A hard won, but successful breast-feeding story of a baby girl born with Down syndrome.
By Joan Roberts
When I gave birth to Laura 3 years ago I immediately suspected Down syndrome. She was 3 pounds lighter and 2 inches shorter than our last baby was and so lethargic. Laura couldnít nurse without falling asleep and seldom opened her eyes.
The following day I confronted the doctor; I remember saying, "I think thereís something wrong with my baby." She said that she thought Laura had Down syndrome. I agreed. The discussion was sort of matter-of-fact as if pre-planned. I shouldnít have been surprised at this as I always thought Iíd have a baby with DS. God had been preparing me since I was a child, but I wasnít saved then so I just brushed it off.
When my older sister volunteered at a special needs summer camp I couldnít figure out why she did. My thoughts were on the line of " why would she want to work around those kids, they look funny" and "what if I have a DS baby?" I didnít know anything about Godís unconditional love. I myself was scrawny and homely and sure felt unwanted. How could she love those kids?
Later in my teen years I had an older friend who often invited her DS cousin over. Memme was about 18, cute and friendly. The family loved her but they treated her like a little kid, she was never challenged mentally. I vowed that if I had a DS baby I would raise her with dignity like the other children.
I got saved after I met my husband and with the birth of each child I wondered when the DS baby would show up! After 3 children and a miscarriage I couldnít get pregnant. My fleshly thoughts were, "no DS children for me." But 6 years later I was shocked to find myself pregnant. The excitement was running high around the house, a new boy for sure to even up the family! We were all devastated when I miscarried at 2 months and then again 4 months later right before my 43rd birthday. I wasnít convinced until that last miscarriage that I could not travel in my first trimester.
To help with my depression Lale suggested a trip to Virginia to visit my family.
The week we were to leave, God had a real surprise in store. I was pregnant again. We canceled our trip and I didnít leave the house one time for 4 months. I wasnít taking any chances! Of course I didnít care anymore, " what if?" I was just happy to get another chance.
After the birth, Laura had a rough start, not being able to nurse and getting dehydrated under the bilirubin light. At one week sheíd lost nearly 2 pounds and we ended up at Children's Hospital in Little Rock. She was on IVís 4 days until she could take the "easy" bottle. But when we were admitted and I read "failure to thrive" on her paperwork I went into uncontrollable crying. Odd circumstances had left me alone to deal with this; I must say I didnít do too well. Imagine a total wreck. I just knew Laura wasnít going to make it. She was going to die and then what would I do? The guilt set in for wanting another baby at my age and even more guilt settled when I looked at her helpless little body on the IVís. My doctor called to check on us and did her best to relieve my guilty feelings. My husband arrived the next evening and couldnít believe what a basket case I was! Lale said that he prayed about Laura and she would be all right. Just like that. (How we need the stability of our husbands!)
But Laura wasnít really all right in my eyes; my oldest daughter Elsa noticed it too. Elsa, then 11, had been at the delivery and cut the cord. She also bonded with Laura, as I was so sick. Laura still refers to Elsa and myself as "Ma". I guess she thinks she has 2 mothers! Two days before delivery I had been released from the hospital with pneumonia. We joke that I coughed Laura out!
Laura didnít look well; in fact she was unhealthy looking. I was pumping breast milk every 2 hours and everyone in the house took turns giving her formula. I thought taking extra vitamins would help her so I started pumping a huge variety of vitamins into me in hopes that some would get through the milk to her. (22 vitamins every morning.) Ugh! I had also read that the extra chromosome made more demand for folic acid so I quadrupled what I had been taking. Please note that during my pregnancy I was folic acid deficient.
We inundated Laura with musical and colorful objects. My son played the guitar for her and later on she would get noticeably excited when he played Victory in Jesus. She actually rolled over early and met some standard developmental goals. Elsa and I were still skeptic. When Laura was 4 months old I notified my doctor that Laura was spitting up most of her food. She felt sure that this was the DS not the formula. I didnít buy it. Determined to find someone to help. I contacted a lactation specialist who showed me how Laura nursed wrong and gave me a nipple shield to try. However, Laura sucked so hard that I was in tears at every nursing. I nick named her "jaws". I kept praying for God to help Laura to learn to nurse. She was pretty smart about the shield; she would get the milk flowing, then pull the shield off and suck the milk out of it! I tossed the shield.
The pain was too much and one day I went "shopping" for 6 hours. By the time I got home I had a 104 temperature and a full-blown case of mastitis. Duh, now what was I going to do? A full breast of milk and a baby that canít nurse. My husband pounded cabbage leaves (sure cure for mastitis) which I applied to my breast. When the fever went down I told the kids to bring "jaws" in. To my surprise Laura latched on more correctly; after 4 days I tossed the formula too! We were over the hump and Laura started losing that unhealthy look. She also gained more control of her tongue and after one month of nursing her muscle tone had increase considerably. I thanked God profusely.
The doctors at Children's Hospital were wonderful for Laura but they were doubtful to say the least that I would ever nurse her. But I had told myself; " this will be a nursed baby". In Christ we can do all things.