by Courtney Loughney, E-RYT, M.Ed.
Photo credits: Angie Gray
The baby was crying again. The kind of cry that proclaims, “I am so tired but I can’t fall asleep until you give me the boob one more time!” I swiftly moved into the room darkened by blackout shades with the sun lightly outlining the edges of the window trim. Quickly I picked up my screaming baby and walked across a pile of Shopkins with my bare foot. Not only do I hate Shopkins, but I especially hate them jamming into the bottom of my foot while I’m carrying a screaming infant. I sat to nurse him and as soon as he latched the walls began to close in, tighter and tighter, until the background of the room went blurry and the only thing I could see were the piles of mess scattered around me. A pile of laundry beaming across the room taunted me. My heart sank into my stomach and my eyes filled with tears until I couldn’t help but weep while nursing my innocent little baby back to sleep.
Just then my poor husband peered his head into the room. “Do you need help?”
I whisper yelled about what a flipping mess the house was. How the baby never sleeps during the day and that big kids need to clean up after themselves. As he supportively watched me meltdown I remembered why I was feeling so out of control in the first place. I had let my D-MER get the best of me. “How come everyone else feels like they are riding unicorns over rainbows when they’re nursing, and all I get is itchy armpits and anxiety?” I sobbed.
He replied, “Because you’re special. I’ll go clean up the kitchen.”
He didn’t rush to my side to hold me and wipe my tears because he knows better. He knows that coming into my space and touching me while I am feeling this way makes my skin crawl, makes my temperature rise, and is counterproductive.
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) is an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotion, that occurs just before milk release. These emotions can be: depressed mood, anxiety, and/or irritability. While the feeling can last for a few seconds up to a few minutes, it can be quite debilitating, especially for a mom who doesn’t know why she’s feeling this way.
For me, this is my third baby and the third time I am breastfeeding with D-MER. I suffered in silence after the birth of my first baby, which fueled my postpartum depression and anxiety, and ultimately prematurely ended my breastfeeding relationship (cue my mom guilt). I am now successfully nursing with D-MER because I am in control of it most of the time and not afraid to say when I’m not.
So maybe my husband is right (although I rarely give him credit for his wise observations); I feel this way because I am special. Because of this, it is my mission to break the stigma attached to negative emotions while breastfeeding so that women no longer need to suffer in silence like I did seven years ago. I want to be the voice saying that it is okay that breastfeeding, and mothering for that matter, may not always feel like riding unicorns over rainbows.