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Knowing When To Ask For Help

Looking overwhelmed with a five-day-old baby.

I have never been good at asking for help.  Even when I feel like the world is on my shoulders and I’m crumbling behind my shaky smile, I will continue to nod and say that everything is fine, rather than show (what I perceive as) my weakness.

Before Cullen was born, I was really nervous about breastfeeding.  I didn’t really understand how it would work, or what was expected of me.  A few moms gave me the advice to really utilize the nurses in the hospital, and get as much help as you can in those first early days and weeks.  So despite my instincts telling me to bury my questions inside and just nervously smile, I did exactly the opposite.

Each time I fed Cullen I asked a nurse to come in and watch, have them help adjust my latch, answer all ten thousand of my questions, and just simply reassure me that I was doing it right.  I felt confident and hopeful — this breastfeeding thing was a breeze!

And then I went home.

Nursing a baby that is five hours old, surrounded by support staff and nurses with friendly smiles, is entirely different from nursing a five day old baby in your house that suddenly feels very isolated.  As my postpartum hormones changed, and the reality of life with a newborn set in, I found myself to be incredibly anxious and nervous that everything I was doing was wrong.  I cried.  A LOT.

Looking back, I know I would have benefited so much from an early visit to a lactation consultant, if for no other reason than just a little reassurance, a pat on the back, and a “great job, mama!”  Instead, I talked about going to breastfeeding support groups, I considered calling to ask questions, and I did absolutely none of it.  Lucky for us, we didn’t have any real issues, but I never felt reassured or overly confident either.  I obsessively examined Cullen’s poop (you moms understand), counted diapers, weighed him on the bathroom scale, and looked forward to doctor’s appointments.  Now that three months have passed, I look back now and wish so badly that would have just asked for the help I so obviously needed.

A few weeks ago, I started getting a patchy red rash on my chest.  I pointed it out to my midwife at my postpartum checkup, but she didn’t think it was more than a mild skin irritation.  I googled things, I read Kelly Mom, I diagnosed myself with every disease and rare disorder under the sun.  The only thing I didn’t do was actually ask for help.

So yesterday, when I suddenly had extreme pain on the right side when breastfeeding, all the panic alarms in my head went off.  It developed into a dark blister, and a throbbing pain that had me dreading each feeding.  But unlike my previous worries, my reaction was different this time.  This time there was a real problem – and it was threatening the way that my sons gets his food.  Without hesitation, I picked up the phone and dialed the lactation consultants.  The poor woman who answered the phone probably wasn’t expecting me to suddenly start crying on the other end of the phone, but before I could stop it, three months of worries and questions started spilling out.

She was everything I needed her to be – reassuring, helpful, kind, calm.  Everything that I wasn’t.  I don’t know why it’s always so hard for me to just step outside of my comfort zone and admit when I need help, but I’m glad I did, and I’m glad she could give it.  The anxiety and questions of the unknown are much more troubling than a quick admission that I, in fact, do not know everything.  Looking forward, I will remember to not wait so long next time.

 

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