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Parenting, Babies, and Misophonia

by Sharon Burns

In January 2021, I learned I was pregnant. I was excited, anxious, and embracing the changes my body was going through. Being known as “mommy” was something I simultaneously craved and felt weirded out by. My emotions were–and still are–all over the place. But the high I felt while pregnant was all over by the time my little one was home with my husband and I for 24 hours.

The intensity of my misophonia stayed about the same during my pregnancy. There were days when I was more sensitive to it than others, but I was more focused on dealing with morning sickness, sciatica, and the constant kicking of the child in my womb. I pretty much vomited throughout my pregnancy and grew very sensitive to car movement. Car sickness was a regular occurrence.

I gave birth late September 2021. There were hardly any times when my misophonia was an issue. I guess I was in too much pain to really care. I did not get an epidural and gave birth naturally. I only took Motrin from time to time and was injected with morphine during the last stretch.

I was in labor for 24 hours. I pushed five times when the time came, and my baby was out. It hurt like hell. But baby had arrived and I experienced temporary relief.

I was determined to breastfeed. I wanted to give my baby optimal nutrition. But my sensory issues had other plans.

I was two weeks in to breastfeeding and I quit. My sensory issues didn’t let me do what I wanted to do for my baby. During this time, I didn’t feel human. Every time my baby breast fed, I wanted to rip my skin off. Every time my baby touched my breasts, I wanted to die. I hated myself, my life, and almost seriously considered giving my baby up to someone else.

I switched to formula after a huge meltdown in front of my husband, who didn’t realize how bad breastfeeding was treating me. He wanted me to transition slowly but I just couldn’t. I needed to stop NOW, or I’d drive myself off a cliff. I don’t think I was kidding. I was that desperate. I don’t think misophonia was my biggest problem anymore.

Along with those feelings, I also couldn’t hold my baby for long periods of time. If I did, I’d get severely overwhelmed and my husband would have to step in. That’s how bad my sensory issues are. Touch is difficult for me, and all of that touching and stimulation from breastfeeding was making me go insane. Eventually, my husband did practically all the holding. Even now, though I’m a lot better, he holds the baby often. My doctor diagnosed me with PPD/PPA and upped my medication dose.

As the weeks turned into months, coping with Misophonia while also caring for a child was proving to be rather difficult. Now that I wasn’t breastfeeding and hating myself all the time, misophonia became my primary issue again. The headphones that I used before baby were no longer practical. They were huge, needed some maintenance which was giving me trouble, and most importantly, would be a baby hazard eventually. They frequently slipped, sometimes off my head, and I didn’t want it to slip and fall on the baby. I didn’t have time to try fixing the headphones and trying to make the bulkiness work.

This means I mostly did without headphones. Sometimes this was fine, as I spent most of my days in my room or another room away from my triggering family member that loves with my husband and I. But there were days when I couldn’t avoid it and I was raging internally while making a bottle of formula.

Late this month (Feb. 2022) I invested in good quality, noise cancelling earbuds. I was going crazy not being able to drown out the noise around me as much as I wanted to. I got a refurbished pair of Bose earbuds. They’re only slightly uncomfortable, but ultimately very much worth the price. I put them in, play some white noise, and that’s all I hear. I can also listen to my favorite podcasts again without worrying about bulkiness, slipping, or baby trying to grab.

Baby is 4 months, almost 5, and is growing so well. Baby reached all kinds of milestones. Baby is learning to make me and my husband laugh by doing certain things. Baby is well loved and my husband and I have lots of support. It’s hard to focus on that when I have depressive/anxious episodes. Not long ago, I was crying in the middle of the night just from being generally overwhelmed. I have zero time to myself a lot of the time, or if I have a break from the baby, I need to spend that break doing chores around the house. This was stressful for me when I was still working. So I made a huge decision.

I decided to quit my job right after my husband also quit his job to go to school and get a better, enjoyable job. I decided I needed to spend my time at home with my baby and focus on housework. AKA, I decided to embrace the homemaker life.

I loved my job. It was run by a great boss, I had great coworkers and got so much help and leeway. But I decided having a job right now was not my calling. Now all I have to worry about is the home, my baby, and my husband. While I was working, I had to think about that along with who I was going to ask to watch my baby for several hours, wake up with enough time to get to said family member’s house and get to work on time, and keep an ear out for my phone in case the person watching baby needs me to pick him up early.

Being a working mom was never something I wanted, but I read about all these working moms, or have friends with kids who are working and seem to have it together, so I thought I could do it too. But I hated it. I hated being away from my baby for so long. I hated barely having time for myself, let alone looking presentable for the workplace. I’m fortunate I even have the choice of being a homemaker, because I’m sure there are moms out there who prefer that, but have to work. Sometimes I feel bad for even having a choice.

Despite how bad my sensory issues are and my misophonia, I can’t seem to be away from baby for long periods of time. My husband will always offer me opportunities to get out of the house and I almost always turn them down. I actually want to stay home. It’s…strange. But somehow feels right. It’s not that I don’t want to see friends, cause I do. But I just have different priorities.

All of this to say, I love my baby. I’m excited to watch him grow. And I look forward to teaching him everything I know about life.

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Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.
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