Ryan’s Story of Reflux and Christina’s story of PND

This story is a member’s personal experience and opinion, and is part of their healing process. Please be aware that some of the stories on Crying Over Spilt Milk are of more severe or complicated cases of Gastric Reflux. Serious or complicated cases of Gastric Reflux are rare. If you think you may be disturbed by some content, please visit this page before deciding to read further: Infant Gastric Reflux Stories

I don’t really know where to begin with my story of Ryan and his reflux, and me with Post Natal Depression.  I used to feel very sad thinking of all the precious time that was robbed from us. I loved Ryan from the moment I saw him, and he was a dream baby up until two weeks of age.  Breastfeeding didn’t work for us as he had a tongue tie that went unnoticed. He fed from me for the first 48 hours, and left my nipples cracked and bleeding.  He was a hungry wee soul and devoured his bottles. The first two weeks he would sleep for four hour stretches!  Once my breasts had recovered, I tried to breastfeed again but he didn’t want to.

Ryan screamed all day and all night; it was like being in hell; there was no way to bond with a baby that did this all the time.  Ryan would pull his little legs in and arch his back as he was in so much pain.  I felt helpless as a mother. The only thing that I could do to ease his pain was to put him in the front pack and walk or jiggle him around. Even though he didn’t spill up all the time you could smell the acid through the pores of his skin; it was so overwhelming.

Having a reflux baby was like running a marathon with no end in sight – very demoralising!  I had no family help and ended up in the Mothers and Babies Unit with severe post natal depression.  I was in there for three months with Ryan and if it wasn’t for them, I think I wouldn’t be here today.  He is still to this day the most difficult baby they have ever had on the ward.  While I was in there I found the site Roz manages for GRSNNZ “crying over spilt milk”.  I started to work my way through the list of things to trial.  It was difficult because I would get my hopes up every time I tried something new, and then I would be so upset when they didn’t work.  I just wanted to have a normal baby and be at home with my other son and husband.

It was a difficult time for my husband too. He found it just as frustrating. We can laugh about it now but at the time, it stretched our marriage to its limits.  I can remember crying so much that I had to stop driving and park the car up with screaming baby in the back!  One practical use that I found for a reflux baby is that they are fantastic at getting door knockers to go away, as I found one day when someone came to my door and I answered holding my screaming baby in one arm and tears flooding down my face!

I tried lots of different things and what I learned is that every reflux baby is different, so what might work for one might not work for another. It is hard, but you just have to go through trial periods.  My husband would argue that I didn’t spend enough time trialling before looking at the next step; he was probably right. (He likes to be right!! LOL) Being so impatient, I just wanted a cure! But it is important to give as much time as possible to find what might work. For Ryan there was no real cure, but time and I managed to find tips from other mums to make life more manageable for me and my baby.  One of those tips was finding a GOOD doctor and believe me they are hard to come by!  Once we did, we found the right medication that eased his pain and made living with him more manageable.  At night he still woke every two hours till he was about 17 months. I wondered if it was still the reflux and he got sent in for a barium swallow (x-ray).  This found no problems, and we eased him off his medications.  We also had to go cold turkey on the dummy!  He started to sleep through the night and the green tongue that he had went away – (that was a side effect from taking Omeprazole– very rare).

It was an interesting path for me in my journey through life. Since then I have started looking at life differently.  I don’t feel robbed any more, I feel like I climbed a real tough mountain and made it to the top! Now I’m on the side I feel like I can accomplish anything because we made it through and survived!! I enjoy every day more than I ever did before I think because we had such a hellish time. Even earthquakes pale in comparison to my baby who was informally known as Reflux Ryan.  He is thankfully now known as Rascally Ryan!

One Plunket nurse, who visited me, told me that when her baby that had reflux grew up he remained a cuddly guy.  He would even cuddle his mum at the age of 21 in front of his friends!  She gave me words of encouragement and it helped.  Anti-depressants also helped me through this difficult time. They just seemed to take the edge of my anxiety and helped my brain switch off so I could sleep.  The drugs that I took helped to stop me from crying all day long and cleared my brain so I could focus on the task at hand.  In those days, it was just focusing on getting through the day and looking forward to something nice that I had planned during the week.  As Ryan has grown, he has got easier, although we are now dealing with ear, nose and throat issues.

What worked for Ryan: Losec brand of Omeprazole; introduction of solids; dummy (although this became a problem later);  front pack; white noise (static) in his room (as he would easily wake); hammock!  When Ryan grew out of his hammock, we elevated his cot with old telephone books under the legs at the front.  I rolled a towel in a u shape so that he would not drift to the bottom of the cot.  We also spent a bit of money on getting a lady (baby whisperer) to come and show us other ways to help him with his sleep.  She used the book “The Happiest Baby on the Block”, which goes on the theory that there should be a 4th trimester in pregnancy and that babies are born too soon.  You can go onto U Tube and check out the author of the book who demonstrates with real difficult babies how to get them to sleep.  It was very interesting and we found it was useful in combination with other things.

My Tips for Mums:

  • Eat Breakfast.
  • Find a good doctor!
  • Stick with the plan.
  • Spend a good amount of time trialling each new thing that you try out.
  • Rest and recharge yourself.
  • Give yourself a break; don’t beat yourself up!
  • Let other people help.
  • Be honest and talk about how you are feeling.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to; spoil yourself!

Being a mum is hard work! Every mother deserves a gold medal; mothers of children with special needs deserve a trophy!!

I am now off anti-depressants and loving my two boys; they are both awesome!

It is a difficult time and if anyone ever needs an ear to listen (in Canterbury area), contact Roz and she can forward my contact details to you.

© Christina and Crying Over Spilt Milk Gastric Reflux Support Network New Zealand for Parents of Infants and Children Charitable Trust September 2011.

Published July 2014, around the time of Ryan’s 5th birthday.