When Your Heart Doesn’t Magically Expand With Your Second Baby

Despite what the movies and birth-story blogs tell us, many mothers don’t feel an instant connection with their babies (whether it’s their first, second or fifth). That’s okay. Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Erica Monzingo of Kewaskum, Wisconsin.


By Erica Monzingo

I got pregnant with my daughter the summer of 2013. I wanted that baby more than anything I had ever wanted in my entire life. When they handed her to me after a grueling labor, I was elated. I will never in my life forget the moment they placed my daughter on my chest because I was instantly madly in love with and in complete awe of her. In the weeks and months following, I spent all of my time snuggling her, kissing her, memorizing her every part and telling her how much I loved her.

All of my adult years, I had been very adamant that I wanted to have 3 children. But then the day I gave birth to my daughter, and the months following when I developed postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD, I vowed I would never have another child. It saddened me knowing that my daughter would be an only child but I felt that it was the way that it had to be.

When my daughter turned 11 months old, my dad was given a pretty grim outlook on a newly diagnosed cancer. After a few weeks of consideration, my husband and I decided that we should try for a second child. I was now feeling more confident about my ability to go through the process again. And, among other reasons, if I had another child, I wanted that child to be able to meet my dad.

This pregnancy, although far less eventful than the first, was different. My belly grew rapidly but I didn’t feel the same connection that I had felt with my daughter. I shrugged it off to knowing that I was already a mom and didn’t have the fear I had before of maybe never having a baby. Maybe I was too busy with my daughter to take the time to truly cherish my unborn child. Maybe my head was too wrapped up in the thing that was growing in my dad’s body and I didn’t have time to properly focus on the one that was growing inside of mine.

Eventually I started talking to everyone I knew that had more than one child.

“How do you love a second child as much as you love your first?” I asked.

They told me story after story of how that baby was handed to them and it “just happened.” People smiled as they talked about seeing their children interact. No one said otherwise, so I was finally at ease.

When my son was born, I cried as they set him on my chest. I was glad for him to be here. Glad for my pregnancy to be at an end. But unlike when I wrapped myself around my newborn daughter in an instant bond, I felt like my son was a complete stranger. When they brought him to me for feedings, I fed him but I did not marvel at him the way I had at his sister.

My heart did not “just expand” like people had told me it would.

 

The author and her two children.

“But HOW do you love the second child just as much as you do the first?!” I’d asked everyone.

“I can’t explain it, you just do!” they had always replied.

But I didn’t.

I clearly remember telling my husband during the first few hours after our son arrived that I was starting to kind of like him but only because he sometimes reminded me of our daughter. My nurse heard me, but she didn’t seem to mind.

My daughter met my son later that day. The first few moments were all smiles and I got a few wonderful photos of those moments. But inside, I was full of panic. And then everything turned bad.

My daughter, who was 19 months, became furious at me. She wanted nothing to do with the baby and now, she wanted nothing to do with me either. She would no longer acknowledge me. I quickly gave away my son to someone else in the room but the damage had been done. I cried myself to sleep that night wishing that I could just go home and be with her. Could the baby stay at the hospital with my husband? Could I go home and be with her?

“I can’t go spend the night at home, right?” I asked the nurse when my husband was out of the room. It was all I wanted.

For the days that followed, my daughter continued to pretend I didn’t exist. She wouldn’t sit by me much less even glance at me when she walked by me. I was devastated. My heart had not magically expanded to make room for my new baby and now my daughter, my best friend, hated me.

The weeks dragged on and eventually my daughter warmed up to me, but it wasn’t like it used to be. I spent countless hours tending to and nursing my son but I did not smother him in constant kisses and I love yous the same way I had with my daughter in the beginning. I loved him, but not in the way I had loved my daughter. He was well cared for because I knew it was my job and he deserved it, but a big part of me was afraid that I had made a mistake.

“What happens when you have a second child?”

You might hate it. Your heart might not magically expand.

Your world may feel like it’s crashing down on you.

I muddled through yet another year of bad postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression, and I can’t tell you exactly when my heart expanded, but it did. It’s different now. I am so madly in love with that little boy. He constantly gets smothered in kisses and I love yous. He loves to press his little cheek up against mine and keep our faces squished together. I soak in every second. When I watch his sister and him play, I feel like my heart is going to burst from too much love.

“How do you find love for your second child?”

Sometimes, in time.

When I Felt Like I Failed as a Mother, Donating Breast Milk Made Me Feel Strong Again

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Chasity Boatman, who blogs at Every Child is a Blessing. She writes about exclusively pumping, and how it healed her.  


By Chasity Boatman

When I brought my newborn son to my breast to nurse for the first time, I wanted to cry. Not because the moment was so beautiful, but because the pain was excruciating. The experience was nothing like I had read about in breastfeeding books, nursing blogs, or heard about from Le Leche League meetings. Breastfeeding is nature’s way of feeding a child, but I quickly learned that natural didn’t mean easy.

For the next month, I dreaded my son’s hunger. He would cry and reach for me, and I would want to turn away from him. I wanted to hand him off to someone else and leave. I felt guilty for my mental anguish over a beautiful act between mother and child. How wretched of a mother was I for dreading feeding my son from my breasts?

I was certain that I wasn’t doing something right. So I called lactation consultants. I asked questions online. I did as much research as I could. I couldn’t find anything to explain the burning pain and negative feelings I was having while nursing.

It wasn’t until a meeting with my third lactation consultant that I learned I had an unusual hormone imbalance that caused pain when my milk let down. My heart shattered. I felt like my body had failed me in every way imaginable as a mother.

During this time, I was also experiencing panic attacks and flashbacks to my emergency C-section. I dealt with spiritual anger, hatred toward my body, depression, anxiety, and OCD. I felt like I was falling apart at the worst time. I wondered if I should have become a mother. I worried that my son would hate me for being unable to care for him in the ways that I wanted to. I wouldn’t leave my house. I didn’t sleep properly. I had constant, irrational thoughts. I began to have suicidal idealizations. I simply couldn’t mentally handle my traumatic birth, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and failing at breastfeeding. It was all too much.

I still had a desperate need to nurse. When others recommended formula, it only made me more determined to breastfeed. I knew that those people were trying to ease my mental burden, but they just didn’t understand.

One day, I found on a thread online about exclusively pumping. At the time, four years ago, the topic wasn’t widely discussed or supported in the breastfeeding community. I didn’t have a plethora of information to work with, but for the first time since my son was born, I felt encouraged. I decided to try it.

For the next three months, I pumped every two hours. The nights were hard and sleepless. Everything I did revolved around my pumping schedule. I pumped in the car, in my college classes, and anywhere else that I needed to. I didn’t care what anyone else around me thought of me pumping, because I was so proud of my body.

Producing 50 ounces a day while pumping was the most healing experience for me. I felt an intense amount of relief and pride in my body. I no longer felt as broken as I once had. Not only did I produce enough milk to feed my son in a way that no longer physically pained me, but I produced enough to donate to others.

Over my year and a half of exclusively pumping, I donated more than 2,000 ounces to other babies through Human Milk 4 Human Babies. I was blessed to meet five incredible mothers who all had their own struggles. One mother couldn’t produce breast milk because she had a double mastectomy. Another mother was feeding an adopted child. Two mothers simply couldn’t produce enough breast milk to keep up with their child’s needs. The last mother had inverted nipples and her child could never latch properly to breastfeed. Being able to help other mothers and babies with my breastmilk was something I deeply cherished. Even at a year and a half, I was pumping every four hours simply to keep my supply up so I could keep donating milk to others. That is, until the day came that my son weaned himself from my milk.

My own struggles as a mother made me passionate about educating other women.

Despite what others told me, exclusively pumping can be an alternative to nursing. I helped mothers learn how to increase their supplies. How to use their pumps properly. Tips and tricks on how to practice self-care while pumping so they didn’t feel distant from their families. I started speaking at motherhood conventions about it and blogging about it regularly. When I was exclusively pumping, most mothers I talked to believed that you either nursed your child or gave them formula. So I was able to give mothers another option that many of them had never considered before or even knew about.

I look back at the time that I exclusively pumped with such fondness. It was the first time in my motherhood journey that I felt strong and accomplished. It was the first time in my motherhood journey that I felt joy. Exclusively pumping is not an easy path, and it’s not for everyone, but for me it was a healing and loving path, especially during a time when I was dealing with the demons of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum OCD. Every mother’s story is different, and there’s a power in each one.

A Message To Moms: Your Worth Is Not Measured In Ounces

A powerful Facebook post by new dad Kim Chen has been generating shares and support from around the world. Kim’s wife, Florence Leung, died by suicide last year after silently battling postpartum depression. In the post, he opened up Florence’s struggle, which included her feeling pressured to exclusively breastfeed.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits all story around whether moms should or shouldn’t breastfeed, and we must support all women in their choices. 

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Avery Furlong of Ogden, Utah. She writes about her own journey in feeding her child.   


By Avery Furlong

I can still remember the shrill cry of my brand new baby boy as I tried to get him to latch. It tugged at my heart, and made my eyes burn with tears of frustration.

“Come on, buddy!” He finally latched, but the pain that accompanied it was excruciating. I yanked him off and burst into tears. My husband quickly came in and took him from my arms as I ran to the bathroom. I slammed the door and sunk to the floor. I let the tears fall.

Everyone could breastfeed. Everyone. Right? That’s what I had read. That is what the nurses at the hospital said. Breast is best. It was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world. But I hated it. I straight-up hated breastfeeding. I had seen a lactation consultant who assured me everything looked fine. I asked friends for help, but nothing was working.

I hated feeding my own child. Wasn’t feeding supposed to be bonding? I dreaded being near him because I knew I would have to try to nurse him, and that meant an hour of both of us crying. I constantly thought about hurting myself or running away so I wouldn’t have to put my son, or myself, through such misery just to feed him. Not to mention my reoccurring mastitis. (Seven times. Seven. Times. I wouldn’t wish mastitis on my worst enemy.) It’s NOT supposed to be like this. What is wrong with me? What kind if mother am I if I can’t even give my son “the best”?

Completely desperate, I switched to exclusively pumping to eliminate the pain, but that made things even worse. I spent more time trying to squeeze out one more ounce than I did with my baby. I missed out on so much being attached to that pump. Especially sleep. Every time I fed him I was bitterly thinking about pumping for the next feeding and wishing I could just sleep instead. Those thoughts always turned into awful thoughts of ways that I could disappear so I wouldn’t have to keep doing this.

I finally thought I could confide in a few close friends about how miserable I was. It felt like a slap in the face when they looked at me and said, “Well, breast is best. It’s worth it.” As if it didn’t matter that I hated feeding my child so much I wouldn’t even look at him when I fed him. As if it didn’t matter that I was missing out on my baby because I was so stressed out about pumping enough ounces. As if it didn’t matter I was having suicidal thoughts as I fed my son. I felt the full pressure to give my son that liquid gold, even though it was slowly killing me. But it didn’t seem to matter, because “breast is best.”

I reached the darkest and scariest place I had ever been before I finally saw my doctor. On top of starting medication and therapy, my sweet doctor, who is a dear family friend and supported me through my difficult pregnancy, looked me right in the eyes and told me it was ok to stop pumping and attempting to nurse. He gently reminded me that formula does not equal failure.

The guilt ate at me as I prepared that first bottle. I worried he wouldn’t need me any more. I felt like giving him my milk, even though I hated it, was the only thing I was doing right. I wanted him to have the best.

And then I fed him the formula. His big blue eyes gazed up at me, and he smiled. He reached up and patted my face. And for once, I didn’t look away. I didn’t have the urge to hand him off to someone else. There were no negative thoughts about pumping or pain. I smiled back. I tickled his toes. I ran my fingers through his red hair and sang him my favorite lullaby. He giggled. It was the most peaceful, happy, truly bonding moment I had ever had with him. And it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to stay up and pump for the next feeding. Instead, I watched him sleep peacefully in my arms.

I am a firm believer that fed is best. Breastmilk is absolutely amazing. There is so much science behind that, and I won’t deny it. But formula gave us something that breastmilk couldn’t. It gave me my sanity back. Formula was best for us. No amount of breastmilk could ever replace me as a happy and healthy mother. He needed ME more than he needed my milk. Because I am “the best” for him. I am enough. You are enough. Your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces.

Today, that sweet boy is an extremely healthy, loving, active little boy. He is definitely a momma’s boy. Our bond is stronger than ever. Unless I told you, you’d never guess if he or his brother were formula fed or breastfed. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. They are both happy, healthy, and loved. And I am too. That is the best.

As A Psychiatrist, I Thought I’d Be Immune To Postpartum Depression. I Was Wrong.

Today’s post comes from Dr. Aparna Iyer, a board-certified psychiatrist and assistant professor at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. She also has a private practice in Frisco, Texas.



By Aparna Iyer

I am a psychiatrist who treats mental health issues during pregnancy and the postpartum period. I had thought that this would somehow make me immune to postpartum depression, as though I could have seen it coming from a mile away and warded it off. But I was wrong. Quite frankly, I never thought it would happen to me.

After nine months of a blissful, uneventful pregnancy, I had an emergency c-section when the baby’s heart rate dropped. Although I imagine I could have been thrilled with the prospect of simply having a healthy baby, I instead found myself in a fog afterwards. People kept gushing over the baby, saying how beautiful he was, but the reality is that I couldn’t see anything past that fog.

My family and friends started to notice as I became progressively more detached and dysphoric. Many friends wondered why I kept dodging their calls or avoiding their requests to come over to see the baby. It just seemed like such a unsurmountable chore to even get dressed in the morning and to put on a smile to meet people, to give off the semblance of the romanticized mother-baby experience that we are all so convinced we will have.

A rock amidst the choppy waters — it’s what we psychiatrists aim to be. We strive to be the calm that our patients need during their darkest times. But in those moments, I found myself immersed in the deepest of those water, grasping for anything that would give me a moment of relief. I was shocked that I, someone who works to give her patients relief from such struggles, could be experiencing it myself.

The reality is that postpartum depression does not discriminate. Although it can impact certain groups of people more than others, it really can happen to anyone. It doesn’t care whether you’re younger or older, rich or poor, healthy or medically complicated. Frankly, it didn’t give a hoot that I was a psychiatrist either. It arrives, often unannounced, angry and ready to plunge us into a vortex of sadness and irrationality. It drives a wedge between us and our friends, family, partners. It leads some of us to act dangerously, towards ourselves and our newborns. In fact, around 80 percent of women report mood changes in the postpartum period, and about 15 percent go on to experience postpartum depression.

And yet, we cannot talk about it. The reality is that we’ve spent the better part of the last nine months preparing for this beautiful experience. We’ve had the baby showers, sifting through countless names to find the perfect one, reading numerous books on parenting philosophies to find the one that fits you best, wondering how you’re going to do anything productive on your maternity leave when all you want to do is stare into those gorgeous little eyes. And now this — is this the ultimate failure, many of us wonder? It’s hard not to believe that it is, although thankfully the world and the medical community have slowly started to truly understand postpartum depression for what it is: an unfortunate but common medical phenomena, one of the most common side effects of pregnancy.

The author and her newborn son.

Oftentimes women come into my office seeking help for postpartum depression and various other postpartum ailments. Many describe the struggle to keep their symptoms a secret, trying so desperately to maintain the image of that idyllic beginning of motherhood. Those of us who have experienced postpartum depression know that can be a strong sense of shame and stigma surrounding postpartum mental illness; likely some of this stigma is perpetuated by the pressure placed on mothers to do it all in a seemingly effortless, fashionable way in a society that sneers at the very concept of depression.

Depression and anxiety during the postpartum period need to be taken seriously, by the postpartum mother, her partner, her family and her physician. It is everybody’s job to compassionately support the mental health and wellbeing of the mother and her baby. Untreated postpartum depression can have terrible consequences. These mothers are less likely to get postnatal care, more likely to self medicate with drugs and alcohol, and ultimately this may all result in their babies experiencing worsening outcomes.

Luckily, postpartum depression is very treatable. In many cases, these women can opt for talk therapy, which is often sufficient and a great source of relief and support. In some cases, we might have to also add an antidepressant. While this can make a patient nervous, especially if that patient is breastfeeding, many of my patients feel more confident with this decision once I present the data regarding the risk profile of antidepressants versus the risks of uncontrolled depression or anxiety.

Depression at any stage of life can be a debilitating experience, and I am not glad to have had it, especially during a time I would have wished to have enjoyed bonding with my baby. However, I suppose that this could be viewed as an extension of my training, an opportunity to have experienced what many of my patients experience. Sometimes when my patients are in their darkest times, I express to them that I can see the light, the relief, at the end of this tunnel, and that they have to trust me that we can get there. As I write this and pause frequently due to my now three-year-old rambunctious toddler smiling up at me and vying for my attention, I smile back and am grateful that I reached the light at the end of my mine.