Upon arriving in Evansville from Indianapolis, my husband and I could not bear to go home, so we stayed with my parents at their home, living out of the suitcases we packed for our stay during Gavin's recovery. As Monday passed and Tuesday approached, then Wednesday, and so on, we somehow managed to plan a funeral and burial for our toddler. It pains me terribly
to write that sentence. Days, merely days before, he was living. Breathing. Eating. Talking. Laughing. Snuggling.
After the surreal motion of being shells of life at Gavin's visitation and burial, the hot, dry days of August pressed on. We periodically visited our home, which is just down the road from Gavin's resting place, to check our mail. Two weeks after he had been gone, I sensed my body trying to communicate a message, and upon a quick stop to our house, I decided to screen for pregnancy. As the long three minutes slowly dissolved, I had a panic in my chest as I breathed in the stale, musty air of our vacant home, with desperate hope that my hunch was a fluke. As I studied the test, I first breathed a sigh of relief as I took in what appeared to be a negative result. But I looked again. There it was. A faint, second line. I cried out, "God, why are you doing this to me?!" How on EARTH was I supposed to do this? How was I entrusted with raising another precious life so quickly after losing one so unexpectedly? The shock of Gavin's passing had not even begun to diminish, yet the world kept spinning, and our lives were going on without our discretion, just as they had done two weeks prior.
I quickly had to redirect my focus, but embracing this wonderful miracle was admittedly a challenge, at first. When an ultrasound allowed me to see what was taking place inside my body - a new life forming, growing, MOVING - I instantly fell in love and knew my role as a mother had to persevere. In the hours after losing Gavin, my husband and I took a walk outside the hospital. It was humid, cloudy, and miserable. But we walked, hand in hand, in complete silence. As simple humans, our minds went in dark directions, unable to comprehend what life meant anymore, and what the purpose our being served at that point.
In that dim ultrasound room, it was revealed. It wasn't about us.
During my pregnancy, I was terrified -- terrified of being given a life only to have it ripped away, just as before. While there were plenty of hurdles along the way, Holden was ultimately, THANKFULLY, gloriously healthy, and came just days before a scheduled induction. I could not hold back my vocalization of relief and exquisite joy upon his being placed on my chest. "You're here! You're here! I can't believe you're here! You're okay
!" His tiny, precious hand stretched toward my face, and I quickly placed my thumb in his palm, his grip tightening instantly. This experience was so different; he wasn't held in the air for me to briefly glance upon before being whisked away for monitoring. He was placed in my arms immediately after being brought into the world, and shortly after, put to breast.
It restores my faith in myself as a mother to recall our first breastfeeding experience. We invited a very dear friend of mine to photograph Holden's birth, and as he was put to breast for the first time, my wonderful nurse exclaimed "Oh! You MUST get a picture of this!"
I couldn't believe it, and yet, I knew right away our breastfeeding future was solidified. This was the start of an extraordinary journey. Two days later, my milk was in with bountiful
Upon arriving home, I was apprehensive that my supply with Holden would follow suit with that of Gavin's, but I learned from the honest mistakes made during my first nursing experience that caused my supply to decrease, and I took measures to remedy those errors. Before long, I had a growing freezer stash of breastmilk as Holden nursed plentifully. I remember taking time to relish the blessing I had been given of being able to nurse my newborn with such a flourishing success; I was and will forever be entirely grateful that my body was able to produce this nourishment for Holden.
And as those first few weeks home passed, I felt a surge within me that told me to utilize this blessing even further. With Holden nursing well, I decided to pump regularly, almost to intentionally produce an oversupply. I wanted to be able to donate to the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank again, only this time, I yearned for my milk to nourish other babies, too. I knew that because I was on Zoloft after giving birth to Holden, I would not yet be able to donate my milk to critically-ill babies, but I overstimulated with a hopefulness to be able to share at some point, making strives to supplement my mental and emotional well-being as much as possible. I also told myself, however, that even if I was not able to come off the Zoloft and donate a portion of my frozen milk, that Holden would have stores of wonderful, organic nourishment that, thanks to him, I was able to provide.
When Holden was eight months old, I was completely off of the antidepressant, and I was able to begin setting aside a portion of the milk I pumped during and after that time for donation. At first, my goal was 100 ounces, the minimum donation the Milk Bank accepts. Very quickly, however, I realized my goal would increase as it seemed my milk was readily available for means beyond what Holden needed. Soon, my goal became 200 ounces, and as the weeks progressed, it became two gallons. Then three.
As Holden's first birthday approached, I greatly desired to be able to donate five gallons. With my final donation reaching 761 ounces, I was just shy of six gallons, and was overjoyed at the prospect of being able to provide that amount of breastmilk to babies in need, along with adequately providing for Holden along the way.
To say that this experience has been immensely fulfilling is barely grasping the feeling that exists, and I owe it all to my boys. Gavin has shown me that he is still at work here; he is ever-present, constantly opening my eyes to my surroundings, a little at a time. Holden has introduced me to renewed sense of being. He has shown me what it means to press forward, and has allowed me to share a gift that he and I have created together.
Holden is now 20 months old, and we are still going strong on our breastfeeding journey. My goal with Gavin was to be able to breastfeed him for a year, and we tremendously exceeded that despite the obstacles we faced. My goal with Holden is now limitless as our nursing relationship continues to blossom and strengthen. I feel incredibly fortunate to have two remarkable teachers leading me in physical and spiritual directions I never know I was capable of traveling. Their words may be few, their bodies may be small, but their hearts and souls reach depths of an immeasurable capacity.