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Friday, March 9, 2012

The Power Struggle (part-six)

Fahad sat up in bed; he couldn’t stop hearing the screams of his son over and over in his head. “I have to bring them home. It has been three weeks and I have no role in my son’s life. Maybe if I held him I could keep him quiet. I’m his father; he is my son. I’ll bring them home with me tomorrow after work. It has been too long. How do other couples do it? I swear that with the next baby, I am forcing Sarah to stay home with me,” he said to himself.
Morning came quickly, but Sarah could not open her eyes when she heard her son screaming again the same way he did during the night. Norah rushed in. “What? What is going on? Poor, poor boy, have you been screaming all night?” Norah picked the baby up out of his crib and carried him out the door. “You stay with me,” Norah whispered to the screaming baby, “let your mother sleep,” and she closed the bedroom door. Sarah was relieved to be alone and left to sleep. She closed her eyes and felt her breasts throb with milk. The pressure eased as the milk dripped into the breast pads and she fell fast asleep.
Sarah awoke that afternoon with unbearable pressure in her breasts; the pain was excruciating. The skin of her breasts was tight and red. She walked into the bathroom and stared at herself in the mirror. Oh my God! I can’t bear the pain. “Mama!!” Sarah’s screams echoed down the halls.
Sarah and her mother spent the rest of the day applying hot compresses to the breasts in an attempt to relieve her pain. Norah’s recommendation to Sarah was to rest her breasts and not give Abdulrahman any feeds directly from the breast, because her milk was now too much and may be infected. Sarah was relieved by her mother’s advice for two reasons. First, it was validated by her mother that now she had too much milk, second, she could not bear the pain and pressure in her breast and was happy not breastfeed the baby. That afternoon, Abdulrahman was bottle fed all the breast-milk that Sarah was able to express with an electric pump in an attempt to lessen the abundant milk supply. However, without Sarah and Norah’s knowledge, the hot compresses and pumping kept the blood flowing and increased the swelling of the breast and the production of milk, causing no relief for the pain. Sarah cried.
In the evening, Fahad came over to pick up Sarah and Abdulrahman to visit the pediatrician to discover the reason behind the baby’s crying fits. Norah was reluctant to let Sarah go, but she did not want to fight with Fahad, as he seemed very determined to take them.
Sarah’s breasts hurt as she watched the pediatrician check Abdulrahman. The baby screamed, which made her breasts fill up with milk and throb; her breasts were so engorged that they no longer dripped as they did before. This made Norah believe that Sarah’s breasts were infected with mastitis. Sara asked the pediatrician, “Why is he screaming like that? He screamed for hours last night, and I didn’t know what to do.”
The doctor spoke with great confidence. “Maybe your milk is not satisfying him enough. He may need more than you can provide.” His words did not go down well with Sarah, because she knew in her heart that she had plenty of milk, and the evidence was that her milk had been leaking through her clothes. She dared not explain to the doctor what was happening with her body, as it would be too embarrassing to describe to him her breasts and how they were full with milk. “I think you should try giving him a lactose-free artificial milk formula. This is a new kind that might ease his suffering,” the pediatrician recommended. Sarah smiled politely and packed up her baby and his diaper bag. She and Fahad thanked the doctor and left the clinic.
In the car, Sarah cried. As soon as Fahad asked her why she was crying, she began to sob. Her feelings of fear, frustration, and confusion were out of control. “I don’t understand why everybody thinks I don’t have milk, or don’t have enough milk, or that my milk might be the reason that Abdulrahman is crying. I want to be a good mother, but my mother always makes me feel like I don’t know enough. I know that she has good intentions, but her statements are strong. I feel like she knows more than I do, which is true. I don’t understand why Allah would create a mother’s body to make milk, but then gives her a baby that cries all the time and is harmed by that exact milk! How can this be?”
“Sarah, my dear, don’t be upset. Relax. Please don’t cry. It is just a matter of time and you will be in our home and together we can do what is best for Abdulrahman. Just relax, and do what you think is best for the baby now. Listen to your mom, because she has experience, and breastfeed him every time that you can. If he cries and shows that he is still hungry after you breastfeed him, give him the bottle of the lactose- free milk. That way you are pleasing everyone—your mother, Allah, the doctor, and Abdulrahman.” Fahad realized the pressure that Sarah was under, and he felt that he needed to give her culturally appropriate advice that would not confuse her further or cause any more distress. Sarah smiled and her shoulders dropped as she stared at her beautiful baby sleeping in her arms. It is not customary for families to use car seats for children and infants in Saudi Arabia.
Sarah and Fahad felt comfortable with their decision. It is typical for a young couple to try to please everybody in their social circle. Day by day, Sarah’s frustration with her mother subsided, especially when she moved back to her home with Fahad. However, she still struggled with breastfeeding Abdulrahman. The only times she could breastfeed him without a screaming session was when he was asleep. On good nights, the baby suckled gently at her breast as if he was soothing himself on a pacifier. This was okay with Sarah because she felt that she was doing her best and she was feeding him despite her severe reduction in milk supply.
Sarah shared with her friends that she was still breastfeeding him at two months. Many smiled in disbelief and others scorned her about breast milk not being nutritious or satisfying enough for a two-month-old baby boy. She heard comments like, “Poor boy, he will not be full if you only breastfeed. I hope you are giving at least one feed a day of formula,” “When you breastfeed you are tied down, and the baby does not sleep well at night,” “How can you breastfeed? Your breasts are so small, I’m sure you don’t have enough.” These comments hurt Sarah, but confirmed what her mother had been telling her all along. Everybody was saying the same thing, so it must be true. Sarah breastfed Abdulrahman as much as she could, but by the age of four months, he went on a breast refusal strike and weaned himself.
Two months later, it was seven o’clock in the morning and Sarah hadn’t slept yet. She was rocking
Abdulrahman as he lay in her lap half-awake. Fahad was at a loss and did not know what to do to help; this was the fourth time that his now six-month-old son had suffered from an ear infection in just a few weeks. “His temperature won’t go down” Sarah said to Fahad with a weak and tired whisper. “As long as we are giving him the medications there is nothing we can do,” Fahad responded to her quietly. The pediatrician’s voice repeated over and over in Fahad’s head. He could hear him explain that their son could suffer from chronic otitis media (ear infections) if they were not careful, and that would mean surgery to insert tubes in the eardrums to protect any potential hearing loss in the future. The doctor’s voice was interrupted by a piercing wail coming from Abdulrahman. Fahad jumped and ran over to his baby and tried to calm him down, he continued to ask, “what can I give you to help?”
All parents strive to provide for their children the best opportunities for health, education, and wealth. 

However, some parents may not realize how valuable and influential the practice of effective breastfeeding is on a child’s wellbeing. Unfortunately, in the Middle East breastfeeding is not cherished as an investment that deserves the time and attention. The short story demonstrates how breastfeeding is recommended in a Saudi community but it is not supported. In most cases even if a mother and father have every intention to breastfeed their child the surrounding environment does not support it therefore forcing it to fail. 

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Please exercise proper manners and respect for all. Thanks