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Lucky, lucky, lucky

December 18, 2006

Tracyann, long time best friend since drivers-ed, comes to stay with her 18 month old daughter. Her daughter is beautiful, blond, wispy with her forefinger permanently stuck in her mouth. Her daughter is quiet and shy and wears cloth diapers that leak all over me when I hold her in the wood store while her mama looks for cool wood for her husband to carve. Tracyann lays down at the zoo on her side next to her daughter and lifts her shirt for her giant-to-me-now child to nurse her into a cat nap. We snack and talk as if having a person on your boob, out in public, AT THE ZOO is the most natural and normal thing in the world.

I don’t know anyone else who nurses. I don’t really know anyone else that has kids and she has 2. Well, three but that is another story. She has left her older child, a son, behind with his dad to play in Asheville with their friends. I think about what fun we could have had if she had just left her daughter behind as well because she wasn’t really a baby and it is only for a few days. She goes to bed with her daughter versus staying up and talking with me into the night. She is centered, distracted by her motherly duties and very loving and kind. Tracyann is still silly and we still make each other laugh through some weird past life type connection that I have only felt with Detta and Debbi since. I could have married Tracyann if we had been so inclined I love her that much. I don’t understand her connection–both physical and mystical–she has with her daughter. I hope to and am scared I won’t when D and I are finally pregnant.

I had never wanted children of my own body—I assumed I would adopt because it is the family you are not the one that you create yourself that is what love is to me. I couldn’t imagine being pregnant and nursing and caring for an infant. It did not seem possible. The model I had to look at seemed so foreign from everything you see on TV or what I had experienced as a nanny taking care of other peoples kids. Tracyann did not fit the mold as I knew it. I wondered if I would be a failure if I could not do it like her. I saw how happy she seemed and how healthy and lovely her baby girl was and I wanted that for my child. I wondered if that was really the way to do it and decided that it must be.

Luckily for me my only friend with kids was a hippie-nursing a toddler-vegatarian-cosleeping-homeopathic using-homebirthing mama goddess and if Tracyann could do it then I thought maybe I could be like that. Instinctively I knew that I would nurse, cosleep and turn to my child after it was born versus trying to make our new little tiny person squeeze into our life—I would make room in mine.

Later that summer I would become pregnant right before our appointment with the Fertility guy my friend Tressa told me about. He is so great and funny. He asks me when I am pregnant what kind of birth I am thinking of and did I have questions? I told him I had looked into midwives and found one right near me that did water births. It turns out to be who he would recommend anyway. I feel smart for selecting her in advance. He tells me there are only 2 doctors he would recommend if I wanted an elective c-section. I gasp and say why would anyone want to elect to have major abdominal surgery? He says, scratching his chin and saying, “Well….” turning to face my husband, “Your wife’s body isn’t going to the same after a vaginal birth. Everything gets….ummm…kinda…….floppy.” D just turns purple and smiles at the doctor while kind of kicking me under the table and I can hear the silent voice in his head screaming, “MAKE HIM STOP TALKING TO ME!”. I just laugh.

Lucky for me my doctor is a great guy because we start off with lots of complications and bleeding and ultrasounds and blood tests. Everything simmers down and I move along to my midwife. Premature labor, bedrest, no growing baby and emergency induced delivery. This is not the birth I thought I would have. The pitocin is horrible. My son is so small he slips down ready to come out but my cervix says NO. I get an epidural and feel like a failure. The time passes quickly after that and a few hours later he comes out, screaming and weighs 2lbs 14 oz. We knew he was a boy and had planned to name him Valentine, as a middle name, after his paternal grandfather. If I had known he would be 2/14 we would have planned on naming him St. Patrick and he might have weighed almost 4 pounds instead. I hold him, screaming, little tiny blond mini-man. I speak his name and he stops, forming an O with his tiny mouth and stares at me with wide blue eyes. He is aware and awake and pees and poops several times in the NICU. I long to hold him but go and pump instead while they wait to see if he crashes and how his retarded growth has really affected him.

Lucky for me the doctor on duty the next morning at 6 am is a breastfeeding mom of a toddler and sees on my chart that the neonatologist has written I am breastfeeding. She orders the nurses to put the baby to my breast and tells me how great he did through the night. I have never been glad to have small breasts  until that morning. His mouth is ridiculously small. He is red all over from jaundice and is skinny with a large fuzzy head. He nurses like a champ for 2 days then realizes how early he is and falls down into prematurity. I console myself that if he did it once, he would do it again. 2 weeks later he woke up and we nursed and nursed. I cried and cried finally feeling like I could be a mother to my baby. It wasn’t so much the actual nursing but that he was in my arms and he was mine and incredibly it felt perfect. It felt as though he had always been there. I could not truly remember my life, just hours before, without him. I feel like as long as he nurses, sleeps with me and I listen to my mama-ness, he will be fine.

I read a lot. Too much. I read all about prematurity and look online for information. I hook up with a mentor with Preemie-L. She is in Australia and really great. We have our same neonatoligist as our regular baby doctor and it is comforting to know he is there. Everyone is supportive of my breastfeeding except the nurse who told me I would kill him if I kept wanting to hold him. Except the neonatologist who complained constantly that he was gaining weight too slowly and not catching up quickly enough. I sobbed and nursed and worried and cried and worried until I called an IBLC who came to my house and was also a LLL leader. She told me right off how well he seemed to be doing and praised my efforts. She told me to nurse laying down. Go to sleep. Stay in bed. Nurse while sleeping and take my eyes off the clock. She told me about breast compression and fenugreek tea. She gives me her number and orders me to call her 2 x’s a day. Her name is Doris and I totally fall completely in love with her. Within a week I am leaking milk again, my son is nursing so incredibly and gains weight. He weighs 12 pounds at 6 months and is finally gaining like a normal baby.

Our doctor, while highly qualified to take care of sick babies, continues to treat my son as though he were still sickly and doing poorly. Lucky for me there is a great mom at the LLL meetings I just start attending who had preemies—TWINS—-who is still breastfeeding them and says she has a very supportive doctor. I switch and hurt the other doctors feelings and feel terrible as if I had broken up with a friend. But he doesn’t make me feel good and I need someone who won’t make me feel horrible for my parenting choices. Our new doctor is wonderful. She really ignores me through our whole first visit never taking her eyes off my son. She looks over his chart after I am done talking and just says, “MY he has gained a lot of weight since his birth. What a wonderful job breastfeeding. Don’t stop.”

I don’t stop. I keep going for no particular reason. I don’t nurse him on purpose until he was 4 1/2. I just do. He is small and needs me and it felt like the one thing I could do, even if I was not doing it well right away, that I could always do for him. I could not stay pregnant for very long, I could not grow him inside of me but I could nurse him. I could keep at it until I got it right. I would ask questions. I would be swallowed into  a tide of breastmilk through LLL. I would feel inspired because every single mom I meet sounds just like me. Worried, confused, misinformed and tired but determined.

I felt lucky I found my way. I will never take that for granted.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2006 6:05 pm

    Cole, it’s more than just luck, of course. It’s your dedication, passion, hard work, and overwhelming love for your baby. This is such a great breastfeeding story.

  2. December 20, 2006 2:01 am

    Great story. My son is also four, still nurses occasionally, and started life at two pounds, 14 ounces. He spent 28 days in the NICU. The day we brought him home was the best day of my life.

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