The Failed Mom

“It’ll be the hardest, most rewarding job you’ll ever do..” 
I didn’t sleep last night. Luca woke up every hour on the hour either screaming in pain (from what I could only deduce was his reflux) or just wanting to be comforted. I have an exam this morning on information I was barely able to study this weekend. I had been having anxiety attacks the past few days because I feared I’d fail. I thought if I failed my exam the class would be over and I wouldn’t graduate on time like I had fought so hard to be able to. I would sit there and pace out different scenarios: failing and having to retake my class, not showing up and feigning a sick excuse to give myself a bit more time, going and doing well (fat chance, right?), studying all night and sleeping during the day when I came home (if Luca would take a nap that is…), or going to sleep because I was exhausted and waking up early enough to study. I went with the last option. At 8pm, an hour/ hour land a half earlier than his usual time, my son began fussing and rubbing his eyes. I couldn’t believe that he’d be tired already. We cuddled and he fell right asleep. I thought, oh maybe I can study for a small amount of time since he went to sleep so early. I was very wrong. He woke up twenty minutes later screaming, and that was only he beginning of my night. By 9:30 he has nursed for five minute comfort sessions at least five times and then finally took a longer session to go to sleep. It took me till eleven that evening to get him to stay asleep. He had horrible gas that made him fidget and flair until he woke himself up every time I put him down. By 12am he was up once again. We laid together and I prayed and begged my little boy to go to sleep so that I could also. He fell asleep once more and woke up once again at 1 am. Not until 4 am did he finally sleep longer than 45 minutes to an hour when I finally let him lay next to me in bed. At this point I wanted to cry. I was frustrated and angry because not only was I failing at putting my baby to sleep, but I was also failing at figuring out what was wrong so I could fix it so he could sleep. He woke at seven for the day and I fed him as usual. I couldn’t look at him the same as I did every other morning. I was exhausted, I was frustrated, and I was afraid for the test I had earlier this morning. 

I studied from 7:30 until we left the house at about 8:30 and had his father take care of him while I did so. Anthony, his father and my fiancé, drove me to school that morning and on the way Luca became fussy once more. I didn’t understand what was wrong and so I leaned over and to try and figure out why my infant was once again so distressed. He took my hand quickly and held onto my fingers tightly, like his life depended on it. He fell right asleep. It was then that I really began to cry. 

I had been so angry all morning because I hadn’t slept, because I couldn’t study, and because I was again calling myself a failure as this little boys mother. I was fighting so hard to be perfect at everything that I was forgetting it was okay to make a mistake, to falter for a moment, and to not be perfect. I was forgetting that even though I was fighting for my education for him, I still needed to give myself a break FOR him. My baby only understands that mommy is there not that mommy has an exam or that mommy needs sleep. And it seems that no matter how much I falter or how many mistakes I make he still wants me. So I may call myself a failure over and over but to him I’m mommy: the one who feeds him, cuddles him when he’s upset, the one he smiles at in the morning, the one he looks for when in someone’s arms, and the one who’s hand he needs to hold when he wants to fall asleep in his car seat. No matter how many times I can’t figure out what’s wrong or calm the hard nights, I’m still the mommy he wants. 

So it’s time to give myself a break and stop calling the mommy that this boy loves a failure. 

The first few weeks…

When I found out I was pregnant I remember telling myself all I wanted to do was breastfeed. I wanted to do this for my child.  I would find a way to accomplish this goal, but of course I’d keep an open mind in case anything happened. Fast forward nine months and I give birth to this beautiful human being. He has the perfect latch the second he is born and from there I begin not only the journey of motherhood but also the journey I so desperately wanted to succeed in: the journey of breastfeeding. For hours I listened to my baby scream the first few nights, no one having previously explained just what cluster feeding was in the first few days and what it would entail. I remember looking at my newborn and asking myself what I had done, thinking that I’d never be a good parent as I was failing him already. I gave him a bottle of formula and watched my six hour long screaming baby drift into a deep sleep. I cried for hours thinking I’d starved him, failed him, and would not succeed on this journey of being what he needed for nourishment. A week after I brought him home he had his check up and was back to birth weight on breastmilk with the occasional supplementation, then two days later after a jaundice scare, he’d gained an ounce and his pediatrician told me he wasn’t gaining well and that my milk was fine in fluid but not calories. I needed to give formula only and stop breastfeeding. I cried for hours and that deep, heartbreaking feeling of being a failure crept into my mind again. I contacted a lactation consultant and after a weighted feed we realized he was just a baby that needed to be fed often. I persevered. He began gaining even more weight at a very quick pace. I then got mastitis, my baby had #reflux, then #colic, then I got thrush from the antibiotics, he had thrush also, and now a possible dairy intolerance. I’ve wanted to give up on so many occasions. I’ve cried myself to sleep on so many occasions when he wouldn’t stop crying from the pain of his relfux. I’ve called myself a failure on more than one occasion. I’ve come to realize not only that fed is best, but also that I cannot control everything as a parent. There will be days he will cry and I will not know why. There will be days I will go to bed asking myself if I could have done more. In the eight weeks that I have known this little human I have realized that what he needs for me is to be there for him. He needs to have a mommy that tries not to question her actions as much as she does because she is doing everything in her power to make sure that he is getting what he needs.

Being bipolar with a few other mental illnesses thrown in there, the toll of breastfeeding became so overwhelming at one point that all I could do was cry. I’d sit there with my child feeding in tears because it hurt so bad and I did not understand how; I’d always been told breastfeeding doesn’t hurt. There was so much pressure put on me to breastfeed from the nurses at the hospital, from society, that I did not know that I had any other choice that I would not be shamed for. I felt so shameful for having the difficulties I had had, and really that was the only shame. I should not have felt shame for doing my best to make sure my son was fed under any circumstances. I should not have felt shamed for having a hard time people do not like to admit is actually hard. Breastfeeding is hard. I’m sorry to burst the bubble but it is. It is time consuming and painful in the beginning, and even more painful if you do in fact develop what I had in the first eight weeks of doing so. I love my son, and yes I do still breastfeed, but I no longer will feel shamed if I need to supplement, or if one day I switch to formula all together. Formula is not the devil that so many want to make others feel like it is, and women should not feel shamed for choosing to formula feed. My mental illness took a backseat to what I thought was best for my son, but really looking back I feel I was being so selfish. He didn’t have a stable mommy during the period of me refusing to admit that I needed help in the feeding department. And that’s what my son needs. That is what a baby needs. He needs a stable parent more than my need to feel like an accomplished mother through breastfeeding.

So momma’s never feel ashamed of the way you choose to feed your baby. Breast, formula, supplementation; as long as baby is fed then you are doing EVERYTHING right. We need to stop tarnishing one another one our choices as mothers. This job is hard enough and we need one another to build ourselves up, not tear one another down because they didn’t do things the way you did. As long as baby is happy and healthy then a mothers job is being done correctly, and she should never feel ashamed for her choices she found best for her child.

Well here we go!

Last night, as I watched my son sleep (In his crib for the first time- he did great!), I began my journey into applying to vet school! First of all I never realized just how long the application was, and secondly there are so many supplemental applications for the colleges I’m applying for.

Here are the colleges I’m applying for:

  1. Colorado State University
  2. Cornell University
  3. Michigan State University
  4. Oklahoma State University
  5. Tufts University
  6. University of Illinois
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. Washington State University

The reason I chose these 8 schools is because many of them have zoological and wildlife programs as their residency and internship years. My dream is to be able to get into such a program so I can specialize in wildlife.

It is so scary to finally be doing the application that will determine my future! I pray that I can get into at least one of these amazing schools and be able to start next fall.

With this new venture I have to look back on why I wanted to become a vet in the first place. I could give the common reason that I love animals and want to help them, but it’s much more than that. If you’ve read the post where I explain my story you will see I do have a history of mental illness as well as some medical issues. In my house currently we have three dogs and three cats, but one two instances with my animals are truly why I wish to become a vet. I’m going to copy my essay I wrote when I applied for another program a few months ago, I hope this explains it well!

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“Since I was a small child my home has always been filled with the love and joy that animals provide for those that care for them. We had a variety of animals that many didn’t understand, ranging from cats, dogs, ferrets, guinea pigs, snails, birds, and a few hamsters in between. I loved being surrounded by these animals, caring for these animals, and most importantly watching how they truly cared about me and my safety. When I was sixteen years old I was given an option to either have a Sweet Sixteen or to receive a dachshund puppy. Well there was no doubt in my mind which I would choose, and four days past my sixteenth birthday I went and picked up my eight week old bundle of energy who would be not only be my best friend, but my best protector. At sixteen I was struck with a terrible illness that took over every aspect of my life, and throughout this entire illness my dachshund never once left my side. He slept with me, licked my eyes when I cried to try and make it better, and whined every time he felt that something was even a bit off about my mood that day. If he thought someone would harm me he barked, if he thought they were good he’d show so by giving them a large amount of kisses. It amazed me how this small five pound puppy could show such courage and love for it’s owner.

 

A few years down the road we received a new puppy. A little German Shepherd, Mastiff, Rottweiler mix that weighed about the same as a newborn baby. A week into the new arrival my new little puppy was stricken with parvo, which for him was almost a death sentence. When we took him to the vet she told us that we might as well get a refund because he wasn’t going to make it through the night.

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I was not only appalled by her attitude towards the situation, but my heart was almost broken that our new baby wouldn’t make it through another few days of life.  Thankfully the receptionist gave us the name of a center that took in very sick dogs and did everything in their power to make them better. The unfortunate side was that this place ran about $2,000 a night. Our puppy was there for two nights, but on the third day we couldn’t do it anymore, it was becoming too expensive. One of the main reasons why I want to be a vet in the first place is because of the man who took care of my sick little puppy. He told us that he would discharge the puppy at six p.m., the latest he could stay, so that we didn’t have to pay for another day, but keep him until midnight that evening so that our puppy could receive as much care as he could before he went home. That man saved my now 100lb dog.

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I want to learn the various aspects of medicine that go into treating not only sick domestic animals, but also the wildlife so many can be afraid of. Animals are these amazing creatures who learn to love in ways so many humans do not understand. I want to be able one day to not only save as many as I can, but to show people the love an animal can truly bring. I had never known unconditional love until I had pets, and I would be determined as a vet to do anything in my power to make sure no owner lost that love.”

Some people don’t understand animals. I know many were wary when we brought my son home to a house that had not only one, but three dogs. It’s truly beautiful to witness these animals care and protect my little man. Of course they are always supervised, but I have no reason to believe they’d ever harm him. I hope one day people no longer have this large misconception of animals.

If anyone who has been through the vet school process has any advice I would be so thrilled to hear!

My Story

Well hello there and welcome to my story….

My name is Bianca and I am currently on my 21st….22nd…rotation around the sun. As of August 2016 I am engaged to my best friend Anthony, and together we welcomed a beautiful baby boy named Luca Jeremiah in April of 2017. I am an Animal Science student at the University of Connecticut with the hopes of applying to vet school within the next few months, and then if all works out well I want to pursue a career in wildlife medicine with the intent of opening up a wildlife conservation/rehabilitation.

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I chose to begin blogging because I felt that I had a story, and my hope is that with this story I could touch at least one person in a positive way. My hope is that with this journey I am choosing to document, along with the journey I’ve already endured, I will be able to show someone that no matter the conflicts they face, the negative comments they may hear, or the lack of support they may have, they can still conquer their dreams and become the person they want to be. My hope is that if there is anyone out there who feels, or has felt, even the slightest way I did for at least two-thirds of my life, that my story might help them see that somehow, some way, there is light at the end of the dark tunnel, and you will make it through.

So, here we go…

I was always a big girl and no one, and I mean no one, was ever afraid to remind me of that fact. Currently I stand at 5’11/6’0 tall and my highest recorded weight was 406lbs. A lot of my childhood consisted of people being my friends one day and then doing 180’s and siding with those who chose to bully me for my weight. It got so bad that I remember at twelve years old I thought cutting my own skin would ease the pain that I couldn’t see, but felt every minute of every day. By the time I was sixteen my anxiety and depression had gotten so bad that the only thoughts I had were to just end it. I hated being in my own skin, I hated my reflection in the mirror, but most of all I hated the voices that reiterated every single negative, hurtful thing I had ever been told in my life. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re so fat.” “Please don’t eat me.” “You’re so fat you must smell.” “You’ll never be anything more than a fat blob.” And the worst one: “What’s the point, just kill yourself.” I believe I thought the last line more times than I care to remember.

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My smallest vs. largest

In 2012 I had to be admitted to a psychiatric ward for the fear that I would not wake up the next morning. At this point I had stopped attending school, my junior year of high school was down the toilet, and my parents were at a loss on how to help their only child. I was admitted with suspected bipolar NOS, panic anxiety disorder, and cognitive OCD. I stayed at this facility for a week before I was able to go back home. My only saving grace that week was the daily, sometimes twice daily, phone call from my grandmother that I received. When I came home I thought I could do anything. I’d been “cured” of my psychiatric distress, but I still didn’t grasp that my mental illness was not something to be ignored, but something to accept and work with in any way I could. I didn’t realize it still lingered until the summer of 2012 when my grandmother passed away very unexpectedly. My world crashed once again and skin was the harvesting ground of the feelings I could not express. I didn’t know what to do.

Later that year my great-grandfather had a stroke that led him to being diagnosed with the on set of dementia, meaning he could no longer live by himself. My great-grandfather was my favorite person. He took care of me when I was younger, watched me while my parents worked, picked me up from school at least twice a week, and made me chicken soup when I was sick. I could talk to him for hours on varying topics such as religion, and our families troubles. He was more than a grandfather, it was like having another father. When he got sick I vowed to take care of him and moved in with him by myself to make sure he took his medication, to pick him up when he fell in the shower, and to give him some company he long needed since his wife passed in 2000. At sixteen I took it upon myself to make sure the man that had long taken care of myself and my family was well taken care of.  A few weeks after I graduated high school in 2014 my grandfather passed away from stomach cancer. All I can remember is being mad at him the few weeks prior to finding out because of how mean he’d become from his dementia, how angry I was at my mother the day before he passed because he wouldn’t wake up from his pain medication and she would let him sleep, and the night before he died crying and telling him I’d be okay if he went. Strange how the negative memories take such prevalence over the positive, even if they don’t come nearly close in number.

So I went to college, my boyfriend now fiancé, and I eight hours away in Buffalo. We went through the ringer in the first few months. Me, letting my emotions get the best of me, became very lax with my birth control and a few weeks after I began my freshman year of college we found out we were having a baby. A few days later that baby was no longer with us. By this point I’d reached my highest weight and even in college I could not escape the looks, the comments, and the pain looking in the mirror brought me. In December of 2015 I was approved for weight loss surgery and in total I lost 211 lbs by my 1 year post op mark.

Now what about the pain and mental illness I spoke about before that could never go away? Well, it didn’t. I had gotten so good at masking the emotions with food that when it was taken away I no longer had a scapegoat. I could no longer sit in front of the television with a bag of chips and dip and just eat, or down an entire tub of ice cream in one sitting. Drive-thru’s were no longer a thrilling ride, and food no longer controlled my “what is there to do in____ city?” searches. I had no where to go when my thoughts acted up, when my anxiety left me bed ridden for the day like it did in high school on so many mornings. I was also still mulling over the fact that I had lost a baby, and trying to fill so many voids I had forgotten still existed in my mind and heart. I needed to seek help again.

And I did. I went back to therapy and  a psychiatrist and began the tumultuous journey of finding my correct cocktail of medications to make me the person I needed to be. Through this medication journey I moved home from Buffalo to make sure I was close to doctors, I transferred schools to find one with the animal program I needed to continue to pursue my career goal of becoming a vet. Then came 2016.

January 2016 seemed like a promising year: I had finally gotten into the University of Connecticut Animal Science program, I had settled back home, my fiancé and I were in such a good place, and life just seemed so great. However in February of 2016 my gallbladder decided to act up and after two weeks of back and forth trips to the emergency room and missing classes they realized that it needed to come out. It took me weeks to fully recover, and by then the semester was almost over. All I could think was that I failed again. I wouldn’t graduate on time; I wasn’t going to vet school. I ended the semester with a 3.0 GPA.

During this time I had began to feel tingles in my arms and legs, pain whenever I sat for too long, headaches I could not explain, and my nerves always felt like they were on edge. I went to go see a neurologist who genuinely believed I just had a care of pseudotumor and I would just need a bit of medication, but when he did his spinal tap he found a bit more than his simple diagnosis. There were bands in my spinal fluid and after further MRI’s I was given the diagnosis of the on set of Multiple Sclerosis. My world shattered again. I began profusely googling my new diagnosis, crying when I saw the world wheelchair, and begging God to stop punishing me for whatever I had done. I lost all view of my future. Vet school wouldn’t be possible, having a family would not be possible, I was going to lose everything. I had to stop, I had to breathe, and I had to be strong, but I could not. A few weeks later I began my shots to help ease the Multiple Sclerosis. A few more weeks later I found out I was pregnant.

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And a few more weeks later I heard my son’s heartbeat. A few more weeks later I found out I was having a boy. A few more weeks I felt him kick for the first time. A few more weeks later I watched as my stomach moved from one side to the other.

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Everything seemed to stop. The panic, the worry, the fear.

I can’t count the amount of times I have been told in life that I can’t do this, or I can’t do that. When I became pregnant the negative comments did not stop, in fact they increased, but the only difference was I had someone to fight for, someone worth fighting for. I was told on countless occasions that I had ruined my life, my fiancés life, and I would now accomplish nothing because of this baby. This fueled my fire more to continue to overcome every obstacle I was faced. You see, I fought my entire life to be seen as much more than the fat girl. I fought to be able to love myself in a way that I sought so long and hard to find from someone else. It’s okay to be bruised and scarred, and to sometimes feel like you’re not worth the risk, but it’s not okay to believe it. I believed it for so long that I almost threw away my entire future; my son. Believe me when I say that no matter what someone throws at you, the negative hurtful comments they make, there is a fire inside of you that burns bright and is so much stronger than their hate.

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So, here I am on my 21st….22nd…rotation around the sun. As of August 2016 I am engaged to my best friend Anthony, and together we welcomed a beautiful baby boy named Luca Jeremiah in April of 2017. I am an Animal Science student at the University of Connecticut with the hopes of applying to vet school within the next few months, and then if all works out well I want to pursue a career in wildlife medicine with the intent of opening up a wildlife conservation/rehabilitation. And I won’t give up.

 

 

I hope you enjoy following the journey!