By Linda Massie
In the 1940s my Dad worked as the head surveyor for a seismograph company. He would go in ahead of the oil companies to get permits to survey farms and ranches, and then put an “X” where test oil rigs would be put in. That work sent us all over the western USA from town to town and state to state.
Because of this, my siblings and I were all born in different states. When I was ready to be born we were living in Farmington, New Mexico, but the closest hospital that could do the C-section my mother needed was in Durango, Colorado.
I was born in September, 1946. Right afterwards, the doctor came to my mother and told her how healthy I was. He also said there was another baby in the hospital, born just a few days earlier, who was not doing well. He been born prematurely, was very underweight and with no chance of surviving. The mother of the baby was an alcoholic and the little boy had what we would now call fetal alcohol syndrome.
However, the doctor went on, if Mom would agree to nurse the boy instead of me, there was a slim chance he might make it, because the first milk of a mother contains antibodies to protect the newborn. Mom agreed.
When they brought the baby boy to her, four nuns were holding different corners of a pillow, with the baby on it. Mom said it was the smallest, most blue baby she had ever seen. The nuns positioned him to nurse, not even letting Mom hold him. He didn’t breathe, Mom said, he gasped for air. She was sure he was going die in front of her.
Mom remained at the hospital for a week, nursing him daily, and each day he improved before her eyes. The baby’s mother was extremely happy to see him get better. She sat with my mom all day, every day. When we finally left, he was pink and healthy.
Of course, Mom’s decision to save the baby meant I didn’t get the first antibodies from her milk. As a result, when we went back to Farmington, where we lived in a drafty apartment house, I promptly caught pneumonia, but I conquered it with the help of a nurse who lived downstairs.
This story caused me great embarrassment whenever Mom told it — people looked at me like I had performed a miracle just by being born. But it wasn’t me, really, it was my mom’s choice. If she had not nursed the baby I’m sure he would not have lived. I often think about this boy child and what a wonderful choice she made.