My daughter was born in 2008. Breastfeeding was a bitch. Constant mastitis, a shallow latch that was murderously painful and a terrible paranoia about whether my child was getting enough food. I attended our hospital’s free breastfeeding clinic that met every Friday morning. I quickly became a “regular” and even had a few individual sessions with the nurse who ran the group. I was living on 3 hours of sleep a night and my nipples felt like they were being carved off by a spoon, but god damn it, I wasn’t going to give up. I had a tenacity for getting this problem solved that bordered on insanity.
The nurse who ran the group was one of those people who saved souls. She had never had children, but somehow was infinitely knowledgeable on breastfeeding. She was so patient, and friendly, and nurturing. She brought me back from the ledge numerous times, answering all of my calls immediately and making me feel better, sometimes with just an encouraging smile. I have met many people over the years who have also worked with her and every individual has sung her praises. I knew she eventually had kids of her own, but I always wondered what happened to her and if she was still working with new moms.
My son and I headed to the grocery store today after I dropped my now 8 year old daughter off at school. He pointed out every construction vehicle he saw, either in real life or just in his imagination. I silently became flustered at his constant questions and his need for me to say “Yea?” to his “Mama?” every 5 seconds. At the store, we grabbed a cart and I talked quietly to him about all the things we needed to get. He pointed out the strawberries and we picked some up. I smiled at him, thinking of how lovely it is for him to be old enough to suggest good things to eat.
We picked up milk and eggs, and my eyes fell on this woman who looked familiar. I couldn’t place her–I knew her face, though. I thought, “She was good. She was helpful. She helped me with something big….who is that?” And then it dawned on me. It was the nurse! I approached her and we chatted, one of her children in the shopping cart having a snack. I pointed to my son and said, “This is my third!” She asked how old my other kids were and I told her my daughter was 8 and ‘we lost our second one.’ There’s just no good fucking way to interpose that information.
“I’m so sorry,” She said.
“Yea, it was awful.” (WTF TO SAY HERE AT THIS POINT??)
“It’s so sad,” She went on. Did she know what happened?? I didn’t know. I just moved on, because that’s what I do when this comes up. I drop the bomb and then just keep moving, because there’s nothing else I can do. We’re in a grocery store.
I finished shopping and drove home. I thought about me in the breastfeeding clinic with this teeny baby. So very, very worried about her, about us, about keeping her safe and happy. There is something profoundly saddening to remember a time when those were the extent of our problems. As if I can see myself in the past and think “Kristen, you have no idea what’s coming.” You don’t just grieve for the person you lost. You grieve for your family’s innocence. You grieve your lives without the fucking cloud over it all the time.
I have gotten so used to the cloud that I often don’t notice it anymore. It’s there, but it’s become part of our routine. It’s like bird shit on your windshield. Eventually you learn to look past it, even though it’s still there. Once in awhile something happens and you remember what life was like before everything changed forever. I know there are no guarantees in life. There isn’t a path that was “supposed” to be. I just miss the time when I thought there was.