Monday, August 15

...given for you...

In the midst of all the adventure we've faced in the past 3 weeks, the most emotional and trying situation for me has been to establish a breastfeeding relationship with Wren. In my birthing and breastfeeding classes, and in all the books I read in anticipation of motherhood I was warned repeatedly about 'nipple confusion' and 'tongue tie' and 'bad latch' and 'non-nutritive sucking'. My mantra (on the birth plan, to my doula and to every person I met in the hospital on the day she was born) was "No bottles, pacifiers or artificial nipples of any kind". I had no doubt in my mind that my baby would be 100% breastfed, to the extent that I bought a crappy single breast pump that I never ever planned to use, and stocked up on about 3 baby bottles just in case. Then I bought myself a slew of nursing tops, bras, a nightgown and 'dreamy soft' nursing pads.
But that was all before our baby girl was rushed from the delivery room to the NICU within minutes of her birth. Before she laid under an incubator for her first 3 days of life with oxygen pumped into her nose, mucus suctioned out of her stomach and an IV drip that sent antibiotics and some kind of sugar water into her blood stream interchangeably. When we walked into the NICU to see her for the first time she was already sucking on a pacifier. And on the day they decided she was allowed to take milk by mouth we arrived 10 minutes after her first bottle.
Today Wren is 3 weeks old and we are just beginning to establish a good routine and a good rhythm that gets to her latch. I pumped around the clock for weeks, and have put her to my breast every possible chance to increase a milk supply that was severely affected by the stress and busy-ness of the hospital stay and a bedbug infestation at home. There are still really rough and frustrating days (yesterday, for example), and she still requires suplemental formula and still cannot latch without the use of a little silicone witch's cap.

But last night, as I held Wren at my breast and cried for about the 1 millionth time I turned to Luke and announced that at last I'm ok with using a nipple shield. She's getting my milk, we are bonding and who even cares if there is a piece of silicone between us for now. He said "ok" and I think we both breathed a sigh of relief to give up that unnecessary guilt and stress.

To risk sounding heretical, as I sit with Wren and feed her throughout the day (and night) I constantly think of Jesus at the last supper when he hands pieces of bread to his companions and says "This is my body given for you." If only we as children understood how much of themselves our mothers have given us. In the womb, in the breaking of their bodies during childbirth and through the sustenance that flows from their own bodies and into ours. I have a feeling I stand to learn quite a bit from this whole motherhood stint.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Joy,

    This is a really beautiful reflection. I am smiling at the first picture of you three as one happy family at home. I'm so glad that Wren has recovered from the infection. I like how you describe how well you had every detail planned out regarding breastfeeding and pacifiers, and then the shock of the plan being disrupted. You and Luke seem to have handled it so well.

    The analogy of Jesus' words along with the literal breaking and giving of your body for your baby over the past 3 weeks, or 9 months + 3 weeks is really special. We can't fully comprehend, maybe until we're going through what you're going through, how much our mothers have given us. No wonder some of them have such high expectations! What else is there to think about during all of those hours during the day and night breastfeeding, but dreams about what your special baby will become. I look forward to hearing more of your insights as you reflect on the early days of motherhood.

    Islam teaches that the mother, by merely carrying and birthing her baby, deserves a lifetime of respect and care from her child. This is before there's any mention of everything the loving mother does for the child beyond the birth. On the other hand, Muslim mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their children for two years... I don't know whether you can imagine that at this point... :) Of course I can't. I'm stuck with occasional (once every couple of months?) dreams that I have a baby and for all sorts of bad-dream reasons find I'm not able to breastfeed. I guess beneath the surface there's the dream to have a child, and then the worries that sometimes go along with that.

    Tell Wren I said hi!