Monday, June 6, 2011
Breast Milk Miracle
She leans around her mom, catches my eye, and giggles. I hide behind Mirana for a few seconds, then poke my head out, looking straight at her with a funny face. She bursts into laughter. I’m playing peek-a-boo in a hut with a three-year-old girl named Fara. She was initially scared out of her mind when she saw me, but is now getting up her courage (within the safety of her mom’s reach, of course) to interact with the vazaha.
Pausing our game, she grabs her mother’s breast out from under her shirt and starts drinking. “How old are you?” Mirana asks Fara’s mom. Not a rude question here in Madagascar! :P “In my 50’s,” comes the answer. Looking down at the girl she confides, “I’m not her birth mom.” She stepped in to help after her sister-in-law died giving birth. When she brought Fara into their home, her biological children ranged in age from eleven to mid-twenties.
Which begs a question: How can a woman have breast milk for a child that is not her own if she weaned her youngest biological child years ago?
While I wonder if this question would be culturally appropriate to ask, Mirana pipes up. “How’d you get your breast milk to come in?” I guess it is okay to ask. :P Fara’s mom looks at us, confused. “I went and lay down in bed as if I had just given birth. Fara was placed in my arms. I was given chicken broth to drink, like all new mothers, and so it just came in.”
Now it was my turn for mind to be befuddled. Wait just a minute now. Breast milk doesn’t come because you cuddle a newborn. It certainly doesn’t come because you drink chicken broth! What about the endocrine system – pregnancy hormones? Ever hear of lactogenesis?!
Had she possibly gotten pregnant herself before she adopted Fara? No, she chuckled. She can sense that I am trying to figure this out in my mind, so explains. “I just acted like her mom and the milk came in.”
Does my medically-trained mind understand this? No. Have we exhausted all possible other things it could have been? No. But at the time when newborn Fara needed a mommy, her new mommy was given milk to provide for her. Praise God.