Monday, April 30, 2012

On motherhood and anxiety and first morning smiles

Motherhood continues to amaze, astound, and terrify me.

In case it doesn't come through loud and clear on this blog, I suffer from some anxiety issues. It can range from mild anxiety to panic attacks, depending on the day and the trigger. I've mentioned it here and there before, but I never really dwell on it. I've occasionally thought about taking medication to help with it, but at this juncture, medication is really out of the question for me. I breastfeed exclusively, and I cannot take the risk that even a fraction of the medication passes to Evaline.

Motherhood is wonderful. I love my daughter so much. When she goes to bed at night, I miss her. I look forward to the next day, not knowing what it will hold in terms of my daughter's growing communication skills, movement (she's already trying to crawl), eating habits, and everything else. Each day is a surprise and a gift.

That is tempered by staggering (at times) anxiety. We've been slowly introducing solid foods now that she is 6 months. It has been causing borderline panic attacks. I have a deathly fear of her choking. I'm not sure where it comes from, but every time she eats, I start to panic inside. My heart was set on doing baby led weaning, but quite frankly, I'm too afraid. We're going middle road. No purees or baby food. She gets whatever we have for dinner, mushed into baby-gumming chunks. She's handling it great, and she loves to be involved with dinner. My anxiety is slowly abating, but I'm sure something else will take its place.

It all boils down to control. I am a control freak. And now I have this tiny person, whom I love with every fiber of my being, whom I would die for, and she depends on me to keep her safe. It's terrifying. Utterly terrifying. I need to control everything to make sure that I am absolutely keeping her safe at all times. There are things I should control - a pool alarm for her grandparents' unfenced pool is reasonable. Making sure that the dog is never left alone in the room with the baby is reasonable. Making sure her toys are child safe is reasonable. But smashing every particle of food into atoms is not. She has to grow up, and I can't (nor should I) protect her from the whole world. Sometimes I can't sleep at night because I envision all the terrible things that could happen to her. All of the terrible things I read about in the news. I wind up getting angry at myself for focusing on so much negativity. Worrying does nothing about tomorrow, but it certainly robs today of its pleasure.

I hope that with time this abates. When I'm not anxious, it's wonderful. When I am, it can be nightmarish. Some of my friends have suggested that this may be a form of PPD. While that may be true, I return to the fact that due to breastfeeding, I will not be taking anti-depressants. This is after a few days of heavy consideration.

Lest you all worry, I am fine. The anxiety comes in spells. After spending the weekend with my mom, in-laws, and other various relatives who all raised children successfully and watching them interact and feed Evaline, I am a great deal less nervous about introducing foods. I'm dealing with it.

And something to end the anxiety post with: Evaline sleeps in our bed at this time for a variety of reasons. Every morning, I am woken up by soft patting of my face with small baby hands. When I wake up and look at her, she gives me the biggest, gummiest baby smile you have ever seen. There is nothing so sweet as being loved like that. Nothing.


Anonymous said...

I love your blog! Your baby is adorable; you're a lucky mamma.

I'm not sure if you've mentioned your daughter sleeping in your bed in previous posts and you're just conveying your decision, but we had this lecture earlier this year so I feel obligated to at least mention the ABC's. (I'm a second year medical student who stumbled on your blog looking something up about my dog and have been reading it ever since).

ABC's = alone, back, crib. Cosleeping corresponds to a greatly increased incidence of SIDS. I realize that correlation doesn't equal causation and there can be several other contributing factors, but really, why risk it?

I've never commented before but just thought I'd throw that out there as something to consider if you hadn't already.

Keep up the great stories!

The Homeless Parrot said...

Thank you for the comments, Anon. I have done a great deal of reading on the subject of SIDS and cosleeping or bed-sharing.

Let's first be clear. Cosleeping actually is thought to reduce the risk of SIDS. When saying cosleeping, you are referring to sleeping in the same room with an infant, which is encouraged by the medical community.

What I do is bedsharing. Bedsharing has - contrary to popular misconception - NOT been shown to greatly increase SIDS. The research is very muddled. Some studies have shown increased risk with mothers who smoke, when sleeping with someone OTHER than the mother (a father, another child, a grandparent), and/or when the mother is exhausted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Believe me, I have combed the refereed literature to determine if I am doing the right or wrong thing. I have read books by MDs, books by midwives, books by laypeople with anecdotal evidence, and I am very comfortable with this decision.

I encourage you to think outside the box and do some literature searching if you are interested in pediatrics or OB/GYN.

Personally, I can tell you that in 7 months of bed-sharing, I have never woken in a position that gave me one moment's pause. Nor has my husband (who was staying up all night to finish his PhD thesis and checking on us regularly) ever found Evaline with the blankets or sheets near her face or with me lying on her or in some position that compromises her safety.

To sum it up, I never, EVER intended to sleep in the bed with my baby. It occurred naturally as a result of breastfeeding. After it began happening, I started doing careful research. I follow the rules - no fluffy bedding, no cracks into which she can fall, she never sleeps between myself and my husband, but only on my side, and she is never left to sleep unattended on an adult bed, couch, or other surface.

There are many MDs who support cosleeping - but they are not vocal (Dr Sears, for instance).

Holly said...

Evaline is simply darling. My g'daughter (3 months) is sharing a bed with her parents. They were not going to do it, but it happened. As my dil put it, actually HAVING the baby changed her views on many things, this is just one.

The fear never really leaves, but you do learn to deal with it. What you fear will change as they get older. Watching others with her (g'parents/aunts/uncles) will help. As she matures that will help.

You are a good mom, try some of the relaxation activities you were taught for labor. When I had a freezing fear related to something else (not kids), I deliberately taught myself to relax, starting at my neck, then relaxed my shoulder muscles, then my upper arms, etc to my hips. Could something like that become a conditioned relaxer for you?

SMHDVM said...

There is a great PBS three part documentary called "This Emotional Life." There are some new therapies that can help. My therapist is sending me to an acupuncturist and then is teaching me something called "tap therapy" to help with my anxiety. Something like that might be in order

Mary said...

Oh. My. Goodness. She is soooo cute. And please send some of that hair our way!

I'm sorry to hear about your anxiety. While I haven't felt like I've had PPD, I have had moments of extreme anxiety and still have some reservations about leaving the house. It's not that I think something bad is going to happen, it just seems like a lot of work. I don't know how to explain it. When she wasn't napping, I truly thought I was going to lose my mind. And obviously, the weeks leading up to my dissertation were a complete nightmare, but I feel a lot better now.

I understand the desire to take as little medication as possible while BFing because I am the same way, but there are anti-anxiety meds that are safe for breastfeeding. Ultimately, you have to be the one to weigh the pros and cons and whether the anxiety is manageable without medication.

We started baby-led weaning last week and it's pretty terrifying, but after reading the book, it just makes so much sense that I can't imagine doing it any other way. I have been planning on doing a blog post about it, in fact.

The Homeless Parrot said...

Mary, how is BLW going? What have you been trying? Any gagging incidents? Evaline gagged so hard on apple that she threw up all over herself. Not fun to watch, and scared me terribly. We're doing middle road - she's feeding herself, but I'm still giving mushy foods - avocado, banana, cheese, very tender meats, etc.

I'd really like to hear ab your experience so far.

Lisa said...

I am doing baby led weaning and my son is now a bit over 8 months old. He has gagged some but we have not had any choking issues. Though it stresses family members out who don't understand it. They yell "HE'S CHOKING!" but I can hear him coughing and breathing and know better. We still do soft foods so I don't know about when you did apples but I steamed them so they would be soft enough for him to gum and break apart easily. So far we've done sweet potatoes (steamed), potatoes (steamed), green beans (steamed), zucchini (steamed), bananas (raw), pear (raw but really soft), apple (steamed), rice, avocado (raw), carrots (steamed), broccoli (steamed), pasta (penne and rigatoni), tomato sauce, roasted garlic (mixed in tomato sauce), and cucumber (raw - he mostly just eats the seeds). I found this site that I like that goes over the basics really well and gives food suggestions. I know you've probably researched it plenty but in case you didn't find it - As time has gone on I'm way less concerned over it although I do know exactly what to do if my son ever does choke (there's that control feeling you and I need :)).

I think as a doctor maybe the easiest thing to say as a blanket statement is not to bed share but that each individual family is unique and as long as you are following the rules (no smokers, no drinking or drugs, no abnormally heavy sleepers, no swaddling, etc) then bed sharing has been done for as far back as the human race goes and is still used primarily in many cultures. We slept with my son until about a month ago when he decided that he would just roll around so much that no one could sleep anymore (coincided with teething). So, I understand the ABC's that Anon was taught, but at the same time, there's a ton of research that points the other way, like you mentioned. My cousin was just arguing with me the other day and said "why risk it?" and I agree with you, I never once felt like it was a risk or found us in compromised position.

Also, I know what you mean about sitting up at night and fearing for the worst. It's an awful feeling. I feel the same whenever my son isn't with me. One of the blogs I read calls it The Fear. I thought it was quite fitting :)

Waking up to a baby's hand on your face is best!

The Homeless Parrot said...

Lisa - are you doing it as recommended with the "handles" on food - i.e. big stalks of broccoli, stalks of banana, etc? Did you start at 6 months or wait a while? Have you done any meats?

My FIL is a pediatrician, and he has me completely freaked out about iron deficiency, so we're trying to get meat into her diet. So far, she's had soft hamburger (in chili), pot roast (very tender), and very tender BBQ chicken. She did well with all of it. Rice has also been good for her, as long as it is of the sticky variety.

Share any tips you have - which foods you have found less scary, etc. I would love to hear it.

Lisa said...

We started at 6 months and one day (I was very excited!) with sweet potato and cut it into the shape of steak fries but they kept breaking off in big chunks in his mouth though he always spit them out. So now I do chunks about the size and shape of half a small red potato and it works out great. I do try to stick with food that either are shaped liked the half potato or with stalks like broccoli. For the banana, I just cut it half or thirds and give him the whole chunk. I once tried to give him the quarters how the site says (like how they break apart longways) but they kept breaking off in big chunks in his mouth and I didn't like it.

I have not fed him any meat but he's still eating mostly breast milk so he should be getting all his necessary nutrients from that, as I understand it. My husband and I eat a meat limited diet so I want to try to give him beans and tofu though I haven't gotten that far. Beans are too small as he doesn't do the whole pincher grip thing yet so I would probably mash them up and still let him self feed. And did you see on that site I linked to the information about giving the baby too much salt? That pretty much freaked me out so he hasn't had any salt or salty foods. I'm sure there's a balance but everything we've given his is bland. I want to try to add spices to his food though soon so he doesn't get freaked out by strong tastes. I did roast some garlic and mixed it with no salt added tomato sauce and put it over rigatoni (it was STRONG) and he didn't seem to mind it.

Anyway, my in-laws are watching him this weekend so I am leaving them with foods that we've had the best luck with him eating and limited gagging - sweet potato and red potatoes (in those hand sized chunks), bananas (just cut in half horizontally so it's not so long) and zucchini (cut in half horizontally and then quarters longitudinally since they hold up pretty well - be sure not to overcook or it will fall apart). I think what makes those foods easiest are shape and texture. Really easy to gum into smaller bits for swallowing but don't just fall apart easily.

I don't know, I'm kind of just winging this whole process because I have zero friends who have actually done it and everyone looks at me like I have 3 heads when I tell them what I'm doing. My pediatrician just gave me this look like I was crazy and told me to give him rice cereal. I never did. I do follow a blog where the girl does it but they are giving their daughter McDonald's, frozen waffles and bacon and that's just not the way I'm doing it.

Glad she's doing so well with the meat! I would guess that if it's soft enough that you should be OK with her gumming it and you could always pre-chew tough pieces for her, if that doesn't gross you out too much :)

I have about a million pictures of my son eating - I'll put some of them together and send you the site. I was always looking for pictures of babies eating to get ideas for sizes and shapes.

Anonymous said...

It has been awhile since I dropped by! I love the pictures of Evaline! I now have a daughter about 1 mo younger than Evaline (I think). She got RSV when she was 3 mos old which was a little scary! I feel like I am finally returning to "normal" and hope to follow your blog again.

Mary said...

BLW is going pretty well so far. She did gag, not choke, a bit the first week. She also threw up one time and that obviously was not pleasant. But, I can already tell, not quite three weeks into it, that she is really getting the hang of it. She didn't gag at all this past week. I have given her a ton of stuff: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash, green beans, mango, apple, pear, avocado, banana, bow-tie pasta, cucumber, sweet potato, rice cakes that I made.

I haven't found anything she seemed to hate. Her favorites seem to be the yellow squash and the cucumber. I steamed all the veggies except the sweet potato, which I baked into "fries." The fruit I give her raw and I leave the skin on so it's easier to handle.

I have taken a ton of cute pictures I hope to put up on my blog. Also, you can check out You Tube-there are a lot of videos and it's pretty crazy to watch a little baby chow down on a meatball or something like that. It helped give me confidence to watch other babies do it.

Anonymous said...

I also responsibly bed-share and want to offer this way of looking at it:

A significant chunk of the parental population attempt to do 'ABC' as we've all been taught and are shocked to find that it simply will not work without subjecting the newborn to hours of intense crying (they don't tend to understand why they are being left 'alone' even if they are close by) or without serious sleep deprivation for the mother which can't be sustained, and therefore will make the decision at wit's end to take the baby into their bed 'just for now'. In this state of exhaustion and lack of preparedness about how to bed-share safely, I believe tragic accidents are much, much more likely to occur.

I bed-shared from day one, having done my homework and prepared the space, and I have woken up sleep-deprived exactly once. I wake up when the baby stirs, in the same position I fell asleep in. A sober, breastfeeding mother and baby are biologically designed to fit together during sleep.