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When Being a Mother Is Hard

I know tomorrow is Father's Day and all (another Hallmark Holiday), but I have several moms in my life right now struggling through being mothers.

My newest mom has had engorged and inflamed (but not infected) breasts for several days despite two La Leche League leaders/midwives/experienced nursing mothers (one with 20 years of experience) working with her diligently. She speaks of the birthing experience as something she did easily because she could use her spirit hormones to go through it, but this nursing and mothering stuff is totally in her body and head, it's just so much harder. She is a wonderful trooper and we asked her to remember this time so she would be able to help others through it in the future; she said she would. I asked her if she understood why women who had no midwives, no LLL leaders, no supportive partner, no supportive family or friends would quit nursing when they came up against such engorgement and she gave an emphatic, "Yes!" We know she will end up being one of the leaders in our new mom's support group and told her as much. She is very young, but very, very wise. We didn't hear from her yesterday, so that is a great sign.

Another mom was a client of mine a year ago and her daughter is struggling with - something - Failure to Thrive? Pyloric Stenosis? A severe food allergy? The docs don't know yet. The child's sibling was small, too (as is the dad), but she is really small at 18.5 pounds at a little over a year old.

Mom, unable to completely nurse her baby due to PCOS, fed her baby with a Supplemental Nursing System for several months and continues nursing her baby as her child wants. Each formula the child was on, she gagged and vomited huge amounts of the liquid. The doctor didn't seem terribly concerned because she grew, albeit on the very small side of the charts. When she began solids, she continued her vomiting pattern and mom became much more concerned as her baby fell slowly down the charts. She sought more and more help from doctors only to be given appointments months down the road.

Then, somewhere along the way, a "concerned citizen" decided to turn mom into CPS for neglect. This poor woman who was already struggling to get her child help had to defend herself to the government, including doing a strip search for the CPS agent of BOTH her daughters. Luckily she had all the documentation in order, including all the doctors she'd seen and was scheduled to see and the worker said she thought the case "might be closed" after a few weeks of investigation, undoubtedly after talking to all the doctors involved.

So, now that the appointments with the docs are coming up, some of the advice is so ridiculous it borders on the absurd. In order to get help with the child's diet, she went to a Nutritionist who recommended a huge variety of dairy products to increase calories. When the mom explained the suspected dairy allergy, the Nutritionist told the mom to use Pediasure, that that was dairy-free. Mom told her it was not and the Nutritionist insisted it was. When mom went home, she looked at the container she had and sure enough, it is the 5th ingredient on the list - Milk Protein Concentrate - sounds like dairy to me.

One of the docs wants the child on an allergy-free diet (dairy, wheat, egg, tree nut, peanut, soy-free) until all of the testing can be done to rule out things (I suspect) like Celiac Disease, a Gluten Allergy, a Pyloric Tumor, or something they simply haven't considered looking into yet. It just seems absurd the doctors haven't seemed concerned enough to figure out what is wrong with the child after all this time despite the mother's pleading for help.

Mom has had to create an allergy-free formula and I think she did a grand job of it, too. Now to see if the baby will take it. Let's all hope she loves it, eh?

I have my own trials still as a mom, but I definitely thank goodness my kids have passed the stages of the women above. I had experiences almost identical to both of them, including the Failure to Thrive with my son and the massive allergies. He still has so many allergies, but he is a strapping 6'2" wonderful 24 year old man (he's a MAN?!?) and often doesn't seem too much worse for the wear. My breasts survived the engorgement and multiple bouts of mastitis without scars or without my having any serious mental trauma over it.

Maybe that's why I'm writing this... to let moms know there is an end to these things... that there is hope when it seems so dark and difficult. I've been where you are. I know the heart pain, the sadness, the wish to make it all better for your child, the struggle of not being able to blink away the massive amount of breast pain that makes you cry when you latch on.

I remember. And so will you. Both of these women will be wonderful mentors to those who come after them someday. They will be able to say, "I know what you feel," with truth and conviction because they do.

My hope for them is those words come quickly to their lips.

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Reader Comments (6)

Wow, as a mamma who is on the tail end of my second colicky child (and just exhausted); I just want you to know that your beautiful and kind words just brought tears to my eyes.

May these mothers see the light at the end of the tunnel as well.

Thank you for writing this.


June 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

how very encouraging!

June 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkris

Boy does this bring back some dark memories for me.

My son had so many issues his first year and continued to drop on the charts until he reached 2%. Thankfully we had a nursing-friendly pede who also knew he probably had food allergies (he does). Other docs would have labled him FTT.

It was 3 long, hard years before we saw that beautiful light, and my son is a relatively healthy 5 yr old. He may have anaphylactic allergies (nuts, eggs, dairy), but I know all those years of struggle and tears paid off.

If there's any benefit to what we went through, it's in being able to share and help other moms so they know they're not alone.

June 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAngel

I'm confused. The child with failure to thrive was 18.5 lbs at a year old and that was the big concern? Did she look sickly also? I'm not making light of her troubles, just wondering why that weight was such a big deal. One of my sons was 19 lbs at a year old which put him in the 5-10th percentile. He goes to a pediatric clinic so maybe that's why it was never mentioned as a concern (they're too busy to worry). But he's happy and healthy just a little small. He still has fat on his body at that weight and plenty of energy. I always figured that so many kids today are overweight(even very young children)and that's partly why he seems smaller in comparison. I'm honestly curious about this....

June 21, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersajmom

mine were 2yo before they hit 20 lbs. bright eyed, on track, thriving normal kids. Sheesh, leave the skinny's alone! LOL

June 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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