eyes are not the only thing that weep

On day 3, my milk came in. I had my bath and I came back down stairs, and I looked down, and there were two identical milk patches on my clothing. The next day, I stood in the closet, getting dressed, watching rivulets of milk make their way down my body. Eyes are not the only things that weep for our dead babies.

I walked down the aisle in the drug store, the aisle of baby things, looking neither right nor left. I walked until I saw the box from the corner of my eyes, and I picked up the first one on the shelf, and I put them in the cart. I went to the grocery store, and I bought cabbage and sage leaves. I bought frozen peas.

I threw nursing pads in my bra, and took some Tylenol for the pain, and carried on. Filled with horror and shame and isolation. Who do you ask - what do you do when there is breast milk, and no baby to give it to? The solution for engorgement is feeding a baby. Do you see if you can find a child that could use it? How do you start that phone call? You have all this milk, and there is no baby that needs it. And there is this terrible ache in your heart and in your breasts, and there is nothing else that you can do. Your arms are empty. And when you finally do ask, and your nurse friend is angry they did not give you a shot, how do you tell her that it wasn't offered, but you wouldn't have wanted it.

I threw nursing pads in my bra. And the milk and the blood were the last link to my son. They were the last reminders that there had been a baby, a living breathing child, a thing that my body had sheltered. And the nurses, the doctors, the midwife, they seemed to treat my questions about how long I would bleed, and what I would do with all that milk as simple. I left the hospital without answers to either.

And no one told me of the pain. The pain that blood and milk are. And when you hold a baby, so soon after your child's death, and there is still milk, and you realize with horror that they are hungry and they can smell the milk for another child, and they begin rooting at your breast. And you look at the mother with shame and tell her that you still have milk, and you are ashamed that you have not been able to bring your self to do anything to dry it up. You lie and say that there isn't much, but it hasn't stopped. And she looks at you so kindly, and tells you that she would have brought you her daughter and she would have given you her child and taught you to feed her, so that you could hold a baby to your breast. And when this person offers you this terrible and tremendous gift, what do you say?

How do you tell her, that you hold on to this milk, that you hold on to this pain, because it the only connection to your child? That this terrible pain is the pain of reality, and it is the only link your body has to your son, and you do not think your heart can hold the terrible remembrance on its own. That your heart, so broken, so shredded, is not large enough to hold the pain and the reality that you did give birth. You need your body to carry some of the pain. And that tiny and frail child who gasped for breath and was so terribly still and bruised should have needed the milk your body is making for him. How do you tell someone this? How do you tell someone that you wished you could nurse him, knowing that he was too weak, and needed no nourishment for his journey out of this world?

Everyone has dreams, a thing that they looked forward too. Infertility is a disease of dreams and losses. And my dream, my hope was nursing my son. All of my friends have nursed their babies. And I wanted that. It was the hurt most bitter in barrenness, and what I most wanted to heal my broken soul. If there was to be any consolation in the years of my barrenness, it was that moment when I beheld the work of our bodies and the joy of our souls, and I felt a hungry, greedy mouth tugging at my breast. When I fed my child. When I beheld the balm for the pain of the years that the locusts ate.

And how do you tell women that you know what let down feels like? How do you tell them that the milk came for six weeks, because you did nothing to stop it? And how do you tell them that when their baby cried in your church, your body still produced milk?

How do you tell your bible study that you dropped out because when you saw her nurse her child, and you saw the milk drip out for her child, that you had seen that. Last night, as you leaned forward in the tub and you watched the milk, the last link to a child too soon gone, swirl away from you. Away, because there was no mouth to catch it. And you could not bear to stop it.

And how do you tell them of the day when you pressed on your breast, and there was only a drop? And the next day, when there was nothing? And that last link to your child was gone?

How do you tell someone, eyes are not the only parts of our bodies that weep?