MARQUETTE - His big hand holds a tiny one as Robbie Goodrich sings in a deep voice, soothing his infant son Moses. The little guy observes his father's every move, focusing on his lips that produce those comforting sounds. Watching him, one may wonder how much 2-month-old Moses already knows about the bittersweet beginning of his life.
Charles Moses Martin Goodrich was born at 3:26 a.m. Jan. 11 at Marquette General Hospital. Eleven hours after giving birth, his mother Susan Goodrich, 46, died of amniotic fluid embolism - a rare obstetric emergency that is not age-related, Goodrich said. Moses is the Goodrich's second child - Julia was born in 2007 - and Susan's fourth. Still in shock over his wife's death, Goodrich realized he had to figure out a way to feed his newborn son.
"They didn't carry any breast milk," the history professor said about the hospital, so a nurse looked into getting some for Moses. As it turned out, the nearest place to get breast milk was in Kalamazoo, and it would take several days to have it delivered to Marquette.
Robbie Goodrich, above, makes funny faces with his son, Charles Moses Martin Goodrich, recently during a gathering at the Unitarian Church in Harvey.
Carrie Fiocchi nurses the child during a gathering at the church. (Journal photos by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Shown are some of the women who are helping to feed mother-less infant Moses. Back row from left Kyra Fillmore and Eyre Becker. Center row from left Carrie Fiocchi, Laura Janowksi, Courtney Chase, Robbie Goodrich with kids Julia and Moses, Teisha Foster and Karla Niemi. Front row from left, Claudia Chavez, Sarah McDougall, Sally Keskey, Nicoletta Fraire and Erika Potila. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
In the meantime, Goodrich received a phone call from family friend Laura Janowski of Marquette, who was still nursing her fourth child, 1-year-old Emily. In her message, Janowski offered Goodrich to nurse Moses.
"That's when it clicked in my head," he said. "I wanted the baby to be nursed. That's something that Susan would have wanted."
One thing led to another when family friend Nicoletta Fraire of Marquette began organizing a group of women who may want to help feed Moses.
"Basically, a couple of phone calls were enough," she said. "I just had to leave my name and phone number and calls started to come in."
She also made contact with Sally Keskey, founder of the Yooper Nursers - a local breast feeding support group. Within a brief time, nearly 20 women were found who offered to breast-feed Moses. Many of them belong to the support group and had never met the Goodrich family before.
"These women are advocates of breast feeding," Goodrich said.
A schedule was put together with feeding times at 9 a.m., noon, 1:30 , 4 , 6:30 and 8 p.m. Six times a day a different mother has been feeding Moses for the past two months. During the night, Goodrich bottle-feeds his son breast milk that was pumped by the women.
"What amazes me is they are so committed," Fraire said. "They would do it for anyone because they believe in this. They didn't take it lightly and they don't miss a day."
Goodrich added: "It's commitment, passion - it's love. It's an act of love."
What these women are doing "is an example of group cross-nursing," Goodrich explained. "It's organized. That's what you don't find anymore."
Goodrich and Fraire did some research to find similar groups in the United States. They were not successful. They heard of friends sharing their babies, which is called cross-nursing, and of course wet nurses get paid for nursing someone else's baby.
"The first literary reference in western literature to wet nursing is Moses' (biblical) story," Goodrich said.
In the beginning, Goodrich and Fraire discussed whether they should have the women tested to be sure they are healthy. In the end, "we just decided to trust them," Fraire said. "The women deeply care about their health and the health of their babies."
And so far, their trust has been validated. Moses has not been sick since he was born.
"He's getting the strongest mix of antibodies in the county," Goodrich said.
But being fed and healthy aren't the only benefits for Moses, his father said.
"It's about the nurturing aspect, being held," he said. "He is happy. He rarely cries."
Goodrich said having the women come to his house to nurse Moses, often bringing their own children, has been good for him.
"These are deeply caring individuals who spend time and work with me," he said. "They've all treated me with the utmost graciousness and empathy."
Goodrich said, if he can find enough mothers willing to provide breast milk, he hopes to continue nursing Moses until he is a year old.