Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Milk

The milk was really the worst part physically. People think that giving birth to a dead baby must be the worst thing a person could ever have to do. But I think perhaps making milk for a dead baby might be worse.
When I gave birth to Charlotte, it was work for her, and work with her. My body was doing what it was supposed to do for her, and she was still there. Of course it was painstaking and heartwrenching. I don't mean to lessen the burden of grief that hung over me during that birth. It was, by far, the most difficult and courageous act of my life.
But the milk hurt more. The milk was beyond my control. When I gave birth to Charlotte, it felt like a choice. I rose onto the balls of my feet and felt myself doing exactly what my body was meant to do. I felt my motherhood coursing through my veins. I was making myself a mother, I was engaged in this universal act of birthing a child. I could feel her moving through me.
When the milk came, she was gone. I was home. The pull out couch was pulled out downstairs, because we could not face upstairs: Charlotte's things, the bed we had lain in the night she died. The day before, when I had arrived home, my mother told me, she said, I'm worried about your breasts. Let's do something. They were loose beneath my shirt. I could not bear to put on the nursing bras I had packed in my suitcase for the hospital, thinking I would be wearing them home with my baby in the backseat. So my sweet mother helped me into my younger sister's size A sports bra. We bound my breasts tight. And we waited.
The next morning, the ache preceded my consciousness. My breasts were beginning to bulge. They were hard. They hurt. We kept wheat packs in the freezer and rotated them for that day. I took advil. I waited some more.
The next morning they were blue. They felt just like a canteloupe, only smoother to touch. They were ridged with their fullness and absolutely rock hard. Just as when you push a canteloupe, you think maybe in its ripeness you should be able to push your finger in, but you can't. It's just too hard. The milk wrapped all the way around my sides, even a little bit onto my back. This day I had to shower. I had help peeling the bra from my body. It was barely possible.
Once I was naked I looked in the mirror. The milk was pouring out of me in rivers down my belly, my sagging, empty belly. My breasts hurt so much, to the touch of the air, to the glance of my eyes at my poor, ravaged body, devoid of life. Their fullness and ripeness stood in stark contrast to the emptiness below.
Once in the shower I squeezed them a little, knowing I should not, watching the incredible bounty of life flow out of me. I had no control over this. It was just happening to me.
This milk seemed like a mockery of my motherhood. Where giving birth to Charlotte had sealed me as a mother, this milk that came after her departure seemed cruel at best. Here it was, pouring from me, fatty and sweet, and she was gone, en-route to a crematorium, lifeless and gone. My motherhood tucked away somewhere in an urn, waiting to be returned to the funeral home nearby, while her milk actively churned in my body, unaware of her loss.
This was pain. There is nothing more to say.

4 comments:

Amy said...

Hello, Welcome to babylossblogland!

I am sorry for the loss of your Charlotte. I am glad that you have 2 other living children now though.

I myself am relatively new to this and am fighting the "Do I try again" feelings.

I recall the milk (what little I had) coming in as a very painful reminder. I hated my body at that point for not realizing that my baby was not with me.

Heather said...

I know this pain too.

I can't read anymore right now for the tears running down my face. But I'll be back...

Amy said...

Carol,
Thank you for visiting my side!
Yes, I do donate to Share also, I just haven't linked them yet! I have been in contact with the office. It's kinda sad, where I am we don't have a support group that is SHARE based. Maybe in the future!

Thanks again for coming over and saying "hi!"

Birdie said...

It still aches and pangs at me to this day, when I knew that the milk was there. For days Matt would help me to place cold cabbage in my tight bra, one of the nursing bra's I had bought while I was pregnant...

I had cold cabbage in my bra on my breasts many times over everyday and drank lots of sage tea....

I also wore nursing pads a few times to see what the milk looked like as it dried up.

You are so right luv, the pain of the milk...was so deep. It was there for her and she was not there to drink and take nourishment from it.