. My mom had a heart attack and was declared DOA.
At that time, I was a single mom of three kids, and since my mom passed away, I also got to take care of my sick dad.
Anxiety And Depression Kicks In
Months passed, and still, I got these sleepless nights. Every night was just the same as all the others. I just tossed and turned on my bed trying to catch that elusive sleep, but all my efforts were of no use. I couldn’t go on that way, so I went to my doctor who gave me some sedatives. I avoided my caffeine and took herbal alternatives, which were supposed to induce sleep but all to no avail. The best they provided me was 2 to 3 hours of sleep.
Is this stress? I hope so.
I turned to read my Bible as I lay awake in the middle of the night, listened to gospel songs because they comfort me, and prayed that whatever I was going through, I hoped God will cure me.
Sleepless nights were then followed by hot and cold flashes and night sweats. I felt afraid and, in panic, I just cried and cried. My doctor finally told me that it was anxiety disorder combined with depression. “Anxiety is a kind of looking to the future, seeing dangerous things that might happen in the next hour, day or weeks. Depression is all that with the addition of ‘I really don’t think I’m going to be able to cope with this, maybe I’ll just give up.’ It’s shutdown marked by mental, cognitive or behavioral slowing,” said David Barlow, PhD, director of Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders.
It explained the sleepless nights. According to Katie Hurley, LCSW, “People struggling with depression are likely to have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.” My doctor then gave me some more medications and said that we should be able to identify the triggers to address the problem adequately.
Acceptance Is Never Easy
For someone who often looks down on mental health issues, this is nothing easy to take. It was another blow, but I needed to accept and embrace my doctor’s suggestions for it’s the only path I know that would help me get on the road to recovery finally.
Julian Humphreys, PhD, PCC, wrote, “[T]he more open and accepting we are about what’s really going on with us, the more likely it is that we will find healthy defenses that contribute in sustainable ways to our own and others’ long-term growth and development.” I needed to be healed because I’m a mother, a daughter, and I had a small business to run.
It is no question that carrying another human in your belly is already challenging as it is. Unfortunately, the journey does not end once you have given birth to your child. The postnatal period brings even more changes to your body as a mother between the time you have given birth up until your child is six weeks old. This period is known as a woman’s transition into motherhood.
During my pregnancy, I gained a lot of weight. I knew that I needed to eat more for my baby’s health’s sake and for me, of course.
At times when I could feel my baby kick, I would be so elated and excited that she’s growing up inside me healthy and strong. I would sometimes caress my tummy with my hands in front of the mirror and talk to her. I could say that she’s happy inside, too, but as I looked at how I big I got, worry started to peep in, and I got anxious. Will I get back to how I was before?
“As any woman who has ever been pregnant knows, there is an intense focus on weight throughout pregnancy,” clinical psychologist Alexis Conason, Psy.D., wrote. “From the first visit with your OB when you step on the scale and are given a prescription for how much weight to gain, all the way through the postpartum period when your body is scrutinized for how fast you drop the baby weight, pregnancy can be a difficult time for even the most body confident woman.”
“Few new parents have accurate expectations of how much their lives will change after the birth of their first child. The physical and mental exhaustion, and the constant attention newborns require, leave virtually no time for the individual pursuits or relationship activities that had characterized their lives previously,” wrote Guy Winch, PhD.
First time moms have many fears, and one of these is the fear of breastfeeding.
“A mother’s milk currently reigns supreme in the ebb and flow of what is the scientifically-supported, publicly favored infant feeding practice in our country. “Breast is best” is the ubiquitous chant that joins the chorus of physiological benefits supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” wrote Lauren Montgomery, MA.
Hours after giving birth to my eldest child, I woke up with a feeling of heaviness in my chest. I panicked and called the nurse immediately. She came and told me that I had produced milk. It was time to breastfeed, and so she brought the baby to me.
I’ve read some stuff about breastfeeding, but reading was very much different from me actually doing it. My anxiousness made me forget about those things, and I suddenly didn’t know exactly how to do it. How will I hold my baby? What if I fall asleep, I was still feeling exhausted at that time, and I was afraid that I might not notice his fall off the bed, or I might accidentally lie on him. Crazy thoughts began to play tricks on me.
The nurse might have sensed my nervousness, and so she guided me and reminded me of what I was supposed to do.
Benefits Of Breastfeeding
To calm me down while I was breastfeeding, she told me some stuff about breastfeeding.
Colostrum found in the early milk that mother feeds his child in the first few days of life is the source of antibodies which protects baby from diseases as his immune system develops in the first year of his life.
Breastfeeding allows the uterus to get back to its size before pregnancy.
It reduces bleeding after delivery.
It can delay the monthly period (but not a guarantee that you are safe during intercourse, so if you’re on family planning, you must still use some form of birth control).
It’s practical as it can save you a lot of money because of the high price of formula these days.
It worked! I was able to do my first breastfeeding session without falling asleep because my nurse stayed by my side throughout the process, reminding me of stuff I should know about breastfeeding. When the baby fell asleep, I felt some relief in my breast. The nurse told me she would send someone after I got some rest.
Hours had passed, I got my nap, and another nurse (I thought) came in, a lactation consultant they called her. She re-oriented me about breastfeeding so I will be more comfortable with it. She told me that it’s natural for the first-time mother to feel anxious and panicky, but she said I would eventually get used to it.
The Pain of Baby Latches
Latching may be one of the most excruciating pains of motherhood, but a good latch is crucial in a mother-baby relationship. It helps lessen the mother’s risk of developing sore, bleeding, and irritated or abraded nipples. A good latch allows the baby to suck effectively, feeding himself an adequate amount of milk.
Help Your Baby Latch On
It is essential to know your baby’s feeding cues. Giving your breast at the early phase of hunger cues will make it more convenient to get the baby on the breast properly. There are steps you can follow to get a good latch.
Sit with the baby where both your tummies are touching.
Hold your breast near your baby’s mouth.
Touch your nipple on the lower lip of your baby.
When your baby opens his mouth, pull him in so he’ll latch on your breast.
Hearing my baby cry still puts me into a panic even after a week of feeding him. So once my baby latched on to my breast, I made sure that I hear him swallowing to be assured that he’s sucking the milk. Seeing him relaxed after feeding makes me calm down, too.
The pain a first-time mom feels often puts her in a state of anxiety and panic, especially when it comes to baby feeding. The lactation consultant who re-oriented me on breastfeeding helped me much, and as days passed, I got used to breastfeeding. There may still be some pain at times, but the joy surpasses all the pain.
According to Robert Muller, PhD, “Every woman’s situation is unique. Lifestyle habits, medication use, and medical and psychological history can complicate the post-partum experience. With this context in mind, the healthcare team should provide a comfortable environment — free of judgement — when discussing post-partum issues, including how to provide an infant’s nourishment.”
Every mother should look at breastfeeding as a beautiful experience, a great bonding moment with her baby that she will treasure forever.