Milk and boobs

During our pregnancy we had a million conversations of anticipation of future events.
“Carlos! I hope you’re home when it is time to leave for the hospital! Can you imagine how excited you will be if I call you at work? You better drive safely the entire way home!”
“Our bags are packed! I left a list of last minute things not to forget before we leave for the hospital – please make sure whatever you are going to want to wear is free from dog hair!”
“Imagine how exciting it is going to be to get up the elevator at the hospital and check in!”
“I wonder how long I will push for?”
“Teresa, where do you want me to be while you are pushing?”
“What are the first things you are going to say to her?”
“I wonder what she will look like?!”
The list is endless of thoughts, ideas, plans and conversations we had. Often we would lay in bed for hours before falling asleep, Carlos rubbing my belly, and we would just talk about how excited we were. We talked often about how it just seemed unimaginablethat in six months…in four months…next month…in two weeks…maybe tomorrow?!…that she would be here. I think most first time parents feel this way. This time clock that your body knows, that you do not, where suddenly your entire life changes. And it always seemed to totally surreal, totally unimaginable that she would be here, our entire lives changed and we would be holding a beautiful little girl that we created. 

What of course is more unimaginable is the fact that she will never be here – but all the events that we anticipated happening still happened. And I said that over and over probably 100 times, in disbelief at the hospital to the nurses and staff, “This is everything we have been planning on happening but…there is no baby.”

Carlos was with me at the final appointment. Thank God. Because he works 90 minutes away. And had I had to call him, hysterical and screaming that she was dead, and then for him to have to drive all the way home? It physically makes me nauseated to think that it could have been another layer of horror.

Our bags were packed, but left at home because straight from the appointment we completely deliriously drove to the hospital. Carlos’ sweatpants had dog hair on them.

We still went up the elevator to check in. Except the nurses knew we were coming because our doctor had called them. “Teresa Mendoza…40 weeks and 2 days pregnant…no heartbeat…fetal demise.”

I pushed for 25 minutes. My body was not ready to deliver her. I had many, many bags of Pitocin over the course of 24 hours and was barely dilated. I knew that a cesarean was a possibility if my body continued to not respond. My body was panicked and exhausted. It wasn’t until after a large dosage of Fentanyl and was able to take a 45 minute nap that my body relaxed and dilated to 7 cm and then quickly to 10 cm.

Carlos held my hand on my right side and stayed by my face. I needed to look at him in the eyes for every contraction, for every second that I felt I couldn’t go on, we knew her delivery meant that this was done and I was no longer pregnant. We sobbed, I imagine the entire time, but periodically he would look at me or I would look at him, find it in ourselves to hold it together long enough to say ‘I love you,’ or ‘We are going to get through this’. Though the 25 minutes seemed like it lasted just 5, I know we said those phrases to each other at least 20 times then. It wasn’t something said to be reassuring to each other, no, it was things that were stated because they are facts. When she was delivered I wailed. An honest to god wail. She was out of me. It was done. There was no crying baby.

I can’t remember the first thing Carlos or I said aloud to her. Because there were a million emotions rushing through our brains and hardly any of them can actually be put into thoughts, much less words. I held her and stared at her and touched her and kissed her and cried.

She had a ton of very dark, very curly hair. She had Carlos’ nose, my dimple chin and very large hands and feet. She was skinny and tall. She was perfect. She was beautiful. How could we have made something so breathtakingly amazing?

It was all the events that we anticipated and imagined happening, but there was no baby that we took home.

My body didn’t know there was no baby to take home. My body did what it is designed to do after it gives birth. It makes milk. My body was continuing the perfect pregnancy on into its 4th trimester. The baby is out! It will be hungry! Let’s make lots and lots of milk! The nursing staff including a lactation consultant met with us to discuss things I could do to stop my milk as fast as possible. It will be hard and painful and emotional they said. “Your breasts will increase a cup or two and they will hurt. You can use ice packs, tightest compression possible, cabbage leaves, Sudafed during the day and benadryl at night to dry you out, sage tea and express minimally in a hot shower only if you feel lots of pressure.” I had spent a decent amount of money on quality nursing bras. They, like so many other things we had purchased in anticipation, suddenly became pointless, useless and in a bizarre seemingly non-malicious way salt to a very raw, very open and very unexpected wound. The engorgement that I experienced was freakish. I had large breats to begin with, 34DDD, but what they grew to was truly a size I didn’t even know was possible. I could have fed 10 infants. The nursing bras I bought were in sizes that suddenly seemed like a joke. My engorgement was so much I couldn’t put my arms down at my side and they were hard all the way up to my collar bone. I packed on ice bags, cabbage leaves, two of the tightest sports bras I had and used a neoprene back brace that Carlos bound so tight we were both in tears. It was excruciating. It was not the cup or two larger that I was told. I couldn’t stand up straight because of the weight, I couldn’t take deep breaths because of the binding. My arms now could not be down at my side because of the layers and layers. I slept at a 45 degree angle because I couldn’t breath otherwise. I looked like a mutant.
And it was another reminder that there is no baby.
After a week or so of engorgement they started settling down. They started to understand there is no baby. I still experience several let downs a day. It feels like little lightening bolts, stinging and zapping me. There is no baby. Please stop. I still leak and they are still hard at times. There is no baby. Please stop.
As day by day my engorgement settles down and slows and my body returns to normal I find it another wave of grief that I wasn’t expecting. There is no baby. My body does not have to feed it. It is stopping. There. Is. No. Baby.
It is all the events that we were anticipating happening, and a hundred more that we weren’t. But there is no baby.

Teresa MendozaComment