Submitted by Danella Kaafar
I sat on the toilet holding that little stick like my life depended on it. Please, please, please be positive! I shut my eyes too afraid to look, but kept glancing down at it.
Slowly one little pink line appeared, then another, at first too faint to make out, but sure enough it was there. You were there! My heart jumped in my chest and I rushed over to the light to get a better look, a line, THERE DEFINITELY IS A LINE! Hello baby, you’re really in there! At that moment I knew I loved you, and I promised I would do my very best for you always.
I knew when I got pregnant that I would have to go back to work. I had talked to your dad about it, I had talked to Gran, and we had a plan in place. I knew I wanted to breastfeed you, I knew I wanted the very best for you and that meant my milk. But not just my milk, milk made from the very best diet I could manage. And there started my journey to nourish you.
I read everything I could while I was pregnant. An amazing book that became my go-to over those first few weeks was “The Natural Way to Better Breastfeeding” by Francesca Naish. I made sure I had zinc, essential fatty acids, lots of vitamin C and vitamin-rich foods to nourish my body and make my nipples strong and heal well.
I prepared breastfeeding tea to ensure my supply was plentiful and I watched so many videos of breastfeeding mums, of expressing, or hand expressing, of latching. When I got to 37 weeks pregnant my midwife showed me how to hand express the precious colostrum from my breasts to save in the freezer. I loved filling those tiny syringes for you. It was the most exciting part of my day sitting down in front of the video for reference with the little syringe ready to collect those golden yellow drops. I filled 23 syringes all up before you were born, 23 mls of colostrum. I froze them ready to go in case you needed them for any reason.
A few weeks before you were due, Gran and I went to Birthcare to take the class on breastfeeding. I learned again how to latch you, what to look for when breastfeeding and how to manage my supply. I was ready; I had my disposable breast pads in my bag ready to go and my cloth breast pads in the freezer reading for cooling, hot, sensitive nipples.
And then it happened. “Keep your phone on,” I told Gran! And to your dad, “Get some rest, we are going to have a baby in the morning.”
And then it was you and me. I talked to you all night, reassured you, told you its going to be OK and we will meet each other properly soon. I made cups of nettle and raspberry leaf tea to strengthen my contractions and ready my body, I bounced on the Swiss ball, I paced the living room, I timed contractions.
When you were born you were my tiny bundle of newness with a head of thick jet-black hair and the biggest eyes I’d ever seen on a baby. Your nose was all stuffed up with mucus and you struggled to breathe. I couldn’t get you to suck; “Your latch is perfect,” the midwives said. Suck, tiny baby, I want to feed you. Over and over in my head I willed you to start sucking.
But you didn’t.
An hour went by, two, we needed to get some colostrum into you so I hand-expressed a syringe and squirted it into your mouth, then another and another. For two days I tried to breastfeed you but your blocked up nose made it so hard for you to breathe and feed. We had some success but mostly you got fed with the syringes full of colostrum. I didn’t lose hope. I will breastfeed. Breastfeeding was the only option for you in my mind.
On day three my milk came in, we were heading home, your nose was less stuffy and you were working out that you needed to suck. It took a lot of coaxing and giving you a soother to help stimulate the jaw muscles but you got there.
And boy did you get there; those first few weeks we called you baby piranha. As you chomped down on my adapting nipples I curled my toes and waited for the sucking to start, as my milk let down to you, I leaned back in the chair and shut my eyes and breathed deeply through the letdown nausea that I’m one of the small percentage of people to experience. But we got there, you gained weight, you were alert and wetting your tiny cloth nappies. I was breastfeeding you!
About ten days after you were born I got a message from my friend, “I have no milk, my baby is starving!” Her little baby was born six days after you and her mama wasn’t able to feed her. So I started pumping. My midwife had wanted me to wait until breastfeeding had been established for a good few weeks before I used my pump but I couldn’t sit by and do nothing. Like me, she was desperate to breastfeed. We packed up a few small bags of frozen milk and went to visit her in the birthing unit. Her milk came in eventually but we supplemented her feeds with your milk for a long time. In daddy’s culture this makes her your sister for life, I like that you have a sister.
I loved pumping for her and for you. Your gran gave you your first bottle. We went for the latex teat as it is so soft and feels like my skin. I sat in the hairdresser willing them to go faster! I have to get back to my tiny baby. I walked in the door just as you lay in gran’s arms drinking your bottle I had left for you, I’m so glad I didn’t miss that first. From then on it became a nightly tradition that your dad would give you a little bottle when he got home while I went and slept to get ready for the long night ahead. He loved that time with you, he would take off his shirt and you lay on him skin-to-skin, soaking up all his love while you gazed into each others eyes and got your breast milk from dada.
You were ten weeks old when I first went into work. You came too. You slept peacefully next to my desk in your basket and woke only to feed and for a few minutes play; I got a lot done in those days. But you grew, and spent more time awake and the time came that I needed to go back out and visit my clients. The first day I left you a full day I cried for about an hour after I drove away. “Are you sure I’ve left enough milk?” I asked gran. I stopped to refuel the car and buy some batteries for my breast pump. I pumped three times that day. Each time my breasts were engorged and leaking into my breast pads I would pull over and turn on my pump. As I watched the milk drip into the bottle I thought of you and wondered what you were doing. At the end of the day I was so happy to pick you up and breathe in your delicious baby scent, and even more happy to put you to my breast and feed you myself. Hello baby, I missed you.
It got easier, the leaving. Now you sit on the stairs and wave me goodbye, practically a toddler. Your dad sometimes picks you up and you have bedtime with a bottle while I work late. I sneak into bed next to you and hope you roll over to breastfeed in your sleep, you always do.
I’ve pumped in some pretty funny places for you, but I’ve never had any odd looks, not even once! Even the time I sat in the airport next to a power outlet and ate my dinner while pumping. The time I sat in a bathroom at the mall pumping, lots of women even came up to me to say it was awesome to see. That gave me the confidence to be proud of my milk-making superpowers. And I know you appreciate it.
We are coming up a year breast-feeding, you and I. You spend more and more time playing and less time wanting to cuddle on the couch and feed now but that’s OK. I know eventually you won’t want to have breast milk any more but I want you to know I’ve cherished feeding you, every moment, the hard times in the beginning, the pumping all over the country while I traveled without you, working, it’s all been worth it to give you my very best.