Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bittersweet moments

My littlest, the Bear, and I were laying on the bed the other day, me leaning over him kissing and stroking his large forehead. He was drowsy but not ready to give up the fight and drift off to sleep. Instead he began exploring my face and in little, sleepy strokes began tracing my features, whispering, "I like yours nose. I like yours eyebwows. I like yours fo-head. I like yours cheeks." One by one, naming off my parts and pieces and loving on his momma. It was so sweet I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. All I could think is, "How can this child, this sweet little boy, grow up and one day cause me pain and worry? I can't fathom worrying about drugs and drinking, sex and peer-pressure, and the other ways kids jump off the deep end. He's going to stay this sweet forever, right? Please tell me he will!"

I know deep down he won't. That he'll be a teenager. But I just hope I can remember that moment when I was his whole world and he was mine.

His whole first year, from the moment labor began with my husband 2 1/2 hours away through to the end of month 10 were fraught with anxiety. Actually, it hasn't stopped because now they want to test him for hydrocephalus, but I think the thing that hurts the most is that he couldn't nurse. To so many women that's not a big deal but for me, it was huge and devastating. Little Louie had nursing issues for three months after birth because he'd been sick from a UTI and too weak to nurse effectively. So he'd starved until day 10 and that starvation at the breast caused him to refuse to nurse out of anxiety. He finally went back to the breast at 3 months and things were fine. But with the Bear I'd really looked forward to a great nursing experience. To nursing my last child until we were both good and done. From start to finish.

Life can be so cruel. Because he got his big ole noggin stuck on my pubic bone he ended up with damage to the nerves leading to his tongue. We didn't know this, but he did keep loosing weight and was eventually hospitalized for jaundice. It was during that time that the lactation consultant worked with him and discovered his problem. We tried everything. Every position, every tool, every single trick of the trade. Bottles were the only thing keeping him alive and because he couldn't actually suck, but bit the nipple instead to get milk to flow, that was only barely. Two ounces of breast milk would take two hours to ingest. He'd sleep for an hour and we'd start the feeding again. The Bear was one tired little guy.

We took him to a speech therapist who had a great reputation for getting non-nursers to the breast. I took him in, confident that I'd walk out with a nursing baby. So excited. Instead, after a lengthy consult and exam her words were, "I'm sorry. So sorry. But, if they start talking feeding tube you come to me before you let them put one in."

WHAT? A feeding tube? It was that bad. He was that exhausted from bottle feeding his couple ounces at a time that she predicted there might come a day when he would fall into the failure to thrive category.

So I resigned myself to pumping. I'd pump one side and nuzzle him to the other side, trying to help him attach, encourage him to try. To my great disappointment, for both of us, it never worked.

Pumping became an obsession. A burden, a chore, exhausting and emotional. But I persisted for 10 months, bought 18 glass bottles to store my milk and feed him to avoid BPA's, and obsessed about the quantity I achieved at each session. Always helping for another drop, another drip, that last tiny bit of nutrition for my precious little monkey.

Bottle feeding doesn't seem to have hurt him in the least. He's still a little boy obsessed with Momma's 'jurgies', poking them and squealing, "Squishy Tushy!" But for momma, my failure, the thought of what we both missed still has me mourning. Wishing, longing that something could've been different.

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