Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Survival against all odds

They say that a mother's love is the strongest thing on earth. Here's why. Two mothers who used their last breaths to save their children. My heart breaks for all those who have lost everything to the capriciousness of nature.
(taken from a lactation e-mail list I'm on)

China Earthquake - Baby Survival Stories
Under the rubble, dead mothers tightly held their babies; baby girl stayed alive by breastfeeding from dead mother Singtao News (written in Chinese)
In Duijangyan, Sichuan, a young mother tightly held her baby girl, who was about 3 to 4 months old, while using her own shoulders to stop the roof from falling onto her baby. The mother slowly lost her life, however the baby in her arms was still breastfeeding from her dead mother, until the baby was rescued. In Beichuan, another mother who also died using her body to protect her baby, left the last message to her baby: "my dearest baby, if you can live through this, you have to remember that I love you."
In the afternoon of May 13th, the second day after the Sichuan earthquake, scores of rescue workers were digging through a residential area of Duijanyan, looking for survivors. A volunteer doctor said that under the rubbles, they found a young mother holding a 3-4 months old baby. The mother was curling her body, her head lowered, and she had no sign of life, however her shirt was lifted up, and the baby girl in her arms was still sucking on mother's nipples.
Doctor wept as he recounted the scene, "At that moment, we saw a red (lively) little face, against the dead mother's gray breasts that were covered with was such a contrast. Everyone at the scene cried.

"I can't imagine, a dead mother was still breastfeeding her own child. From the way she was holding the baby, you can tell that she was protecting her child, or perhaps the mother put her nipple into the baby's mouth just before the mother died. We carefully took the baby out. The moment the baby was taken away from her mother's nipple, the baby cried."
In Beichuan, rescue workers also found another dead mother protecting her
child: she was kneeling down, bowing her back; both arms on the ground supporting her body - her posture was like someone kowtowing, however her body was crushed so badly that it was deformed, and she was dead.

Since it looked like she was protecting something underneath her, rescue workers carefully removed the rocks and stones around her. They found a baby who was around 3, 4 months old underneath her body. It was because the mother used her own body to block the falling wall, the baby was miraculously completely unharmed. When being taken out, the baby was even sleeping peacefully.
A nurse removed the blanket from the baby to examine her, and found a cell phone tucked inside the blanket. Doctor looked at the screen of the cell phone, and saw a text message left by the baby's mother, "my dearest baby, if you can live through this, you have to remember that I love you."
And in the midst of the devastation, a local policewoman gives orphaned babies a chance at life:
The Face of Rescue: Women's Work

CHENGDU, China - A Chinese policewoman is contributing to the country's massive earthquake relief effort in a very personal way -- by breastfeeding 20 babies.
A newspaper in Chengdu, the capital of quake-hit Sichuan province, devoted a special page to the 29-year-old woman, calling her a hero.
The woman from the quake-ravaged town of Jiangyou has just had a child herself, the Western Urban Daily said. She is nursing the children of three women who were left homeless by the quake and are too traumatised to give milk, as well as five orphans, the report said.

The babies who lost their parents have been put in an orphanage which does not have powdered milk, it said.
Please look here and here to see why giving artificial infant formula in a disaster is extremely dangerous and puts the babies it is purporting to help at risk of serious disease and even death. Think twice too about which aid organizations you support. Dumping in a load of expired or nearly expired formula with no labels or instructions in the local language and then expecting mothers with no access to clean water or washing facilities to prepare bottles for the first time in their lives does not save babies' lives - it puts them in grave danger. Much more good could be done and many more babies saved through the provision of lactation support instead.


Leora said...

Heart-wrenching stories. Yes, makes no sense to teach women how to use formula.

Robin said...

And even worse Leora, they often don't even teach them - they just throw the formula at them and leave them to guess! Overly dilute formula is of course short on nutrients and calories, and unclean water or bottles exposes these poor babies to dysentary and worse. Here in the west diarrhea is more of an inconvenience, but in a disaster zone or poverty stricken area it can be a death sentence with more babies dying of dehydration!

Mom not Mum said...

Fantastic stories!

Nancy said...


Disaster ... I can't even comprehend what all must be going through.

Domestic Spaz said...

Thank you for sharing this, Robin. My heart breaks for these mothers but I am in awe of their strength. The power of maternal love is truly inspiring.

Scribbit said...

Wow--what a story. ANd hard to read through the tears.

tjhirst said...

Robin, thanks for connecting me to an understanding of this tragedy and some of the miracles. It is sometimes hard to fathom such a disaster, but stories like this help to make it real.

I didn't think about the importance of lactation until I heard a report about the unsanitary water and remembered my experience a few weeks ago making formula for a baby I was babysitting. I couldn't remember how to do it. What water did I use? Did I put the formula in first, then the water? In a disaster situation these questions become almost even more critical.

Thanks for your insights and lactation community for keeping us informed.

Kate said...

it is hard to know how to respond... words really don't seem sufficient, it is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Where do people find the strength? Amazing.

poppy fields said...

I'd heard about the breastfeeding policewoman, but not the other babies found with their mothers. A powerful reminder of a mother's love and protection for her child. said...

Wow! Love your blog - I'm soo glad that I found it!

~Virginia~ said...

the disasters in myanmar and china are just so incredibly awful--immensely moving stories.

Phyllis Sommer said...

these are unbelievable thanks for bringing them to light.

Lis Garrett said...

Oh my goodness . . . these stories just break my heart. But I have no doubt I would protect my children in the same way.

Julia Smith said...

This was a dangerous post to read while I'm up at the front desk working reception. SO moving.

Shannon said...

I am in tears reading this. As a mother I can only hope that I would do the same for my children. What incredible women these were and what a gift they gave their babies, a second chance at life. Amazing...thank you.

Shannon said...

I am in tears reading this. As a mother I can only hope that I would do the same for my children. What incredible women these were and what a gift they gave their babies, a second chance at life. Amazing...thank you.