“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!”
Like a busy cow on a dairy farm I pumped milk religiously. 8-10 times a day the monotonous sound of the expressing machine drove my husband to distraction, whilst my spirited 3 year old hovered in his usual exuberance around the large yellow industrial hospital pump, desperate to press the buttons and put the large plastic cone thingies on his own little nipples, in pure faith that he too could express milk. Bless him.
Meanwhile my perfectly tiny preemie baby was sleeping warmly in his plastic incubator 15 miles away. To and from the hospital I went. Grace most certainly abounded as I juggled my two sons; both needing me close. I felt torn in two at times, my heart wrenched at the thought of not being able to perfectly meet their individual needs in a perfect world. Instead in this imperfect world we live in, I held tightly to the perfect Father, awed by the fact that over six billion people live on this planet and every single one of us has his undivided attention.
In my daily precious few hours at the hospital I waited with my heart leaping for the cherished moment where I could have skin to skin, heart to heart, with my treasured boy. Kangaroo Care with Joseph Hosea, born 3lbs 1oz and two and a half months early.
What is so wonderful about having a preemie baby is not only are they extra super cute, but like a baby kangaroo in its pouch, you pop them under your top so they can nuzzle to your breast and snuggle skin to skin from the very beginning.
It took a while to get my milk fully flowing in abundance, and because I couldn’t be at the hospital 24 hours a day Joseph started off with donated breast milk, (Lord bless that women whoever she is!) As my milk production increased I began to mix my milk with formula to fatten Joseph up so he could come home. This meant tube feeding and bottle feeding first, then weaning him onto the breast. He did latch on in the hospital at 31 weeks which was a marvellous and miraculous moment, but we couldn’t really get stuck in until I had him freely to myself at home. This was a roller coaster, but I’m glad to say we cracked it. After days of perseverance Joseph began to feed fully from me from about 6 weeks old and I’m sure there was a party in heaven at that very moment!
It is now 18 months later and after 18 months of broken sleep with my little munchkin waking for feeds up to 6 times a night, what can I say? I have suffered from a kind sleep deprivation I could not have even imagined. I was certain that Joseph will have be sleeping through by this point but instead he feeds more than ever and has no intention of giving up. In fact sometimes when I try to gently ease him off my breast it is like wrestling a salmon. On average he has woken every two hours to feed within a 12 hour block. Exhausting? Yes, but absolutely worth every moment.
The journey with Joseph has been such a life changing experience. The trial and tribulation I encountered in the hospital when I was rushed in at 24 weeks pregnant pales into insignificance when I look into his deep blue eyes today. He is our little miracle. Even the doctors could not explain how he came so miraculously into the world. At 8cm dilated for six weeks with no pain the perplexed doctors and midwives just shook their heads in amazement.
An early bird yes, but fresh and full of life and no complication. He sailed through Neo-Natal with nothing wrong, he didn’t even need oxygen. They just gave it to him so he could look the part! It took a whole twelve months before he got his first cold. A perfect cocoon of protection surrounded him. My miraculous milk nourished him.
God designed us so perfectly. Don’t you think? When I’m away from Joseph and he comes to my mind my breasts fill with milk. Its amazing how a mere thought triggers such love. When I lie in bed at night and Joseph simply stirs I fill with milk, his mere whimper makes me tingle.
It stuns me to discover that long term breastfeeding seems to be so unpopular in this culture. But God gave me a word of knowledge: Intimacy heals. Joseph missed out on his 3rd trimester of womb time, where the iron and vitamins are passed and help his brain develop so I sometimes think of it as making up for lost time. Every time I feed him and wish I should have stopped by now, I then think of how much this closeness, this long term skin to skin, this heart to heart kangaroo care is doing him so much good. His brain is growing, his heart is happy, and he really is such a peaceful and joyful boy. It is good to know recent research tells us that “controlled comforting” and training babies to sleep too deeply too soon can cause more physiological and psychological harm than good. It excites me to discover that sensory stimulation such as physical touch actually helps the brain develop and have a healthy cortisol balance.
Then I picture myself with the Father. I have cried many tears in my life, scripture says He keeps them all in a bottle, my mum says there will be more like reservoirs full of my tears! In my past I have cried an ocean, before I gave my heart back to Jesus I simply could not bear existence as I knew it. I needed to know the secret of the universe. I needed answers to why we exist. The thought of life without a loving God was not worth living. All I could see was pain and suffering in the world, my heart broke for it and all its tragedy.
But then I learned about intimacy. Then I learned that there is a Father in heaven who loves me unconditionally and will wipe away every tear one day. A Father in heaven whose heart beats fast at the thought of me. He wept and bled on a cross for me to turn to Him and hold him close. Heart to heart, always there, ever-flowing in goodness and nourishment. And my brain is growing and my heart is happy as when I whimper and stir like a baby my Daddy in heaven holds me close; skin to skin, heart to heart, in kangaroo care.