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Parenting from the Heart

Terri Eglinton
Ann Arbor MI USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, pp. 69-70

After enduring three miscarriages, fertility treatments, and the emotional roller coaster all this entails, I was elated to discover I was pregnant at the age of 43. I was determined to breastfeed our miracle baby because of my husband's history of allergies, in addition to the many other benefits of breastfeeding.

My mother, four sisters, and sister-in-law had all nursed their babies, and my husband pledged his support. I wanted to breastfeed for a year, or at least for the four months I would be on maternity leave from my full-time job as a nurse manager. My husband, Brian, and I attended breastfeeding and childbirth classes, read many books about pregnancy and birth, and prepared the baby's room. The pregnancy was uneventful, with the exception of a threatened miscarriage at six weeks. I worked until a week before my due date of September 6, 2005. As I walked in to work the last two weeks of my pregnancy, the receptionist at our busy hospital asked me if I needed assistance to the labor and delivery unit because my belly was huge. So, suspecting my baby was large for gestational age, and with my approval, my obstetrician scheduled a cesarean delivery on my due date. Rachel Amanda came out kicking and screaming and weighed in at nearly 11 pounds with a length of 22 inches. Rachel nursed within an hour of her birth, and was able to room in with Brian and me right away, despite concerns that she might need to go to the neonatal intensive care unit.

I was so thrilled to finally have my baby. I expected the pain and decreased mobility due to the surgery. I wasn't prepared for my extreme emotional instability from hormonal fluctuations. I believe I cried more from happiness during those first weeks than in my entire adult life. Thank goodness for Brian and my mother (who flew in from Arizona, USA) for their unflagging support. They made sure I had lots of water, balanced nutrition, and as much rest as a full-time nursing mother can get. They held Rachel in shifts between nursing sessions. I was surprised that nursing wasn't easy. We worked through painful engorgement, latch-on problems, sore, cracked and bleeding nipples, and one flat nipple that Rachel often refused. My mom said to give it six weeks and I'd be home free. I persevered. My sisters answered my numerous questions, and THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING was a godsend at 3 am. Lanolin for my sore nipples and a breast shell to bring out the flat nipple really helped. The first time I pumped, it hurt and only produced a few drops. It was the strangest feeling. Since I need to work full-time and was determined to exclusively breastfeed my baby for as long as possible, I committed myself to making it work.

Returning to work when Rachel was nearly four months old was challenging. Every day at lunchtime, I walked about a half mile to the child care center to nurse her. I also pumped twice during the day, and sometimes after she went to bed at night because I worried about my supply. Rachel often refused my milk from bottles throughout the day, but made up for it with night nursing. One of her care providers, Gloria, who had worked with babies for more than 20 years, assured me she would not starve and would eventually drink from the bottles. Though she never really loved them, she did increase her intake over time.

Brian and I marveled as our daughter grew and changed from rolling over and babbling, sitting up and crawling, to walking and talking. I was very proud that, despite others urging us to begin solid food, and with much support, I exclusively nursed Rachel until she was eight-and-a-half months old. I received support from my husband and family, and from the community of love, caring, and gentle parenting I found when I began attending La Leche League meetings when Rachel was six months old. In hindsight, I wish I had joined much sooner!

We joyously celebrated Rachel's first birthday. I wasn't yet ready to wean and neither was she. I loved the sounds of anticipation she made when she was ready to nurse. I loved her words for nursing: "urse" and "milk." I loved stroking her cheek and hair and kissing her forehead while she nursed to sleep at bedtime. I loved how comfortable and encouraging my husband was with our nursing relationship. He would often say while we were nursing: "You guys are so cute together." I loved my increased comfort and ease with nursing discreetly anywhere. I still love meeting and talking with parents of breastfeeding babies and toddlers. I have mentored other nursing mothers, and have offered to speak to nurses at my hospital who work in our postpartum unit.

Rachel is now an active, very verbal, outgoing, and loving three-year-old who wants to cuddle and still asks me to "hold you, Mommy" frequently. I followed her lead and we mutually weaned just before her second birthday. We made it through two frightening hospitalizations for a ruptured appendix when she was two-and-a-half. Now, when we must be apart, she often says: "Mommy, I know you'll keep me in your heart all day long." Though we no longer attend LLL meetings, we are part of an active and growing, diverse weekly playgroup that continues to gain members from our LLL community. I truly value the sharing, information, support, and friendships I have made through my association with La Leche League, and I continue to be a member.

The parenting journey brings lots of advice from parents and other experts. I know Brian, Rachel, and I must determine our direction. I will forever treasure the beautiful and lasting bond my family has created, in large part, because of breastfeeding and our connection with La Leche League. Brian and I will continue to parent from our hearts.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 12:10 PM by jlm.
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