It is a Friday...Random Acts of Poetry Day...so I will start off with a not-quite-a-poem that is sort of the happily ever after to the story I will tell you today (which is a response to L.L. Barkat's Blogger Be Brave post.)
We lie together
stomach to stomach, and more
Delicate nose lifts up
‘ore rise of swollen breast
Eyes are watching
one another, locked
in shared fragility,
Sweet milk is flowing
to the rhythm...
suck suck swallow breathe
United in the moment,
Both mother and child
are coaxed to sleep
by love’s nourishing bonds...
suck suck swallow breathe
Once upon a time, when she had just arrived, she suckled against me, instinctively drawing in the liquid gold. I imagined she was imprinting, smelling, tasting, feeling softness of skin, connecting...mother...mother. And then sleep stole over her.
(Picture deleted... one of my guy friends hinted that he was "a little freaked out" by the picture that suggested a newborn was nursing...sorry boys!)
She did not eat again that night. In the morning they took her from me. I found her in the NICU and offered her more sweet milk. But, as if she were content to sleep her life away, she suckled no more.
Hovering over me the words came like spikes. “She doesn’t know how” “Her mouth is too small.” “Her tongue is too big.“ “It’s too much work” “It’s the Down Syndrome” they said.
I sat alone in a tiny room, with an occupied sign on the door for a lock, and fumbled with clear tubing and other parts. Smooshing hard cup to breast, I flipped the switch on the metal motor. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Sprays of milk captured in small plastic bottles. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Sprays of tears captured in an olive green cotton maternity shirt.
By four days old, feeding had become a dance of missteps. Despite the thin snake-like green tube taped to her cheek, climbing up her nostril, hanging down the back of her throat and winding into her stomach, she showed interest in my offerings. She would root toward me, opening her mouth and poking out her tongue. Her mouth couldn’t open wide enough. Her tongue wouldn’t stay down. She could not latch on to me no matter how I squeezed or flattened my flesh. We’d go through the motions until she tired out and nodded off, or until I felt guilty enough to move to the next step, the bottle.
Although she was my third baby, I had to be guided along...told how to hold it, how to move it and what not. There is a trick to holding the cheeks and applying pressure under the chin that is supposed to elicit a good latch and suck. It felt forced and my tiny baby gagged in agreement. My hands were shaking and I was overcome with sorrow.
Still hovering, nurses attempted to console me, “They are almost all like this.” They. They. Children with Down Syndrome...They. I wanted to yell out that my baby is not a “they”. She is more than a syndrome. She is her own person. But what do I know about this and besides I was choking on bile by then anyway. The nurse could see that I was frustrated and near tears and she wrote on the day’s medical sheet that mother was not accepting the diagnosis well.
Jim's August Evening
Andy's Would You Have Known Him
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