Breastfeeding through the ultimate sacrifice

Nursing through the ultimate sacrifice

Memorial Day is not barbecues and days off.

It is a time to honor the men and women who died during military service. While America designates one day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, the family members never forget. One woman lost her husband shortly after the birth of their second child. Breastfeeding helped her live through the loss.

 

Breastfeeding didn’t go so well the first time around for Theresa Jones. Even though her husband Landon, a Navy helicopter pilot, was there to support her, nursing was a struggle. Six years later, as the birth of her second son approached, she did her best to prepare for breastfeeding. She enlisted the help of Tori, a breastfeeding counselor (and current Best for Babes volunteer), who boosted her confidence. This was especially important, because this time Theresa wouldn’t have Landon there to physically support her. He deployed when she was 16 weeks pregnant and was not expected to return until three months after the birth.

nursing through the ultimate sacrifice
The phone call: Hunter is born

On July 6, 2013, Theresa gave birth to a healthy boy named Hunter. There were some rocky times in the beginning – tongue tie, slow weight gain, necessary supplementation – but with the help of Tori and long-distance support from her husband, Theresa and Hunter worked through them. Later, Hunter became a quick, efficient eater, and even gave her 6-7 hour stretches of sleep at night! Theresa was pleased with their nursing relationship.

These next paragraphs are in Theresa’s own words:

On the morning of September 22, 2013, I woke up at 6:30 am to a hungry Hunter. I rolled over and put him on and then continued to check my email to see if my husband had responded to one that I had written him the day before. He did and I wrote him back and then checked Facebook. It was there that I discovered there was a crash in my husband’s squadron. I frantically emailed my husband as I nursed and then got up and alerted my in-laws. In a few hours I would have 3 officers at my door telling me my husband was involved in the crash and missing. As they told me, I just looked at my baby boy sleeping peacefully on the monitor and wept.

nursing through the ultimate sacrifice
Anthony receives his father’s flag

As the next few days unfolded, I was a mess. I barely wanted to take care of myself, let alone a baby. I was lucky to have friends who were there to hold him and change his diaper and bathe him. I essentially became the wet nurse as I struggled with reality. I contacted Tori and told her how I really wanted to make that one year goal, but I was worried about how this tragedy, and the stress that came along with it, would affect my supply. I didn’t want to eat or drink anything. She said at the bare minimum that I needed to continue to drink water to keep my supply up. She also told me that it was ok if I didn’t make that year and to just do the best I could. I told my friends to please just make sure I continued to drink water. There was so much I couldn’t control in my life at this point, but I could control this and it was important. As the days and weeks went on, there was a Nalgene bottle filled with water by my side. If it was empty, someone would fill it. People would hand me my baby if he was fussy and then take him when I was done. It was the best I could do at that point.

A few weeks later I was trying to find a dress for my husband’s memorial. Any outfit choices I made revolved around my ability to easily nurse in them. When I think of the word “widow” I think of a gray haired woman who has been removed from breastfeeding for quite some time, not a 33 year old mother of 2. It was a long day on the day of the memorial. I was happy to see so many good friends I hadn’t seen in forever despite the circumstances. I had pumped bottles for my friends to feed Hunter, but he wasn’t having it. I ended up being relieved when I would have to step away and nurse him at the event because it gave me a chance to decompress, collect myself, and then go back to greeting the hundreds of people that came. I was also able to take the time to look at his sweet face and assure him that so many people loved him and that even though he never got to meet his dad, we’d be ok.

nursing through the ultimate sacrifice
One of the last photos of Landon with Anthony (left) and the only photo taken of Landon with Hunter (right).

As the weeks turned into months, my baby who slept so well didn’t anymore. I’m not sure if the stress was getting in my milk and to him or if it was just a natural progression. But, just like any other mom, I got up and did my duty in the middle of the night. I found myself being grateful I had bought a glider to nurse in as I didn’t make that purchase with my first. Many nights there I was under a blanket as Hunter nursed away. There were a few times where I had caught the flu and was so sick. I essentially crawled down the hallway to his room when he woke in the middle of the night. It felt like I was lifting a cinder block out of his crib as the virus weakened my body. I would feed him and just pray that he would not catch what I had. Luckily, despite such severe illness, he never caught anything. I think that the immunities he received from me helped with that.

When Hunter turned 9 months old, he started nursing less and eating more. I was grateful. I loved our bonding time, but the help I was receiving was dwindling and my body, that had been running on adrenaline for so long, was starting to sputter out. I am happy to say that I was able to make it to his first birthday. He was done nursing and so was I. I made it.

I know that I would have never been able to make it through this without the help and support of Tori. Because of her, I’m able to look back fondly on the breastfeeding relationship I had with my youngest and am happy that I was able to have that bond with my baby in a time where I would have rather crawled in a hole and died. My children, and namely my infant son, saved me from that fate. They are my heroes.

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Theresa and her heroes Anthony and Hunter

 

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