The Poetics of Bodily Being: The Lived Experience of Breastfeeding an Infant "Out of Reach" in the NICU
Sampson-Kelly, Christy A.
MetadataShow full item record
Babies born preterm (<37 weeks gestation) and at very low birth weight (VLBW, <1500 grams, 3.3 pounds) reside "out of reach" from their mothers in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) during the very beginnings of life. As the evidence of breast milk versus formula for infants within this vulnerable population is well established, multiple initiatives call for the provision of breast milk, and NICU professionals are subsequently making efforts to increase numbers of breastfed infants. However, there is a gap in the scholarly literature that brings forth mothers' voices relative to this unique breastfeeding experience. These voices are imperative to making a greater understanding of this phenomenon. This hermeneutic phenomenological study asks the question: <bold>What is the lived experience of providing breast milk for one's child who lives in a NICU?<bold> My exploration draws upon the writings of several philosophers including Levinas, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, and Derrida that relate to the phenomenon and discover how the phenomenon is made visible through them. The wondrous writings of poets are interlaced throughout my journeying, reverberating the deep meaning that lies beneath the surface of things. Max van Manen's depiction of hermeneutic phenomenology provides the methodological structure for the study, which is uncovered through the multiple, individual conversations with and journal entries of ten mothers who share this human experience. As meaning unfolds, breastfeeding emerges centrally, as a remedy and offering a way to transcend the dis-eases of self-blame, dis-place-ment, and dis-member-ment underwent as part of mothering in the NICU. Reflecting on these dis-eases, calls for the offering of pedagogical insights of more welcoming and less judgment in supporting mothers in <italic>doing<italic> the work of mothering, taking on a view of breast milk as more than pure resource, and the importance of nurturing the nurses. Attending to these stories may help NICU professionals to imagine an environed NICU, were mothers, too, are cared for in their journey to self-forgiveness, em-place-ment, and re-member-ment, amid the strange and wondrous terrain of their beginnings.