The day my best friend breastfed my baby
The idea of another mother breastfeeding your baby might terrify or repulse you, but sometimes there's just no other option. In this case, it was the best gift this exhausted mother could receive.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot.
My best friend breastfed my baby.
I’m not sick, my baby is fine and I have plenty of milk. But sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures; and I couldn’t be more grateful.
It had been an epic week. Scrap that, an epic year. We have moved more times than I have fingers. My partner had taken on a new job leaving me and baby for days at a time, and after being given a week to find a new house, while packing for the big move, a dear friend living overseas with cancer passed away before I could say goodbye ... On top of all of that our baby boy had a fever and a rash.
I was a stressed out, grieving, solo parent with a sick baby who had just moved house YET AGAIN. But then something wonderful happened and it was all thanks to my best breastfeeding friend.
In the past 21 months, we have screamed, vomited and sucked our path across five countries and 17 cities. I have prayed my way through about 23 aeroplane rides and slept in more rooms, surrounded by suitcases, than I care to count (OK, I tried, and then gave up at 30).
But this move was it. It had to be. We needed to find our home.
We had looked at tree houses on the NSW Central Coast – too scary with intrepid toddler – an architectural wonder-pad on the edge of the escarpments – too Wuthering Heights – and 100 dark and mouldy terraces in Sydney's inner west – too, too depressing!
Finally, we offhandedly inspected a house so far out of our budget it wasn't even funny anymore. It was huge, we’d need to get a lodger and a loan, but we hastily scribbled on some forms, applying anyway.
When we were accepted that afternoon I was equal parts relieved and terrified. We would be moving in three days.
By the way honey …
With the champagne still on ice, my partner delivered another blow. He’d been offered a job that would require him to be away for the rest of the week.
And then my baby got sick.
When our little one slept the whole way home from the mountains, we were so thankful for the lack of fussing that we didn't blink an eye. But when we pulled him out of the car, he was hot. Very hot. And though he didn't each much dinner, we still didn't click that something might be wrong until the next morning. Our usual 6am wake and shake didn't happen until 9:30am. Now I knew something was definitely not right.
Packing boxes had to wait. My bubbly little boy was listless, sleepy and running a fever of 39.7 degrees. My doctor prescribed regular paracetamol and rest. I crossed fingers and waited.
The next morning, I woke to a much-recovered baby, a house that still hadn't been packed and a devastating email.
It all comes tumbling down
It had been a year since I’d last told my friend I loved her. She had terminal cancer, but in the midst of caring for a new baby emails got left unreturned, phone calls forgotten and all too often, that simple gesture of asking “how are you feeling?” was put aside for just the right moment that never came. She hovered in the back of my mind for months before time ran out.
When I received the email that told me she had passed, I broke. I’d left it too late.
Moments later, my partner came into the room holding our son. Though the fever was gone, he’d broken out in a rash all over his face. My partner hugged me for a moment before leaving for work.
I just cried and cried and cried …
We are nothing without friends and family
No sooner had he left than the phone calls came in.
Though my man couldn't be there he’d made sure I would be covered. My dad arrived to help me pack, while a friend whisked my baby back to the doctor. That evening, with a house in boxes and the little boy asleep and on his way back to health, another surprise friend turned up with wine and hugs. The next day uncles and aunties looked after the little one while our apartment was emptied and the new house filled, and on Sunday, armed with bleach and grease cutters, the only gun barrel left to stare down was the dreaded end-of-lease clean. I needed one more babysitter.
Over the past two days I’d enlisted the help of everyone I knew. Everyone except one – my best friend and mother of a beaming, mozzarella ball seven-month-old.
So I called on her to babysit because she gets it. She’s a mum too.
The greatest gift
By the time I called to pick up my son from her place I was done. I was beyond done. I was done moving, I was done cleaning and I was done crying. And when my best friend answered to tell me that he was happily asleep, I think I breathed for the first time in a month.
But then she hesitated, and added a little, “Hey…” with the rising tonal inflection of someone who is a little worried as to how someone else may react.
“Yes…” I responded, with the lower pitched inflection of someone who realises that something they’re about to hear may or may not be welcome.
“I breastfed your baby.”
The words tumbled out in a hurried stream. Followed by how he was exhausted, and he was crying and she didn't know what to do except the only thing she really knew she could do and she hopes it's OK, and oh God she hopes it's OK …
But she hadn't even finished before I knew it was more than OK. I laughed and I could have cried with love and gratitude for this one simple, natural act. The greatest gift she could have given him, and me.
Reprieve. And a little bit of boob.