So here I was with a clear plan in my head. Just having this plan in place already made me feel like I was actually doing something useful for Mr A. Having Mr A being cared for by the doctors and nurses in NICU this was the only thing I felt I could do to help him at this moment. Having this plan gave me a focus and a purpose which right now was exactly what I needed.
Growing up on a dairy farm ‘milking time’ was a twice daily occurrence but for me it was going to be a busy schedule of pumping every three hours. This doesn’t sound very often but when you’re physically and mentally exhausted it felt like a lot of effort. It wasn’t just the pumping, it was the preparation before hand, the sterilising, locating a machine, finding bottles and putting together all this paraphernalia, then once you were sitting comfortably (or not) it was time to begin. Regardless of the time of day or whether there was a meal being served, others sleeping or if there was a gaggle of doctors around your bed doing observations. I pumped every three hours regardless!! Once the pumping had finished it was time to wash, sterilise, return the machine and try to get some rest. Of course there were other things to do as well in between the pumpings. I had to eat, shower, keep hydrated, take my meds, visit Mr A, call family. It seemed liked a lot of effort for just a few mls of breastmilk. It was pretty soul destroying for the first few days, all of that effort for the tiniest amount of milk. Such a small amount that by the time it had made its ways up the side of the bottle towards the provided sterile syringes it had disappeared. Many a tear was shed over this disappointing process. It seemed so pointless in the early days but I was assured by all the nurses that eventually the milk would come if I just stuck with it. so I did. Like I said before this was my plan, the only plan. If I wasn’t making milk for Mr A then I would be doing nothing for him.
The day time pumpings weren’t bad at all, once I was set up with a cup of tea and a few biscuits the time passed by fairly quickly. There was plenty to distract me during the day. It was the night pumpings that were the hardest. These were the times when I though about Mr A the most. I missed him so much and the thought of him lying in that sterile plastic incubator with no one to cuddle him totally broke my heart. Was he sleeping soundly or was he unsettled by all the bright lights and beeping machines? I could hear other babies on the ward crying, I wanted to go up their Mums and scream at them. ‘Your baby is crying, it’s hungry, just pick it up and feed it, give it a cuddle for gods sake, what’s wrong with you??’ Did they not realise how lucky they were to have their babies on the ward with them?!?! The nurses had told me that the night pumpings were most important as that’s when your hormone levels are at their highest and your body was more likely to produce plenty of milk. It took me ages to get back to sleep after these night time pumpings as my mind was racing. I know I needed sleep but it just wasn’t happening. I couldn’t stop thinking about Mr A. They were very long, dark nights, especially once I left the ward and was at home, where Mr A should be. With me!
It felt like a very steep uphill struggle but gradually my milk started to increase and it was keeping up with the amount that Mr A needed, such a relief. Knowing that he was being fed my breastmilk made me feel a bit happier, even slightly proud of myself that at last I was doing something for him. Helping him to get stronger so he could eventually feed from me all by himself, not through a feeding tube. Dare I even imagine how great that would be? I was assured that when he was ready and strong enough they would give us a chance to try breastfeeding. As they fed Mr A through the tube they gave him a teeny tiny dummy so that he would learn the sucking reflex and to associate it with getting milk. Mr A was getting into a vague routine now which involved having his nappy changed followed by a feed through the tube, this would eventually be replaced by a feed from me. Fingers crossed! Now that I had mastered the art and gained enough confidence to change his nappy I would soon start taking over all of this care routine. It was a nerve racking time as he fed every three hours, so if he was too exhausted to feed then I’d have to express instead and try again three hours later. This made me very nervous indeed. I didn’t know how I would cope if the first attempt failed . I decided not to over think it and deal with that situation if and when it came.
After what seemed like an eternity Mr A was strong enough to try a breastfeed. This was the moment we’d been building up to, it meant so much to me. I was ridiculously nervous but tried not to show it as I didn’t want Mr A to pick up on how I was feeling and jeopardise this important opportunity. I will never forget the nurse that helped me to achieve this first feed. She was so kind, gentle and supportive and she put me totally at ease and filled me with confidence about this pivotal moment. I will never ever forget this amazing lady. Any thought of this first feed failing dissolved totally. Failure was not an option!!
My memories of this moment are so vivid but as I sit here trying to put it into words I’m struggling to find them. But I didn’t need to worry at all , Mr A had this sorted. Such a super strong and determined little chap that he is, he latched on straight away and started to feed. He did it so effortlessly as if he’d done it many times before.
I felt an immense surge of love and relief flow through my body it was like an electric shock, this was the moment that all the pumping had been building up to. As tough as the whole process was it was totally worth all the heart ache for this one precious moment. We both just melted into each other and it felt so natural and right as if we had done it hundreds of times before. I closed my eyes and took it all in. Then came the tears, silent tears of shear relief, joy and overwhelming love. I didn’t try to fight them I just let them flow. It was all part of it and a process I had to go through. It was the release of all the tension and worry that had built over the past days. This was what all that hard work was all about and it was totally worth it for this feeling I was having right now.