I realize that many of you reading this may not know Orion's story. So before I continue with the tips on overcoming depression without medication, I would like to take a moment to tell the story I am most passionate about. My baby boy. Orion Athen Huntington. To tell this story without telling about who inspired me to turn around the ways in which I was living would be giving you an incomplete picture of how things happened.
Where do I start? Orion. My little guinea pig. Whether his situation was a big contributor to my stress levels and episodes of depression is something I'm still unsure of. My emotional state could very well have also contributed to his illnesses. It sort of becomes a vicious cycle that way. That those around you feed off of your emotional state and vice versa. I strongly believe that our energies circulate this way among us. But before I go into much depth on that subject, let me get back on the topic.
Orion was a sweet baby but he was a lot of work. He needed my help. Quite frankly, as a first time mother and totally unaware of the fact that the first baby is probably the hardest adjustment for any new parent, I was very ill-informed on what measures to take to best help both him and myself. I solely relied on the information given to me by my pediatrician, who was a kind man, but somewhat uninformed as well. I never questioned his advice and was obedient to his recommendations. I want to make it pretty clear that I'm not hear to bash on doctors. I respect their practices for the most part and realize that many of them study long and hard to provide us with good options. The part that I find unfortunate about their conventional practices is that most of them exclude a holistic approach to truly healing ailments of any kind. What we put into our bodies physically as well as emotionally is pertinent to our recovery of almost any disease, be it the common cold or even cancers. I'll explain this in a future post.
After my sweet Orion was pulled out of my womb with forceps, he was immediately taken from me, and carefully monitored for the jaundice he was diagnosed with. For the following 6-7 days after his birth, we had to take him back and forth to get his heel pricked for another check of his bilirubin levels. As a mother, I often cringed at the thought of having my baby poked over and over again and thought on many of those occasions about what it might be doing to him emotionally, so young and vulnerable and still so new to this strange and new world. I didn't much enjoy watching him get poked, but I did as I was told. "Come back tomorrow," was what the nurses requested. At home, the struggle of getting some sleep as new parents was made doubly difficult when we were encouraged to use a special light on him at night with a pair of eye covers.
I had a strong desire to solely breastfeed my baby but it was made even more difficult for me when I was encouraged to give him some baby formula as a way to push the bilirubin levels out of his body faster. All I could think was, "Doctor probably knows best." And I once again did as I was told, unaware of the fact that this act alone would slowly decrease my milk supply, making it even more difficult down the road. This alone, made me feel like I had failed at mothering already. And I don't say this to make anyone feel like a failure when supplementation is necessary. I know all too well that in many cases, it is needed. I have needed to do this with two of my babies already. But I do know that typically, this also contributes to levels of depression in a mother trying to do the best things for her baby. I know it did for me. It was a small trigger that quickly grew into more difficult trials with my baby.
What we didn't realize at the time was how violently ill our baby would become as a consequence of processed and milk-based supplementation. He developed colic at first and it quickly turned into many endless sleepless nights for us as he would wake up screaming and had much difficulty sleeping, and later on, breathing. Being that he was my first, I had nothing to compare this to. I thought this was what it was going to be like with children for the rest of my life. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and very much sleep deprived. The longest sleep I would get would be about 1/2 an hour at a time if I was lucky. Alex and I would take shifts rocking and bouncing and trying to get him to calm down so that he could sleep as well. But the instant his head hit the cushion beneath the lights, he would start screaming. At night, we took turns. I would sleep for an hour and then Alex would sleep for an hour, while the other spent the time rocking and bouncing around a very hurting baby. And honestly, I didn't realize this wasn't normal until I had three more babies who never had problems sleeping at night at all. It was a night and day difference.
His colic became so bad, it also turned into reflux. He would throw-up. A lot. And by not keeping food down, I was afraid of him not gaining weight as he should. Still, I made many attempts with different formulas to get him to eat. Buying the most expensive ones at times. Nursing as often as he would let me as well. It drained our pockets. But we were willing to spend on something we hadn't tried if it meant seeing improvement. We later found out he had milk intolerances that wouldn't have been resolved by any of the formulas we used because they all had casein and whey in some form or another. Then, he developed the rash. Eczema. It was labeled. I was told, it was the body's inability to hydrate the skin. And that flare-ups were usually worse or triggered by certain foods. I asked if it was related to a food allergy? "No. Eczema is something you have to live with for the rest of your life typically. Symptoms can be reduced. But it has no cure." So now, I lived under the false idea that there was no hope for ever finding relief for such an annoying ailment. And annoying it was. My poor 3 month old baby scratched and scratched so much he would bleed. His face flared up a lot and everywhere I went, I would have mothers asking me if I had tried this latest cream, and that latest treatment. All questions, to which the answer was usually, yes. And if I hadn't tried it, I would ask my doctor about it and he would give me something new to try.
So we lived with the eczema for many months. It got better on occasion and it was usually when I was pumping milk for him to drink. But even that was not always good because I would consume processed dairy products that I'm sure carried over into my milk supply that would cause his flare-ups. All the while, I was still under the presumption that eczema had nothing to do with allergies or the foods we ate. My pediatrician said I could try staying away from milk, but that it probably wouldn't make much difference. He began giving me steroid creams to use because all the over-the-counter creams were losing effectiveness. Had I known the many side-effects of using hydrocortisone and steroids (even creams) on a regular basis, I might not have used them at all.
Orion began developing recurring fevers. High fevers. We'd take him in to the doctor to get it checked out and it was usually because of ear infections and heavily clogged sinuses. Every two weeks, it seemed another cold or flu would be upon us. Another ear infection meant we began using antibiotics.
His symptoms only got worse. On one occassion, the antibiotics we were administering, made him break out in an all-over-the-body hives type rash. His whole little body was covered in bumps and he was super itchy and inflamed. Had I known about how antibiotics kills your gut flora and causes more digestion difficulties, I never would have administered them to him in the first place. But these were things I was never told. Every time I took my baby in to the doctor, I felt often that he was annoyed by my issues with him. I felt like just another patient he just wanted to give a prescription to and be done with already. But I was a good listener. I continued the antibiotics and different steroid creams along with any new lotion I could try to keep the eczema at bay.
It would return with a vengeance. It got so bad that I had to cover his entire body in the middle of intense summer heat just to keep him from reaching his vulnerable, open and raw skin to scratch. And mostly, to keep others from always commenting on his skin wherever I went.
When he developed asthma-related symptoms because of difficulty breathing at night, I began to have pretty severe anxiety attacks myself. One night, I recall coming into his room to find him coughing as usual because of the many colds he was experiencing, but his little face turned rather blue. Then I noticed his coughing had changed. It had turned into a rather interesting whooping-like cough but it was more than that. He started coughing so bad as I picked him up that he began gasping for air. I was scared. I didn't know what was wrong. But I knew that gasping for air was not a good thing. We went to emergency room that night, terribly frightened. He was immediately put on a nebulizer with breathing treatments. And for the weeks that followed, we were on this routine of breathing treatments with a mask and drugs simply to help him breath better at night and diminish the coughing.
Many would ask me if he was being immunized. My response to them was always yes. I was doing everything. I was doing everything I knew how to do. How could it be whooping cough if he'd had vaccines for them? I just didn't understand. Why was it that with each vaccine, he seemed to get worse. But I made no connections at the time. I was told he'd probably end up on asthma inhalers for the rest of his life and that eczema would eventually get better here and there but never fully go away. My hopes were quickly snuffed out. I think this about the time when my depression got really bad. I began getting desperate for results. I wasn't seeing them. I thought to myself, "We're spending so much money on all these treatments for him. And for what? He's getting worse." I cried to my husband about it. I spent many nights discouraged that all of our money was going out the door for treatments that were not helping, that in fact were making him worse. I was losing my mind. Losing sleep. Losing confidence in my abilities as a mother. Losing confidence in doctors. Losing hope. And then, one night, as a 9 month old baby, he began banging his head against the crib rails. Over and over again. I don't think I was much concerned about this until his next doctor visit. He said to keep an eye on it and see if it got worse. It became routine for a while. But my pediatrician advised that if it got worse, it was probably a good indication that he might need special help down the road as it seemed to be early symptoms of autism that were developing. I was horrified. I knew nothing about autism. And yet, for me, that news was somewhat of a turning point. Something snapped in me as I was very much in denial about what I was to do from there. He kindly asked his nurse to schedule me in for the next appointment to ensure he got his MMR vaccine. And though at the time, I didn't view it as such, I know miracles began to happen.
We were very literally broke. We couldn't afford payments for our son's healthcare any more than we could afford to go and buy bread. A co-pay for our next visit to our doctor would put us in the negative. So, MMR or not, we didn't see it fit to take him in for his vaccine at the time. I think I remember seeing $2.17 in our account one day, realizing that no paycheck was coming anytime soon, because Alex wasn't working due to all the time I needed him at home helping me with Orion, and I just turned off the computer and wept. God began to block things from taking the course they might have, had I had the means to afford everything I thought was helping my son. But He knew better. I slowly began to trust in Him more than anything else.
We began to make plans for a trip Alex was planning to take for his sales job, which he was still fairly new at. We had a lot of help from family and friends and our church. With moving, money, and just plain good advice. My mother-in-law was so adamant about suggesting things using natural homemade remedies and nutrition, that I finally picked up a book one day that began my journey to better options I had no idea existed. Or perhaps, I knew. But I had forgotten the importance of the things that we put into our bodies and had become so disconnected from my own body that I had become terrible at listening to its needs, therefore, making it more difficult to listen to the needs of my baby. Needless to say, a hunger for knowledge began. Both for old and new knowledge. I began researching and devouring every book on health and natural remedies I could get my hands on.
Now, I'm not a doctor. But the latin root for the word doctor means "to teach." This was one of the first pieces of advice I received from my naturopathic physician as he simply claimed, "I am a teacher." I've come to accept the idea that a good doctor is a good educator. As my teacher, he has been the source of much inspiration to me and I honor his title because he is a licensed legitimate physician. He opened my eyes to the possibilities and empowered me as a mother to make better decisions regarding my son's fragile state and what healthcare procedures to take. He brought hope back into my life. And THAT is the most valuable thing to me. Hope, is the one thing I want to give back to all mothers out there who may be experiencing these same frustrations with their own children. Hope to take matters into your own hands with better resources. Trusted resources that are effective in the long run and not just used for symptom management. I'm a teacher to my children. Therefore, I am their doctor. I am their mother. I am their Doctor Mom.
Today, I want to know, are you a Doctor? How in your life, have you felt empowered by something you were able to do for your children with the resources that you had already?