By the time they settled her in, found the room for me and practically dragged me out of NICU and got me settled in the postnatal care unit, it was 4 AM. None of us had any heart for eating, but we still nibbled a couple of bits. Sleep was out of the question. Just like that the dawn of a new day broke on the horizon.
Sometime after mid-morning, a nurse came in to ask if I had any colostrum for baby and a new wave of panic crept in. I didn’t even know it was possible for me to get any more worried but there I was sitting in the room realising for the first time that I had no milk. The nurse settled me down and showed me what to do, and I started pumping and massaging. Then the nurse tried, we gave it a try with a breast pump, but nothing was working. With everything going on that was the one thing that I could do, give her milk, but the well was dry.
I was the worst mother ever. Can’t keep my baby safe, can’t comfort her, can’t even give her milk.
My breasts were sore beyond imagination, so finally we had to stop.
After lunch hours, a hospital social worker came in to talk to me. I guess my emotional condition was so apparent that they had to do something.
After the initial introduction, she asked me what happened, and I told her the whole story in a single breath. She sat there, listening very carefully. Once I was finished she asked me how I was feeling. After dwelling in some self-pity first, I ended my answer by saying, “and of course I am very tired”.
She looked at me with meaningful eyes and asked: “So why do you think your milk has not yet come?” And it hit me, and it hit me like a lightning bolt, I had over-exhausted myself.
The realisation must have clearly shown on my face because she gave me the most wonderful, warm and non-judgmental smile and said, “You and her are connected even if you are far apart. She has lived inside you and knows your heartbeat inside out. So the best thing you can do for her right now is to take care of yourself”. Yes, that’s what she said. The best thing that I can do for her is to take care of myself.
The best doctors in the country were looking after her, my husband and mother were there, and everyone close to us was praying for her recovery. I was not going to add any meaningful value by merely being there, but I can do this, send her good vibes and a mother’s support. Even though I knew the facts before, when this realisation happened a sudden feeling of calmness, trust and relief sunk in. After that, I ate properly for the first time in 30-35 hours and took a nice long nap.
When I woke up, I gave expressing a try again and what do you know we got a drop. We got a drop!! Everyone along with me celebrated.
The nurses even collected the drop in a syringe, even though we knew we couldn’t give it to her: it was a victory. The first victory in what felt like a lifetime.
After that things started to improve slowly. After a few days, my daughter made a full recovery, and a few more days later we were on our way home. Today I am a proud and very happy mother of an amazing daughter who is doing so well for her age, who is growing so fast, and whose intelligence and smartness astonishes me every single day. I am not saying everything is hunky-dory and I never face problems, but whenever I do, I try to come back to this story and remind myself: if you are OK, you will have strength and courage to make her feel OK. A deep breath, a few minutes’ rest and a nice cup of your favourite drink can do wonders to help you rejuvenate and deal with the situation with much more calmness. Remember the instructions we receive in the plane. Put your mask on first before helping your children. Why? Because you are no good to them or anyone else unconscious. For the child, you are their safety net, not that oxygen mask.
Manasee Joshi is a mother of a 13-month-old daughter. She has really enjoyed this time with her – all the ups and downs. Even though she has a background in IT, she has always had an artistic side, so decided to explore that in writing about motherhood.