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Staying Home with My Seventh Child

Maria Lisa Villanueva
the Philippines
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 4, 2009, p. 19

I did not fully experience the joy of motherhood until I had my seventh child, Isabel Felyzz, who was born in 2008.

I graduated from college in 1993 and went out to work. Six years later I got married and for the next seven years I was a working mother. After enjoying my maternity leave of two months, each of my six babies was left under the care of a domestic help. When my workload increased, I was only able to take two weeks of maternity leave.

I eventually decided to quit working and became a full-time wife and mother. I took over the care of my one-year-old son and three-year-old daughter and the household chores. My other four children were already at school. As if I were not busy enough, I was soon pregnant with my seventh child!

Isabel wasn't born in a hospital or a private birthing clinic, as her siblings had been, but in a newly built public birthing center in my hometown. I delivered her normally with the help of two veteran midwives and I am very grateful to them for their support. My labor lasted less than an hour and my little girl came into this world without much pain. She was such a cute little baby. I breastfed her from the start -- indeed, mothers are expected to breastfeed in government-owned health facilities in The Philippines.

I had breastfed my older children at the most for two months, because my work schedule didn't allow for frequent expressing of milk. Economic reasons, too, forced me to breastfeed Isabel, only to realize later the many advantages of doing so. I did not have to worry when the infant formula can was almost empty and payday was still far away, as had happened with my other children. I felt a very special bond with Isabel because she depended on me completely; and only when she was teething in her tenth month and my nipples got sore was she ever bottle fed.

One of my most unforgettable memories is when she was nine months old and I got measles.*

I continued breastfeeding through the illness. I had an extraordinary feeling while nursing, when she would place her little fingers on my breast -- I am fortunate to have experienced a feeling so intimate.

Isabel is now 15 months old and hasn't had any health problems that have required a visit to the pediatrician nor have I ever given her any medicine. She is resilient and recovers quickly from colds and fever. She is an active baby, who loves climbing, and she has a constant smile on her face and in her eyes.

I am proud of all my children, yet, when I look at baby Isabel, I can also feel proud that she has grown and thrived as a result of drinking my milk. I am fulfilled as a mother.

Adapted from a story in The WABA Mother Support Task Force - E-newsletter

* If the nursing mother catches measles after the newborn period, no special precautions are necessary. The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd revised edition, Schaumburg, IL: La Leche League International, 2003; 550.

If a mother comes down with measles within five days before giving birth and her baby is not born with the disease, the doctor may recommend that mother and baby be separated. The mother may express her milk regularly so it can be given to her baby. A mother's milk will not transmit measles, and, indeed, it contains antibodies that will offer the newborn protection. The baby may begin breastfeeding as soon as the mother is no longer contagious.

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