|Pumping for my preemie in NICU.|
I've never shared this picture with anyone but my husband before now. This isn't what I thought would happen. Not even close. I didn't have a lot of birth plans other than 1. I was just going to roll with it because things rarely go as planned and 2. I would breastfeed. Oh, yeah, and 3. I'd just started 3rd trimester so it was too early to make plans. Right? Wrong.
If you're pregnant please don't skip the chapters and statistics on prematurity. The odds are in your favor, but with one in eight babies born early chances are you could experience prematurity. Chances are even higher that someone you know will have a preemie, which is why I think this is a people-issue, not just a mom-issue. Even if you don't plan to ever have children it's important to be aware.
...especially if you consider yourself a breastfeeding advocate. I preached the importance of breastfeeding for years before I ever thought of having a child. Little did I know...
Nearly three years later I want to share this photograph along with the struggle, pain and tears that came along with it because I felt so alone at the time. While many of my preemie-mom-wounds have healed or faded with time, they haven't disappeared nor do I expect them to. I don't want to forget. By remembering and sharing my struggles I can help other moms who might be beginning their NICU journey - or others who have just started to heal and are coping with life after NICU.
When I had Tristan I was in the middle of my shift at the bar where I worked nearby.
When I was told to push and could hear my contractions crushing him I focused on a clock.
There was a sea of people around me. His heartbeat was on a speaker. I hadn't felt contractions until I was on the stretcher. It was all happening so fast. Then, his heart would stop.
Silence...deathly quiet. There is never a silence so loud as the one when you're waiting to hear the next heartbeat. Will there be one?
There was, of course, since we know the outcome of that part of Tristan's story...and the part where he was taken away. There was no precious moment where he was lifted into my arms - not even a moment to see his face.
Alone with my afterbirth I watched the clock. If they hurried I could make it back to work in time for late night happy hour and really bring in some cash.
Except that was shock. I wasn't going anywhere except to my room; a single on the L&D unit.
The nurse walked in with a pump. It looked like a tentacled alien. I think I buzzed her a dozen times to show me how to put it together.
It was time to pump milk for the baby I hadn't seen yet. My body hadn't even registered what had happened yet.
Every drop counts, they told me. They didn't tell me they could catch those first drops with a syringe and that they were totally serious that a drop would count. Instead I washed those drops down the drain in the bathroom, embarrassed...was that the best I could do?
For three days I used the hospital's nice pump catching drops that I gave to the nurse.
Then, they gave me a hand pump and told me that the double pumps supplied by welfare would be re-stocked in a few days and I'd get one then. That was part of the plan; we couldn't afford a pump. I didn't think I'd even need one until I went back to work so that plan was on my horizon instead of my present.
I went home with my husband who left for his night shift. ...and there I sat, with a hand pump and some thimble-sized bottles that I couldn't even fill a single milliliter of.
It took me hours and each time I felt like a failure...until the next day when I was collecting them to take into the hospital. I decided to line them up because there had been progress! I couldn't tell until they were all together. There are no words for the amount of pride I felt; how accomplished I was. I'd made MILK!
I continued to take pictures and keep a log of every single session for the next four months. It was luck and a whole lot of work. I know now that it very well might not have worked out. When Tristan was four months old I nearly quit because he'd become nipple confused due to his specific medical issues while in NICU. That is another thing I had read was a myth - but it isn't.
But that is another part of our preemie story.
For now I wanted to remind moms that every drop counts. Take pictures because seeing is believing. If your drops don't increase you are NOT a bad mom. Pumping for your preemie won't always work. Formula is great, too!
Take care of yourself and do what you can for your little one/s. Having a healthy mom who is there to whisper into the incubator and be there for the first time you can hold your baby is most important.
It's easier said than done, I know that, too. There is a lot of pressure to come through with "liquid gold." You have enough pressure, though. Your love and support for your baby is the true gold. SOLID gold - like mama rock stars.