A book on "Tandem Nursing" sits like radioactive waste on my bookshelf; it advises that nursing a toddler while pregnant is benign for the unborn sibling.
What can I say? Nursing releases oxytocin -- a hormone that induces uterine contractions and, in sufficient quantity, can lead to labor. While I am trying to hold on to amniotic fluid with a broken amniotic sac on bed rest, this is pretty much breath-takingly counter-productive. Gently my doctor advised weaning. Immediately. Completely. That was last Thursday. Twice Lucilla snuck up on Thursday and managed to nurse before I caught her and gently removed her. Since then, I have been giving her milk from a bottle and being very affectionate with her. The surprise? She seems accepting. She pats me gently and says "No nursing. Nursing no, no." She shakes her head sadly at her brother and tells him: "Not nursing." Of course she has also had some screaming tantrums and hit and scratched. But a bit of rage is normal. What softens my heart is the extra hugging and kissing. As if she is making up for the shortfall by offering and claiming extra love. I am pretty sure with her varied diet and reasonable fluid intake that this will not be a disaster for her health. She is 20 months, after all. I just want her to feel cherished, you know? She struggles to fall asleep independently, but has had several naps and gone to sleep at a time not too far off from her normal bedtime every evening.
And it feels like we are taking care of the littlest one.
Monday, March 8, 2010
On February 27, 2010
Under house arrest, I mean bed rest. At 24 weeks, 2 days, I am pregnant with a son who has a beating heart, kicking legs and a beautiful skull. At 6 weeks, the midwives at UCLA gave me a 50% chance of miscarriage due to a small amniotic sac and daily bleeding, now over. The next sonogram revealed terribly low rates of amniotic fluid; other tests implied chromosomal problems, later ruled out. Doctors counseled that we consider termination due to Oligohydramnios: extremely low amniotic fluid. Likely cause? Potter’s Sequence, meaning various severe kidney anomalies, many 100%% fatal. We held off, not from external moral dictates, but because though I tried to be rational intellectual and pragmatic, I fell in love with the little guy. Dr. Ramen Chmait, who specializes in fetal surgery, reviewed the kidneys and the tiny bladder with visible urine and found Potter’s Sequence unlikely. A test proved the ongoing leakage of amniotic fluid, which feels like weeping every time it happens. He counseled bed rest, to try to collect new amniotic fluid – crucial to the development of functional lungs.
Exercise is holy in L.A., good for everything. From childhood I have been active: horsebackriding, dance, swimming, running, karate, hiking, biking and yoga. Pacing on the phone at work. With my son I did handstands and backbends in yoga when I was 8 days over due with no ill effect. People say “I would do anything for my child.” In our case, what I can do for this child is literally nothing. Doing nothing. I only get up for the lightest cooking and a shower, lying prone, not sitting up. I have a career, a teenager and a toddler. A household to run. And here I lie. Every instinct is to roughhouse with the toddler, pick up the floor, go to urgent work meetings, take my son to see a friend. Being intentionally indolent feels like a betrayal of self-sufficiency, efficacy, parenthood, the environment, my career. But as my other half said when I came to help in the kitchen, after a not restful day with bad results to the fluid, “Do you love this baby? Go lie down.” So I did.
It is humbling to ask for help. Help driving kids. Meetings set up via phone. Looking for a grocery store that can deliver. Pleading with loved ones to take the little one to the park. Everyone is very generous. Only pride makes it hurt. And a yearning for the sky. 19 days into this and I have had panicky attacks where I just wanted out. But one early grocery run made it clear that my gain was the baby’s loss. So I am on my side, typing, with deepened respect for women in Islamic societies, compassion for anyone in jail, honor to anyone living with a disability.
Thank you Randal, Tuolumne and Lucilla, my family, friends, colleagues and kind strangers. Yes, I will do anything for this baby. Even if anything means nothing.