Guest post: From attachment parenting to the mental hospital

Depression

I’m honored to be entrusted with publishing this incredibly powerful post from a mother who wishes to remain anonymous.

It took me just under three years to go from bright-eyed and expectant to waking up in a mental hospital in severe withdrawal from benzos (aka anti-anxiety medication). It’s not the whole story – what ever is, really? – but a big part of it centers around the current cult of attachment parenting that, at least in my circle, reigns supreme.

I wanted to be a wonderful mother. I live in on the East Coast – a very progressive little state where attachment parenting is heralded as something akin to the next coming of Christ. Of course you must breastfeed. You must have a doula. A birthing plan. Birthing music. Co-sleeping. Lots of eye contact. The idea is, if you don’t, you don’t care.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I checked myself into the hospital… Seven days later, I was released. I went home and tried to make sense of what had happened in our lives.[/pullquote]

I cared so much. So, I set about doing it all. My plans started to go afoul when my son was frank breech. He wouldn’t budge and we were coming down to the wire. My mother, a pushy and progressive obstetrics nurse in Boston, begged me to get a risky inversion (which could have put the baby in danger). She also implored me to attempt to deliver feet first vaginally (also very risky). Having worked on a labor floor before (thanks to nepotism), I knew I didn’t want risk when it comes to my child. I decided to go ahead with the Cesarian.

So, I started my son’s life with guilt. Lots of it. I remember dining out with friends who’d also had a baby around the same time and also had a c-section. Theirs had been entirely unplanned and the friend talked to me about her grief around the c-section. I couldn’t relate and that felt funny. I mean, it hurt like hell after but I was just so happy everyone was safe. What more could I ask? But…grief? What was there to grieve? We had ushered a new life into the world. That being said, I started to think something was wrong with me for not experiencing c-section grief and not being able to understand it…I mean, didn’t I care?

Next, we breastfed. Here’s the thing: my son cried around 20 hours out of every 24 hours a day while we breastfed. I was absolutely desperate to breastfeed. What sane person doesn’t breastfeed? I eliminated everything from my diet and went down to just eating white rice (i’ve since lost two teeth as a result). My mother was ruthless about it – I felt that if I even suggested formula she’d call the police on me! My mother-in-law was quite different (and not necessarily in a good way). She’d bring us cases of formula and suggest we try it. Well, we did and that didn’t stop the crying. Finally, one night at 3 am after a particularly hard stretch of our son crying for basically 40 hours, my husband suggested SOY formula. I agreed, he bought it and then magic happened: within 20 minutes, my son’s crying stopped. That was it. 8 weeks of round the clock crying and it was over. Just like that. Wow.

So, we went to the pediatrician and told her. She responded with great skepticism and told me she had a room I could go into to “latch-feed” asap before my milk dried up. I had enough confidence in myself to decline her offer – but I went home upset. Was I monstrous? Was I selfish because I couldn’t deal with the constant crying anymore? My motherly instinct told me my son shouldn’t have to cry like he had been but my pediatrician was acting like it was a medical emergency. I felt ashamed. I felt lazy. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough (in retrospect though, who is strong enough to endure 8 weeks of round the clock crying?).

I took on my mothering duties with a vengeance. The original plan had been that I would go back to work, but attachment parenting or not, that didn’t feel right for our situation. I restructured everything so I could stay at home. I found small writing jobs (for everything from beauty salons to software companies) that paid peanuts so that we could have enough money to make ends meet. I woke up every day at 4am to make the proverbial bacon.

During the days, I took my son out. We went to playgroups and gyms until he grew more and ended up getting so focused on things like a single set of car keys that he couldn’t no longer be in group environments like that. I remember packing up our things to leave, time and time again, and staring out at the sea of babies who didn’t need to leave. Where had I gone wrong? Was it because I hadn’t always eaten organic? Was it the traumatic c-section (although nothing had gone wrong)? Had I not made enough eye contact? Was I too stressed?

At around 8 months, my son went through a major sleep regression. He just… stopped… sleeping. It was like the colic days without the crying. Co-sleeping, which I had enjoyed as had he, became a total no-go. Instead of soothing him, it made him even more wired. Still, I kept at it. There he and I would be, night after night. He’d be bouncing in his crib (he couldn’t be right next to me because of safety due to his level of energy) and I would be on the floor next to him – awake and unrested. Finally, sick and bone tired, I looked into crying it out. I felt like an actual monster.

Crying it out wasn’t as easy as the books say it is. Not for us. It took a month of our son screaming day and night while I rocked him in his stroller. Back and forth. I would catch fifteen minutes of sleep at a time when he slept. It was unbelievably hard and it must sound like an exaggeration to the reader who doesn’t know me.

Finally, it worked. He started sleeping like clockwork. I could breathe again. I could think again. I started trying to teach him Spanish and French in addition to English ( I wanted to be super mom). He was learning it, too. It was a beautiful but short-lived time.

At around 14 months, he started to walk. He also stopped talking. He hadn’t been a prolific talker, but he had talked. Slowly, this went away. Eventually, it completely disappeared.

I would go into my pediatrician with my concerns about this. She would suggest I read to him more. I did. I followed our son around the house with book after book. He paid me absolutely no attention and I felt silly, but still I persevered.

I’d like to say that my perseverance paid off – but it didn’t. He didn’t talk. In fact, he started making less and less eye contact.

I beat myself up at every turn. If attachment babies were more engaged and happier, what did that say about what I had done? How had I failed so miserably and so fast? Hadn’t I tried? Clearly, it seemed to me, everyone else had tried much harder. Maybe, I thought in my darker moments, I didn’t even know the meaning of trying.

It was a bleak time. Eventually, our pediatrician referred us to early intervention. The words had a terrible register – were they intervening with my terrible parenting? The nice ladies came every week and suggested our son had anxiety. Again, I felt horrible. Anxiety? In a two year old? Oh, dear.

It was around that time that I met a new friend: Benzodiazepines. Well, we don’t speak anymore so maybe I should call them an enemy. At the time, though, they felt more friendly. My fears and self-doubt started to go away. I could hang in there. I could be present.

At around 2 and a half years old, we got referred to a neurologist to start evaluating our son for autism. It was at that time that my benzo abuse really ramped up. I remember the doctor pulling our son’s pants down and our son hobbling around the room because he didn’t know to pull them up. I went out to the car after and popped an extra pill. I was in so much pain.

I rejected autism one thousand percent. It wasn’t autism, it was me: it was my countless failures as a mother. It was the c-section, I hadn’t done enough skin-to-skin, it was the breastfeeding, it was the formula, it was the co-sleeping, it was the crying it out, it was my stress. I cried and popped pills for the next few days. It was a low moment and not one that I am proud of but do feel it is important to share.

Four days later, I checked myself into the hospital. I spent the next two days in a state of delirium and sweat. Seven days later, I was released. I went home and tried to make sense of what had happened in our lives. A few weeks later, our beautiful boy was diagnosed with autism.

Since then (our son just turned five), it still hasn’t been easy. I still have a whole lot of self-blame. Should I have not vaccinated? Should I have used formula from the beginning (had the crying somehow damaged our son)? Should I have been wealthier so that I wouldn’t have had to work at all? I struggle. I go to therapy every week and talk about all of it. I stay far away from pills and anything addictive (other than crime drama television shows).

My husband begs me to see that autism is likely genetic. We both come from multi-generations of engineers and math nerds. Quiet people who preferred computers to parties. I am trying. But, on social media, I see friends share scary posts about breastfeeding being best or vaccines causing autism, and I momentarily crumble.

When I look back at my attempts at attachment parenting and my results (or lack thereof), I see that my son most likely was born different. I also see that there is an incredibly unhealthy social pressure put on mothers to “know better and do better” and to do the “best”. The montessori school I had once dreamed of for my son has been replaced by his IEP. I blame myself – but thanks to people like The Skeptical OB and their message that there is no perfect in parenting, I am starting to blame myself less and less. I am starting to be able to breathe, and to fall asleep more easily. I am starting to enjoy all of the wonderful quirks that come along with raising a child with autism. I am starting to tune out the endless sea of opinions that come with that and trust myself. He doesn’t talk yet but his smile – and his smile never went away – says so much. It says everything.

  • Tori

    You are such a wonderful mother – in all of you’ve always put your son first. I’m so sorry that the people who were supposed to support you didn’t. You’re such a wonderful parent, and your son is so lucky to have a mother like you.

  • Heidi_storage

    OT: I’ve had a cold for three days now, and my milk hasn’t turned magically yellow. Darn!

  • mrsadams

    Oh my gosh, this poor, sweet, tough mom. I want to give her a hug. If you can see this Anonymous Mom, hang in there, you are doing great 🙂 Lots of love to you and your son

  • Krystle Dolbow

    You’re an amazing mother. My heart breaks for you and the struggle you endured.

  • Kelly

    I am seriously impressed with that fact that you said no when you realized that things were not working out and when people who should have been on your side were pressuring you. I would not have been that level headed in that situation and have tortured myself in terms of breastfeeding. You are a great mom and have done everything you can for your son. He is lucky to have you as a mom.

  • mabelcruet

    You sound like a great (and very sensible) mum, and your love for your child is very clear. I’ve said this before, but I really cannot understand some people’s reactions to various mothering practices, it’s absolutely no one elses business how you gave birth or how you feed your baby. I feel so sorry for parents-you get a screaming bad tempered noisy little alien with no communication skills, and in the midst of working out what’s best for you and your family, the mere fact that you have a baby seems to give the entire world permission to comment or offer unsolicited advice, and then tell you how you’re doing it all wrong anyway. You can’t win as a parent really. Someone will find fault no matter how you do it.

  • Sue

    There is another factor here, which may not have been discussed. Many of us who are high achievers, have some degree of obsessive-compulsive traits and underlying anxiety, are sitters for post-natal depression – which is largely characterised by feelings of anxiety more than typical depressive symptoms.

    When we are used to being in control, “failing” to solve situations hits us hard. We are used to “fixing” everything ourselves, and punish ourselves when we perceive that we fall short.

    The judgment of the lactivist/NCB crowd feeds into this pre-disposition – a toxic mix.

    • MayonnaiseJane

      The NBC people seem to be running almost entirely on the Just World Fallicy. It makes them feel safer that nothing bad can happen to their precious one because they are doing it RIGHT. By extension however, that requires them to place blame on anyone who’s child suffers from anything, to remind themselves that their kids are safe.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Oh, but they won’t admit it.

        “You have to breastfeed to have a bonding relationship!”
        “So adoptive parents are SOL?”
        “I’m not saying anything about people who adopt.”

        Oh yes you are!

        (suggestion: edit your NBC to NCB – I at first thought you were referring to the TV network…)

        • Sarah

          There’s usually a comment about how they know women who’ve adopted and induced lactation at that point. As though that’s possible and appropriate in every case.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Of course they don’t actually “know” someone who did that, but they’ve heard about them on mdc or something, but close enough.

          • Sarah

            I have actually come across (online) one person who claims to know personally more than one, but that obviously assumes they were being truthful. One can never be sure.

          • Young CC Prof

            As I understand it, there’s a decent chance of successfully inducing some lactation if you try hard, but getting a fully supply is very rare. And it takes a lot of time pumping.

          • mdstudentwithkids

            I induced lactation for my twins (wife carried) and got a full 1 baby supply BUT it took many months, many hours pumping and some questionable online ordering. Not something that is reasonable or even safe for most.

          • Eater of Worlds

            I have friends who did that, both of them breast fed their adopted son. I’m not really sure why they felt the need to do it, this was in the early 2000s. They both had to go on prescription medication to make it work plus the usual supplements like fenugreek, mother’s milk tea (more fenugreek!), oatmeal, etc. Tons of pumping, and they still had to supplement once the baby was past newborn and was needing like 24 ounces of food a day they just couldn’t produce that amount between the two of them.

            Turns out their kid had massively bad allergies and might have had eosinophilic esophagitis and he needed prescription formula. They simply couldn’t reduce their own diets enough to make their milk allergen free for him without them having very poor nutrition. Even with blood testing for allergies, he could try something that was considered safe and have a massive reaction. His parents simply couldn’t eat just one food a day for many days in a row to get the other stuff out of their system. When he started solid foods I think he was able to eat maybe 5 different foods by the time he was 3, that’s how bad it was. They felt that the breastfeeding helped him deal with his food allergies, I’m not so sure.

          • I actually personally know a woman who reintroduced lactation to feed an adopted child. But her bio kid wasn’t all that old. (2, maybe?) and he hadn’t been weaned for all that long and she was a super over-producer.

            Not at all the norm, though!

  • Young CC Prof

    The worst failure in this story is the pediatrician. She did not act as the child’s advocate and parent’s ally, but as a political voice for attachment parenting.

    When a mother says she’s stopped breastfeeding because it wasn’t working, a normal pediatrician does not freak out and urge her to restart immediately. A reasonable pediatrician will ask how is it going, what type you are giving and how much baby is eating. And it never should have taken a year and a half for a child with clear developmental red flags to even get referred for an evaluation!

    • MaineJen

      I was thinking the same thing. That ped failed her big time, and her mother also failed her for piling on the pressure.

      OP: you are a great mother. And your post here will help others to know that they’re not alone.

    • me

      Part of the problem is starting to be doctors who breastfed their own children. I was at my dermatologist the other day to deal with a severe skin condition. She prescribed medication and then went on and on about how I’d still be able to breastfeed while taking it. I’d hate to actually be pregnant and have to tell her that I wasn’t going to breastfeed. It was impossible to get a word in edgewise, she was in such raptures about breastfeeding.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        Oy.
        I find this response tends to stop them. “Oh, absolutely! I especially love how it makes me fantasize about cutting off my boobs, throwing my kid across the room, or putting a gun to my head.” Snarky and true, which is why i’m in therapy and formula feed

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Indeed. I lucked out in that DD’s pediatricians do/did breastfeed, but weren’t pushy about it at all, and were very understanding and sympathetic when it didn’t work out. If they’d given me a hard time on top of the already awful time I was giving myself, things could have gotten REALLY bad.
        Mind you, they did, when I asked for a recommendation, give me a flier for a local lactation consultant office. A consultation *started* at $400/hour! 0_0 Of course, the office also featured a juice bar and Mommy-and-Me Baby Yoga, which no doubt made up for it. Me, I figured that $400 would buy a crap ton of formula, and I particularly was turned off by the fact that if baby wasn’t hungry and therefore didn’t want to eat at the appointment time, I’d still be out $400…

        • Kelly

          Holy crap. That could have paid for about nine months of formula for my child.

      • Young CC Prof

        That’s not terribly respectful of patient autonomy, especially if there are multiple medications to deal with a particular condition. “IF you are breastfeeding, then you should definitely get this one, but otherwise…”

      • Dr Kitty

        I breastfed and I’m pretty much “you do you”.
        Honestly if there was a medication that was in my patient’s best interest to take and it was contraindicated for breastfeeding, I’d probably push the pros of the medication and that babies thrive on formula- abides thrive on formula with healthy, happy mothers more than they thrive with breastmilk from unhealthy, unhappy mothers.

        I think sometimes it helps having someone say “I breastfed because it was easy and convenient, and I wouldn’t have done half of the things you’ve done. You’ve done your damnedest to make this work and it isn’t- it’s ok to let it go, it’s clearly not working for you and that’s ok- you’ll be fine and your baby will be fine”.

    • mdstudentwithkids

      I completely agree. Unfortunately this might get worse. At my med school, we learn all about the “benefits” of breastfeeding and absolutely nothing about risks or anything practical about infant feeding. The pedi in our newborn nursery even went on about how she breastfed four children and how she is happy WIC is pushing breastfeeding so “her tax dollars don’t go to poor women to get formula.” It was really bad.

      • Young CC Prof

        Here’s the problem with her logic: If you look at breastfeeding studies that make any effort to control for confounders, the effect of family economic status on child health outcomes is several times larger. Which means that giving formula to poor women can be the best possible thing for their children, if it allows them to stay employed or stay in school.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Yeah, the obvious way to help women in poverty is to make it tie them down breastfeeding. Is she willing to let her tax dollars pay for a breast pump?

          • Roadstergal

            Is she willing to pay more for her latte and lunch to make sure minimum-wage workers get paid pumping breaks?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        She’d better, at the very least, support paid parental leave…

    • CanDoc

      Agree. This response jumped out at me also. When the advocates for science are drinking the Kool-Aid, there’s a problem.

  • Sue

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. Your courage is astounding.

    It’s stories like this that remind me of the value of Dr Amy’s blog and its associated community.

  • mythsayer

    Like others, I’ll address the original author directly. Sweetheart, none of this stuff is your fault. My daughter doesn’t have autism (in fact, she never shuts up and will make friends with anyone) but we went through a LOT of what you did. I CHOSE a c-section because I feared labor to the point of anxiety attacks. I never made enough milk and my daughter also screamed for close to 8 weeks straight – she was fine on breast milk but I didn’t have enough. She screamed on every.single.formula, including the alimentum stuff (hypoallergenic). Soy made her stuffy nosed and cranky and lethargic. I found out that 1% of babies are also allergic to even the hypoallergenic formula so I ordered neonate and elecare (prescription formulas made of amino acids). Turned out my daughter had a semi severe (a super severe one requires a g tube – we never had to do that) milk protein allergy.

    The prescription formula was like magic – exactly like you describe. It was bliss. I remember one night she was screaming and we didn’t know what to do and I mentioned, in a tired haze, white noise and my husband disappeared from the room, leaving me clutching the screaming demon baby. He reappeared at some point with his phone making a weird noise – static. White noise. And she literally collapsed in my arms. Another bit of magic. White noise and expensive prescription formula.

    And we lived on a TINY military base in Japan (not Tokyo, not Okinawa). We had a tiny medical clinic. There was no lactation consultant. There was NO ONE to help me through the screaming. I’M the one who de used to buy the prescription formula. I’M the one who asked for the zantac for her reflux. I thought I was losing my mind.

    After we figured the formula out, she got a fever and we did a 7 day hospital stay at the Japanese hospital, with me sleeping in a crib with her at the hospital. You still do all the care at a Japanese hospital. I only went home once the entire week. Two weeks after we went home from that (she was 7 weeks when we went in, 8 weeks when we went home), I came down with chicken pox that I’d caught at the hospital (I’d never had it or been vaccinated and there was an outbreak). She was about 10 weeks old then. Three weeks later, SHE came down with chicken pox that she’d caught from me, of course (I still breastfed as much as I could – breast milk immunity is BULLSHIT – she was COVERED with little pock marks). She had chicken pox for close to three weeks. She was born at the end of May 2010. It was mid September by the time she’d stopped screaming and being sick.

    So yeah…our early days were both hellish. We both had c-sections. We both had allergic, screaming babies who needed a specific formula. Your son ended up autistic. My daughter isn’t autistic, but she is quite overweight. It would be easy for me to blame her weight on the c-section, the formula.

    But the reality is that my family has crap metabolisms. I had insulin resistance that kept me 150 pounds overweight by he time I was 23. And I always struggled with my weight, no matter how much exercise I did or how few calories I ate. I had weight loss surgery at 26 and eating only 400 calories a day, I still only lost 16 pounds the first month. Everyone else it seems loses 30 to 40 pounds after surgery. My body refused to let he weight go. Once it did, I’ve kept 90% of it off. I weigh about 160 pounds now, a total loss of 110 pounds from my highest weight. My insulin resistance is gone and that’s what was causing me to retain the weight.

    And wouldn’t you know it? My daughter has a raging case of insulin resistance and she gains weight just by looking at a cookie. Lucky her.

    It wasn’t the CS. It wasn’t the formula. It was genetics. And I suspect your son’s autism is the same. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault.

  • Amy M

    To the author–its true science doesn’t have all the answers yet about autism, but new information is coming out all the time, and currently, they are leaning heavily towards genetics being the main cause of ASD. I guess you’ve heard that, and lots of others here have already said it. Anyway, I think you are an excellent mom, and you are doing what you can for your boy—that’s all we can do, you know?

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    I remember dining out with friends who’d also had a baby around the same time and also had a c-section. Theirs had been entirely unplanned and the friend talked to me about her grief around the c-section. I couldn’t relate and that felt funny. I mean, it hurt like hell after but I was just so happy everyone was safe. What more could I ask? But…grief? What was there to grieve? We had ushered a new life into the world. That being said, I started to think something was wrong with me for not experiencing c-section grief and not being able to understand it…I mean, didn’t I care?

    This is the part that I can really relate to.

    It really highlights the point, that these people work so hard to set you up to fail. After being faced with a risky situation, most people would think you would be happy that you came out unscathed with a healthy baby and ultimately, you have recovered.

    But no, you are supposed to be mourning?

    • Roadstergal

      That’s the rub. Whenever there’s grief around the C-section, it’s not really about the C-section. It’s around losing the experience that the NCB industry sold you as the Only Real Way To Birth And Bond, and it shows how very, very well they have sold it.

      A C-section that gives you your healthy baby might be a disappointment, and it might be painful, but there’s nothing inherent to it that calls for _grieving_.

      I grieved for my mother when she died. I didn’t grieve for my collarbone surgery – that was a fix for something wrong.

      • Sean Jungian

        You got it in one, Roadstergal.

      • Tori

        This gives me something to think about. I’m ashamed to say when I couldn’t breastfeed I did feel that I ‘grieved’ that though. I know I’m so lucky – I’m a mum through IVF to a beautiful boy, and while there are some concerns about his development none of the explanations thus far are sinister. I know breastfeeding isn’t really best in a developed country, but I just wanted to do it. I just wanted to experience that feeding without relying on bottles that I spill in public and then want to cry because I need a bottle to feed my child. And to have that time, with just the two of us, in the privacy that a breastfeeding mother seems to get from visitors and such. Does that make me selfish? Maybe, I’m not sure. I don’t expect everyone to feel the way I do because different things matter in different ways to different people though. I’m so very lucky and I know that every day – but I wanted that one other thing too..

    • Guest

      Apparently. I loved my csection, it meant I could have kids. I can’t birth vaginally, and I had a twinge of sadness when that was decided because it’s a loss of options, but after that initial twinge, just gladness that I can get a safe surgery. 100 years ago I’d be dead from lack of access to obstetric surgery. The author is not alone in not mourning her csection.

      You, author, are an amazing mom and it’s your son’s good fortune that you are the one raising him ( plus his dad who sounds reasonable too).

  • CSN0116

    The role of your mother in this infuriates me. I’m sure you love and respect her for many other reasons, but allow me to say that you’ve already proved yourself a far superior mother than the one who raised you.

    I’m just so sorry for all of this.

    • StephanieA

      I wanted to comment on that too. As an OB nurse, I can’t fathom why she would push for a vaginal breech birth.

      • Daleth

        Yes. She was just monstrous about everything.

  • Cartman36

    OP – I am extraordinarily sorry that this happened to you. I hope you can find some peace and see yourself the way I (and the other commenters so far) see you. You are a good mother. I firmly believe that 99% of our kids turn out is nothing more than genetics. I wish you, your little boy, and your family the best.

    • As an OB nurse and CNM, I remember my daughter asking me if she should take her doctor’s advice and have an ECV for her persistently breech first baby. It transpired that three of her close friends were in the same situation (talk about coincidence!) and two of them opted for version. In both cases, there were sudden decels and a partial abruption in one, and both were delivered by emergency C/S. I had told my daughter that “in my day” as a midwifery student, primip breeches were NEVER delivered vaginally, and ECV was regarded as something from the Third World, so my daughter chose elective C/S which went off without all the anxiety and panic her two friends went through. On the postpartum ward a roommate said to her “what a shame you couldn’t have a ‘normal’ delivery” and my daughter replied “what a shame you had to go through the ordeal of a vaginal delivery.”

      • crazy grad mama

        As someone who had an (unsuccessful) ECV for a primip beech, I’m interested in the negativity toward ECVs here and in the original post. Mine was done by an MFM, in the hospital, with an epidural in place and with my primary OB standing by ready to do the C-section if it didn’t work or something went wrong. And when my baby didn’t turn, I was moved to the OR for what was basically a planned C-section.

        My choice to do the ECV was definitely influenced by the prevailing “must try to avoid a C-section” attitude around birth, which even my relatively woo-free doctors expressed to some extent. But I felt that I was very informed about the risks and that my doctors worked to minimize those risks as much as possible.

        I guess my feelings about ECVs are like my feelings about VBACs: that in the absence of other risk factors, they should be an option, but women should be made fully aware of the inherent risks, carefully monitored, and *definitely* not made to feel bad if they choose not to do it.

        • Inmara

          You can do ECV with epidural?! In my country it’s unheard of (as well as epidurals themselves are not available in all hospitals and are paid out of pocket for labor, except in very rare cases when they are deemed “medically necessary”). As such, ECVs are extremely unpleasant for mothers. From what I see in discussion forums, possibility of abruption, decels and emergency CS almost never got brought up if someone is asking about experience with ECV (probably doctors mention it but I wouldn’t bet on that).

          • crazy grad mama

            Oh gosh, I would never want to do an ECV without an epidural, unless it was some kind of emergency situation where a safe CS wasn’t available. As it was, epidurals don’t work all that well on me, and it was still pretty painful.

        • I should add that I was a good few years into my career before ultrasound became common. Before that, one was effectively doing ECV “blind” (although, even today, I trust my fingers more than U/S, which only confirms my palpation.). We were taught that, if the baby didn’t turn easily in an ECV, not to force it, for fear of shearing off the placenta from the uterine wall. But, if it did turn easily, there was a pretty good chance the baby would turn back to breech, so you’d done a risky procedure for no benefit. Thus, primip breech was safer as a C/S.

      • Roadstergal

        That’s very interesting to hear, that version was not preferred in your day. My friend in the UK had an external version for a primp breech that failed and went to a C-section, that was an unpleasant experience because, well, emergency C-section.

        She internalized everything the midwives and NCT were feeding her about the C-section being a tragedy and VBAC being the only way to go for the next one…

        It just seems like another example of NCB on the rise?

        ETA in response to the post above mine – I wasn’t there, of course, but I get the strong feeling that she wasn’t informed of the risks well. The emergency C-section was a complete surprise.

  • DaisyGrrl

    Dear OP: you are a good mother. Full stop.
    You struggled through a terrible post-partum period with imperfect support and you managed to do better, both for your baby and for yourself. I admire your strength and wish you all the best.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    *hugs* It’s hard to get over the emotional part even when the logical part of your mind tells you your worries aren’t rational. My husband is very anxious and he’s always worried that there’s something wrong with the kids when they do normal little kid things. MIL *still* blames herself a bit for Dem’s blindness. (He has congenital rubella) despite the fact there wasn’t much she could have done. (Any previous immunity was probably negated by the cancer she survived a decade earlier)

    • Kelly

      My husband too. I had to make him go to the pediatrician with my first kid so she could tell him that toddlers don’t eat every meal. I am just glad that of all the people who was there for her, it was her husband. Her mom should know better and has definitely bought into the woo. I would hate to have her as my nurse if she is that pushy.

  • Mel

    OP: There’s nothing wrong with not feeling grief around a CS. I was very frightened when I found out I was going to give birth at 26 weeks – but I still felt a massive wave of relief when the OBs told me that I would need a CS. I’ve never felt any guilt, anger or grief over the CS. (I did feel anger over missing the entirety of my third trimester and struggled with waves of intense anger when I saw visibly pregnant nurses in the NICU.)

    You’ve got amazing natural insights into your son and he’s lucky to have such a great mom!

    Great call on turning down your son’s pediatrician’s idea of “rescue breast-feeding” or whatever wacky idea that was. Milk supply isn’t that fragile; if it was, no one would have breast milk after the first time their kid slept through the night.

    For your son, the trade of Montessori for and IEP is no loss at all. My twin and I had IEPs due to cerebral palsy and deafness. Logically, I know we “missed out” on some things – but the things I missed out on seemed painful or tedious to me. For example, I went to an elementary school where almost all the girls were cheerleaders. With my limited flexibility in my legs, cheerleading looked like a specific form of torture and I’ve never felt that avoiding that activity affected me negatively. Likewise, my twin sister trucked along gamely to my choir concerts for years before admitting that she hated them – not because she felt left out – but because “watching a bunch of people make goldfish mouth movements” was really boring.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      A lot of private schools are *not* set up to help anyone with issues. What good is a school with a fantastic record for average kids for a student who needs 5 years of speech therapy or all their materials in Braille?

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        This is true. I also really, REALLY dislike the idea of my kid never being around another kid with any issues, disabilities, learning differences, et all. Grrrr.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          Yup. We need to learn to work in a world not set up for disabilities, but we also need to know that there are people/other people who need work arounds. And school is a good place to learn about both aspects.

  • myrewyn

    This post breaks my heart from beginning to end. It disgusts me that moms can be so cruel and judgmental that we now grieve over medical advances such as c sections and formula. I’m sure my grandmother who birthed my very large father at home would have welcomed a c section, and my great grandmother who died of post partum hemorrhage would have loved to have access to life-saving medical care.

    I live in the very crunchy pacific nw and would love to find a group of like minded moms to hang out with but everyone I know is doing natural childbirth, babywearing, and those dumb amber necklaces.

    To the mom who wrote this… you did nothing wrong. There are plenty of us who do not judge you and can relate to having a child who doesn’t happily comply with attachment parenting or whatever the fantasy of a perfect infancy is. My first wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding and never cuddled. He just wanted to be fed and left without much direct contact. The babies don’t read the mommy blogs about how they’re supposed to be…

  • StephanieA

    From one anxious mom to another- you are not a failure. You did not do anything to cause your son’s condition. You got yourself and him help when you both needed it- those are the things that truly matter, not the other ‘trivial’ things that moms of younger kids like to harp on.

  • crazy grad mama

    Dear OP: You are a wonderful mother. You paid attention to your son’s needs and changed your approach when it wasn’t working. You got help for him. You got help for yourself. None of this is failure.

    • J.B.

      I am so so sorry for OP’s experience of the pressure. Having a child with special needs is a journey. It takes a while to accept and come to peace with life being different. I wish her peace and getting needed resources lined up.

  • Madtowngirl

    Thank you for sharing your story. These stories need to be told. The ridiculous pressure that there is One Right Way to do things is harmful to parents and children.

    To the author, if you are reading this, you are a good mother. You care. Your child does not have autism because of anything you did. The fact that your child has an IEP shows you care and are doing the best you can for him. I hope Dr. Amy and this community continue to be a source of strength for you.

  • lawyer jane

    Thank you so much for sharing! You are one strong person to get all the help you and your son need in the face of a culture that puts such a huge burden on you. You’re doing everything right.

  • corblimeybot

    What happened to you was a travesty. Your, your son, and your husband were failed by so many people.

    You need to know that you are a great mother. The fact you pulled through so much trauma is amazing.

    • Sean Jungian

      Failed by her people is so right. Where was the support, the friendship, her own mother (???) bought into the bs? Tragic all around.

      OP your son is LUCKY that you are level-headed and never stopped trying to help him, even against what the cult of NCB all around you was trying to tell you.

      Knowing something isn’t the same as feeling it, I know. None of us are ever the ideal mother we dreamed of being, I know I’m not. But I know that, for my kid, I am the imperfect, loving, good-enough mom he needs. And that’s all you have to be, the rest is just noise.

  • KeeperOfTheBooks

    OP, I’m so sorry. So very sorry. For many parts of your story, I can say been there, done that. I know.
    Gentle hugs from one mom to another. I promise that things will get better and will be okay.
    See if you can find another few common-sense moms who will have your back when you need it, will bring you by unasked-for lattes, and who will say “hey, it’s okay, and is there something I can pick up at the store for you?”
    I know it can be hard to find sane mommy friends, but if you can find one or two, I think you’ll find motherhood so much easier. I didn’t have any the first time ’round, but I did when I had DS, and I can’t begin to express how much easier it made things.
    Lastly, when I had what I called the “voices in my head,” (i.e., imagining or remembering people saying horrible things about my having a C-section, not breastfeeding, whatever) I found it rather helpful to go to a room away from the kids, and scream “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HEAD!” into a pillow (didn’t want to scare the kids, thus the pillow). Which, now that I write it down, sounds quite insane, but was actually rather helpful for, say, that mom figure who thinks that breech or transverse babies should be born vaginally, and if they didn’t make it then some babies aren’t supposed to…

    • StephanieA

      I would give just about anything for some mom friends. I try, but I’ve never been super outgoing and just haven’t hit it off with anyone.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Only a little. 😉 Those thoughts can be so damned intrusive.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        And in real life, if someone said “you’re a failure for having a C-section!” to me a few hundred times in one day, the way those “voices” did, “get the eff out” would be a rather mild reaction, proportionately speaking! :p

    • Megan

      I find myself at times repeating under my breath, “I am a great mom. am a great mom. I am a great mom….”

      (That and, “This may feel like an emergency but it’s not. This may feel like an emergency but it’s not,” for when both kids are screaming and need me all at once.)

      • Kelly

        My mantra is, ” I can do this, I can do this,” which is really cheesy but helps me when I am feeling overwhelmed. I may try the screaming into my pillow because that sounds like a great release from the stress.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          If it works, who cares if it’s cheesy? 😀
          For me, when I start to get overwhelmed, breaking every single thing down into tiny tasks is key–i.e., going from “I can’t clear the breakfast dishes, rotate the laundry, and change the kids’ diapers in X amount of time, aaaaagh!” to “Okay, my breakfast plate in the dishwasher. Done. DS’s oatmeal bowl in the dishwasher. Done. Pick up DS, carry him to the changing table. Done. Tell DD to pick up her nightgown and yesterday’s clothes and put them by the washing machine. Done.” Etc.

  • no longer drinking the koolaid

    Is it possible to pass messages to this mom, or does she feel well enough to be reading responses?
    Here’s what I’d like her to know:

    My son has Aspberger’s so he is on the spectrum. My nephew has autism. They were both “different” from the time of their birth. I remember doing the AP thing back in the early 80s with my son and thinking that our lack of closeness was my fault because I just don’t enjoy newborns as much as older babies and toddlers. There was just no connection and it wasn’t for lack of trying.
    My nephew is several years younger. When he was a newborn he did not sleep. I would visit my SIL just to hold him while she tried to sleep for just a bit. There was also no connection with him. It reminded me of my son in his early days. Years later when they both were diagnosed, it all made sense.

    Like your family, we have a lot of bookish, nerdy, big goofy kids. There is a genetic component that we have no control over.
    I did not cause this, and you did not cause this.
    I can’t absolve you of the guilt you feel, but know that there are others you have been through the same thing and blame themselves also.

    But, it’s not our fault because it is not something we had any control over.

    • Roadstergal

      I’ve heard stories like this – of a kid who simply was not taking to the AP thing, and the mom was killing herself trying to do it ‘right,’ and it turned out the kid was on the spectrum and needed something other than the ‘one size fits all’ that AP, despite its protestations, is. And how much more manageable parenting became after the parents truly gave the kid what s/he needed, rather than what AP says.

      Y’all should write a book…!

      • Lulu

        I tried AP with my first and it didn’t work and she is not on the spectrum. She’s an independent little girl, never liked being held for very long as a baby, but liked it more as she got older and was able to be independent.

        AP is a one size fits all and forgets moms and babies are not all exactly alike.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Which is so odd, concerning that the AP crowd is the one who keeps claiming that AP is about “responding to the needs of your child” (as if the rest of us don’t). Yeah, they respond to the needs of the child – by all doing the same thing.

          Maybe the child NEEDS to sit in the stroller and not be worn in a wrap? Nope, that’s abuse.

        • Cody

          I agree, but I think the cry-it-out method is the same way. Some parents have an easy time with it and then judge everybody else for spoiling their kids. Every parent and every baby is different.

  • Anj Fabian

    That story about broke my heart.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  • Anj Fabian

    Evidence-based Autism Support

    is a fairly boring facebook group where we talk about IEPs, therapy and answer questions like “My son REALLY likes the vacuum cleaner. Should I be worried?”.

    FYI.