When our little girl was born, she had to go to the NICU. We had had a very difficult labor, not like all labor and deliveries aren’t difficult, but if my memory serves me correctly, it was no walk in the park. They ended up taking me for a C-section. They were concerned about the amount of meconium (first fetal poop often caused by distress) in the amniotic fluid and if she were to aspirate it into her lungs, it could cause serious problems.
I remember lying there on the surgery table and feeling such an awesome bond to my anesthesiologist who sat at my head. He talked to me and answered my questions about what was going on. Of course J-Dub was there and a team of doctors and nurses working together like a well oiled machine. I asked the anesthesiologist, “Have they started cutting yet?” And he replied, “You’re wide open.” There was a bunch of tugging and violent pulling, and then there was Emma Kate. I remember Jason repeating over and over, “She’s fine. She’s fine. She’s fine.”
And I heard her cry. Then they showed her to me, and she was fine. I remember asking the nurse if I could see my placenta, because I wanted to see my baby’s life source for the past 41 weeks. She held up a pink hospital basin with a lot of green tissue in it. She told me it was so green because of the meconium.
The next thing I remember I was lying on a bed in a room with a lady sitting across from me. Not even a hospital room, but more like a staff work room. There were lockers against one wall, and hospital people would come through and exit a door across the way. The round woman sat against the lockers on a rolling chair, her big arms resting on her stomach.
“What are you doing?” I asked her when I was awakening from my fog.
“Watching you,” she answered. “
“To make sure you wake up and recover,” she said.
“What a boring job you have.” I told her.
“Sometimes,” she agreed.
We sat there, she staring at me while I drifted in and out of sleep.
Then Jason came in, squatted by my head and told me they were taking Emma Kate to the NICU because she was having trouble breathing, and a doctor followed him in the room rolling her in her little isolette. She was lying in there, swaddled in a blanket, with a little cap on her head, and I could hear her grunting with each breath. He explained that they originally thought everything was okay, but then she began grunting, and they wanted to give her some oxygen and get her breathing regularly. She was then rolled away from her mama, away from the very person she needed to be nearest. I had only gotten to touch her once and wouldn’t be able to touch her again for several hours.
We had to wait nearly 24 hours before we could hold her. And then nearly 48 hours before she could breast feed. When we finally nursed, I wrote on my facebook wall that she was like “a hog at the trough”. She looked like a bird in the nest getting a worm from her mama, her mouth rooting around searching desperately for the milk that would sustain her. The nurse on duty remarked, “She’s going to be a breast baby, I can tell it. Look how big she opens her mouth.”
Breast baby is a more professional way of saying titty baby, which is what she was and still is. We didn’t have the breast feeding problems many other mothers have: not being able to latch on, not producing enough, the pain, the tenderness. In fact, my biggest problem was that I was a milk machine. Abundant milk supply. When my body finally told my “bottles” how much they needed to produce, it got much easier.
I believe as strongly in the benefits of breast milk as I believe in the Holy Trinity. Powerful stuff. I wanted Emma to have breast milk, but I didn’t know how long I would actually last nursing EK. I knew it was in her best interest, even if it was a pain for me. I thought I would try it for about 3 months, then 3 months turned to 6 and 6 turned into 9, the more time passed the easier it became, and today at 12.5 months we are still breastfeeding. There have been so many times in the past year I have felt tied down and trapped. I couldn’t leave her for more than 3 hours at a time. There were times when everyone ate supper except me because I was nursing the baby in the next room. There was the loss of sleep, the 7 weeks of pumping during my lunch break and conference time when I returned to work, then afterwards the refusal to take a bottle, so back to not being able to leave her for more than 3 hours. It has been a huge sacrifice, HUGE, but I’m glad that I endured.
Now the weaning process begins. She has a terrible sleep/nurse association thinking she needs to nurse in order to sleep, waking up several times a night. It just finally became too much for me. I know that I am way behind, but I just night weaned her 4 days ago. She is waking less and less and actually slept 9 hours the other night, straight through with no wakings. This is huge for us!!! I was up at 4:00 a.m. twiddling my thumbs, but at least everyone else got a good nights sleep. I should have night weaned her months ago, but was just too concerned that she might actually be hungry or was usually too tired to attempt to wean.
So now she’s sleeping more, eating more solid foods and relying on breast milk less and less. The past year my sleep deprived, breast engorged, nursing bra-clad self has longed for this moment. Getting my freedom back. Getting my hormones back. Getting my bra size back (maybe not a good thing). And now that it’s here, yes you guessed it, I’m a little sad. My little baby is growing up. As trying as breast feeding is, it is also a precious time of bonding, cuddling, gazing into your baby’s face. And now this season is ending for us. The next season stands in waiting, peeking from behind the curtain, watching for its cue to enter stage right. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I will complain about that season too. I will long for it to end, whatever it be. Somedays I will wish it away, wish her on to the next season.
Then a day will come when it is gone too, and I will sit with my memories.
For in the end, that is all we really have.