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Milk and time

September 24, 2006

Before I became pregnant with my first child, my son, I had fears about breastfeeding. Distinctly I remember a dream I had that echoed my fears of motherhood well before I was even pregnant. My dream took place in a cafe. Bright white sunshine and a cozy booth of some anyplace type diner. I was holding my baby and it started to cry and so I put it to my breast and began to breastfeed it. When I looked down to gaze at the baby I saw that it was a cell phone and I threw it on the table. I was jolted awake to the idea that maybe I was not cut out to be a mother and what the hell was I thinking????

Pregnant with my son was not what you would call a success. Right from the start there were weirdly colored fluids that leaked and unstable hormone levels and a discrepancy over my last period and how big the baby was. Eventually the pregnancy progressed and I hooked up with a fabulous midwife experienced with water birth and I loved her practice right away. The hospital that she practiced at was only blocks from my house and I was assured that they would even come over to my house before I went to the hospital so I would not go too early. I started having contractions the week I started my Bradley classes but did not know what they were. I was working full time, bread winner of the house as my artist husband was home doing his art thing. My employers were not happy that I was pregnant and had just spent a few thousand dollars on specialty training for me. I was expected to run up and down stairs, be on my feet in sales all day and work 60 hour weeks along with the rest of my workmates. I loved my job and was pretty good at it. I had planned for my husband to stay home with the spawn and I would continue to work as I made many dollars and had the health insurance.

On a sunday at work I had developed this horrible back pain every time I walked around. I took off my shoes and it did not help. I drank some water and had a snack and took an Advil and it did not help. It was getting so bad I had to excuse my self from some clients that I was trying to sell a $10,000 dining room table to because I could not concentrate or talk as the pain was pretty bad. I called my midwife afraid I had a bladder infection or something and she told me to LAY DOWN and drink as much water  as I could and go home. Right away. She said she thought I was in labor.

This seemed ridiculous to me because I was only 29ish weeks along and the baby was not cooked yet and ready to make his debut. I called my husband and he came to get me. All night I lay on my left side and willed myself –my body to cooperate. I mindless watched TV wondering if our baby would die or if I would die? The pains did not stop and I woke up in the middle of the night and sat bolt upright in bed and threw up. The pains became worse and I went to the hospital. Luckily, my midwife whom I refer to as Yoda, was on call and not one of her partners and they got me to a room and in a bed right away. They gave me fluids intravenously and I lay there shivering from the cold bolus filtering its way through my body. When Yoda brought me a warmed blanket and covered me head to toe I had never been more grateful for a gesture that immediately alleviated my discomfort and chill. I lay there hooked up to monitors wondering if my contractions would stop. They did. Without drugs and I felt lucky. I was only a bit dilated and seemed to be fine.

I was sent home on bedrest after 2 days in the hospital. The only chink was the morning I was discharged the morning nurse came in to check on my little buddy and his heart stopped right in the middle of the doppler test. She froze and I thought I would pass out. More loudly than needed, I said, “WHAT IS GOING ON??? IS HE DEAD???” She said no, she didn’t think so because we could hear him rolling around. Then all of a sudden his heart leaped up again and we could hear it lub dub, lub dub again. I asked her what had happened and she supposed he might have been holding on to his umbilcal cord and had cut off his oxygen supply. Realizing he was not breathing he probably just let go. She chuckled and gathered her stuff and left. I sat there feeling a bit freaked because not only was I growing a tiny penis in my uterus but he also could just grab shit and perhaps off himself.

I went home and gestated and read and gestated and read. Mostly I read about preemies because I was pretty sure I would have one. I would get myself all worked up in a lather reading about PDA and Necortizing Endercolitis and Apnea–OH MY! and start having contractions. I went for about 3 weeks like that and in the middle of the night, I sat up in bed, felt a snap! and my water broke.

I languished in the hospital not going into labor waiting for my son to be about 34-36 weeks and we could safely deliver him as long as I did not develop a fever or other signs of infection. I ate Oreos and worried and watched bad TV on the hospital tube. They stole a VCR for me from Peds so I could watch movies with my husband at night. While having my AFI levels checked they discovered ,because I asked the tech to weigh him,  that our little dude had only grown about 5 ounces in 4 weeks. I was induced the next day.

I tried for a non-medicated birth but the Pitocin contractions and the mandatory strap down trapped on the bed thing was too much and I had an epidural after about 6 hours. 2 hours later our son was born. He was so tiny. 2 lbs 14 oz and 15 inches long. Blond chicken fuzz and a big alien like head. My son was asymmetrically small –a  good thing — and his head was enormous while his body was scrawny and small. He screamed holy hell and his APGAR scores were 8 at birth and 10 five minutes later. I got to hold him and he lay bawling in my arms and I spoke to him, “Hey little man…..hey little man” and he suddenly stopped crying and his tiny mouth formed an O and he opened his eyes and looked right at me. I kissed his face and smelled him and kissed him and cried.  As soon as my epidural legs would cooperate and walk me to the NICU I went to see him. He was wide awake, peeing and pooping in his open isolet. The nurse said he was doing so well and she had just bathed him. I got to hold him for a few minutes again and then was told to go to bed and come back at 6 am. I did but the nurse would not let me nurse him although he did so well and the pediatrician on call was excited I wanted to breastfed. The bitch said that she had just had him out and I could not  hold him again unti it was time for his “cares”. I went back to try to pump and eat and wait and wait and wait. At 9 am I came back with a 1/2 tsp of colostrum and got to hold my son to my breast.

Strangely to me, it was right. It felt easy. I had no issue and just wanted him there. He latched on and did so well. For the next 2 days he nursed fairly well and did much better than they had expected him to. I was there everyday with the only break at night around 11 pm until about 6 am the next morning. It took 3 weeks but we learned to nurse with the help of Jennifer. I will never forget her kindness and encouragement. Even when another nurse told me I would kill him if I was going to keep holding him. I had read enough to know she was full of shit so I was just mad and ignored her. I knew I could just change hospitals if I had to and we would do what we wanted. One week on the Peds floor to learn to be mama and baby together and we went home. The day after my 30th birthday.

I struggled to nurse my baby and worried constantly that he was not gaining enough. I was supposed to return to work but could not do it. I could not leave him and I quit my job. More than 5 years later I still feel guilty for it. I am not a quitter by nature. So I became a stay at home mom. Many conversations with the only breastfeeding stay at home mom I knew, my High School BFF Tracyann and she just listened and supported me while I came to my own conclusions.

I went to my first La Leche League meeting when my son was 6 months old. I was so freaked by all the big fat rolly polly babies and compared my scrawny blondy to those full term babies. I sat and listened to a woman with whom I would become very good friends with despair over the eating habits of her 28lb baby at 4 months!!!!!!!!!! because she wasn’t sure he was eating enough and she did not know what to do. My son did not weigh 28lbs until he was about 2 1/2 years old. I sat there and realized that I was not alone. I was only one of many mothers who doubt their parenting skills and wonder if they are doing “it” right. Luckily I come from breastfeeders on my side and my husbands. Secretly I think everyone was so happy that the little guy was healthy they did not care what I did to him to make him that way. Co-sleep? Sure. Breastfeed and no bottles? Okay. Keep family and friends away when they are sick and avoid crowded places like malls and parties? You betcha.

I became passionate about breastfeeding. I still am. I became a La Leche League Leader and recently retired so I can study nursing and not feel guilty because I don’t want to make time anymore. I breastfed my son until he was 4 1/2 and tandem nursed he and his sister for 1 1/2 years. That seems like a long time when I write it down. I am still nursing his sister at 2 1/2. I am a breastfeeding mama. I feel so lucky to have known so many diverse intelligent women through La Leche League and will always be grateful to them as an organization and to each mother who helped me and I helped in return.

Today my son is a small but average sized 5 1/2 year old who runs like lightening in soccer and can do a cartwheel in gymnastics. He loves to make up jokes that have the word KONK in them. He adores mushrooms and cauliflower. He is an avid bird watcher like his mama and we all have become passionate about Praying Mantis this summer. He is a loving brother –mostly. He tells me at least once a day how pretty I am and how much he loves me. He did not turn into a cell phone and I have never tossed him onto a table.

Thanks LLL.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2006 3:08 am

    I’d love to hear one of his “konk” jokes. I already think he’s one of the funniest kids I’ve ever met.

  2. September 25, 2006 1:36 pm

    Wonderful essay, I’m so glad to get this whole story.

    Oddly enough, before both my babies were born I had “successful” breastfeeding dreams that didn’t pan out in reality. Perhaps if you had been MY LLL leader, I would have been able to break on through to the other side. Next life, maybe.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful birth story! Amazing how your little man is such a big, healthy boy now.

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