The Milk and the Love

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I just want someone to give this new-baby love to

I said it out loud again today. My heart’s been crying it out every day and minute since the first time I said it.

{I feel it bears mentioning…We will not be having any more children at this point in our lives. We were already certain we’d be done after having Anysia, healthy or not. Losing her did not change our minds on the matter. If anything it solidified the decision. We know it is highly unlikely that we would have another child with Trisomy-18. But it isn’t unlikely at our age that we’d have another with some sort of problems, either for myself or for the baby. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying it is probable. But I cannot state it is highly unlikely, either. Nor can statistics. Even if we could guarantee it wouldn’t be the case, we are 43 and 41 and feeling far too old to be doing this one more time. Going ahead with it was even iffy when deciding to get pregnant last April. We were right at that point of no return when we decided to jump in and do this parenting thing one more time before changing our minds for good. Now, our minds are adamantly made up that we need to be done. This only adds to our grief, because losing Anysia was not just losing Anysia. With losing her also came the loss of many other things. Feeling we are not young, healthy and energetic enough to have more, we grieve loss of time. Some have babies well into their 40s. We, personally, can’t… we choose not to. We will eventually be taking medically procedural steps to ensure that, but our hearts and minds are already there. God would have to make it really clear that he wants us to have more for us to take that step.}

I have not been able to get on my blog to write for days. The things I’m feeling and thinking about seem to get stuck. Often, thoughts are fleeting… not that they ever really leave my mind, but just that if I don’t write them down right away, I won’t be able to remember them in the way I would have liked to express them at the time. Maybe those thoughts aren’t meant to be expressed. Or maybe a grieving person who hopes to heal through writing should walk around with a satchel hanging over her shoulders at all times, for holding notebooks and pens. Although… I have a feeling that, with a toddler who’s always no more than a room or two away, even constant access to a notebook wouldn’t help me to get things out.

Anyway, I just haven’t been able to write for a few days now. I feel like the delicate balance that was my grieving process was derailed by some pretty significant things during these last few days of silence… the biggest being the early arrival of my niece {my husband’s brother’s little girl}. I haven’t been unaware that she’d be coming or that I’d have to face any amount of pain along with the joy of her arrival. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon, as her due date was eleven weeks past ours. But she is here… two and a half months early, as of two days ago. I was initially concerned about my niece given such an early arrival, and after that, relieved to know she’s okay. Then it all hit me pretty hard… and I struggled with knowing that God took ours so recently {it feels like yesterday}, sending her so soon afterward. Not to compare. I don’t ever want to do that. There is no sense in doing such a thing, because where would it end? I’m just saying it threw me for a loop. And it was painful to see her photograph, even amidst the joy it brought too.

So I’ve found myself unable to work out or through some aspects of my grief here in this space… or at all. I guess I can’t entirely blame it on getting thrown for a loop, though. Our niece only arrived a couple of days ago, whereas what I’ve written below was started more than a week ago. I just haven’t been able to think and write clearly enough to finish it. There seems to be some sort of mental block… not just in writing, but in thinking period. Mostly just with the writing part, though. My guess is that it’s a hormonal fog, as I am noticing other physical manifestations of the fluctuation in hormones these days.

Anyway, this is what I had been trying to say… as of more than a week ago…

View More:{Holding Anysia in the hospital after her birth. December 19, 2013}

One of the most treasured aspects of becoming a brand new mom was the blessing and gift found in being able to nurse. If I am completely honest, it was a very-high-on-the-list draw for me toward having a second child. When we found out I was pregnant last April, I was still actively nursing Isaac, though he had already begun slowly weaning. Before becoming pregnant with Anysia, I knew I would not want my days of nursing him to come to an end. And I had a strong sense I would yearn for the experience of this most intimate, life-sustaining and nurturing act again when it would finally come to an end.

I was right. I do… yearn.

I’ve written before {in a post on my old blog} about just how much being able to nurse means to me, or rather meant to me.

I was not able to nurse Anysia. I tried, very briefly. She did not take immediately {or at all} the way Isaac did, which I was prepared for. I was told she likely wouldn’t. My heart had to break and heal over that reality long before I gave birth to her… back when we first learned she had Trisomy-18. Nursing is near to miraculous in my eyes… that is how special I’ve come to find such a gift. So it feels like one of the greatest immediate losses I’ve had to accept in all of this. But that, alone, was not the reason for writing tonight. It is only a piece of this particular aspect of grief I’ve been working through.

I wish I had collected my thoughts for this post back when they first came to mind… back about a week ago when my head lay quietly on Mr. B’s belly, the rest of me laying sideways across our king size bed. We had just put Izzy to bed and retired to our own… not to sleep. Just to crash, and think… or not think. Rest. Connect. Let out a sigh. SomethingMaybe to process silently… or even process nothing at all, but rather do something as far from thinking about her as possible.

But I couldn’t not think of her… our sweet baby girl. It hadn’t even been two weeks.

As I try to recall and write tonight, I can’t remember the exact thoughts that came to mind. Or what sentences formed when the thoughts made their way past my lips as we spoke. I only remember what feeling filled my heart… and that, before uttering a word, I felt so empty. Not empty in a what is my life about? sense. Not a no-sense-of-purpose emptiness. Just an empty feeling that comes with being so full of a love that has been created just for her, but with no her to give it to. So I tearfully expressed something to that effect out loud.

For the purpose of writing it out tonight, I wish I could remember exactly what I said, as it seemed poetic at the time… not because I used perfect words arranged in flawless order. Just because it was my heart. My most honest laments coming straight from deep inside. And now I haven’t the words I used… nor the order in which they came out.

But I do know they started out something close to this… simply I have so much love to give her.

I wasn’t talking about some feeling you just let yourself feel because you’re the mom… and you are sort of obligated to love your child, right? I mean, what mom would not love her own child that she birthed… first created and nurtured and grew… then birthed. That’s just something you do. Because why would you have her in the first place if you wouldn’t?

No, I was talking about an almost physiological thing that you have no control over… that you can’t walk away from. As sure as you grew her, by doing nothing more than taking care of yourself and protecting yourself, this love wells up. No choice in the matter. It’s just there. And it’s right there waiting, when she finally comes to meet you. But when she’s gone, you’re still there, and so is the love. And you don’t know what to do with it. It only grows bigger, within rooms that can’t contain it. There’s no outlet without her. This love was created specifically for her, you see. So, no… there is no outlet. No one to pour into. Just aching at the seams where it longs to burst free.

I didn’t actually say all that… but that explains how I was feeling. I mostly said only what is two paragraphs up… that I was crushed, because I had so much love to give, but she was not there to give it to. At the very moment I spoke these words to him, I thought about those first couple of weeks after she came and left… about the milk my body had produced just for her, completely involuntarily and one hundred percent purely as a result of having her. My body took over and made that milk, whether I gave it permission to or not. It was meant for her, and there it was. Just like the love. Building. Filling up beyond capacity. With nowhere to go, just painfully trapped.

So I said it out loud.

I have so much to give her.
I have all this love built up.
It was created just for her.
But she isn’t here to give it to…                  Just like my milk.

The milk and the love.

As I sat down to write tonight, I remembered what it is that makes mama milk form so mysteriously and wonderfully. The scientific explanation is an increase in the hormone called oxytocin. Then I was reminded, also, of its role in bonding… not just between mother and child, but between any two people… most often associated with mother-and-child bonding, though, especially during the act of nursing. This made me question what I’d been feeling that night as I lay there spilling my thoughts and tears into his sweater. Was it not actually love I was longing to give away? Was it just a need to bond? A purely physiological need to bond with my baby girl?

I really don’t know. But I tend to think not. My guess is that it is love. And I think to myself does it really even matter? I have something to give that was created specifically for her. And I cannot. Love or a desire to bond with her… it doesn’t make a difference to this crushed heart.

My milk production eventually shut down. My body finally figured out that milk would no longer be needed, thereby relieving the pain that comes when it can’t be released. It’s an amazing thing, actually… how a woman’s body picks up cues and produces only as much as has been given away. It knows to shut down over time when the recipient has not come to receive. This other thing? This love… or this desire to hold her, bond with her, protect her, give her whatever she needs, surround her? I can’t shut it down, and nothing in me involuntarily can either. And therein lies my pain.

I realize there are multiple manifestations and definitions of love, and there are so many uses for this one small word. {In fact, I have other things to say regarding her about that, but best left for an entirely different post.} But I’ve come to also realize that, in losing someone you hardly knew, you long to have very clear and precise definitions of this vastly used word. And with those definitions, instructions. A manual… What to Do with Your Love for Someone when That Someone Is Not There.

I don’t think my friend {taking pictures} was in the room when I made the attempt to nurse Anysia that day, as my attempt to do so came almost immediately after my baby girl was handed to me. She may have been there, but I don’t remember either way. And if she was, she might have refrained from capturing it, concerned that I would feel uncomfortable. But I can honestly say, I wouldn’t have minded. I would treasure such a photo, considering it a sacred moment captured… not one too private or uncomfortable. Simply a picture of nurture in its truest form and at its most basic and beautiful level… the reason I will cherish these in-the-moment photos taken while nursing Isaac, by two other dear photographer friends.

the milk and the love2

Now, more than ever, I am so thankful to have these photos. Within them is a sight that, outside of them, I will never again see… not from any perspective. So I latch on to the giving-away image in my mind more than ever before. In that first photograph up above, it appears to me as though I am nursing Anysia. For all I know, my friend took it at that moment when we tried… she just may have been in the room by then. But I tend to think it’s simply a photo of me holding/gazing at her. Regardless, it is a photo I can’t stop looking at, because it… this photo that only appears as though I was giving away what was created just for her… is the closest thing to having nursed her that I will ever know.

Photographs by Sherah G, Claire Burge, and Stacey Montgomery