Breastfeeding Goddesses: The Odyssey to Freedom
When a nurse calculated my baby's due date as 11/11, I nearly fell out of my chair.
We chose to not ultrasound or learn the baby's sex, and we just referred to our child as "Baby 11/11." As we know, 11 is a master number, and 11:11 is a gateway to recognizing the oneness in everyday life. True to Scorpio form, baby Eleven's journey earthside was a full-circle, transformational experience.
When I was 36 weeks pregnant, we flew from the states to Trinidad & Tobago. Before we had even reached home from the airport, our little town of Point Fortin experienced its first earthquake in over 20 years. I knew Eleven had come to shake up the place.
Four weeks later, I went into labor three days before the November Full Moon. It literally sent everyone around me (except my husband) into a tailspin. I couldn't understand why people were so peril.
I never felt a moment of fear, but it seemed like everyone else was possessed with some kind of panic; even the midwives and doulas. It was incredibly annoying. All I wanted was to be left alone, but everywhere I turned, crowds would gather as if it was the event of the century.
That full day of labor was symbolic, even including a drive through a middle-of-the-night lightning storm. That, coupled with everyone around me turning into weird body-snatched automatons, showed me that something about this child was quite transcendent.
Throughout it all, Dread was calm and the only grounded rock I had in a sea of maniacs.
After a full day, night, and now early morning of too many interactions with useless "medical professionals," I finally reached the peak of transitional labor; the point where I thought I couldn't go on. I was begging for drugs! I wanted anything, even Tylenol, and the nasty nurses just said it was too late.
I had been trying and pushing so hard; all I could do was let go. I dissociated from my local body and became one with All that is. I traversed that 11:11 gateway and surrendered to the process.
Eleven emerged at the stroke of sunrise; 6:00 a.m.--exactly 24 hours after my first contraction. The sun streamed into the room, banishing the darkness. They lay her on my stomach and I couldn't believe my eyes. The baby was beautiful, peaceful and calm; and ALL face. Just cheeks. She was 8 lbs 5 oz and I knew she was healthy, but of course "they" wanted to "observe" the child "because of the long labor."
She was whisked off, but not before we made eye contact and she gave me the look of perfect recognition. She knew me.
An hour or so later when I was finally able to fend for myself, I demanded to see my child. We were supposed to be having skin-to-skin contact. We were supposed to be learning to nurse. I watched the lactation specialist help all these new mothers around me breastfeed their babies. I was just sitting there like I had a preemie in neonatal, instead of a full-sized, perfect baby who was unnecessarily being "observed." Hadn't we been observed enough?
No one seemed concerned, so I kept making noise about my child. I wasn't about to be one of the other passive new mothers just waiting to be told what to do.
I unhooked my IV, left the bed, and made a dash for the stairwell.
An orderly pushing a cart on the floor saw me. "Hey you! Where ya trynna go? Nurses!" she blocked my path and called to the supervisors. "Ah glad I caught you. NURSES! You have an escapee. De gal tryin ah leave!"
A nurse led me back to my bed as though I were a prisoner.
I kept raising hell. Finally, the lactation consultant went to check downstairs and told me where babygirl was. "You'll have to wait to see her," she told me, "but your husband is down there with her." That was somewhat reassuring, but I didn't know why she wasn't advocating more for me to go feed my newborn!
This is when I finally realized:
I AM my own advocate. I AM Eleven's advocate. If I sit here and wait for them to give me what I want, it will never come. If I sit here and trust that someone else knows what is best for my child more than I do, I will continue to be taken for bullshit hayrides in this circus.
I waited until the lactation consultant left the area, and made another run for it.
This time, the path was clear and I made it all the way downstairs. Dread was there with her. She was so big and perfect. All the other babies were small and fragile-looking; Eleven didn't belong there.
The nurse on duty in that unit came in the room and told me she was about to give my baby formula if she didn't feed soon. Instead of being supportive and encouraging or helping me, she was pressuring me to hurry up and get the newborn to nurse.
So...what if I hadn't made that mad dash to come downstairs? Eleven's first feeding would have been some janky
Just then, the front desk staff on the first floor hollered for me. "We just received a call from the third floor. The doctors are looking for you!" They were telling me. "You're not supposed to leave your bed without permission."
"Oho? I'm feeding my baby," I dismissed them. What was this?
"I'm bringing the formula," the nurse threatened. What
I was convinced my pretty baby was up to some antics. She was awake, but kept her eyes closed. Instead of trying to make her suck (you can't 'force' a reflex action), I relaxed, and simply held her close to me.
Eleven finally latched and began nursing, with no more than two seconds to spare before the nurse barged in the room with her bottle of formula.
Having my new baby take to my colostrum for the first time was surreal. I felt triumphant, and finally victorious after a long day of battling for my basic dignities as a laboring mother. It was a moment I had won for the both of us, in a space--in a world that was trying to inject fear into the process and keep us apart.
If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that nothing can keep me from providing my child's needs.
No institutions, no policies, no gatekeepers can tell me anything about myself or my daughter that I don't already know, and that has held fast and true our entire two years (and 9 months prior) together. :) This is the lesson I had to internalize from the start of my pregnancy journey to our first moment of post-natal bonding through breastfeeding.
To this day, Eleven simply wants me to relax so she can do her thing. Born with a Life Path number of 22, the Master Builder girl influences her surroundings just by being present.
From the earthquake, to the labor saga, to my odyssey from the third floor to the first, everything about Eleven is epic. She was born at exactly the moment she was supposed to emerge.
To this day, I have never encountered any resistance or criticism surrounding my breastfeeding on demand.
From the scorching hot beaches of Tobago, to the Trinidad grocery store aisle, to everywhere we've been in the states, no one has ever come at us sideways regarding breastfeeding. I highly doubt anyone would dare. :)
I embody zero receptivity for untoward comments, and that power and self-trust is something I've proudly earned for myself and my daughter at the time when we were both the most vulnerable.
"To be victorious, you must find glory in the little things."
Eleven is nearly two years new and we're still breastfeeding. I give thanks every day for the close bond we share. I've gone to the ends of the earth for her, and always will, come what may.