Milk

 photo by  Matthew Perkins

There is a knock on the door and a woman in blue scrubs comes in. She introduces herself by first name—they all do, though I promptly forget—and tells us she is a lactation consultant.

I remember thinking, Oh, good, they’re here to tell me how to keep my milk from coming in.

“Will you be breastfeeding the baby?” she asks.

I remember exactly how we were sitting on the hospital bed. I remember the color of light coming through the hospital window. I remember A and I looking at each other, our pause of disbelief, and looking back at this idiotic woman who hadn’t gotten the memo. Then saying what I suddenly know I’ll be saying over and over and over,

“The baby died.”

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she breathes. She is full of apologies, and I believe they are sincere. This is how we learn there is supposed to be a white rose taped to our hospital room door. Someone forgot to move the rose when we came upstairs to the recovery room. She promises to have someone take care of that right away.

Yet she doesn’t leave right away. “How did the baby die?” she asks.

A and I look at each other again. Is this woman for real? She expects us to relive the past forty-eight hours to satisfy her curiosity?

We answer her because we believe we must. Because we believe everything the hospital tells us. We endure all that happens to and around us, because we don’t know any better. Because we are in shock. Because who comes prepared to deal with a dead baby?

It is not in our nature to be so rude as to say,

None of your goddamn fucking business.

So we tell her. Cord accident. Short, clipped answers. Hoping she will stop. Hoping she will go away.

She does retreat soon, promising again to have the white rose taped on our door to further avoid such unfortunate misunderstandings.

*            *            *            *            *

I see this same lactation consultant at the breastfeeding support group the other week. I am there with my second rainbow baby, three and a half years later, but I know it is her. I don’t feel anything in particular when I see her, though. Not resentment, not anger. Still, I don’t speak to her, and am glad when she leaves the room. Except for our unfortunate encounter with the lactation consultant, our experiences in the hospital have been overwhelmingly positive.

When I sat down to write this, it wasn’t supposed to be about her. But stories have a life of their own, and it’s surprising how much this memory has been on my mind.

Milk has been on my mind.

Nursing my daughter makes me remember—

the smell of cabbage wilted against my breasts

the intense pain as Anne tied bags of frozen peas to my chest

the bitterness of sage tea

the months and months and months of leaking

the constant reminder that Joseph was gone

how no one else I know seemed to suffer so much over milk.

No one prepared me for the hell of my milk coming in.

 

What was your experience with milk when your baby(ies) died?