So my meeting with the neurologist was this morning, and it went… not well. I can’t say it really went badly necessarily, but it certainly wasn’t what I would call good.
I first met with the PA who works with the neurologist, and he went over my history, did a perfunctory exam, and discussed my symptoms in moderate detail. He then excused himself and went to discuss matters with the neurologist, who then came back in to offer me a diagnosis. His opinion, based on the information he got from the PA, is that the presyncopy* is being caused by complicated migraines. And while I think that this might be a diagnosis worth exploring, I’m not entirely convinced that this is the actual cause. And sadly, I’m too inflexible to do what is necessary to confirm a diagnosis.
Generally, I’m a firm believer in science– trial and error methods are excellent ways to uncover truths. Form a hypothesis, test it, review results, etc. Only in this case, the hypothesis is based on the fact that once, the presyncopy was associated with a migraine, and that I have had mild headaches with it since then. The neurologist seemed really keen on treating my headaches, which is great, except that I wasn’t there for headache treatment. He seemed to focus too hard on the one occurrence that coincided with a migraine, and was somewhat surprised when I told him that my episodes since then have involved mild headaches if any at all. I really, really get the idea that he either didn’t get the full story from the PA, or that he didn’t pay attention to the full story from the PA.
Anyhow, as I said, I’m generally a firm believer in trying almost any reasonable method to attempt to resolve various issues. But in this case, the desired treatment is to put me on migraine preventatives, which he thinks will show us for sure whether or not these spells are actually migraine-related or not. And, again, I’m all for trial and error, and I love me some good pharmaceuticals, but… these are drugs that absolutely, under no circumstances, not at all, ever, never, ever can be taken while breastfeeding.
I didn’t know when I started breastfeeding if it would work for us. I didn’t know whether I would like it, whether I would want to keep doing it for any length of time, whether it would even be important enough to me to force the issue or anything. I wasn’t sure the babies would latch. I wasn’t sure if I’d make enough milk. I wasn’t sure if I could stand to have two babies physically attached to me for so long. I certainly couldn’t imagine sticking with it for six months, much less the full recommended year.
And if you’ve read me for any length of time, you know what happened. It did work for us. I did like it. I did want to keep nursing for a length of time. The babies latched (if not perfectly, at least functionally, most of the time), I made more than enough milk (most of the time), and I loved having my babies so close to me, so often. And frankly, after the first insanely intense six months, it seemed pointless to stop, since we were all still enjoying it. Now, I find myself with two 10-month-olds, and wanting to cry when the doctor suggests that I wean.
I knew after I made it to six months that I would definitely keep going to a year, and around 8 months, I figured out that I had no reason or desire to wean after that one year mark. I could honestly see myself nursing them for an embarrassingly long amount of time (embarrassing in the US, perhaps…). The bottom line is that I am not ready to wean them, and I don’t think I will be any time soon.
When the doctor came in the room with the PA after discussing my notes, he quickly described my diagnosis, what it could mean, what it could do to me if left unchecked, or treated incorrectly, and then said that he recommended XX course of treatment, and then quickly added that because I was breastfeeding there was nothing they could do for me. He asked when I expected to wean (even though I had already told the PA that I had no intention of weaning any time soon), and when I told him that the babies would be one year in June, and that we’d just have to see what happened after that, he strongly, strongly encouraged me to wean them sooner, much sooner, preferably NOW. I (weakly) tried to defend my position, saying that the boys were absolutely not ready to wean, that it was simply not going to work, and his reply was that they would have to stop nursing if I didn’t let them**, and that it would be “rough” for “two or three days” but then, they’d forget all about it. And I just wanted to cry.
I really had no idea how emotionally attached to the breastfeeding relationship I’d become***. And it really offended me that the doctor made light of prematurely ending what has been a beautifully working breastfeeding relationship. It really makes me think that he either does not have children or that his children did not breastfeed or perhaps did not breastfeed for very long. I don’t know honestly. I just know that I have no intention of stopping breastfeeding, especially just on the off-chance that this might be migraine-ish activity causing the dizziness.
So here finds me at the crux of science and emotion. I am simply unwilling to experiment with treatments to the detriment of my parenting wishes.
Adding to this is the fact that I’m not entirely convinced that this is the cause of my spells. I’ve had only a few very mild ones since I last saw my primary care doctor at the beginning of this month, and at her suggestion, since then, I’ve been really careful about making sure that I eat quite a bit more protein and watching my overall sugar intake (and eliminating high-fructose corn syrup altogether… goodbye, my Coca-Cola Love…). And of course, there’s also the fact that, while disconcerting, as long as I have a diagnosis that ensures that I’m not, you know, dying or that I’m not actually going to progress to full-on fainting, then I can deal with the dizziness. I don’t think I could deal with trying to wean ten-month-olds who still nurse to sleep for every nighttime and every nap, nor could I deal with formula and bottles and scrubbing and trying to force them to take the bottle when they aren’t interested anymore.
So. No further diagnosis for now, except what I tease out on my own through whatever experimentation I can manage while keeping my babies safe and relatively happy. And I’d do almost anything to keep these guys happy:
*for the normal people out there who’ve never dealt with such things, syncopy is just the medical term for fainting, and thus, presyncopy is the feeling you might get right before you faint– dizziness, ringing in the ears, tunneling of vision, etc.
**There seems to be this pervasive attitude lately that babies are “just” babies, that they aren’t actual, you know, humans. They don’t deserve to be treated like humans, but rather like objects that we direct here and there, that we force into things, that we set aside to pick up when it’s convenient. Sorry, but my children are human, and as their protector/guide/care-taker, it’s my job to make sure they are treated as such. They have feelings and needs that are not only worthy of consideration (as one would offer to another adult of one’s acquaintance), but are necessary to be honored, as they are only babies, for whom we should act as advocates. I would never, ever snatch away some bit of comfort and just haughtily tell them that they’ll “get over it” in a couple of days. I am, frankly, thinking that if this neuro. dude has kids that he must have extremely easy-going kids, since mine would pitch a holy shrieking fit for days and days and days if they were cut off from breastfeeding. They’d be clingy and tearful and inconsolable for far, far longer than “two or three days”. I know that breastfeeding is about the actual feeding part, but it’s also very much about the emotional connection, the physicalness of being close to Mama, being safe and comforted. And I can’t say I know many mothers who would willingly trash their child’s lovey or deny their child a much-needed hug– why should I be expected to drop breastfeeding when it is so much more than eating to them? The answer is because they’re “just” babies… strap them in the car seat, put it in a corner with a blanket over it, and toss a pacifier in there– they’ll get over it eventually… If it becomes necessary to wean for medical reasons, I would certainly approach it with more consideration and thought than simply stopping on a whim because some doctor is impatient to wait a few months to start trying a treatment.
***I kind of wonder sometimes if there isn’t a bit of a biological imperative at work here, forcing one to grow deeply attached to behaviors that they feel strongly will benefit their offspring. I think it’s what leads some people to strongly prefer bottle feeding over breastfeeding, because they know that ultimately, they will feel more bonded with their child if they don’t resent them for forcing themselves to continue breastfeeding when they hate it (in the case where someone is choosing to bottle feed because they hate breastfeeding, of course). It’s like biology forces us to do what we know will be best for our child in our exact circumstances. I know it would devastate my boys– and me– to stop BFing now. It’s just such a force that it feels almost futile to try to fight against that instinct to keep up our BFing. Weird.