Since I only seem capable of writing about once a season, I’ll continue the metaphor. I’ve been yearning for spring for many months and it’s finally here. Spring is when our lives were going to get a little easier and that has so far been true. This week marks six weeks since Fern’s back surgery. Surgery. We didn’t plan it but we’re so thankful she had it. As I mentioned in last quarter‘s post, several weeks after Clover was born Fern started getting severe back and leg pain from a herniated (it turns out) disc and sciatica. She experienced some relief in January after a cortisone injection but the pain came back one Friday in February and it was horrific: completely debilitating. Fern literally couldn’t stand up. She crawled around our house that weekend and early the next week. She started back on pain meds and they did nothing. She got another cortisone injection and it actually made things worse. She got a pain shot at the doctor and it did nothing. Finally on Tuesday evening we dropped the kids off at a friends (I thought I’d be back for them by bedtime…) and I drove Fern to the ER. To even get to the car from our house was an ordeal – she basically had to crawl through the snow. At the ER they gave her morphine and valium through an IV and it helped only enough to allow her to lie down (she had previously only been able to tolerate being on all fours and sometimes her side) and sleep. While that was helpful it wasn’t sustainable. They admitted her so she could stay on the drugs overnight since she still couldn’t even stand up and in the morning she had a surgery consult and by that afternoon was in back surgery (the kids spent that night with our amazing friend who cared for them both along with her son).
The benefit of having surgery for a herniated disc is that the back pain is 100% cured as soon as surgery is over (at least if it goes well). Surgery is not for everyone but it was an amazing cure in Fern’s case. Our lives are so much different and better than during the early months with our new family of four when Fern was in the worst pain I’ve ever seen someone in. There is still work to be done, though, and we just finished the six week recovery period that included no lifting anything over five pounds (hello kids), no bending and no twisting. We’re lucky to have family that dropped everything and came into town to help during most of those six weeks. It has been really hard on me to be the only one who can pick up the kids. It’s been hard on Fern to be so limited in her parenting (though it did get easier after the first few weeks) and it’s been hard on Goldie because she is a two year old that loves to be carried. But it’s spring now and I pray the worst of it is behind us and things will only continue getting better.
The other major, huge improvement in our lives is that Clover is nursing almost normally now. At almost five months I was still pumping/bottle feeding about 75% of the time. My deep (physical) wounds were able to heal on this schedule but every time things seemed to be going well and I’d try nursing exclusively for a few days, I’d end up with major pain and new damage. My vasospasm pain was also off the charts and when I met with our LC (after a couple of months not seeing her) she said very plainly that if I wanted to nurse long term Clover would need another tongue surgery. If I didn’t do that I’d have to continue pumping. So we did. Our plan was 1. get tongue fixed, 2. get on nifedipine for the vasospasms after the procedure. It worked. Not perfectly but it worked. The nifedipine was amazing. One 10 day course cleared up all but the occasional nerve pain and I am so relieved it’s better. Every now and then I’ll have several painful days of nursing. My nipples will be sore and the pain will get just shy of unmanageable. But so far all of these periods have resolved on their own and I hope that continues. There’s no doubt that Clover is still tongue tied and he isn’t a great nurser but there is nothing more they can do without putting him under general anesthesia. Also, I desperately want to avoid any more procedures – they’re traumatic and painful for C and costly and scary for us. I can handle a little pain as long as it doesn’t get out of control again. I’m hoping that as C gets older he’ll get better at nursing (right now he’s in a biting phase – possibly related to learning bad habits while tied, possibly related to teething – that I would like to see end). Of course now that he can nurse, he’s away from me most days and I’m still pumping. But our time together is much less angsty and I don’t have panic attacks before he nurses anymore.
As for me I’m doing better too. I had post partum depression, I’m pretty sure. It was absolutely made worse because of the nursing problems and Fern’s health but, no matter the cause, it was there. I wasn’t myself. I was sad and emotional but also angry. I threw a toy stroller across the room when I tripped on it while trying to leave the house. Nothing else was really the matter except that I was annoyed that I had to go to a doctor appointment with Clover because Fern’s back pain prevented her from being alone with him. But somehow I went from zero to throwing Goldie’s (at the time) most precious toy (she wasn’t home luckily and I really don’t think I would have done it had she been). I’ve never felt so much rage before that postpartum period – just constant, baseline anger – and it would have been scary if I wasn’t also feeling such ambivalence and sadness. Fern encouraged me to try an antidepressant so after some stalling I started zoloft in January. It hasn’t been night and day but the pressure has eased. The drug, coupled with the breastfeeding improvements and Fern’s surgery have put me on much stronger footing. I’m farther away from a really hard birth which I’m sure was a factor in my depression too.
All that updating and not a thing about the kids. Quickly, Clover is about the happiest 6 month old you’ve ever seen. He not just smiles but giggles regularly when he sees his family. Or when he sees a shiny object. He seems very carefree and it’s usually easy to turn any fussing into joyful laughter with some strategic tickling or dancing (he LOVES to watch us dance). Especially after his early refluxy/newborn months of angst, this side of C is so wonderful to know. He’s generally an easy-going, people-loving baby which is so much fun this time around.
Goldie is hilarious, precocious, energetic, creative and fun. Her language amazes me daily and she’s recently gotten into “big” (24 piece) puzzles and building with magnatiles. I love seeing her problem solve and getting to know her amazing personality. She is very, very 2.5 – stubborn with a side of sass. I can’t say parenting her is totally easy right now. But even when she’s being defiant it’s often amazing and funny to see her mind work (ok, sometimes it’s just frustrating and rage-making, but when I’m better rested it’s amazing and funny). I love seeing her explore the world, know and remember people and relationships, make real friends and turn into this extraordinary person. She even sometimes sleeps through the night now (though certainly not every night).