I didn’t get to breastfeed right after the twins were born. It’s supposed to be a magical moment, where they put the babies in your arms, and they kick their way around on your chest, and they know to go right for the nipple. And your boobs are supposed to be ready with a few drops of thick, syrupy colostrum before your milk comes in. And the heavens part, and the unicorns smile down, and there are rainbows and sparkles and shit.
I had a hard time believing any of that would happen for me, and low and behold, I was right. My boobs did not seem to change much through the course of my pregnancy. There was some soreness and hormonal changes in the beginning, but that was it. There were no signs that my mams were getting ready to feed babies.
After having had an urgent c-section, I was not able to breastfeed immediately. And I was not able to start pumping right away either, because I was wacky sick with HELLP (see Chapter Four). So it took a couple of days before I was able to pump. I didn’t think anything was going to come out of there.
And at first, nothing did. It took a couple pumping sessions before I started to see drops of colostrum. It was weird. The first moment I saw my boobs leaking something, they started fulfilling another purpose, besides being sexualized objects and annoying things that always seemed to be in the way. Now they were making milk. Like what cows make. Like what I pick up in jugs from the store. That same stuff was now coming out of my boobs. Weird.
It was slow going though, and my supply was behind schedule. I wanted to eventually breastfeed. After birth however, the twins were too little to waste their calories trying to learn. So I had to pump to get my supply up. And I had to pump at all hours. I pumped before every one of their feedings, so at least they had a little milk coming from me. At night I set my alarm for 9, 12, 3 and 6. I never slept for more than 2 1/2 hours a stretch at night.
The midnight alarm was the most difficult. Even worse than waking up at 3 am. Waking up at midnight must have disturbed some deep sleep pattern, more so than other times at night. I would turn on a dim light, so as to not wake up Dave, who was curled up on the hospital’s remarkably uncomfortable pull out bed. I set up the pump and got myself situated for 15 minutes of late night dairy cow action.
After pumping, I would deliver the milk to the nursery across the hall, so the nurses could feed it to the twins. We all became accustomed to this routine. I shuffled in multiple times each night, bleary eyed and mushy faced.
One of those evenings, I walked over to the nursery, half-asleep as usual. But as I entered, the door was blocked by a stretcher. There were
EMTs paramedics and other unfamiliar personnel crowding the room. I peered in to see what was going on.
The nursery was a blur of activity. I couldn’t tell if they were delivering someone. Because that’s what you assume when you see stretchers and paramedics at a hospital, you think they are dropping someone off.
I was able to gingerly scoot around the stretcher and my heart stopped as I got a better look. There was a little blue tent atop the bed, with wires and tubes and machines. There was a small window in the canvas, and though I didn’t see it, I knew there was a tiny little baby in there.
And I realized, this baby wasn’t arriving, it was leaving. The baby had been born at this hospital. But it was too small or too sick to stay. It needed to go to the NICU at the hospital across the river. A tiny, fragile little thing, surrounded in wires and tubes and gear. It was terrifying.
The nurses and paramedics were filling out paperwork. The paramedics in their uniforms and heavy boots. The loud voices and quick movements. It was completely routine for them. I couldn’t imagine the thoughts of the parents of this child. I mean, you have to have faith that the staff are professionals, and they know what they are doing. The baby was probably perfectly safe.
But it was ghastly and nightmarish to watch. I fixated on the little blue tent and the tiny life inside. This was not my child, but it was heartbreaking to know that it was enclosed in a machine, instead of in its mother’s arms.
It was a ghostly, surreal scene. I was half asleep and addle brained from fatigue. I picked my way past the busy staff to drop off my milk. I crept back to our dark room and closed the door to the commotion outside. Dave was still contorted on the pull out sofa and sleeping peacefully.
I got back into bed. I thought about the little blue tent and the baby inside. In the middle of the night. An ambulance with flashing lights, crossing the sleeping city and the dark river. To a different hospital, where there would be more machines, rubber gloves, needles, wires and tubes.
I stayed awake for a while that night.
The Birth Story, Chapter Six (The Final Chapter) coming soon…