“The third one just goes with the flow,” everyone told me about Baby No. 3. And, during my surprise pregnancy with my third child, I didn’t see any reason to not believe them.
Blaise, my third daughter, was born via scheduled Cesarean section. It wasn’t necessarily what I'd wanted, but I made the best of it. She was born two breezy hours after checking in to the hospital and appeared to be going with the flow.
For four weeks, she slept almost 20 hours a day. For the short periods of time she was awake, I noticed she was consistently fussy but I didn’t question it. Then, one night, I woke up to nurse her. Congestion made it hard for her to breathe and I saw my tiny baby sick for the first time. Blaise was only 28 days old and had a double ear infection. I agreed with my pediatrician’s choice and put her on amoxicillin. She was tiny and I was scared she would die. The antibiotics didn't bother me.
My husband, Neil, on the other hand, is a naturopath at heart. His mother is a devout homeopath. While I'm not against homeopathy, I do trust my pediatrician. Neil preferred we not give Blaise the medication, but he supported the decision. On a 10-day course of amoxicillin, Blaise barely slept and wailed for hours at a time.
Two weeks later, my mother-in-law came to visit us. Blaise had another double ear infection. My counter was full of homeopathic remedies. Theories about why Blaise was so sickly and fussy came at me nonstop. It felt as though everyone, except for my doctor, was saying that something I did or didn’t do was likely to blame. I held it together for the week until I nearly fell on the doorstep of my baby group and collapsed into the arms of other mamas.
I believe this was when postpartum depression began to hit me, but I wouldn't officially be diagnosed until four months later. Because I had never experienced PPD before, I didn’t recognize the signs. I was barely eating, my vision began to blur, and I lost my ability to understand that what my baby and I were going through was only temporary.
My pediatrician and I reluctantly put Blaise on another round of antibiotics. My husband was angry. I compromised with him and kept Blaise on multiple homeopathic remedies simultaneously. My pediatrician preferred we not use these. He felt they were unregulated and too much on her tiny system in conjunction with the medication—but I was in a war.
Blaise didn’t gain any weight between 2 and 4 months of age, and if her eyes were open, she was crying. The doctor then said she had acid reflux. Friends who had gone through similar trials encouraged me to use medications like Zantac and Prevacid. I begged my husband to let me try them. He absolutely refused, fearing that the potential side effects didn't outweigh the possible benefits. Everything we read online said the medications didn’t always work, but every single mom I spoke to who had used them said they did. Neil and I were in a high-stakes battle that was taking its toll on my emotional backbone.
Neil and I were in a high-stakes battle that was taking its toll on my emotional backbone.
We saw a pediatric gastroenterologist for a second opinion. The week of the appointment, one natural remedy we were using, Slippery Elm, was helping and Blaise fooled this doctor into thinking she was a calm, happy baby. The doctor insisted she didn’t need medication and said that “sometimes they don’t even work.” My husband was more than satisfied.
The next two months involved daily diet changes, new formulas and more homeopathies. At 5 months old, Blaise then came down with the flu and ended up in Children’s Hospital. We were instructed to see an ear, nose and throat specialist and an allergy specialist, as her ongoing illness began to stump everyone. Four specialists, scratch tests and blood tests later, my baby was diagnosed with a peanut allergy.
But I knew that couldn’t just be it.
I prayed. I begged. I bargained. I was desperate for an official diagnosis that came neatly packaged with some magic cure that would calm my screaming baby.
But as postpartum depression began to brew inside of me, I could no longer see an end in sight. On the outside, I was Wonder Woman, but on the inside I was suicidal. Neil and I disagreed on how to treat each and every one of our daughter’s medical issues, including giving her the necessary vaccines. My heart was broken, but I hid all of my sadness from everyone, especially my two other daughters.
As the months progressed, Blaise remained fussy but her recurrent illnesses took a break. I think Neil and I could have gone to divorce court, but instead we went to therapy. Separating felt obvious during our disagreements, but we are truly in love. I am divorced from my first husband, with whom I share a daughter. He and I are able to co-parent her with ease because our differences were never about our child. But for Neil and I, decisions about the health and wellness of our children must be made together, regardless of whether or not we live under the same roof. Throwing away our otherwise happy marriage felt pointless. We had to walk through the fire together.
I am now being treated for postpartum depression and can clearly see that this stage, while challenging, is temporary. I am focusing on the best of it, and we laugh far more often these days. Neil and I continue to compromise on the healthcare and overall nutrition of our children. I am often laid-back and he is often insistent, and we are communicating with love and respect to meet in the middle.
Blaise is now 11 months old. She hates the car, doesn’t want to be held by anyone but me, she fusses over nothing and is the hardest baby I have ever met. But her laugh is the greatest laugh I have ever heard. She gives kisses. She doesn’t go with the flow at all and continues to teach me over and over again how to have grace in the face of surprise and challenge. She makes me stronger, her affections are hard-earned, and I absolutely adore her and the mother she is making me become.