|When it comes to D-MER, there's a lot you can't see|
I might not have been the world's foremost breastfeeding expert, but I thought I had a handle on things.
Then came baby #3.
As the exhaustion of pregnancy wore off, and as I recovered from my second c-section, I simply couldn't get a handle on nursing. She was terrifying, she would root and latch poorly and then tear herself away, and in the first weeks I was a sobbing, hysterical wreck. But I reminded myself day after day, things would get better. They did with my little crocodile, after all.
Until, one night, it happened.
I was sitting on the armchair in the living room, watching my two and a half year old twins playing. The baby was in her swing. It was a perfect domestic scene.
And then it wasn't.
I felt hairs rise on the back of my arms, my shoulders hunched into my neck, my vision went flat and fuzzy. My heart pounded in my chest like I'd just run a marathon. I gasped for air, and the world seemed to funnel down into a tiny black spot before my eyes.
Then I felt the familiar clenching in my chest, my milk let down, and everything returned to normal.
My husband stared at me in shock. "What happened?"
"I think I just had a panic attack," I told him. I put my hand on my chest and felt my heart racing, and slowly returning to normal. "It's time to feed the baby."
The next day, it happened again. I was making breakfast for the twins, and a rushing sound filled my ears. I dropped my egg covered whisk onto the floor, and burst into tears.
For nearly a minute, the world spun. Then again, my milk let down, and the world came back into focus.
The third time it happened I thought I was ready for it. As the panic set in, I told myself, It's okay, this is only going to last a minute, in just a few seconds it'll be over... And it was. As quickly as the feeling came, it left. And I nursed the baby.
As the days passed, they came more and more frequently, until every single time my milk let down, it was preceded by a thirty to ninety second panic attack. I screamed, I sobbed, I collapsed on the floor. I couldn't control it. But I kept telling myself it was okay because they were so brief.
And each time, I began to fear that this time, this one, it would last forever.
I mentioned it to my doctor and he told me I must have PPD. I mentioned it to a lactation consultant, and she gaped at me blankly. I went to a La Leche League meeting, and while the women there sympathized, they had no idea what was happening to me. When I called a doula friend of mine, desperate for help after five months of near constant panic, she referred me to a website about something called "DMER."
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.
I read every word on the website, flooded with relief that I wasn't alone, that this was a real thing, a real problem, that I wasn't simply going crazy.
In general, women experience happy emotions when they're breastfeeding. The hormones that accompany the let down reflex cause feelings, connectivity and security and joy- euphoric sensations. But with DMER, you get the opposite.
It was temporary. After the ejection, after the milk came in and the baby latched, the good feelings came too. I learned to connect with that feeling, to find it despite the exhaustion of ten to thirteen full fledged micro panic attacks each day.
It took the constant support of my friend the doula, my husband, and all my friends to keep me going. Each time I had a panic attack, my husband would bring me a glass of water and rub my shoulders and let me know it was okay.
I soldiered on through the DMER, and nursed my third child for just over ten months.
It was an incredibly difficult time, mostly because of how little awareness there is for the condition. It's terrifying and confusing to have such a wonderful thing, feeding your baby, cause your stomach to knot up in dread. Especially because once it's happening and the nursing is going well, everything is absolutely fine. It's just that tiny window, that one minute eternity.
Not all DMER is the same. Some women experience depression. For some women, it's a mild feeling of unease. But all of us deserve to know that what's happening is physical, that we are experiencing a real symptom of a real condition. You deserve the knowledge that there's nothing wrong with you, or with the bond between you and your new baby.
Make sure you family knows what's happening. They're support will keep you going. See your doctor, and ask them about your treatment options. The most important thing is education- just knowing what's going on with your body is half the battle to managing it.
For more information about D-MER, please visit d-mer.org.
Voting for Blogger Idol is still open until midnight! Head to Blogger Idol and vote for me!