Friday, February 20, 2009

Nursing - Part 1

It is a Friday...Random Acts of Poetry 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,
eyelids swaying
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.

RAP participants:
Nancy's Awaken
Jim's August Evening
Andy's Would You Have Known Him
LL's Scarlet
Erica's Red
Megan Willome


Lyla Lindquist said...

What a story. Having had a little one in the NICU, I remember the other worldish feeling of it all, the way things to be said took on a wholly different meaning to me than to the one saying. Thank you for sharing this part of you with us.

Anonymous said...

lovely poem

RissaRoo said...

(((hugs))) I would have bristled at "they" as well. The only thing worse than nursing problems is nursing problems due to your precious baby's health! I hope you and your beautiful girl have worked it there a part II to this story? I am eager to read it, if there is.

mom2six said...

Thank you for your vulnerability. nAncY is right - the poem is lovely.

Laura said...

We take for granted that these things will come naturally, don't we? I admire your persistence. Want to hug you through that pain. I remember how stressful it was to worry that my children were getting enough to eat (heck, I still do--and they are 10 and 12!). Our nursing time is such a precious memory.

Thanks for sharing your story--and the lovely poem!

Jennifer said...

I appreciate this on many levels. The beauty of your poetry. The reminder of what it was like to nurse a baby, and a sense of what it would have been like to be told it wouldn't work. ... And then the painful "they." God bless you for your vulnerability here.
Way to go, Mom.

Anonymous said...

Kudos for you mom for hangin in there and sticking to your guns, your beautiful daughter is doing great, many prayers have been answered in regards to both you and your daughter. I know you never gave up trying no matter how many times the nurses said it was basically useless and that she may never nurse properly.

kthom said...

I just wanted to thank you for leaving a comment on my blog. I don't know how you found me but your words were comforting and much appreciated. I am thinking positive thoughts and feel so blessed to know that I will be the mother to this darling little girl no matter what the package she may come in. Lucky me. Your sweet little gal looks like a baby cute. Thanks again!!

Lisa said...

Wow. This is so painfully and beautifully written, and it brings back my exact memories of Finn's stay in the NICU as I tried to nurse him in the beginning.

Thanks for the comment on my blog, by the way.

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