By Helene Barr
Timmins Ontario Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 6, November-December 2002, pp. 214.
When I was 10 years old, my mother was pregnant and I was really excited, awaiting the birth of my baby brother impatiently. While grocery shopping, I insisted that my mother buy a jar of baby food and eat it, to feed the baby in her tummy. My mother's reasonable explanations were to no avail. She finally bought the jar, and once home I made sure she ate the contents of the jar in front of me. Sadly, at three months into her pregnancy, my mother miscarried. I was devastated!
In 1988 I met Erik, the man who swept me off my feet. Four years later we were wed and, after making sure we had two secure jobs, bought a house. We were ready to start a family.
That year we spent Christmas in Scotland with my husband's family. We had a special announcement. "Helene's pregnant! We'll have a baby!" said Erik. That same night, I started spotting. A few weeks later, back at home, I miscarried our first baby. I named him Peter, after my miscarried baby brother, Pierre.
We were told miscarriages were common, especially in first pregnancies, so we wiped away our tears and kept trying. In June, I learned I was pregnant again. Thrilled but cautious, we waited to announce it. Two months later, while visiting with my family in Quebec, we couldn't keep the secret any longer and announced that I was pregnant again, but spotting regularly. Soon after I miscarried again.
Devastated, I took five weeks off from my teaching job. Erik and I met with an infertility specialist to have our hormones and chromosomes examined. We were told that we were fine. After another miscarriage, we went to an immunologist who also told us we were fine. I began to wonder what we had done to deserve this. Why us?
In September of 1996, I found out that I was pregnant again. My immunologist prescribed complete bed rest with only 10 minutes on my feet each day. I went from spending my time with a class of 30 children to being alone on the couch all day. At seven weeks I went for an ultrasound and heard my baby's heartbeat. I had "morning sickness" all day long, a good sign according to the doctors. By the end of October I was vomiting even dry toast and water. Erik finally brought me to the emergency room, where they told me I was dehydrated. The same nurse who saw me for most of my miscarriages took a look at me and said, "Oh, no! Not again!" I told her my body would make a baby and feed that baby if that was the last thing I did.
While I was on bed rest, Erik was making my lunch, doing the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, laundry, and still holding a full-time job in his spare time. He was exhausted and I was on the couch bored to tears-but I was still pregnant!
At 41 weeks, there were no signs of impending labor. I had overdone it in trying to keep my baby in! Matthew was born by elective cesarean. Despite the spinal headache from the anesthesia and a horrible postpartum rash, I was the happiest mother alive.
The first time I put my precious baby to the breast, he latched on like an expert. My baby at the breast, at last. Before I left the hospital, one nurse told me, "You've got a master feeder." I was the proudest mother on the planet. After all those miscarriages and the years of being ashamed of my body for not being able to do what women's bodies are built to do, I was feeding and nurturing the baby I had longed for. My mission in life was complete.
I spent the first months of his life breastfeeding and holding him, healing from my miscarriages, often crying tears of joy and relief. I lived for my baby, Matthew. He was breastfed often, slept with Erik and me, and went everywhere I went in a sling. I opted not to go back to work and vowed that his feet wouldn't touch the ground before he was five years old.
Two years blissfully passed. Matthew was a fervent breastfeeding toddler, and after one suspected miscarriage, I became pregnant again with my daughter. Hazel's pregnancy was uneventful. Matthew showed no signs of slowing down on his breastfeeding and, aside from a few impatient moments, I still enjoyed our breastfeeding relationship.
When I was halfway through my pregnancy, I asked him, "Is there any more milk in there?" He said, "No." "And you still want to have a breast?" I asked. "Yeah," he answered in a tone that implied I had asked a dumb question. Matthew breastfed through my entire pregnancy and through my early labor. I discovered it is true that oxytocin makes your contractions stronger. I labored at home for as long as I could, and then we went to the hospital because we were planning a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and were considered high risk. Hazel was born a few hours later, healthy and big. I put her to the breast right away and the rest is a happy story. For six months, nothing passed her lips but human milk.
Matthew has gently shared "his" breasts with his baby sister. Today, Matthew and Hazel are happy tandem nursing siblings and I'm a happy mother. Matthew just turned five, Hazel just turned two, and I just turned, well, never mind. Most of the time, Matthew breastfeeds for five seconds each day but assures me that he loves it so much. I still feel triumphant after my miscarriages. My body feeds and nurtures my two beautiful, precious children. I'm going to enjoy it until they both outgrow the need!