We had a very encouraging sign on Andrew’s second day in the NICU, which was his fourth day on intravenous antibiotics. On that day, he finally opened his eyes! Seeing his sweet brown eyes for the very first time moved me almost to tears. He was eight days old.
Because Andrew was so weak and lethargic, the hospital set me up with an electric pump and had me express milk to feed him from a bottle. Sometime during that first day or night, one of the monitors in the room started beeping loudly, and within seconds, a nurse appeared in the doorway and said that the baby’s blood oxygen level had dropped too low and told me to rouse him.
This post is a continuation of an earlier post. If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1 first.
These contractions were stronger than the practice contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but they didn’t establish the textbook pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I was in frequent contact with my medical-school friend, and we decided that it must be false labor. But false labor or not, it seemed to be accomplishing something, and I was reminded of my first labor, when I had experienced weak, irregular contractions for 48 hours before finally going to the hospital and finding out that I was already 7 centimeters dilated, almost ready to have the baby!
The anxiety I had been experiencing turned into a strangling sense of dread. This oppressive feeling blanketed every waking moment, like the foreboding that a prisoner on death row must feel as his execution date nears. Frantic from the suspense, I was almost ready to check into the hospital and brave the medical system, but my husband, ever calm and logical, convinced me that was a bad idea.
"Don't drop things on the baby."
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I love nursing babies. (You can take that any way you want: either that I love to nurse infants or that I love infants who are still in the nursing stage. Both statements are true.) There is something indescribably precious about cradling a baby and watching his blissful contentment as he draws both nourishment and comfort from your breast.
I am currently nursing my third baby, and I always enjoy watching the different stages that they go through. First there is the newborn nurser with downy hair, wrinkled face, and scrawny limbs. He needs help to find the breast, but once he does, he nurses with total focus, eyes closed, jaw working methodically, the rest of his body profoundly relaxed.
Next comes the impatient nurser, who can't seem to tolerate the slightest delay in starting his meal. (Honestly, I don't know how moms cope when they have to rely on formula to feed their babies. Nothing is quicker than whipping out a meal for a breastfed baby, and yet they still get so bent out of shape about the 2.7-second delay. If I had to listen to the desperate wails of a baby waiting several minutes for formula to be mixed and heated to just the right temperature, I think I might snap.) The funny thing about babies at this stage is how they will act as if they don't really want the meal. Many times I have watched in amusement as my little nurser shakes his head violently back and forth, mouth wide open, lips repeatedly grazing the target, but refusing to latch on! Eventually, however, he settles down and contentedly sucks away.
The third stage is the distracted nurser, and the baby I'm currently nursing is in this category. Distracted nursers are old enough that they usually have rolls of fat and the most adorable chubby cheeks. They need no help finding the breast, and they usually get right down to business. However, they are so aware of their surroundings that they can have trouble nursing in an environment that isn't perfectly tranquil. Any noise or movement will provoke a sudden break in suction and a wide-eyed, accusatory stare. Should the mother attempt to multitask by eating a meal or reading a book while feeding the baby, the distracted nurser is likely to respond with cries of protest. And even if everything is ideal, there is one more thing that can distract this type of baby: his proximity to Mommy. He may interrupt his meal simply to gaze up into his mother's eyes and make sweet cooing noises, as if to say, "Mommy, you're so wonderful. You're the love of my life." And, if he's anything like my youngest child, after this precious little exchange, he's very likely to forget about the breast altogether and start sucking his thumb! It's a hilarious picture: there he is, contentedly sucking his thumb, even though it will never give him any nourishment, no matter how long or how hard he sucks, and all the while, the source of all nummy is within easy reach, just a fraction of an inch from his cheek!
I used to tease him gently about this habit until the day I realized that sometimes I'm just like him. Sometimes I seek reassurance, strength, or fulfillment from things that will never truly satisfy. And all the while, God is right beside me saying gently, "Here I am, the source of all you need. Turn to Me."
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