Thursday, May 29, 2014
The problem I prayed for
So early last week, I was convinced that my milk supply was dwindling. My bambino appeared quite distressed at the end of feeds. He was harder than usual to settle. He wasn't producing very many wet nappies. His daytime naps became short. I felt completely burnt-out and anxious, with a perennially sore throat and constricted breathing. Each night, I'd fall into bed so tired that my body hurt. Each morning, I'd wake exhausted, regardless of how much sleep I'd had.
[Cue flashbacks to 2009 when my daughter was six weeks old.]
At 2am, wrung out and unable to sleep, I did the (un)wise thing and started googling. To be fair, I started with the most familiar and reputable sources e.g. The Royal Womens Hospital, Australian Breastfeeding Association.
It wasn't long before I stumbled on the association between diminished milk supply and thyroid problems.
[Cue flashback to 2013 when my Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner noted on my blood work results that my thyroid function had been quite low in 2009. What was happening then? She asked. Had I noticed any weight gain, depression, sluggishness? Uh, yeah. And low milk supply.]
I googled on.
I came across this article by the esteemed Dr Christiane Northrup.
Depression. Weight gain. Fatigue. Shortness of breath. Intolerance to cold. Muscle cramps. Head spin.
The diagnosis was so compelling, I could hardly breathe. And then there was this:
Thyroid disease is related to expressing your feelings, something that until relatively recently had been societally blocked for women for thousands of years. In order to have your say—and maintain your thyroid energy—you must take a fearless inventory of every relationship in which you feel you don’t have a say. Ask yourself why you don’t.
The thyroid resides at the throat chakra. This is the locus of communication, the isthmus between the head and the heart.
I read on and on about creative blocks, denial of self-compassion, lack of trust, consequences of suppressing true desires.
The next day, I managed to get an appointment with my GP, who listened with an open mind and asked me some gentle but brave questions (I adore him!). He then ordered a blood test to ascertain the health of my thyroid function.
I took the test straight away. And I saw myself praying it were true.
As perverse as it sounds, I wanted a thyroid problem.
I wanted a problem that was easy to diagnose and relatively easy to fix. I wanted the difficulties, the emotional eating, my tiredness, my anxieties (especially the ones that I was not providing full nourishment for my baby, let alone actively putting him in harm's way, due to my own inadequacy) to go away.
I wanted to be able to look back on the difficulties I was having, and all the difficulties I'd had in the past, and say "It was not my fault."
I was fat, I was tired, I was unhappy and I could not provide nourishment for my baby i.e. I was a massive failure. All the time I hated myself for all of these things and, in fact, I had a medical problem that had not been properly diagnosed.
My test results came back on my birthday. They were normal. Even acknowledging the debate about the upper threshold for normal, they fell within a healthy range.
So now I am faced with the reality that there is no easy fix. I need to continue the work I am doing: on the patterns that hold me back; on my emotional eating; on the deep-seated fears that prohibit me from prioritising my soul work.
[I feel I should add that my baby is fine. He weighed in well. I've adjusted our feeding habits, am drinking a lot of water and trying to rest... all of which seems to be helping. We'll remain gently vigilant.]
But the seed has been planted.
What if it's still the case that none of this is my fault?
Now, of course, if I continue to inhale packet upon packet of Tim Tams without exercising or attempting to balance my diet, then I shouldn't be surprised if I put on weight. (Not that this is exactly where I'm at, but I do feel the need to point out that I may be prone to hyperbole but I'm not daft!)
But what if my sadness, my anxieties, my emotional eating are not justification for feeling like a failure and hating myself? What if these feelings of sadness and blame are the very things that create the problem?
As Byron Katie might ask: Who would I be without these thoughts?