John Michael's feeding journey has been just that, a journey. One that we are no where near the end of.
Since my son was three pounds smaller than my first two children he was much sleepier and for the first two weeks of his life would hardly nurse and never very well. He kept losing weight and by the time we were admitted to the hospital he was under five pounds. Looking back, I think he was eating just enough to not starve himself. I used to look at small babies and think why didn't your mother eat more protein when she carried you. Why isn't she letting you live at the breast? Let me tell you, small babies are hard to nurse. They are hard to hold; hard to smoosh up against a full breast. Right away the attending physicians in the hospital encouraged us to put in the NG tube which if you are as unfamiliar as I was at the time, it is the tube that runs down the nose to the stomach. They kept telling me it was the best option for getting him to start gaining weight and I could still nurse him as much as he wanted and we wouldn't have to go through nipple confusion. At this point we had tried feeding him by syringe and bottles in addition to nursing but it was still a very small amount that we were able to give him before he would tire out. I kept putting it off because I hated the thought of a tube going down his nose unless it was a last resort. Keep in mind this was all before we had any idea about the virus or brain injury so I had no reason to suspect he wouldn't just catch on to nurse in no time. As they continued to run tests to find out why his platelets were low we kept stalling in hopes that he would magically nurse. One of my most treasured memories is when we went down for the CT scan, he had latched on and nursed for a straight HOUR. I wasn't about to take him off for anything, so we walked through the hospital attached to the iv and I kept saying how wonderful he was doing. I could tell the staff was like " uhh babies don't nurse for an hour he is probably just sucking" but I knew otherwise.... my babies can nurse for an hour! I will never forget how it felt when they weighed him the next day and he had gained an ounce. A FREAKING OUNCE! One ounce had never been such a big deal. but it was SUCH A BIG DEAL. However he was still hardly nursing when the flood of doctors came in to tell us the results of the CT that afternoon. Right before they spoke I told them we should go ahead with the NG tube. Of course then the walls came tumbling down and I cried an ocean for the next few days (but that is worth another post of it's own). When they told us that he may never be able to eat I just cried and cried and told Clay "I HAVE to be able to breastfeed him,.... I. HAVE. TO." He gained an ounce per day for the next several weeks, until after three weeks of the tube feedings he started just screaming all the time and I knew something was wrong. After church one Sunday he pulled the tube out of his nose completely and stopped crying instantly. I suspect it was giving him heartburn since that is what adults complain of when they have to use one. I couldn't bear to put it back in again so I thought I would do anything if he could just take a bottle. So we very carefully made the decision to leave it out and see if he gained over the next three days.
The hospital staff had told us that some babies don't have the energy or ability to feed themselves (meaning they need a stomach tube for their whole life, which would have been the path after the NG tube). I had no idea if he was capable of taking a bottle well enough to gain but not spend too much energy in the process. It was stressful to say the least. It would take him an hour and a half to drink two ounces! I just prepared myself that when we weighed him again he would have lost and we'd have to reinsert the tube. But I know it was through intercessory that though it was so much work for him he gained weight!! Glory to GOD! I still thank Him for this true miracle. Think about it logically. It isn't very likely that you could go from not having to work for your food (for we know sucking is true work for a baby) to working for all of it. It is miraculous. Still when I go to the neurologist or the speech therapist looks at him, they are amazed at how well he keeps his weight up. He is the size of a typical 6 month old in his height and weight. I do wish that just someone would recognize he is thriving because I am giving him my milk. Thought I know they all think I am just crazy for going to all this trouble, I know what the research shows! Babies who are breastfed often have as much as 10 IQ points higher than those who are not. To a brain injured child that could be the world of a difference.
pumping sucks. quite literally.
John Michael's "feeding" journey has been just that. A JOURNEY. and I feel the need heavily to process it out on here even though I am so very far from being done with this journey.
I have a love hate relationship with my pump. Mostly hate. But I am so blessed to be able to give him MY milk. It took several weeks of pumping before I had enough supply to give him only my milk. I am beyond grateful for the donated breastmilk of close friends, but I did bawl my eyes out the two times he had to have formula. I knew I had to stop being a purist and realize it was better to give him that than to starve him. It is good for me to know that he never had "nipple confusion" where they just prefer the way of a bottle, but that he truly hasn't had the fine motor skills it takes to latch at the breast.
I have felt for a long time that breastfeeding is really a sacred act. One of the only things left in today's modern times that hasn't changed. At all. Mary breastfed Jesus the same way babies breastfeed today... in momma's loving arms, skin to skin, with milk from one body made just for her baby.
I had a friend tell me that it was still really special to give John Michael my milk even if it was a roundabout way. She likened it to drinking pure spring water from the earth. That when we drink the earths water we become part of the earth and when our babies drink our milk they are still a part of us. Immediately I thought of the Eucharist or Communion we take at the Lord's Table. When we receive His body and blood we become one with Him.
I still long to hold my baby at my breast and give him that part of me without having to take the long road. It can be painful to watch nursing mothers coddle their nurslings at the breast. I have wept that loss. But that isn't our path. At least not yet. I don't think I will ever be able to let go of the hope that maybe just maybe someday he will magically latch on. I still bring him to the breast when he is already happy and in a playful mood and even in those few seconds or minutes it does wonders for my heart (and hormones I am sure).
pumping still sucks. every day. 5-8 times a day, going on six months now, but I can't imagine any other way. I really don't know how long I will hold out, but I can't stop now. Not just yet. Sometimes when I channel my Kairos time I tell my self there was no yesterday, there is no tomorrow. I have never pumped before, I will never pump again. Just now. Just this once. (sound like birth anyone?)