3 July 2008
It's funny what happens when you start mentally thinking about 365 people that you want to make 65-word comments about. I'm finding all sorts of names that I haven't thought about in years popping into my head.
Since we're leaving for Santa Barbara tomorrow morning, I've set up the next few 65x365 entries to be posted on the proper day while I'm away, so I don't have to think about it. The entry for July 5 is about Tommy K. I chose that day because it's Tom's birthday and I usually think about Tommy around the time of Tom's birth. In fact Tommy is the reason why our son was always called either "Tom" or "Thomas," and never "Tommy."
By the time Tom was born, I had been involved with La Leche League for several years. I had the counseling telephone in our house and I had found a great obstetrician who was very supportive of La Leche's attempts to help mothers with breastfeeding and to meet with hospital personnel to help them be more supportive of breastfeeding mothers. (We were laughed out of more than one hospital and it is a wonderful thing to see how things have changed in the past 40 years with respect to hospitals supporting mothers who want to breastfeed their babies!)
As I was getting ready to take our newborn son home, my obstetrician stopped by. I was flattered that he would make a special trip to see me, but actually he wanted to ask for my help. It seemed that a baby was born about the same time as Tom. This baby was born with a special problem and could not tolerate baby formula. His mother didn't want to breastfeed and the doctor was wondering if I would be willing to pump extra milk for Tommy and if I could also find some La Leche mothers to donate milk.
Naturally, I said yes.
And so I went home with my new baby and one of the hand-operated breast pumps, which look like a bicycle horn (I don't know if they even sell them these days). I would nurse Tom on one side and pump milk for Tommy on the other. Several other mothers were doing the same thing.
Tommy's mother would make the rounds of the homes of all the women who were donating the milk that was saving her son's life and take the donations to the hospital each day.
In truth, I didn't like Tommy's mother so much in the beginning. She was a career type, with the perfect hairdo, the perfectly manicured nails, the perfectly coordinated clothes. I would schlep to the door with a baby slung over my arm and a burp cloth over my shoulder and hand her my own breastmilk so she could keep her figure and didn't have to bother nursing her baby.
Well, it turned out that Tommy had a more serious problem than anybody realized. He had what they called a "malabsorption syndrome," and not only was he allergic to formula, but he also could not handle breast milk either.
A lot of the details have blurred over the past 38 years, but I remember that he was transferred from Kaiser hospital to Stanford hospital, where he lived most of his short life. They could never get him to gain weight. He could maintain his weight (mostly) on a formula of (if I remember this right), breastmilk, corn oil and something else. I don't remember what the other thing was. I know that it took a long time before they came up with that concoction.
As our own Tom got older and I became pregnant with David, I stopped donating milk, but after David was born, I volunteered to donate milk yet again. Talk about your dairy. Tom was still nursing and sibling rivalry caused him to go back to a newborn schedule, so I was essentially nursing twins and continuing to pump milk for Tommy.
Of course I am surrounded by scrapbooks, but I can't find the photo that Tommy's mother sent me at some point. It was taken at a time when Tommy was doing better than most of the time. But I don't think that in his nearly-two years, he ever got bigger than 7 lbs.
When David was a 10 lb newborn, Tommy's mother brought her son to visit us. It was the weirdest experience ever. David was easily twice Tommy's size, yet Tommy played with toys and would wave at me. When they left, I walked them out to the house and later our neighbor commented on the obvious difference between our healthy son and "the preemie" that had just come to visit us. She was shocked to learn that "the preemie" was actually two years old.
I still remember the phone call that I received from Tommy's grandmother letting me know that he had not survived his latest crisis. In a way, I almost felt like I was losing one of my own children and, in fact, I sort of was. I had helped keep this child alive for as long as he lived.
The good part of the story was that Tommy's mother went on to have two more healthy children--and she, herself, breastfed both of them.
Those were interesting years, those La Leche League years. It was especially interesting having the counseling phone in my house. I remember one very angry fight between a father and a mother, each on his or her own telephone, yelling at each other with me, the stranger, trying to coordinate and calm things down. (The father felt the mother's breasts belonged to him and he didn't like his newborn son sucking on them.)
The winner, though, was a woman I probably feel more kindly towards in the cold light of day and with the passage of many years between the incident and today. She was an older first time mother, and a single mother to boot. She was one of those overly nervous mothers who worried about every single breath that her baby took, and she called frequently for reassurance, which I tried to provide, including visits to her apartment to make sure the baby was doing all right.
But the killer night was when my telephone rang at 3 a.m. Unless someone is dying, you don't call a new mother at 3 a.m. But it was this single mother, frantic, and wondering if her baby was fussy because she had eaten rutabagas for dinner the night before.
Since that night I have never thought of rutabagas without thinking of this mother. I probably told her something inane like "maybe" and suggesting that if she ate them again and if the baby was fussy again, maybe she should stop eating rutabagas for a few months.
Her baby would be in his late 30s or possibly in his 40s by now. I wonder how he turned out. And if he likes rutabagas or not.
Be sure to check out "Battle at Kruger" under "Look at
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Some guy just happened to catch it while on safari in Africa. You'll be
PHOTO OF THE DAY
In lieu of a photo of Tommy K, here is a
MILES TO NOWHERE: 56 miles