My younger sister and I are very different people. I am five-and-a-half years older and we have lived very different lives. But our bond is stronger than any pair of siblings I have ever known.
When I could’t get out of bed two days after delivering my son, she packed up her three-month-old, arranged for after-school care for her five-year-old and drove five hours on I-70 like it was nothing.
When my son struggled to breastfeed after his stint in the hospital, she showered me with encouragement and reminded me at least daily that there was a chance, since he had successfully breastfed before, that practice may be all he needed to master it again. It took a while, but by the time he started daycare he was a pro who no longer got confused by the different nipples.
I learned yesterday though a series of text messages that when she realized I would need surgery she decided to store breast milk in her freezer for my son.
Her youngest daughter, now 10-and-a-half months old, was supplemented with formula and now gets formula with her meals. My sister has faced challenges that caused her milk production to stop before she had intended. (The text message conversation made me think at first that she had someone gotten her milk flowing again. That was not the case.) She saved the that frozen milk – basically an entire 24 hours worth – for my baby rather than feeding it to her own daughter.
My son has never had formula and I hope to follow the World Health Organization guideline of providing him breast milk until he is 2. I mentioned to my sister soon after learning about the need for surgery that I was most afraid it would be the end of our breastfeeding. I assumed I would have to throw away the milk I pumped because of the medicine. (I have since learned that won’t be necessary. And I woke up during the night to be able to store more milk.) Apparently, after that conversation she decided that any milk she could save she would give to her nephew rather than her own child.
I am crying just thinking about that.
She has had a lot of hard times of her own in the past year. But she has helped me and my family every way she could. She will drive to the KU Medical Center on Friday and spend several days with me in our new place following surgery. Our babies will play together. She will bring that frozen breast milk and be able to feed it to her daughter. She will help me learn how to negotiate my new reality.
Thank you, Sise, for showing me you care in the most selfless way I could imagine.