Wins and Woes is our community newsletter — a place for your stories and questions, where you can connect directly with other ParentData readers. A new issue is sent out every Saturday through the ParentData newsletter. To join the conversation, please sign up for a free subscription to ParentData.

Every so often, you send us a story that points to something particularly complex and true about parenting. It’s the kind of story that’s worth pausing on.

Today, we’re starting with a story from a reader going through a separation with her partner:

I’m the biological/birth mom to a 16-month-old toddler. Her other parent is my soon-to-be ex-wife, who supplied the egg for our IVF embryo. I have been, and am still, the primary caregiver. We both love our daughter, but my ex is the one who asked for a divorce when our daughter was eight months old (while I was still recovering from a traumatic labor). I tried to delay the separation but have since moved out, not by choice, and we have a shared custody schedule in which we each have our daughter for two days at a time. 

There are no words to describe the pain I feel when my daughter is not with me for two days. It isn’t natural for a baby to be away from her mother, or for a mother to be kept from her child. I know that there is nothing I can do to change this arrangement, but I don’t know how to not worry, miss my baby, raise her, mentor her, or protect her when she isn’t with me. I am beyond broken.

—Missing My Baby

This isn’t the part of parenting you think about or plan on when you have a kid. But it’s a part that happens. I get a lot of questions about divorce and separation, most of which are about how to make sure your kid will be all right. This question hits hard because it’s also about the grief of separating from your kid, even when the separation from your partner is the right thing.

Please share your thoughts and kind words for this mom — or any of the parents in the stories below — in the comments. This is your space. As always, you can contribute your own story or question for a future newsletter here.

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D-MER Self-Diagnosis

When I nurse, I experience “dysphoric milk ejection reflex,” or D-MER. It happens every time I have a letdown and is like an egg of depression was cracked over my head. It’s not fun. I sought out countless doctors, pediatricians, OB-GYNs, psychologists, L&D nurses — the gamut. I took antidepressants for the first time at the highest dosage, with no effect. I felt like I was going crazy. I had a hunch it was different from postpartum depression. Thanks to some internet sleuthing, I finally found What a relief! With my second baby, I spoke to a magical lactation consultant who affirmed everything I had suspected. This was purely physiological. Just knowing made a world of difference. So I’m sharing here, in the hopes that medical professionals and nursing parents alike have one extra piece of information that might help in those wild early months.

Poop Milestones No One Talks About

My 4.5-year-old finally started pooping in the toilet about a week ago. We had tried all the things: when she was 3, it was incentives, M&Ms, sticker charts, presents. Then we settled into the long haul of a “no pressure” approach and just making casual suggestions to try it every so often. I wish I could point to some magic tip, but I think she just decided she was ready. I suspect there are many in this boat thinking they are the exception to the rule (I certainly did), when really it is probably very common. Anyway, you can’t make your kid poop, but you can do an elaborate, silent, happy dance outside the bathroom door when they finally get with the program. 🎉

Broken Heart/Systems

My heart wants another baby. My wallet can’t justify it — or at least, can’t right now, and there’s no major change in sight. My husband was out of work the first year of the pandemic, and with the overall impact of inflation, stagnant wages, and the outrageous costs of day care in the U.S., it feels like we’re walking a financial tightrope every day with no safety net at all. We work hard and we live a simple life, and it still just doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m so angry and heartbroken that our choice feels like it’s more driven by our broken social system than what my husband and I want.

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