I can still remember how hard I tried just to express breastmilk for Lia.
Since she was born six weeks earlier than expected, she had to stay at the NICU. When the visiting hours are up, I would go back to my room, trying to pinch my breasts for any sign of milk. I asked Kevin to buy me an electric pump to help me.
On the 3rd day of continuous trying, I produced my first ever colostrum. It was embarrassingly little – not even 1mL. I used a syringe to collect it, placed it in a bag, and went down to NICU to hand it over. It was 10PM.
Thank God, my Ate Erin went ahead and posted on Facebook that Lia needs breastmilk donation. Thank God for Emee, who responded and shared half of her precious milk stash for Lia. I will forever be grateful.
Time came when Kevin and I had to leave the hospital. It was the hardest part – going home without our baby.
Whenever we reach home, I would feel the emptiness. I would religiously pump, every 2 hours, so that I can bring some bags for her the next day.
Every day we would go to Capitol, and I would stay there to breastfeed Lia, sometimes from 9 to 9. I would hold my pee and my hunger just so I won’t have to let go of her. Just so I can feed her, so she can reach the needed weight, so we can bring her home.
Finally, after 20 days, we brought her home. And since then, I never left her again. My boobs – which were non-essential for 29 years haha – finally had a purpose. They were Lia’s bestfriends. Haha. Every day and every night, she would look for them. For comfort, for nourishment, for security that Nanay is just here.
There were days when I doubted my breasts when Lia doesn’t gain much weight. When we go to our monthly pedia check-ups, I would summon all the angels and saints just so the weighing scale would tip. I’ve been waiting for Lia’s pedias to say it – “You are not producing enough milk that’s why she isn’t gaining weight. It’s time for Lia to supplement.” But God is good, they never did.
There were also nights when I would wake Kevin up and tell him that my breasts are engorged. Nothing’s coming out but they are swollen. He would tell me to pump, to take a hot shower, and our last resort: wake Lia up and let her latch. Those were the toughest nights – I would cry because of the pain, and also because of the possibility that just like that my milk’s gone.
But we keep pushing, taking in malunggay in all its forms – leaves, powder, capsule, pasta, chocolate and tea drink. I made my own rolled oats with chia, flax seeds, and yogurt. God is so good, we are still at it. Still exclusively breastfeeding to date. Thank God for Kevin, for he never doubted me.
I remember those days when I would sit outside the NICU, reading a tarpaulin with signatures of doctors and staff saying breastmilk is the best milk.
I remember those days when I would patiently pump at the clinic in our office, excusing myself from meetings, just so I can bring home something for Lia.
I remember that one day when, for the first time, Lia latched on my breast.
It felt like I found my purpose. I felt like my life mattered.
Someone depends on me. Someone needs me.
More importantly, someone loves me.
This afternoon, Lia and I were having fun while she feeds.
She would pinch my nipple or dudo, and when milk comes out, she will squeal and laugh.
God, I love her so much.