Dear Mama of an Allergic or Ill Nursling

Yesterday was  Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day and I was reminded like so many other days that I am thankful to have all 3 of my pregnancies reach full term with a beautiful baby girl in my arms. I am blessed. As I sat nursing Baby-Foodie to sleep last night, I felt enormous joy in being a mother because, despite the fact that she is a bit of a rascal, an energy ball AND an independent spirit who keeps me on my toes, the end of each day brings one of my most cherished moments

I cherish the moments I hold my baby girl as I nurse her and her warm body becomes heavy and limp blanketed by slumber.

I cherish the moment that my fierce Foguete (Portuguese for firecracker) is a quiet, peaceful angel in my arms.

In these moments I recall nursing Mini-Foodie M and being equally joyful because she nursed like a pro from day one and was a good sleeper. She was a healthy baby just like Baby-Foodie. 

In these moments, I remember my introduction to motherhood with my first Foguete who was a difficult baby. A baby I knew was sick once I realized she never nursed like the books described the spectrum of healthy nursing.

In these moments, I feel a sadness that I didn’t know then what I know today. I try not to feel guilty because I didn’t know better. 

In these moments, I feel sad that my baby girl was not able to nurse as long as her sisters. But I feel the most sadness because she was unable to nurse without pain. Her allergies were so bad that she only nursed a bare minimum and cried herself to sleep in my arms as I rocked her, danced with her, and sang to her for up to 3 and even 5 hours each night making up songs that were prayers that slumber and relief would come. I remember that I used to feel like my milk was hurting her or that, as is believed in my Azorean culture, my milk wasn’t strong enough to for her thrive. I felt like I was poisoning my baby with my milk.

In these moments, I feel grateful that all three Mini-Foodies are healthy and thrive today as well as a desire to encourage any mama of an allergic nursling who is struggling. 

Dear Mama, take each moment, each day, each night, each week one at a time. Things will get better. 

When we realize that our child is not healthy and / or not thriving, it feels like the end of the world. Sometimes we feel like it is our fault and we look for what we did wrong in our pregnancy. We ask ourselves things like: “Was it the cocktail or sushi I had before I knew I was pregnant?”, “Did I use safe products to clean the house?”, “Was it the anti-persperant I stopped wearing when I learned it was unhealthy?”, and so many others. We will never have an answer to these questions, but what we do have is our motherhood and our children with allergies or an illness who we are blessed to love, teach, protect and honor. 

So Dear Mama of an allergic or ill child, please take each moment one at a time and know (1) you are NOT alone, (2) things will get better as you learn to navigate your new reality, and (3) you are blessed with the desire to protect your child and teach her or him how to live life where this allergy or illness is not a curse, but rather a challenge that calls for creativity as well as patience and the understanding that life is a different kind of normal.

And Dear Mama, please remember that at the end of the day, after all the challenging moments, your sleeping child is your Earthly Angel who looks up to you and who loves you unconditionally. 

I wish you Saúde / Health, Paz / Peace, Amor / Love.