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My Journey Through Cyberspace

By Jennifer Berger
Illinois, USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 6, November-December 2000, pp. 202-203

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time

I wish I'd been online in 1994, when l was pregnant with my first child. I had few friends at the time and none who were parents. I did not have medical insurance so I received prenatal care at a clinic and saw a different physician every time I went in. Breastfeeding was mentioned, but mentioned as an equal option in the same category as formula. I thought that I would breastfeed and it would come naturally, no problem. How hard could it be?

When I gave birth to my happy and healthy baby girl, I was thrilled. But I feel I experienced postpartum depression within 24 hours of her birth. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and unprepared. This baby wanted to nurse all the time, but little did I know that she wasn't latching on properly. The combination of pain from my episiotomy and cracked nipples coupled with my severe depression ended our nursing relationship soon after it began.

A few years later, we bought a computer and went online. I was enjoying motherhood and my depression had lessened, but I discovered I had had symptoms of clinical depression for as long as I could remember and had done nothing about it. I was lonely and pretty much devoted myself to my daughter. The online community filled me with lots of new knowledge and friendships. There were many parenting forums.

When I found out I was expecting another baby, I was somewhat excited, but depression was beginning to creep up more. I dreaded another postpartum experience like I'd had before! I browsed through message boards (online discussion boards) where they discussed pregnancy and parenting until I came upon a debate board called Breast Vs. Bottle and I started reading. I was terribly defensive at first having bottle-fed my first and having planned to bottle-feed the next. After all, my first child was "just fine" and I really hadn't been made aware of the vast differences between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. I was jealous of these women for having happy nursing relationships and felt as if I had been betrayed by not having access to this information in the past. I lashed out at first, mad at the world for not making the best choice for my daughter, only later realizing I made an uninformed choice and needed to stop beating myself up. As Maya Angelou says, "When you know better, you do better."

I started gaining confidence that I would indeed breastfeed my second child and began to read everything I could get my hands on. I asked questions of my online friends and learned so much. Hindsight is indeed 20/20. I realized why my first nursing relationship failed and also realized the role depression played in everything. I was uneducated about the reality of depression! I did not seek help nor did I know what help was out there.

At the end of my second trimester, I sank into a deep depression. I cried for hours at a time. One evening it got so bad that I began cramping and went to the emergency room to make sure all was well. After several hours, the contractions stopped, and the staff had told me it was time to get some help. The next day, I went to my obstetrician to ask for help. To my dismay, I was not offered any advice other than to snap out of it. I felt I needed more help than that, so I went to another doctor for a second opinion and started on one of the newer class of antidepressant medications commonly regarded as the best choice for pregnant or lactating women. My new obstetrician told me that the benefits outweighed any risks in this case. Now I faced another tough decision: to nurse or not?

I reached out into cyberspace with my dilemma and found an unbelievable amount of support. My email was filled with studies about breastfeeding while taking my medication, links to web sites and words of support from other nursing mothers. For the next month, two online bulletin boards were discussing my situation and helping me to gather the information I needed to make an informed choice. One mother emailed me to say she was taking the same medication and when she had her milk tested for levels of the drug, it was undetectable.

My obstetrician told me I'd be able to breastfeed my baby. I called LLL for current information on my medication and also contacted our pediatrician. Their information confirmed what I had heard from my online friends - that the benefits clearly outweighed the risks. I was convinced I would breastfeed!

I subsequently gave birth to a very healthy baby girl. Emily latched on shortly after delivery and pretty much hasn't stopped since! She shows no ill effects from my medication. In fact, she has been a pleasantly easy baby. She nursed very well from the beginning and between that and my antidepressant, I suffered no postpartum depression this time around. I became a very strong breastfeeding advocate and truly adored breastfeeding and attachment parenting my little girl. Breastfeeding calmed me down and made me feel whole and in tune with my children. I started attending LLL meetings and began to offer my support online to mothers facing the dilemma I had recently faced. My mailbox often had emails from moms who had heard I had experience with antidepressants while pregnant and nursing. I began to grow closer to the online circle of friends I had made who I feel so grateful for. These strangers on a screen cared enough to support me and help me make some important choices and I am doing the same through my online activities.

Some of my best friends are a group of women I met online and I love them dearly! The power of the Internet is truly amazing. I got to thank some of them in person when we gathered at an Area Conference held by LLL of Illinois. Eight of us attended the conference and had a terrific time finally meeting each other in person while enjoying the support and friendship of La Leche League. I even showed off my nursling to Dr. Jack Newman, who was a featured speaker at the conference, and thanked him for the information he has online. I am so grateful to La Leche League and my cyber support system who so generously helped me to learn, to heal, and to be the best mother I could. Support and education make a difference.

I can't imagine not nursing my daughter nor can I imagine not taking my medication. The happiest moments in the world are when I nurse my daughter and she looks up at me and smiles as if to say, "Thanks Mom!" and when my older daughter tries to nurse her dollies or carry them in her childsized sling.

LLL Series Meetings are held on the Internet at MomsOnline and ParentSoup. Live, interactive chats offer a way to get a taste of La Leche League's mother-to-mother support that will whet your appetite for in-person meetings with mothers in your area. To read more about it online, check out our information on LLLI Breastfeeding Chats.

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