A Long One about PPA

I contemplated breaking this up into two posts, but whatever. If it’s too long, take a break & come back later. Or skim it for the most interesting parts! Godspeed if you’re on mobile.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and some states also recognize it at Maternal Mental Health Awareness or PMAD Awareness Month. PMAD stands for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, most commonly postpartum depression, anxiety, and/or psychosis. Is it as fun as National Ice Cream Month? Probably not. But it’s vitally important to talk about so the stigma and shame are removed from parents going through it. I was officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety at my first postpartum check up, and as with everything else on this blog, I can only speak to my experience.

I’m incredibly thankful to have a forthright group of friends who became moms before me, and I’m grateful to be a patient of a hospital system that is putting continually more resources towards parental mental health education pre- and postpartum. PMADs don’t just affect the birthing person; partners can absolutely suffer, often silently, as well. I wouldn’t say I had negative expectations about my mental health after becoming a mom, but I had realistic ones. I was definitely more versed in the signs of postpartum depression, however, so when my provider first said “postpartum anxiety,” I tried to brush it off as hormones and a lot going on in my life.

In retrospect, I suffered from anxiety my whole pregnancy (and, let’s be honest, my life.) My husband had his pay permanently cut by 25% due to COVID two months after we conceived, and my small business was greatly affected by the uncertainty of quarantine. We’d had our house listed for sale then took it off the market. We went for a month without health insurance (not recommended when pregnant AND in a pandemic!) Thankfully my business stabilized, he found a new job with insurance, and we moved when I was 36 weeks pregnant. In those final few weeks, I laid awake at night ruminating over how we were going to keep our baby safe from COVID, mass shootings, and being bullied by other kids while trying to not outright have a panic attack any time I glanced at news about the upcoming election.

All of this is relevant because at my six-week postpartum appointment, when the conversation turned to my mental health, I reported that I was “back to normal,” and I meant it. I was now in the process of selling my business and transitioning to a new job while figuring out how to be a mother to an unsleeping newborn with a husband who only had five days of “if HR asks, tell them you’re working from home” under the table paternity leave. We had supportive family nearby, a new home with tons of potential and a healthy baby. Nothing to actually complain about! Situational anxiety was my normal.

What wasn’t my normal was the panic I’d feel leaving my son with my mom or husband if I had an appointment. I’d get shaky in the Trader Joe’s parking lot thinking about how I had to rush home because they’d be mad at me for being away too long. (They weren’t. They would never be. This was something I’d made up in my head.) I thought it was “just hormones” that for the entire 12 minute drive to my son’s first doctor’s appointment with just me taking him, I was convinced he wasn’t breathing in his car seat. On more than one car trip, I’d pull over to check on him in the backseat despite having a mirror where I could see him while driving. During the really gnarly first week of baby blues home from the hospital, my husband went upstairs to take a shower, but I had insanely dark thoughts that he was doing something else up there and would never come back down. I had terrible insomnia, and it would take hours to go to sleep even when it was my husband’s turn to be up with the baby.

I didn’t realize that when I got up to do anything away from my son, I wasn’t breathing. (I mean, technically my brain stem was doing what it needed to in order to keep me alive, but it was the shallow breaths of a panicked person. I probably didn’t take a full, deep breath his entire month of life.) I was constantly waiting for him to need something from me and anticipating his cries. He’d meltdown during diapers changes his first two months of life, he hated getting dressed– I was constantly on edge. I thought since my anxiety wasn’t always about him, though, it wasn’t PPA. Since I felt confident as his mom and had bonded right away with him, I figured this was just how I handled life now.

My doctor finally convinced me it didn’t have to be this way. She prescribed me a low dose of Zoloft which I took for a few weeks. I shared on Instagram that I was taking it for a PPA diagnosis and so many other people commented or sent private messages that they, too, had been there. But I didn’t want to be medicated. I know, I KNOW. I believe in medication for other people, I believe there should be no stigma around medication for your brain, and yet I’ve got a lot of subconscious baggage from being raised in a “tough it out” (or drink through it) environment that had me wanting to get off the meds. So I decreased my dosage and eventually stopped taking them after maybe a month.

Things were fine; nothing crazy happened. The business transaction closed, I got more comfortable in my role at my new job. I stopped breastfeeding and tried to embrace formula feeding. Most of my clothes started to fit again. Things got even worse with his sleep, but then we Ferber-ed and our lives were suddenly *clouds parting, angels singing.* Out of the woods, baby!

Oh, boy. It was like once my brain knew he could actually sleep through the night and would be fine, it came completely unglued. This was not the situational anxiety of before; this was full on PPA. Did you know that PMADs can happen any time the first year postpartum? I didn’t! So many of the other parents in my Reddit monthly bumpers group were experiencing the same right around that four month mark. Did you know your body has another insane hormone surge (or drop, I don’t remember which- I’m not a doctor) around 16 weeks after birth? I was a ball of panic. I had to leave Walmart because I couldn’t find Total in the cereal aisle but couldn’t take the time to slow down and look again for it because I had to get home to my baby.

Thankfully, I’d kept picking up my prescription when it auto-filled and this time, I felt no shame in using it as a tool in my mental health toolbox. My son is now over six months old, and things are a lot better than they were two months ago. In the next post, I’ll share the litany of things that have helped get me to this place, fully realizing that this really is a journey I’m not at the end of (and I loathe when things are described as a #journey!!)

Postpartum Hormones + In-Laws

I was going to text Natalie about this instead of making it a public post, but this blog is about things I wish I knew, and this topic is definitely something I wish I knew. After talking to other new parents, turns out I’m not the absolute bitch monster I assumed I was, and many people have experienced the same. I know many pregnant people right now who don’t have the great relationship with their in-laws that I do, yet this still happened to me, so they may need a double heads up. If you are one of my in-laws reading this, hopefully you’ll realize the point is that you never did anything wrong! My brain just decided you were scary thanks to the insane amount of who-even-knows-what pumping through my new mom self.

I have a great relationship with my in-laws: they’re lovely people, I want my son to love and have fruitful relationships with them as he grows, and hopefully in a post-COVID world they’ll be a reliable source of occasional childcare… basically zero reason to expect anything would be different I gave birth. And yet! While I was comfortable with some of my own family being around the baby, something inside of me became very anti-my partner’s family. They never did anything wrong– if anything, they were far more respectful of our new parent boundaries than my own family. But thanks to postpartum hormones, it felt like the baby was mine, and they couldn’t get it on it.

What was I afraid of? Nothing that could be well articulated. That they were going to steal my baby? Push me out? Overstay their welcome? None of the above, and yet all of the above. Like most things postpartum, it’s hard to describe– it was just a strong motherly urge; another feeling that made me feel absolutely crazy on top of the sleep I wasn’t getting.

I read a theory that this happens because your primal parent instincts come rushing in, and even though your in-laws might be the warmest, most respectful people on the planet, they’re not your tribe. When the cavewoman hormones flood your brain, your family is safe while the clan you partnered into is unknown. They’re not your blood; they might eat or steal your baby. Is there any science to this? I have no idea! But it makes a little bit of sense to me, and I hope you read this in time to know it might very well happen to you.

So what do you do. If you have truly overbearing in-laws– the kind that are wildly inappropriate or don’t respect your boundaries for COVID protocols or anything else– you are completely justified in drawing a hard line and not budging. I’m not saying you have to keep your baby away forever, but this is a fragile time for your new family, and if trying to force time with them is going to put you over the edge, please prioritize your baby and your mental health. If it’s too much for you to be around but you value your in-laws getting to meet baby, consider having your partner take the kid for a visit, or you going out for an errand while the in-laws come over. If the in-laws are over and it becomes overwhelming, you can either exit the room solo for some downtime, or you can excuse yourself with baby to go nurse, put them down for a nap, or just get your mom hormones back down from “internal rage” by taking the baby to snuggle yourself. Does this sound selfish as I type it out? Yeah, kinda. But you’re already giving 145% of yourself to someone else; your mother-in-law can deal with not getting to hold the baby for her entire visit.

This is a great time to lean on your friends who are already parents. They will 100% understand if you send a text “sister-in-law is here plz help.” You both know your sister-in-law is only excited for you and over the moon to meet your kid, but a great friend will respond, “SHE’S THE WORST” even though they’ve probably never met. You can do a lot of loving kindness meditation towards your in-laws later once the hormones clear and you realize they’re actually extremely helpful to have around (hopefully.)

Baby Blues Advice

Since I’ve had one child and am extremely qualified to give all the parenting advice in the world, here’s the much anticipated follow up to my experience with the baby blues period of being home with a newborn. If you missed that, click here to read it first, duh!

So. You are extremely overheated and underslept and possibly undernourished– what do you do.

  1. Know that what you’re going through is normal* and it will get better. This is absolutely the shittiest advice to get because WHEN will it get better and HOW will it get better would be much more helpful, but just know that it will. *People far more well-versed in postpartum depression, anxiety & psychosis will thankfully give information and warning signs on that before you leave the hospital. I’m using “normal” as a relative term; if you’re ever scaring yourself with your thoughts, PLEASE say them aloud to your partner or a medical professional. Do not keep it inside and assume “it’s hormones, it’ll pass.”
  2. Give yourself all of the grace in the world. This is the time to strip everything in your life down to the basics. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you are starting from the bottom. You get to accept all of the help you need and turn away all of the extraneous people and to-do’s that you want. If you post a picture of baby on Facebook and receive a record number of congratulatory comments, you don’t have to respond to a single one. It’s more than ok to not respond to texts, or to tell people “No, we’re not receiving visitors any time soon.” If it’s going to give you a blip of joy to fall down a TikTok rabbit hole, don’t feel guilty doing it. The first few weeks home are the wild west of doing or not doing whatever most benefits you and your baby.
  3. Communicate. Mind reading wasn’t something your partner could do before baby came; it sure as hell isn’t something either of you can do now. Saying “come take the baby” to your partner when you’re done nursing, or texting your mom “bring orange juice at 12:30 and put the load of clean clothes in the dryer when you get here” is so much more helpful to you and your helpers than them trying to guess what you might be needing right now.
  4. When baby is sleeping during the day, ask yourself, “What will I be most upset I didn’t get done if baby wakes up early?” and then go do that thing. If the answer is take a nap yourself, attempt it. If the mess in the kitchen is absolutely driving you bonkers, load that dishwasher (or communicate to someone else to do it!) If you need to pump, this is your time. My answer was usually to take a shower. It was the one thing I definitely couldn’t do while holding baby. You will absolutely astound yourself with the amount of things you’ll figure out how to do one-handed, but showering is never one of them. And since you’re always weirdly hot and sweaty, a daily shower will generally be warranted!
  5. Don’t rush “normal.” I was hell bent on proving to the world (and myself? why??) that I hadn’t fundamentally changed as a person after becoming a mother. I wanted to do All The Things and get back to my old routine, hobbies and habits to prove having a kid wasn’t a major disruptor. Reader, I am an idiot. Having a kid is a major disruptor to your physical body as well as your brain (and your relationships, but that is a whole separate post for a later time.) Six days after baby was born, my mom came to watch him while my husband and I went grocery shopping. We were in the canned foods section when I had to tell him, “I’ll push the cart, but I need you to make all the decisions,” because my brain could NOT focus on the task at hand. I should not have been making pantry choices at that moment. I wanted to get back on my feet and be in the world, but my brain sat my ass back down.
  6. Don’t overthink it. When you’re crying, just let it happen. Wondering why you’re crying is probably moot, and it will pass. Don’t worry your gorgeous brain one second beyond the moment that’s happening in front of you. At some point you will have the thought, “I could never do this again,” regarding any subsequent children, and honey, this is NOT the time to be thinking about that. Getting pre-sad about when they start daycare or wondering what color they’ll want to paint their room when it’s no longer a nursery is a waste of this current moment when you can be staring at their squishy face that everyone assures you doesn’t look like an alien but you’ll look back on in a couple months and realize that actually it totally did. All newborns look like (cute) aliens.

Baby Blues

Welcome home from the hospital! It’s not exactly smooth sailing from here. The hospital was a special bubble in which we had a ton of super qualified support, and we were enjoying the delusion that we’d be riding this new parent high forever. I can look back now on our first five days home with baby as living in absolute panic mode, white-knuckling it without realizing at the time that’s what I was doing. The baby blues are defined as the first week or two of absolute hormone drop hell, and reader, the medical dictionary people not wrong!

I can’t thank enough the Internet and my real life parent friends for preparing me for the rough return home with a whole extra person than we’d left it. I believe we threw some dirty clothes in the washing machine, baby was asleep in his car seat from the ride home, and my body promptly said, “Bed. Now.” I took a nap, and then the strangest, weirdest, craziest hormone-y thing happened for the first of many times– I woke up and my brain said WHERE IS MY BABY. It was the most primal, insane thing that I was completely unprepared for. You know when you wake up at someone else’s house and forget where you are? It’s that, but all your brain cares about is the location of your child. This has happened many times after, even if baby was just in his bassinet mere feet from me. I haven’t found there’s much you can do to make it better, just know that you’re not going absolutely batshit when this happens to you.

The second the baby left my body, my normally voracious appetite also exited. And it didn’t return for a really long time (like, months??) Not just, “oh, I’m not 40 weeks pregnant anymore, guess I don’t need to eat every hour,” it was “I don’t feel hunger for food at all.” This probably didn’t help ye olde breastmilk supply issue. I definitely chalk this up to hormones, and if it happens to you, my advice is: eat sometimes anyway. You need energy; your baby needs you to eat food! The actual taste of the food didn’t seem to matter thanks to my hormone haze. Sometimes when I would eat, I’d feel ill (which is so. weird. because I love. eating.) My doctor recommended blending green smoothies to try to get nutrients in even when I didn’t feel like eating, so if this happens to you, do that! And no, there wasn’t a magical side effect of the baby weight flying off due to all this non-eating *sad trombone noise.*

I’m super thankful that my son has never felt foreign to me, and I’ve always felt weirdly confident as his mother. (I do not say this to brag! It’s so completely 1000% ok if you don’t bond with your baby right away and extremely normal to feel like you have no idea what the hell you’re doing!) I never had the middle of the night sobbing over “what do we do now?!” that I’ve heard can happen, but I DID absolutely lose it when my husband was playing The Beatles for our four-day-old baby. “Penny Lane” came on, and a weird amount of tears started falling from my face onto the couch. Why?? Who knows. It was, like, sad? But I couldn’t really explain why? Hormones!!

Oh, and you’re gonna be hot. The body temperature changes are just wild. Postpartum night sweats are for sure a thing, and I eventually pinpointed mine to really specific times with my baby. If any of you are scientists, I would love an explanation about which body chemical it is that made me (and still makes me, four months later) SO HOT when I hear baby crying in the night. My husband and I attempted split shifts for a few weeks where the “off duty” parent would sleep in the guest room to get some uninterrupted sleep, then we’d switch at a certain time. Every time I was reunited in our room with my son after the switch, I would get SO HOT. And it always took at least an hour or two to fall asleep because my brain was like like BabyBabyBabyReunitedWithBaby. Not like I was staring at him or laying there thinking about how lucky we are, it was just a mental lever flipped to MOM, so I was alert. (If you haven’t picked up on it by now, the first few weeks/ months are just exhausting as all get out. <–Is that an extremely old lady midwestern phrase?)

Advice in all this blathering? Oh, man. That will have to be a follow up post. That I shall start typing right now because we recently Ferber Method-ed this kid and he actually naps longer than 40 minutes at a time!!! *prayer hands emoji*

Will I Ever Not Feel Insane?

Spoiler alert: no!

I can’t, in good conscious, recommend parenthood if your grip on reality is already tenuous. At least once a week I text my husband, “Motherhood is insane.” I have many theories on why this seems to get worse with each generation, mostly hinging on the Internet and social media and the ubiquitous nature of constantly seeing other parents in action, all the time, but only the pretty parts. My brain has decided it will literally never be satisfied no matter how I arrange the sizes of my life pie chart: baby, self, marriage, work, etc.

EXAMPLE TIME.

The first 16 weeks of baby’s life: Please sleep. Please take a nap. Please nap longer! Your brain needs good sleep to grow, baby. I need more than 40 minutes in which to cram sending emails/ showering /eating/ unloading the dishwasher/ paying that bill/ will I ever work out again? Insert here a lot of pleading with all known and perceived deities to just please help my baby get quality naps in.

The 17th week, when we implemented the Ferber Method and the kid now consistently naps more than an hour: I am a horrible person. I just got in a virtual work out AND showered AND had breakfast AND am starting work emails and he’s not awake!? He probably thinks I hate him. He doesn’t even need me anymore. He’s so cute– I wonder what he’s doing in there. Probably looking really adorable while he sleeps. I feel so guilty for enjoying this time without him. What kind of monster person wants their kid to sleep this long.

Truly, this is mental hell. Women in the 1950s couldn’t possibly have given this many shits, right?? I mean, I know a lot of not-that-well-adjusted people born in that era, so I think a cultural swing towards more involved parenting was warranted, but still. Something about pouring a mid-day martini while baby is safely alive in a playpen sounds very chic (or maybe they just needed something to help turn off their brains from the barrage of parenthood contradictions playing on a loop in their heads? IS THAT WHY THE SHOW IS CALLED MAD MEN?!)

Another example.

I spend all day with my chunky dinosaur boo-by baby. When he’s awake, we’re playing or I’m feeding him or I’m shaking a toy in his face and trying to not feel terrible for also working on my phone with the other hand. The other day was just a long day. Baby wasn’t grumpy, it was just physically many hours on the clock until my husband got home from work. I knew I needed to leave the house, so I booked the last available in-studio Pure Barre class and kissed my loves good-bye. And halfway through my workout, I thought, “I miss him.” WHY. WHAT. You’re exhausting me, hormonal brain. He is safe at home with his father! It’s important for them to have alone time! You spent all day waiting for a break, and when you got one, you feel an insane pull to immediately return?!

Just… give in the insanity, Natalie. There’s no use fighting it. It is helpful to talk about it. You can text me when it happens, and I will say, “Yes, you are crazy. I’m crazy, too. But please don’t pour a martini at noon or I’m calling the cops.”

An Ode to my Scalp

i always knew you were there

but we’d never met.

you’re in all the worn photos of my own childhood

a bald baby til almost a bald toddler.

we had 31 years of peace, symbiosis

hair grew, chicken pox briefly visited, lathered on in the shower but never worried about

and then.

i saw you. just last week. why.

you’ve made yourself known. i see more and more of you as the hair leaves

the hair the hair the hair is everywhere

hair on the baby. hair in the shower. hair on the pillow. hair on the husband.

goodbye, hair

hello, scalp

i didn’t want to meet you.

Fed is Best

Natalie texted me a question this morning about breastfeeding. Instead of keeping this very personal and sometimes sensitive topic between friends, I decided to post the answer on the Internet where people are known for being totally reasonable and respectful, especially when it comes to stuff that is absolutely no one’s business like how you keep your child alive!

When I was pregnant, the plan was to 100% breastfeed my son for a couple reasons. 1- I am cheap and formula costs more cash money than breastmilk. (I’ve read you’re not supposed to say “it’s free!” because, as I learned, you’re paying a LOT in time, mental energy, did I mention time, oh yeah it takes up so much time, time time time. But we’ll get to that.) 2- I fully believe in the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby. It’s super cool that your body knows what specific antibodies your baby needs based on their saliva. That’s science!! 3- Bottles, formula, foreign stuff in my kid’s body- no thanks. Just whip out the boob for me, easy peasy!

I did a ton of reading, I got a breast pump, I got a hakaa, I got milk storage bags, I got nursing friendly clothes… you get it. Thankfully I wasn’t completely naive, and when people asked if I was planning to breastfeed (can we talk about THAT, by the way?? I know they’re just trying to be… I don’t know, helpful? But it’s weird. Don’t ask people that.) I would say, “If we’re able! That’s the plan, but I’ll do whatever we need to get him fed.”

After he was born, we did the golden hour of skin to skin and he did what so many newborns have biologically done before him & he wriggled his little brand new self down and latched like a champ. Success! I felt super lucky that it came so easy for us– he was a great eater in the hospital and we were on our way to my dream of exclusively breastfeeding for at least six, if not 12, months. What follows are a few things I’ve looked back on since and wondered if they contributed to the fact that I’m writing this next to a kid who’s been exclusively formula fed for over a month now, but I’ve had to accept that it doesn’t really matter. I can’t go back and change the past. I can learn from it if we have a second child and I want to try again, but in all the ways the fourth trimester have handed me my own ass, I choose to not let this be the thing that breaks me.

When the hospital lactation consultant came to visit, our son wasn’t in the room with us. I was a little concerned that she wasn’t actually able to assess him eating, but the nurses all reported things were going great, and the LC encouraged me to do follow up after we got home if we needed. He wasn’t in the room because he was getting circumcised (there! I said it! If you comment anything about our decision that doesn’t affect you AT. ALL. I will <insert empty threat here.>) This is important info, though, because after this procedure, babies are VERY TIRED. A newborn that is very tired will choose sleep over eating.

I was already pretty distraught that day because they told us the procedure would be happening that morning, then they said maybe not til the afternoon, then they came and got him for it just before 11 a.m. He was due for another feeding around 11:30 and I said, “Uhhhh isn’t he supposed to eat?” and long story short, he missed this feeding and wouldn’t wake up for his next one so he ended up going for like six hours without food. Six hours without food for a teeny tiny one day old baby is too many hours without food. He ended up finally waking up just enough to eat, but that night when they weighed him, the nurse said he was “close” to having lost 10% of his body weight and asked if were ok with them supplementing him with formula.

I knew from all my reading that this was a possibility, and I didn’t want to say, “No, please don’t feed my son if he needs it” so I agreed. They supplemented him with a couple mL of formula and no one died. He was just fine in the morning so he didn’t need any more supplementing. I found out later that the nurse was just being preemptive and that the hospital pediatrician never had a problem with his weight. A lesson for everyone doing this for the first time, ask questions! “Close” to 10% weight lost is not actually 10%. Turns out it was closer to 9 and while that doesn’t sound like that big of a difference, apparently it is when you’re only seven pounds.

ANYWAY– we get home, things are fine, then it’s nighttime on his third night of life. Around 10:30 p.m. it becomes apparent that our happy breastfeeding situation has come off the rails. Kid is HUNGRY and I don’t have enough of what he wants. I’d heard tales of women waking up nearly needing a new mattress after their milk came in, but mine just… never did. There was no, “Ta da! I’m here! We’ve officially switched from colostrum!” It did change to regular ol’ breastmilk, but in paltry amounts. Like, if we were on the prairie in the 1800s and I was his only source of food, this kid would have died. (Am I being dramatic? I don’t know!! I’m sure in the 1800s my body would have done what it needed to and hopefully ramped up production? But it didn’t in 2020!)

Thankfully before we had left the hospital, we had three little Similac sample bottles in our bassinet drawer from when they had supplemented him, so I just threw ’em in the diaper bag (Natalie, take everything in that hospital room that’s not nailed down. Seriously.) As I’m trying to comfort a screaming, hungry baby that first night home, my husband asked if he should go get one of those bottles. Every “Breast is best!” and formula-feeding horror (shame) story I’d read flooded my brain, but I was too tired to be proud in vain. I said yes, we popped that bottle in the kid’s mouth, and I promise you that was the most content I’d yet to see him.

I don’t want to make this long story longer, so we did combo feeding for two months. We would still breastfeed and I would pump, but he also got formula. I’d say about 20% of his consumption was breastmilk. Some breastfeeding zealots reading this are probably thinking, “Well duh, your body never made more milk because it never needed to.” i understand that if we had done a 24-hour lie in where I did nothing but offer the baby my boob for a full damn day, my body likely would have responded by ramping up production. But reader– I didn’t want to. Ooh it feels so spicy saying that aloud! Do you know how much time of your life is spent breastfeeding if that’s how your exclusively feeding your kid? A LOT. I’m not saying this to discourage anyone– I have so many friends who are doing it and they deserve a million dollars and a year’s vacation. I’m just telling you because I didn’t know. You can hear the statistic that you spend 40 hours a week breastfeeding your newborn, but until you’re living those 40 hours, you can’t yet feel them in your exhausted bones and soul.

Finally, a note on pumping. Again, it’s not evil, just want you to know that it’s not always the breezy set up the breast pump companies want you to believe it will be. It took me a few tries to find the right sized flanges for my pump, and I had a real not-loving relationship with it. I learned about myself that if it’s 3 a.m. and I’ve been up twice already since going to bed, I’m going to choose sleep over pumping every time. If I had a 40 minute window when baby was napping, pumping didn’t win out over feeding myself and showering. Of course I had a ton of guilt around this, and I felt shame when people (family… it’s always family) would ask how breastfeeding was going or offer tips to increase my supply.

I had to consciously work to reframe the narrative and think, “I’m giving my son what I can, and that’s enough. I’m proud of what I’m able to produce for him. No one’s story looks like anyone else’s story.” I’m thankful to have a very supportive partner who never pressured me either way. If anything, he felt thrilled he could contribute when we added bottles of pumped milk and formula so he could bond with the baby while feeding him. The overachieving part of my brain reads through this and sees the places where I “failed” or made choices that maybe could have produced a different outcome for our feeding tale, but I’ll never know. I had to let go of the dream of having a freezer stash of breastmilk, and instead be grateful for the reality of the (now very chunky) baby sitting in front of me. He’s happy and healthy, no matter how he came to grow that way.