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Nursing Through Adversity

Antoinette C.
British Columbia Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 2, March-April 2002, p. 52

One morning when our daughter, Heather, was nine months old I was making breakfast and getting the older children off to school when my heart started racing. It had done this through the last two pregnancies and continued after my third birth. It hit 140 beats per minute. I staggered to the bedroom and put the baby on the floor beside her sleeping six-year-old sister. I didn’t have time to sit down myself and passed out. I had a wound on my forehead that was almost two inches long.

Now this is the tricky part. We live in Northern Ontario. Going to the nearest heart doctor meant a trip, in good weather, of three hours. He found nothing and referred me to the London Ontario Heart Clinic. Six weeks later, in December, 11-month-old Heather and I traveled over six hours on two planes to get to the Heart Clinic. The doctors were surprised and nurses were shocked, but I kept Heather near me in a stroller with my mother close by, and Heather nursed between tests. The doctors determined that afternoon that my heart rate was beating up to 140 to 180 beats per minute about every five minutes. I couldn’t go home. At my insistence, the operation was done under a local anesthesia so I could breastfeed afterward. It was a tricky operation. After four hours in the operating room and three doctors, the problem was corrected.

Heather nursed almost immediately post surgery, through my painful tears, but had to leave for our first and only night apart. Heather cried inconsolably that night, refusing a cup or bottle. My mother says that Heather even tried to nurse on her until the lights were turned on and Heather realized that it wasn’t me who was in bed with her.

It was a snowy day when we went home. The plane made it to Sault Saint Marie but the next plane home was grounded because of bad weather. I had not been home for a week. I decided we were going north. The airline hired a limousine to take passengers further north and I decided to take it. We rounded up a baby seat, the driver gassed up the car, I got a sandwich and packed the diaper bag. Two-and-a-half hours later, the highway was closed because of the weather and we were stuck at least three hours away from home in a car in a valley.

We had exactly one granola bar, a water bottle, and a bag of dry cereal, all standard issue for a diaper bag. Our driver hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and it was 5:30 pm. He politely asked how the baby would do. I replied that baby would be fine, as she clambered all over the car, since we are a breastfeeding couple. “Oh, thank goodness!” he replied, “I brought all four of our children to my wife when she worked at the grocery store as a clerk.” A breastfeeding daddy!

And so we settled into a snowy night in a warm car, sharing our food and discussing Christmas plans. The driver was a gentleman through and through. The valley where they’d stopped us was lovely and sheltered. A tractor-trailer accident had occurred ahead of us, but no one was hurt. The white-outs around Lake Superior are spectacular.

We pulled into town the next morning, 23 hours after I had left London, Ontario, on the 23rd of December. I watched what would have been my plane landing under clear skies. I had enough time to hug my excited family, shower, grab some clothes, and make it to our children’s Christmas lunch at school. All was well.

We had a happy family reunion and a very Merry Christmas with all members healthy and accounted for. Miracles do happen!

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