I know that in some people’s eyes I am too young (at age 23) to be married, and really too young to have a child, but I did not rush this. I dated my now husband for 5 years before we got married. I graduated college and I am a registered nurse, so I’ve got a career that I even plan to further by obtaining my doctorate degree and be a midwife. My husband and I own our home, own our cars, and made the conscious effort to try to conceive a child.
So why is it that when we did everything ‘right’ (except our age apparently) that we have a sick baby we can’t help, and have to step back and let the slew of surgeons, neonatologists, nurses, and PA’s care for him?
I see babies in the NICU and hear their mother talking about how much she smoked while she was pregnant– and she is curious why her placenta was insufficient? I hear the babies addicted to drugs crying in the next nursery, and I hate their mothers for what they did to them. I know others who ‘accidentally’ got pregnant and they are given a perfectly healthy baby, and they complain constantly about how tired they are, and how fussy their baby is– they don’t know how lucky they are. All of this makes me embarrassingly bitter. All my husband and I can do is sit by his bedside, lay our hands next to him, and hope he feels our presence.
We waited till I was nearly done with school, were married, owned our home, were financially stable and ready, and our baby is so sick and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it or help him. I abstained from all caffeine, didn’t even take tylenol for my aches and pains, read all of the books, and took any advice someone would give– and my baby is on a ventilator with two chest tubes, and I’ve only got to hold him 3 times in his 5 days of life. No skin to skin, no late night diaper changes, no waking up in the middle of the night to nurse. Just a piece of advice: don’t tell a mother who has a baby in the NICU that she’s lucky, because she doesn’t have to get up every couple of hours with a crying baby. Are you kidding me!?
On top of all of this– I come to find out that I have IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) and I may be one of the women in the 5% of all women who physically can not breastfeed. Breastfeeding is something I feel so passionately about, even before I knew I was going to have a sick baby. It’s something that is even more important because it is what is best for babies, and he’s in the NICU– he could use anything possible to give him a boost and my body might not be able to do that for him? I can’t express in words the guilt I feel for this. I know that biologically speaking I did not give my baby his TE-Fistula, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilt over it, but I’m a woman and I should be able to give him this part of me and I’m failing.
I’ve met with several lactation consultants, I’m pumping around the clock; every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night, I’m taking fenugreek & blessed thistle (herbal supplements to increase milk supply), I’m drinking mothers milk tea, I’m using hand expression, warm compresses on my chest, and I’m looking at his pictures and thinking of him while I pump. I’m eating high fiber foods, drinking tons of water– and after all of this, and 5 days postpartum I’m producing drops– Drops that are so small I can’t even suck them into a syringe. I was told to keep trying for 10 days, and after 10 days if nothing changes that I should stop– because my body, my stupid broken body, can’t produce the only thing I can possibly give to my son in his time of need.
I feel so much guilt, and I get bitter when I think about all of this too much– but then I remember that my son is going to be okay. He isn’t going to resent my inability to breastfeed, he is going to leave the NICU one day, and I’ll get my skin to skin, late night diaper changes, and waking up in the middle of the night to nourish him (bottle or breast). I remember that his prognosis could have been so much worse, and he is truly lucky to be where he is now. We are lucky to have a brilliant medical team watching him closely, and keeping him healthy through his recovery process. We have a beautiful son, a strong baby boy– and one day all of this misery will be a distant memory. For now– I’m only human and despite knowing that the negative emotions I feel aren’t helping anyone, they peek out every once in awhile. I’m getting better at realizing faster how useless they are.