Home (Not So) Sweet Home

When we were finally able to bring Claire home, I was a mix of so many emotions: happy, terrified, excited, exhausted, relieved, nervous…the list goes on. She was still such an itty bitty peanut and seemed so fragile. And then I would hear her cry and be reminded that while she might be little, she’s got a whole lotta fight in her.

One obstacle we faced when we got home was what to do with all of the frozen breastmilk that had been previously stored at the hospital. Claire never latched well enough to nurse (fast forward two years and we discovered at swallow therapy it was due to low oral muscle tone and a really thick connection from her upper lip to her gum line) so I exclusively pumped (read – I became married to my pump for an entire year, her name was Bessie) and we bottle fed her. My supply was much more than what she could eat, so we were blessed with an over abundance of milk for her. We fit what we could in our freezers and sent the rest over to my parents’ (thanks mom and dad!) for the time being.

The second full day home, I thought I was losing my mind a bit because it seemed as if Claire was refusing the milk we had thawed and warmed up for her. After several failed attempts, I called the lactation consultant and said,

“Ok, this may sound crazy … but I think Claire is refusing this milk!”

“Oh, no! That’s a real thing. The thawed milk can taste differently from the fresh milk, so sometimes babies will refuse it,” she assured me.

Are. You. Freaking. Kidding. ME?!

And so our tiny little princess received freshly expressed milk daily. Even just typing that out makes me feel like a dairy cow. Anyway, a whopping five pounds and she was already calling the shots. Luckily, I was able to provide that for her (you’re welcome, Claire) and we just decided we wouldn’t buy any freezer food for the next ten years.

Fast forward a few more weeks and Claire developed what many call “the witching hour”. It started at 6:00pm (exactly) and she would cry, she would scream, and she would be inconsolable until she finally tuckered herself out and fell asleep. Slowly, but surely, that “witching hour” began creeping up… 5:45, 5:40, 5:30, 5:00, until it became every day at 4:15 when I would pick her up from daycare. She would scream, and I mean SCREAM the entire way home.

Once we got home, she’d scream all night long pausing momentarily only to catch her breath and express that awful, loud, high pitched shriek. I’m not even sure if I can do justice to just how awful her scream was. It was a combination of the highest pitch imaginable mixed with an incredible amount of depth and force from her diaphragm that lasted an insane amount of time before she would produce another deep gasp, releasing hell once more. I’m not a betting  woman, but I’d bet you that even the neighbors were putting in ear plugs or pulling pillows over their heads.

I knew something wasn’t right but I wanted so badly for her to just “snap out of it” that I pushed that maternal instinct away until I could no longer stand it.

After about a month of denial, I took her to our pediatrician who agreed I should try a dairy free, soy free diet to see if it helped her improve.

Goodbye, cheese.
Goodbye, sour cream.
Goodbye, coffee creamer.
Goodbye, butter.
Goodbye,ICE CREAM!!! (insert wailing and grinding of teeth)
Goodbye, freezers full of frozen breastmilk. (insert tears…lots)
Goodbye, sanity.

Thank GOD I had a few friends who had already been through this MSPI (Milk Soy Protein Intolerance) diet before with their kids and who could give me sound advice on recipes, grocery shopping, and a whole new way of reading labels (‘cuz soy is in EVERYTHING).

It seemed as though life with Claire would never get easier. Once we overcame one hurdle, another would come springing up. And quite frankly, I was sick of it. I was frustrated. I was tired. I was at the end of my rope. And to top it all of, I had a baby screaming at me pretty much every moment she was awake.

Nothing I did could appease her.
Nothing I did could help her feel better at this point in time.

I loved Claire, but I did not like her. Not at all.

This was a really rough, really harsh, emotionally and mentally devastating reality for me. I tried to will myself into liking her. Maybe if I spent more time with her, maybe if I cuddled with her more, maybe if I read just one more book with her – I could bond with my baby and feel that connection I was desperately longing for.

Instead, it made it worse.

I hated admitting that every time she would start to scream, I wanted to punch a wall. That every time I knew a fit was coming, I wanted to (as Forrest Gump would say) run far – far, far away,  because I just couldn’t handle listening to her screech for one more second.

I vividly remember one evening collapsing into my husbands arms in the kitchen as tears of anger, resentment, and sorrow rolled … no, streamed … down my face.

“I don’t know what do for her any more. Nothing works.”

To top it all off, I also had a sweet little boy who, I felt, was being neglected of his mother’s attention and love because every ounce of extra energy I had was being poured into trying to figuring out what to do for Claire.

I can not say enough how blessed I am that I had a support system of family and friends who “got it”. They validated my feelings and offered to come babysit (bless their hearts!) so I could get things done, take a nap, or even go on a date with my husband (oh hey, who are you again?).

One close friend in particular was in the boat of “been there done that”. Three of her girls had MSPI and she was a source of strength, comfort, and validation. She brought meals, held and rocked Claire, and wasn’t shaken one bit by the shrills produced by my baby girl. I felt safe and a little less guilty leaving Claire with this friend because I knew nothing Claire did would rock this friend’s world.

“I’ve got it. She will be fine. She doesn’t scare me. Go!”

After a few weeks on the MSPI diet things got better. My system started to clear of those proteins and Claire was able to tolerate the *fresh* milk. There were a lot of ups and downs as I learned what I could and could not eat. There were several times I would think a certain food was okay, only to find out the soy protein was hidden in there somewhere (under one of this bajillion pseudo names), and I knew that for the next two days Claire’s tummy would be more irritable.

It took months before Claire’s tummy totally healed. I think I remember by Christmas time finally being able to semi-enjoy her presence. But, it was a long road of mending that relationship. Because we had such a rocky start, I felt like I was robbed of those early months of bonding with her. Any time she would cry, my senses would kick into over drive and my desire to flee would come in full force.

While I loved her with an unconditional love (I gave up ice cream for eight months after all. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is) it took me quite a while to like her which filled me with a lot of “mom guilt”.

Now that that season of life is behind us (Thank you, Jesus!) I see things a little more clearly than when I was in the muck and in deep survival mode of that first year. The joy I feel now when I get to pick her up from daycare and her entire face lights up with her ornery, dimpled grin and she flaps her arms up and down like a little bird because she can’t contain her excitement…I know that early longing for a close mother-daughter relationship eventually found its way into our lives.

Bridget AschoffComment