I’ll be honest. The past 4 months have been hard. Dealing with rheumatoid arthritis is hard enough. Mothering a newborn AND dealing with rheumatoid arthritis? It’s just punishing.
I haven’t been on my meds since before I got pregnant. At first what was remaining of the medication in my system kept me afloat until I got pregnant, and then as predicted by my rheumatologist, the pregnancy itself helped my symptoms ease up. My doctor reminded me though that after I give birth and once I start breastfeeding, the flare ups would return and will be worse than ever. And man have they returned, with a vengeance too, it seems.
It’s as if my joints are disintegrating by the day (well they literally ARE deteriorating). The stiffness is bad. The pain has been overwhelming. A month ago I dislocated my right shoulder and tore the labrum from just throwing a piece of fruit across the room. Now I need surgery to have it repaired. If you remember, my left shoulder also went through surgery in 2014 because of recurrent dislocation that started with a basketball injury. Talk about damaged joints. There hasn’t been a single day without pain ever since I stopped my meds.
And why, one might ask, am I not back on my medications? As simple as it may seem, the decision I made was not. I chose to breastfeed our baby. And for me, it was and still is worth the sacrifice.
Breastfeeding didn’t even come easy. In fact we all worked hard for it. And when i say “we,” I mean all three of us- Sam, the baby and I. First off, I only have one functional breast to nurse her with. The other one’s milk ducts have been scarred and subsequently blocked by a previous surgery. It took us a lot of trips to the lactation consultant, a lot of crying in pain, a lot of breast pumping, a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot of frustration, which was just one of the many other emotions overwhelming me at that point. It didn’t even help when other moms made it look so easy! (Don’t get me wrong, I know it must have not been easy for them too when they started, but you get what I mean 😉 )
At around 2.5 months things actually finally eased up a bit and I felt that baby and I were finally getting the hang of it. I was beginning to see the brighter side of breastfeeding. Or so I thought. Along with the ease of breastfeeding came the increasing RA flares. All I could take was Ibuprofen and that didn’t help either. At a little past 3 months, I dislocated my right shoulder and tore the labrum with an arm movement that wouldn’t normally cause dislocations in people with normal joint integrity. Miserable couldn’t even describe how I felt in the few weeks after that incident. Nowadays, I just try and make sure I don’t drop the baby whenever I lift her out of her crib or the bouncer. Sam is scared I might drop her at some point because certain positions just give me severe sharp pain. But you know what, even if it’s deathly painful for me to lift her, I don’t think I would ever drop her. It’s a mom thing, I guess.
Anyway, I have been contemplating about shifting to formula because of the needed surgery and the need for me to retake my medication. Sam has been convincing me to, for my own good, and subsequently the baby’s too. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with formula, it’s just that I’m scared and a bit anxious to let go of the breastfeeding (which is selfish of me, I know, or is it? This whole obsession on breastfeeding deserves another blogpost). I may have become attached to the act of breastfeeding itself. And besides, shifting to formula would be a whole new stressful stage for both of us. My baby is highly allergic too (thanks to both of her parents) and she’s started to manifest her atopy in dermatitis. Just when we’ve started to get comfortable with breastfeeding, these circumstances get thrown our way. But Sam has repeated time and time again, that the best way to take care of the baby right now is to take care of myself first- stop breastfeeding, shift to formula, restart my medications, have the surgery. Because for him, how will I even be able to take care of her when I myself am debilitated? Logically, he’s right. But my heart tells me otherwise.
I know I need to listen to Sam’s advice and put my heart in the backseat. And so we have reached a compromise and are aiming for her 6th month. I am dreading the day we start weaning her off the breast. In the meantime, I am hanging on to God’s promise of healing and His strength as I press on and take care of our baby every single day, in the best way I could.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ~ Psalm 73:26