While pregnant twenty two years ago, I had no idea what Dr. Spock wanted me to do, no idea if I was going to breastfeed my baby or not and had really no (expletive) clue what I was in for. I was twenty three, crazy in love with the man that had impregnated me – on our honeymoon- and I figured we would be just fine.
What we did was muddle through. I did know that I would try breastfeeding. Whether it worked out or not was an entirely different topic of conversation. I had absolutely no family support for breastfeeding except for my Nana and my husband (which, looking back, was all I needed) and thank the universe that I had them. I should have known better about falling into the cracks of the medical system – I chalk it up to fear- so I had a horrible birth.
When my daughter was placed in my arms I was re-defined. I had no more memory of the trauma of high forceps, an hour of stitching (only to be revised because the resident was working on me, a third degree tear as his first patient and obviously had no (expletive) clue what he was doing) or of the swelling from the i.v. fluids. I was no longer of this realm. I was trapped in the deep blue vast expanse of this tiny person’s eyes. I knew we had to have our clothes off. I knew I had to hand her to her dad as I stripped and then unrolled her from her burrito like swaddling. I needed more of her skin and to explore the wonder of every inch of her. I needed to wear her – somehow meld her with me again on the OUTSIDE of my body. I could only stop shaking with her in my arms. The top of her head resting under my chin kept my heartbeat steady. I had absolutely no clue that today, this would have been the beginning of what is now classed as attachment parenting. I just knew that I needed her and that she needed me.
Breastfeeding was difficult. The two beers on the cart that housed a tv and a VHS tape depicting Italian nuns helping women to breastfeed (because we all know Italian nuns have experiential knowledge in this field) left me perplexed. And pissed off. Every time I rang for help with getting the baby latched, the same nurse would tell me that she had done the best she could to help me. In other words, she wouldn’t help me. It was my husband that just kept placing the baby on me…skin to skin. He reminded me of the scene in Blue Lagoon where Brooke Shields does the same with her baby and it feeds. (Yes, we are that old.) Something deep inside me knew I could not – I would not give her formula. I do not know what that was back then. I really don’t care.
After spending 5 days in the hospital with sitz baths, heat lamps and horrible food you are ready to go home. I remember entering our one bedroom apartment, taking her into the bedroom and sitting on the bed. I was terrified. I turned to my husband and said something along the lines of “crap, it’s up to us now.” I was fully responsible for keeping this tiny human alive. With my breasts. At least I thought that’s what would keep her alive.
After saying good bye to our family, we climbed into bed with our five pound baby. She somehow fit perfectly into the crook of my arm. Every time she rooted, I sat up, propped up by my husband and put her to my cracked, bleeding nipples. I cried and she cried. He said “It will get better….you can feed her.” I loved him and hated him because he could not possibly comprehend the pain that I was in. I loved her and felt like I had failed her because I was crying every time the dreaded feed came about. I kept her alive that first night home and she even pooed and peed and it was all yellow.
In the morning I called my Nana and told her how raw my nipples were and she told me to warm up a little olive oil and rub it in…she said Italian olive oil would be the best. Now, if only those Italian nuns in that video could have given me the same advice six days ago I would have least gotten something from my hospital stay.
As the olive oil worked its magic and I learned not to touch my baby’s head (forceps do make for a wee bit of a sore head) my breasts healed and I became a geyser. My baby would cry and I would pick her up. I would wrap her in a single flat bed sheet and tie her to my body. We would nap in the afternoon and breastfeed side lying. We would walk everywhere together…her tied to me and her stroller filled with groceries on the way home from the store. We spent our days alone…getting to know each other. There were no mum and baby groups, no Just Beginnings…we were company for each other during the day. None of my friends had babies, so I didn’t know if anyone else was walking at a certain age, cutting teeth or sleeping all night…I just knew what my baby was doing. I didn’t weigh her twice a week…she just felt heavier in my arms. Her clothes didn’t fit after a while and her cloth diapers needed to be changed more frequently.
As she grew and we moved to a house I still responded to her…and she responded to me. We were always there for each other. I had no idea what “type” of parent I was. I didn’t care and I still don’t care. I just did what worked for us. We slept well together, the three of us. We never lost sleep unless she was sick. I never worried that she would never sleep on her own. It never crossed my mind that she would not be independent. I just knew that I loved her and wanted to make sure she knew that. I wanted her to feel loved. The only way I knew how to do that was to keep her close, feed her and be with her. Now as she approaches twenty two and her siblings are 19 and almost 17, I can see that is what she needed. What they all needed. And so did I. I will continue to parent without a label. I will do what is right for us, just as my babies will do what is right for themselves and their children. And we will call it what it is, not the label that someone else wants to slap on it.
With much love to you as you parent,
Posted By Carol Peat
Category : Blog Posted by Carol Peat on June 13, 2012