We are mothers. We KNOW our babies. We need to listen to that inner mothering voice when it tells us what to do and how to parent and look after ourselves and our children.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I gave birth on a February afternoon by repeat caesarean. A pink, squalling bundle was handed to me, and I gazed lovingly into eyes that seemed to recognize me. I whispered sweet words of belonging to this girl child of mine, and comforted her outraged cries. She was the daughter I so desperately wanted.
A week after her birth, a friend dropped off a ring sling. I snuggled my 7 lb bundle into it and went about my way with a mostly content baby. Within two weeks, I was wearing her constantly. Towards afternoon, she’d begin to sob and scream inconsolably. She would arch and thrash, refuse to nurse, refuse a soother, the swing, my arms. The only thing that would quiet her screams was the sling.
Screamy baby began to lose weight. I carried her – day in, day out – in the sling. Repeated trips to the doctor revealed nothing. She was unable to nurse, screaming hysterically within moments of latch on.I was told rudely “ Do breast compressions. Breast is best.” Breast compressions made her choke and gag... and scream. I began feeding her formula. We went back to the doctor. Reflux. Milk Intolerance. Delayed gastric emptying. Her weight gain was poor, and the screaming increased in volume. Nights were long, filled with arching, thrashing baby. There was many a night that I slept with her in the sling, sitting up on the couch, unwilling to move her from her comfort zone. People told me I was spoiling her. I told them “ We’re coping. This is all that works.” I was told to let her cry it out, but I had no desire to abandon my child to a dark room to cry out her angst. My responsibility to her did not end when the sun went down. I whispered in her ear that I couldn’t stop her crying, but I could hold her while she cried.
I paced the floors with her, snuggled tummy to tummy in the sling. At six months, I begged the doctor to hospitilize her – I knew something was dreadfully wrong. The paediatrician agreed. She was poked, prodded, xrayed, and force fed. The screaming continued.
A day before discharge, my pediatrician’s partner waltzed into our room with his holier than thou attitude. He told me I wasn’t putting in the effort to feed her, to put her in another room to sleep and let her cry it out. I banned him from treating my child.
I worked part time, baby in sling. I got a mei tai, two more ring slings. I carried her everywhere. In the shower. To the doctor, to the park, on playdates. People nastily asked me how she would learn to walk if I never put her down. I ignored them. Carrying her stopped the screaming.
Just before her first birthday, she developed a high fever and cough. I took her to the ER, still wrapped in my sling. We waited 7 hours. Xrays revealed her heart was enlarged. We were admitted. I carried her nonstop for the next few days – through a terrifying whirlwind of echocardiograms and finally a diagnosis. During one particularly memorable screaming fit, a nurse turned to me in tears, and handed me my sling. My daughter quieted, safe in her sling.
She was in heart failure. A rare and very serious heart defect had been causing massive heart attacks. Fatality rates were 90% in the first year. The screaming was her suffering from crushing chest pain. In the hallway, the cardiologist turned to me and quietly told me that it was my parenting – the constant carrying – that had allowed her to survive against all odds.
My daughter never cried alone, left in a room. Had I ever practiced CIO, I would have woken to a lifeless baby. I held her through months of gut wrenching doubt, moments when I cried too. But today, I watch my daughter play and run, and laugh. I carried her through a mom’s worst nightmare... and we both survived.
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