Nursing Moses: Moms step in after infant's mother dies

Nursing Moses: Moms step in after infant's mother dies

By Jessica Ravitz, CNNcnnAuthor = "By Jessica Ravitz, CNN";
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Robbie Goodrich, at left holding daughter Julia, with some of the moms who have nursed Moses, in center back.
Robbie Goodrich, at left holding daughter Julia, with some of the moms who have nursed Moses, in center back.

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  • Less than 12 hours after Michigan infant is born, his mother dies
  • More than 20 moms step up, volunteering to nurse baby for one year
  • Most are strangers, but months later they have forged a special bond
  • Man calls son "well-adjusted boy who has always known a mother's love"

(CNN) -- The day Charles Moses Martin Goodrich entered the world, a new community was conceived.

As the newborn breathed in life, his mother, Susan Goodrich, began to die. Less than 12 hours after having her son, the 46-year-old mother of four was gone. The cause was a rare amniotic fluid embolism.

It was January 2009, and shell-shocked widower Robbie Goodrich was forced to immediately think of the baby's most basic need: milk.

For $5 an ounce, he could have purchased frozen donor breast milk, the kind of sustenance he knew his wife wanted for the boy. There was talk of tracking down a wet nurse. A friend left a message offering to breast-feed the newborn herself.

What evolved in the coming days still touches Goodrich. More than 20 mothers in Marquette, a city of 20,000 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, volunteered to nurse baby Moses.

All these months later, they're still at it.

"It's been such an incredible outpouring of community love for this child of mine," said Goodrich, a 44-year-old history professor at Northern Michigan University, where his late wife worked, too, teaching Spanish and Portuguese. "This has certainly stretched the parameters of what is public. I've had to open the door to complete strangers, inviting them into the most private, intimate part of my life."

Carrie Fiocchi, 29, was first to breast-feed Moses. She'd received a call from a nurse midwife who belonged to her Unitarian Universalist church.

When she heard what had happened to the Goodrich family, both she and her husband, with whom she immediately shared the story, fell apart. They were first-time parents to a 6-week-old girl.

They'd realize later that they had met Robbie years before. But in that moment, they didn't hesitate to help a stranger. The next morning, Fiocchi walked into Goodrich's home, where grieving family members had gathered in preparation for Susan's funeral, and took Moses into her arms.

"It was awkward and very sad and really wonderful at the same time," said Fiocchi, who has nursed Moses at 9 a.m. every day since then, with daughter Siri in tow.

Her husband, Matt, has developed a friendship with Goodrich and tags along with his wife and daughter at least once a week. He added, "Not being able to do anything myself, feeling kind of impotent, for me it was a matter of wanting to help and feeling privileged to be involved in any way."

The inclination to volunteer similarly drove Kyra Fillmore, 31.

"Ever since I became a mother, I've felt a connection with other mothers," said Fillmore, who has three children. "I was nervous. It was very emotional. I didn't know what to expect. But I felt like I needed to do this for Susan, even though I didn't know her."

A handful of mothers did know Susan and loved her for her brilliance, wit and passionate spirit.

A former student of Susan's from a decade earlier, Karla Niemi, 30, said that helping has brought her a sense of peace. And a former student of Robbie's who then became a close friend of the couple's, Sarah McDougall, 28, said that nursing Moses "gave me a way to be there for her and her family in a way I wouldn't have known how to do otherwise."

I didn't know what to expect. But I felt like I needed to do this for Susan, even though I didn't know her.
--Kyra Fillmore
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It turned out that finding volunteers was the easy part, said Nicoletta Fraire, 35, who considered Susan her closest friend in Marquette and organized the effort. And they'd checked with specialists to know that what they were doing was safe. The difficult part, Fraire said, was working out logistics, especially in the beginning.

Initially, there were seven women a day to juggle. Some of the moms had easy-to-remember set schedules, others had more staggered assignments, and then there were those on call. Many could travel to Moses, but some needed the baby to come to them. And donations for night feedings had to be gathered.

Over the months, some women moved away, weaned their own children or became pregnant. New eager-to-help moms cropped up. Toss in occasional sicknesses and vacations, and the feedings -- which the group set out to continue for at least a year -- became a carefully orchestrated dance.

A white board mapping out the choreographed schedule still stands in Goodrich's dining room.

But making sure Moses was cared for, although complicated, was something Fraire wanted -- even needed -- to do.

"I didn't see it as a hard job but mostly as something that's helped me fill the void," she said. "I did it for Susan. I know she would have done it for me."

Not only have these women helped Moses, the steady flow of company -- which often includes kids and husbands -- has nurtured Goodrich, too. It has been a constant in his life and his home, where he's also raising Julia, his and Susan's 2½ -year-old daughter. Two older kids from Susan's first marriage live nearby with their biological father.

"I don't know if you can make this year any easier," said Goodrich, who is emotionally still muddling through. "But I have people there to share it with me. And you can imagine, they're compassionate, empathetic people."

Just as these moms have cuddled and nourished Moses, their own children feel embraced in the Goodrich home and often beeline to where the snacks are stored. Husbands read to Julia while their wives nurse the baby, and Robbie bonds with families who've become an extension of his own.

Mothers who've stopped breast-feeding still check in and come by for regular visits. The group stays in touch on Facebook, by phone and over shared meals and walks. Friendships, outside the Goodrich household, have been formed. They all gathered to celebrate when Moses ate his first solids.

"It's a valuable gift for everyone involved," said Tina Taylor, 39, who prolonged the nursing of her own youngest child so she could continue feeding Moses. "It's taught us the importance of family, community and sharing."

Taylor and the more than two dozen other women who've nursed Moses know they cannot replace what was lost hours after he was born. But the father they've reached out to help says they've given his son something he could have never provided on his own.

"He's a healthy, happy, well-adjusted boy," he said, "who has always known a mother's love."

Wendy's picture

Great story.

I wish there was a nationwide group that helped to organize for those in need. Breast feeding is so important. I found this at La Leche League:

Nursing Two

Julia Richter
Yonkers NY USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 5, September-October 2004, p. 171

I started going to La Leche League meetings when I was pregnant. My sister, Janice, who lives in Canada, has been a member since the birth of her first son. She is responsible for introducing me to La Leche League and to an attachment parenting style. I am so grateful.

Imagine my joy when a few weeks into my pregnancy my sister announced that she was pregnant, too! Although we were in different countries, we spent an incredible amount of time on the phone and emailing each other. She gave birth to Justin about four weeks after my daughter, Isabella, was born.

I was visiting my family in Canada last summer when my sister had an accident and was hospitalized. Our babies were five and four months old respectively and both totally breastfed. She was unable to nurse her baby at first. Fortunately, I was in town with my milk-filled breasts and I nursed both Justin and Isabella. Once Janice stabilized, she was able to pump a fair amount of milk and I supplemented the rest of Justin's feedings. Justin could only visit his mother in the hospital to nurse once a day and was understandably traumatized by the separation from her. In addition to the nourishment of mother's milk, I was able to provide comfort to my nephew through the contact of nursing, particularly during the night when, deprived of his mother's sleeping presence, he needed cuddling the most.

Initially, I was worried about having enough milk to share for two babies, but the nature of supply and demand is truly amazing. I phoned both the local LLL chapter in Canada and also my LLL Leader back home in New York. With their help I devised a strategy for nursing both the babies. Most of the time I nursed the babies separately. Occasionally, they both needed me simultaneously. Looking down at those two beautiful faces nursing was such an amazing sight, and a truly moving experience that I will never forget.

Our parents were very supportive the whole time. They provided loving child care and made regular runs to the hospital, which was an hour away, to collect Janice's pumped milk in a cooler and to bring Justin to her daily. Justin never had to drink formula, although I did give him his first taste of mashed banana during that time.

A lot of our friends didn't understand why we made "such a fuss" about breastfeeding and thought we were fanatical and strange. My friends in my local LLL Group totally understood and applauded me as though I was some kind of hero when I came home with the tale of my experience.

Editor's Note: Cross nursing is not something that is generally recommended because there are risks involved. However, in an emergency situation like the one described in "Nursing Two," the baby benefited from receiving mother's milk and comfort from another family member when he was faced with unexpected separation from his mother. Cross nursing is not a decision that should be made lightly.

Last updated Tuesday, October 24, 2006 by njb.

Page last edited Sun Oct 14 09:30:48 UTC 2007.

Great Article!  I am a mother of Twins... I simultaneously nursed them both and did attachment style parenting as much as I was able...   It is essential to nurse twins together --- this synchronizes their feeding and sleeping cycles... This then frees the mother to have some needed downtime!

My twins were exclusively breastfed for 1 year.  Then I began making my own formula to supplement with as I just could not physically and mentally keep up with their demanding needs!  LOL  They were always HUNGRY!!!!

I made my own formula using goats milk, vitamin drops, and omega-3 oils sweetened with maple syrup.  They really LOVED the stuff and began gaining more weight and were less demanding.  By the time they had 6 teeth I introduced soft raw fruits that were mashed and pureed veggies and of course cheerios!  It was so much fun to begin introducing foods to them. 

They love all fruits and most veggies  (one likes tomatoes--- they other does not) and eat them raw as they now have a full set of teeth and are completely weaned. 

I had the intention of nursing them until they just "gave it up on their own" but soon realized that was just not possible after being simultaneously bitten by two demanding toddlers while they were nursing... aparently it was not fast enough for their little HUNGRY bellies... so that was the end of nursing for me when they were 2 years 2 months... a month later I had them both toilet trained. 

They are still on a simultaneous nap time as well.  This is essential for mother sanity!!! LOL!





Wendy's picture

Hi Elizabeth-

You are so blessed - hope you find time to read this. I wish I was awake and aware when my son was young. I only breast fed him for 6 months before I went back to work full time, then proceded to give him flouride tablets because I've always had bad teeth. The poor kid then got all his vaccines. He suffered with atention deficit, finally diagnosed with Aspergers at age 20. I continue to try to encourage him to try chelation therapy to help remove the mercury and flouride from his system but it's a tough batte now that he's full grown. How blessed you and your twins are that you are awake enough to protect them from harm.

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