Apparently babies at Johnny’s age may smile when they pass gas but don’t experience “social smiles” until around week 8. So maybe it was a flatulent that caused the little guy to grace me with a grin just when I needed it the most. I thank the tummy gods for that.
Our first day at home with Johnny, which happened to be on Valentine’s Day, was a dream come true. Dave and I lay in bed with the little monkey between us, unable to take our eyes off of him. We lay as if in a trance—unaware of time or space—the only thing that existed was this unbelievable cocoon of life that had just entered our world. We spent hours tracing the folds of his magical skin, laughing each time he puffed out his tiny pink lips.
We remained in this state until I descended back to earth with the unfortunate reality that nursing was not going well. Each time the little munchkin latched on and settled in for a meal—every two to three hours—I was experiencing an increasing amount of pain. By day two, as I brought the little nugget to my chest, I looked into his gaping mouth and broke down into tears.
That’s when I decided to call Kitty Maxwell. Kitty, who we learned about from our midwives, is a lactation specialist who teaches classes at the YMCA and works on a volunteer basis to help women in the community with breast feeding. We called her on a Wednesday morning and within fifteen minutes she was at our doorstep with a kind introduction and a lifetime of knowledge.
“Tongue tied,” she said after two minutes of examining the little guy. She explained that his tongue was attached too close to the bottom of his mouth, which made sucking difficult for him and extremely painful for me. Later in life this could also lead to speech problems. “It’s fairly common,” she said. “Just take him to the doctor and he will take care of it. An extremely easy procedure.”
The next day, we took Johnny to the doctor who confirmed what Kitty had said. I held my breath as he clipped a little section underneath Johnny’s tongue. The little guy barely even flinched, perhaps knowing where this was going—a more comfortable mama and bigger mouthfuls of milk.
Since then, feeding time hasn’t been perfect, but things are definitely better. Kitty, who saved our lives that day, continues to check up on us. Thanks to her, we are now getting into the swing of things, and when the little guy comes at me with his guppy mouth, I am no longer afraid.
And the smile? It happened just minutes before we called Kitty, after an especially unsuccessful attempt at nursing. I was feeling like a failure, and so I lay down next to my baby and cried. With wet eyes, I stared into Johnny’s peaceful little face, which was looking right at me. And then he smiled. “It’s going to be alright, mama,” he seemed to say with that gassy little grin. And suddenly I knew he was right.