Why maternity leave in the US sucks


I really want to talk about maternity leave (or lack thereof) in this country.  I know, basically every mom you know has probably complained about this at some point or another but there is a good reason for that–  BECAUSE maternity leave in this country SUCKS.

Let me tell you a story about myself.  I was 27, pregnant with my first kid and everything hurt.  My child was 8 lb and still flipping around in there at 39 weeks+… warping my stomach into crazy shapes that horrified even my crunchiest, pregnancy loving friends.  I hurt like hell.   I cried about having to get up from the couch to go pee because of my round ligament pain.  My feet were swollen, I couldn’t stop snoring, my heart was palpitating– I was done.  I was 50 pounds heavier, my hair was suddenly kinky, my nose looked like it ate another nose and my son still didn’t come out until 41 weeks and that was after some intense begging.

Labor was exhausting.  (I am not lying when I tell you that it lasted for a solid week)  I vomited for days, I hurt, I cried, I had to go to the hospital and be put on “medicated rest” and then I still had to be induced days later after everything just… stopped.) I pushed for nearly 2 hours and he finally made it to the other side.  He left behind an episiotomy and poop water… but he was here.  I’d done it.  I’d given birth and now I could rest.  HA!

I can honestly say I don’t remember the first week of his life.  I was SO sleep deprived, hungry, exhausted, irritated, hormonal.  I couldn’t go up the stairs because it hurt too much.  My blood pressure sky rocketed and my postpartum anxiety and OCD set in.  I had to have follow up after follow up to monitor my blood pressure– all while trying to learn to breastfeed, change diapers, soothe him, bathe him, etc.  It was not a marathon in that I could pace myself, it was a sprint.  A fast pace that I had to keep up with for weeks.  He cried, I cried, we cried… I was so, so tired.

My husband went back to work after that first week and I felt like I would collapse.  I didn’t know how anyone could do this, especially someone who felt so physically drained and mentally exhausted.  I called his pediatrician one day because he wouldn’t stop crying.  I told myself I was a terrible mother…I questioned everything.  I cried with him. These were the first weeks of our lives together and I was a mess.

Let me elaborate for a minute on this, and this could get too real for some people so just skip this if you want– but the postpartum time… blows.  I was terrified to poop because my “down there area” was cut all to hell.  I didn’t even know how bad the cut was, I didn’t ask and I was too afraid to look.  I bled so much I questioned how much blood was actually inside of me and okay to lose.  My body lost 20 pounds instantly and then plateaued at a full 30 pounds higher than my pre-pregnancy weight.  I was really confused by the person staring back at me in the mirror.  It was a real adjustment.  An adjustment on top of the adjustment of birthing a child and going from a family of 2 to a family of 3 in a matter of minutes.

Sounds like a lot right?  It was.  It is.  My story is not unique.  It is actually pretty typical from what I’ve seen.  You know what else is typical?  Going back to work after 6 weeks.  I birthed my son in May and was back to work in June.  I remember seeing my son smile (like really smile, not gas smile) for the first time when I was preparing to go back to work.  It was this  beautiful moment where I finally felt like he knew me as his mom, a moment I’d been needing and waiting for.  And there I was… getting ready to go back to work.  I felt immense guilt and anger.

I felt this with such intensity, but get this- I worked from home!  I was the mom that other work moms envied.  I could keep my son AND work from home, therefore never missing a moment.  I could do it all.  Right?  No.  I couldn’t.  My work was always late, I was always torn between devoting every second to my son which I knew in my heart was the right thing, or getting a pay check.  I tried really hard to do it all.  I tried to sit down to my transcription job and type chart notes while a screaming baby was balancing on my knees trying to latch to my boob.  I tried to pump the other boob while my son was nursing.  I was literally trying to do 3 things at once.  Three really important things.  Guess what– didn’t work.  I pumped nothing because I was BEYOND stressed.  I’m assuming my son was getting nothing either because he screamed and I was …stressed.  My work didn’t get done because I was …stressed.   Oh and, I was still bleeding, my postpartum OCD and anxiety were still raging, and I was drained.

So to put it simply, why are things like this?  Why are women expected to go back to work only 6 weeks after birthing a child?  You actually grow another life inside of your uterus.  You push this big, beautiful new life out of a tiny opening and then you don’t sleep for MONTHS.  However, you’re expected to come back to work, good as new after only …6 weeks?  (8 weeks for a C-section)  You need to dedicate yourself fully to your work as you did a year ago before your life changed so dramatically.  It’s bullshit.  Excuse the language, but that’s all I can really describe it as…bullshit.

As a new mother I needed support.  Emotional support.  I needed to check in with my doctors frequently.  I needed sleep.  I needed to cherish the moments with my new baby rather than stare at a calendar each day counting down to when I would have to leave him.  I needed TIME.  I needed time to adjust.  I needed time to process and breathe.  I needed to be a mom.

Unfortunately, in this country, we are enormously undervalued as new mothers.  It is sad.  It is sad for each new mom and sad for the babies.  Babies need their mother’s full attention.  They need peace and calm (as much as can be had at that time) without the added stress of having to go back to work so soon.  Doesn’t that make sense?  I feel like I’m stating very obvious things.  I know that you can have up to 12 weeks, but sometimes that isn’t even long enough– and unfortunately not all of us have that option.

For more information on maternity leave policies around the world, read this.  It will give you more specific information without my saltiness and anger ha.

Seriously though, we have a real problem here.  It may seem like complaining but this is a very important issue.  The maternal mortality rate in the US is on the RISE.  Women are dying.  In this technologically advanced, intelligent, educated country…the death rate for women post pregnancy is rising.  That shouldn’t be happening.  We need to develop a better maternal leave policy and give new mothers the help that they need.  Be it financially, physically or mentally.  Motherhood is one of the most important things many of us will ever do…we should have more than 6 weeks (or 8 or 12) to get used to it.

 

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Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER): My experience.

Tonight I’ve decided to sit down and write about an uncomfortable experience.  Breastfeeding.  I know…I sound awful right?  How can I be a mom knowing good and well that “breast is best” and be uncomfortable by the process?  This is how.  It is called D-MER. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.  With both of my children I suffered from this awful condition.

Nearly 5 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my son I knew I would breastfeed.  I knew nothing about it but knew I would do it because it was supposed to be the best thing for my baby.   At 41 weeks my sweet boy was born and took quite well to the breast.  I felt so happy and accomplished that we both knew exactly what to do.  It felt so natural.  It also felt… terrible.  I was a new mother so I didn’t know what to expect.  I just know that before my milk let down, I felt inconsolable sadness.  I felt such debilitating depression.  It came and went in less than a minute, but the feeling was so intense.  It lingered with me because the sadness felt physical.  The depression physically hurt.  I’d never been so overcome with intense grief and emotion that I felt like I would vomit.   Yet, every time the milk came down… there was the feeling again.  I didn’t say anything at first because I thought maybe I was just adjusting.  I didn’t want to admit that I hated the feeling.  No one had ever told me this happens… so everyone must be able to deal with it.  Admitting it would have made me a bad mother.  I told myself all of those things.  Finally, I mentioned it briefly to the lactation consultant at my hospital.  She thought it was interesting but didn’t have any idea what was going on.  She kind of blew it off and said, “well, if you know it passes you can just tell yourself that and get through the moment.”  This was true, but it was still upsetting.  I began to dread breastfeeding.

I shared my story with fellow moms and no one knew what I was talking about.  This apparently did not happen to all of my friends.  This hadn’t happened to my mother.  I was depressed, but determined to figure out what was going on.  I googled frantically and finally stumbled upon some information about D-MER.  It was EXACTLY what was happening to me!  Finally!  I had some answers!  Just seeing that there were others out there with this same condition comforted me immensely.  Unfortunately, there is still not much known about this condition.

I made it 6 months breastfeeding my son.  I had some postpartum issues in addition to the D-MER that stood in the way of breastfeeding for me.  My son also seemed to nurse constantly.  Stopping breastfeeding was a very sad decision to make and I had several moments of feeling like a failure, but ultimately it felt like the best decision at the time.

Last year I had my second child.  An 8 lb 10 oz baby girl.  She also took to the breast extremely well and I felt that joy and accomplishment again.  Unfortunately, like last time, the D-MER was back.  My daughter nursed around the clock and the let down of my milk was so intense.  I suffered from awful postpartum anxiety/OCD after the birth of my daughter, which seemed to make the intense emotions with breastfeeding much worse.  A few weeks postpartum I suffered a minor infection and had to go on medication.  I had to stop breastfeeding for 10 days or so.  I tried to keep up with pumping but with a 2.5 year old and a newborn… it was all too much.  I was overwhelmed with day to day life and D-MER didn’t make things ANY easier.  I made it a few months and then switched to formula at the suggestion of several doctors.  It is not the decision everyone would have made, or the decision I thought I would choose, but it was the best decision at the time for myself and our family.

Breastfeeding is a huge topic in the new mommy world.  There is almost a shame attached to not breastfeeding.  Because of this, mothers with any sort of issue feel guilty, embarrassed, less than, ashamed.   I can’t honestly put into words the hurt I felt/feel knowing that both of my children were excellent eaters that took extremely well to the breast and I was the reason they weren’t breastfed for an extended period.  I can’t go back to that place.  It was something that contributed to my extreme postpartum depression.  The guilt was unprecedented.  But because of this, I ask the mom community to come together for other moms, ALL moms.  You never know another person’s story.  You may not even know that conditions like D-MER exist.  Your experience is your own.  What a new mommy needs most is love.

I’ve linked to a few articles about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex in this post and I encourage new mothers (or anyone) to check them out.  More research is needed for this condition as well as knowledge and support.  If you think you may be suffering from D-MER please see your doctor, and for now take comfort in the fact that I know what you’re going through, as well as many other moms.  It is TOUGH, but you will get through it.

6 Popular Diaper Rash Creams Reviewed!

 

I decided to do a review of diaper rash creams in the blog when my husband and I had a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of several different brands recently.  Yes… we are that exciting.  Over the years we have used many different brands.  Currently, my daughter is teething so she is getting the lovely diaper rash that goes along with that.  Her poor hiney is so red and chapped.  Luckily, I’ve figured out what works for us and would love to share my thoughts with you! I wish I’d read more about this when registering for my first baby’s baby showers!  Also in the posts you’ll notice a link to the Environmental Working Group: Skin Deep website.  This is a great tool for researching the environmental and health impact of common products.  It is amazing which products you think would be fairly safe that aren’t at all.  I recommend this website for any product you use fairly often.  A great resource!

 

Vaseline

Okay, the first on the list is just your standard Vaseline.  When I had my first child one of my best friend’s told me that her mother used Vaseline on her younger sister all the time to prevent diaper rash.  I found that this was a cheap option that seemed to work well! I think Vaseline serves as a great diaper rash preventative.  It is also nice to have Vaseline around the house to use for taking rectal temperatures or to put around the mouth for a chapped face.  I purchased 3 big tubs of it on Amazon and it lasted for a while!  More recently I bought a store brand from Walmart or Target and it works just as well!

EWG rating: 1

Aquaphor Baby Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment

Second on the list is Aquaphor.  The Aquaphor I have tried is the Aquaphor Baby Advanced Therapy Healing ointment.  I really like Aquaphor as it is very similar to Vaseline.  It has Petrolatum (petroleum) as the active ingredient.  Unlike Vaseline, which is pure petroleum, Aquaphor has other ingredients (Panethenol, Lanolin, etc.) that help with the consistency and healing of the skin.  It comes highly recommended by dermatologists.  I have also bought Aquaphor for my children’s cheeks.  My son and daughter are both very faired skinned and their cheeks chap easily.  I cover their cheeks in the winter with Aquaphor before playing out in the cold wind and at night when they’re sleeping.  I like Aquaphor for a rash that isn’t terrible.  I feel like it can help a rash that is starting to resolve quickly without getting worse.  For more intense rashes, I look to other ointments.

EWG rating: 2

Desitin Rapid Relief Cream

Desitin is the diaper cream that my mom used with my little brother when he was little.  After having kids she would say, “You need to go get some Desitin… Desitin works so well!”  When I registered for gifts for my baby showers I included a ton of Desitin per my mother’s request and I have to say I was a little disappointed –Maybe because my mother built it up to be a cure all.   When I used Desitin it was just okay.  It didn’t dramatically fix my kid’s diaper rash.  It didn’t last very long and seemed to go on pretty thin.  I personally prefer a diaper rash cream that is thick and will still be there when I go to change my baby’s diaper.  My final thoughts on this cream… if someone gave it to me I’d use it, but I most likely wouldn’t buy it.

EWG rating: 5

A+D Zinc Oxide Cream

A+D was the diaper rash cream we used often with my son.  I think A+D is very similar to Desitin.  We tried the kind that was for the treatment of diaper rash that is made with Dimethicone and Zinc Oxide.  I think that A+D works fine, but like Desitin Rapid Relief, I feel that you have to put it on constantly.  It seems to go on thin and wipe off easily.  I felt like this didn’t help my son and daughter’s rashes.  I personally wanted something much thicker.  Again, like Desitin, I would definitely use A+D but I don’t buy it myself anymore.  I prefer other creams over this one.

EWG rating: 5

Boudreaux Butt Paste Original Diaper Rash Ointment – 2 oz

I have a love/hate relationship with Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.  I think it works pretty well.  The color is a bit weird.  There is no unpleasant scent.  I definitely have a tube of it at my house and use it fairly often.  One thing about this diaper rash cream is that it will stain furniture if you have an accident.   We found this out the hard way when my son sat on it on my mother in-law’s couch.  It took a lot of elbow grease but it finally *mostly* came out.  It is an oil-based product, like other creams, so it WILL stain clothing and furniture.  This is just something to keep in mind.  Honestly, keep this in mind with ALL diaper rash creams.  We’ve had a few too many accidents with diaper cream.  I’ve stepped on it, sat on it, etc.    I prefer this over Desitin or A+D, mainly because it is thicker and stays on a bit longer.

EWG rating: 1

Burt’s Bees Baby Bee 100% Natural Diaper Rash Ointment, 3 Ounces

Okay, I saved the best for last.  Burt’s Bees Baby Diaper Rash ointment with Zinc Oxide.  I absolutely LOVE this diaper rash cream.   The smell is amazing.  It has a good amount of Zinc Oxide (a product most of these diaper rash creams include) which really helps the toughest diaper rash.  I think the best thing about this diaper rash ointment though is that it is really thick.  It is very well made and goes on thicker than any other cream on this list.  You don’t need very much of it to cover most of the diaper area.  It is a little pricier than other creams on this list but not by much and because it is thicker it lasts longer.  Sometimes I buy the gift set that comes with Baby Wash, a small bar of soap and Baby lotion.  I’ve found the gift set on Amazon for as low as 15 dollars before, so it is a great deal.  (Prices fluctuate from day to day.)  I highly recommend this cream, and most other products from Burt’s Bees honestly.  Their products are gentle on the skin, smell great and have a pretty good Environmental Working Group: Skin Deep rating.  We always keep this in the house and reserve it for the worst of diaper rashes!  It is very effective!

EWG Rating: 1

I hope you found this helpful!  These were the most common creams I received at baby showers before my first child was born.  Like most baby products, it takes some trial and error to figure out which products works best for you and your baby.   Do you have a diaper rash cream recommendation?  What works best for you?  Leave suggestions or thoughts in the comments.

Repost: My postpartum experience

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Stock Photo.  Posed by Model.  Freeimages.com/Anna B.

[This was originally posted on my other blog and was featured on The Mighty .  I decided to share it here to help other mothers in a similar situation.  Postpartum depression, OCD and anxiety are difficult.  You CAN feel better.  I implore you to reach out to a friend, family member or medical professional if you are suffering.  xoxo.]

Night time is here and as I sit here with a soon-to-be 8 month old,  sleeping peacefully in her rocker, I think back on the day’s events.  This is a routine for me.  I get my daughter to sleep, zone out for a bit reading articles/news/social media and before I get started on my work for the night I take a moment to reflect on my day.  Today I got to catch up with an old friend.  We chatted about her work, my work, day to day lives, our husbands and then my kids.  My daughter showed off her new crawling skills and even managed to kick my friend’s coffee cup out of her hand, spilling coffee all over her sweater. (This is why my wardrobe consists of leggings and t-shirts.) I stared at my daughter as I often do, beaming with pride over how fast she’s becoming so mobile, and then thought about how last week she wasn’t crawling at all.  It seemed like yesterday that I was just bringing her home from the hospital.  I shared this with my friend and before I knew it I was telling her all about labor, delivery and the horrible postpartum depression and anxiety I suffered through.  It is not my favorite part of this life I am building with my little one, but it has been an important part.  I’ve learned a lot from my suffering.

I’d been in labor for about 17 hours.  The time was finally here to push and after only two pushes, the doctor was throwing my little girl onto my chest.  I remember feeling the weight of her little body resting on me and being so relieved the pain was finally over.  I kissed my husband, cried, looked at her, cried some more… and then I asked the doctor if I was bleeding too much.  From that moment on, for the next few months — everything would be one giant blur.  The minute my body recognized I was no longer pregnant and the hormones did whatever the hormones do, I was not the same.  I obsessed over my postpartum bleeding.  I convinced myself I was swelling and that my blood pressure would sky rocket.  I called the nurse in every few minutes to examine the swelling in my feet (there was none).  My brain was on a roller coaster that had no end.  I couldn’t stop obsessing.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t sleep for the next two days at least.

I knew that I shouldn’t have left the hospital without being put on some sort of brain medication but I was so set on breastfeeding.  I had the Solly baby wrap, I had the breast pump.  I had everything I needed to be supermom.  I was going to breastfeed her for a year.  I was going to conquer this crippling anxiety because I had to.  I got home and I collapsed.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t do anything but cry, shake, panic, pace.  I couldn’t see my postpartum bleeding without feeling sick and having a panic attack.  I called the hospital nearly every night after I was discharged.  I called to ask if things I was experiencing were normal.  I called because I had a temperature of 99-something even though the handout I was given said to only call if it was above 100.4 .  I took my temperature exactly 200 times that night.  My husband grew concerned and called my parents.  I was losing my mind.  I was trying so hard to control my thoughts and feelings but they were so far gone at this point.  I was unrecognizable.

Only a week after having my daughter I got a minor infection and had to take antibiotics.  I had to stop nursing temporarily so she wouldn’t be exposed to the medication.  I started my daughter on formula.  This was my breaking point.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t do anything right.  The world was cruel in my eyes.  I’d wanted nothing more than to breastfeed and here I was, only 1 week postpartum and I was already “giving up.”  I told my parents that I was a horrible mother.  I lashed out at my husband…I didn’t want to exist.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was so sorry for my daughter.  She deserved a mother that was so much better.  She deserved a mother that had her life together.  The hatred for myself surpassed everything.  I couldn’t even look at her.  My husband would take care of her and offer her to me.  I kept telling myself to hold her… take her… cuddle her.  I told myself to like it.  The truth was– she reminded me of what a failure I was.  When I recognized that I “didn’t want to hold her,” I knew something was definitely off.  I needed help.

For 6 straight weeks after delivery I was never alone.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My husband, my family, my friends.  They were all here.  Someone stayed with me constantly.  They helped take care of my babies and they helped take care of me.  My OBGYN called to check on me.  She saw me every time I called my doctor’s office with some new irrational fear.  She talked me through my postpartum depression.  She built me up.  My psychiatrist listened to my fears about medication and relayed to me her own postpartum experiences.  A member of her staff even came to my car to talk to me when I was sobbing too hard to go into the building.  My therapist, a Godsend, has helped me every step of the way.

As I sit here nearly 8 months later I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.  I know that probably sounds completely crazy– but its true.  I learned from my postpartum depression and anxiety that every mother’s story is different.  This idea of the perfect mother I had in my head was just that, an idea.  It wasn’t reality.  Motherhood is messy.  Life is messy.  It never goes to plan.  I was dealt a hand of crappy cards.  My hormones were out of control.  They were bigger than my obsessive need to control them.  Because I couldn’t do it alone, did not make me a failure.  The important thing was connecting with my daughter.  The important thing was being happy and healthy for myself and for her.  I wasn’t currently the mother she deserved but I could get there.  I worked hard the next few months to get on medication that helped me level out.  I made sure to get some sleep.  I meditated.  I went to therapy.  I prayed.  I survived.

My relationship with my baby is better than I ever could have imagined.  She and her brother are the lights of my life.  They are the joy I feel in my heart every single day.  I am so blessed to be their mother.  All of those days I spent worrying about the bond that would be destroyed between my daughter and I were for nothing.  She loves me.  She smiles when I smile.  She laughs when I laugh… she knows my heart.  She knows I always loved her and will always love her, even when my mental health issues overwhelmed me.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are scary, hard and exhausting.  It is so important to see a doctor, build a support system and ask for help.  They say it “takes a village to raise a child.”  My village saved me.  And because I’ve been through such a dark time, the good times are now just a little bit brighter than they would have been.  I can see how fortunate I am and feel that gratitude on a new level.   I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say without shame.  I survived postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say with pride.