‘I had a huge amount of bagged milk in the freezer, and nothing to do with it.’: Woman donates breastmilk to moms in need

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“I’m currently a stay-at-home mom of three, two with varying levels of needs, and I live every day with a variety of chronic illnesses, primarily Dysautonomia, or POTS. I also donate breastmilk, which wouldn’t have happened if not for all of the above.

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

As a kid, I always swore I would never settle down and didn’t want kids. I even begged my doctor when I was 18 to tie my tubes, I was that adamant about my life choices. I’m so glad it didn’t happen that way. My firstborn son may not have necessarily been planned, but he set the rest of my life’s plans in motion. I learned so much about myself, responsibility, and advocating for a child who would always need help from others to maintain a quality of life.

My secondborn happened when I was ready, or at least I thought I was. I don’t think I was quite mentally ready for the battle of my life though.

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

See, I have suffered from POTS since I was 16, but my most recent battle with it began with my last pregnancy, and continues even 7 months later. It was a super difficult pregnancy of severe vomiting and sickness, and I lost nearly 40 pounds total, even though I only started out at 106 pounds. Every time I gained a little bit of water weight from IV, it would be gone again the next week. Before my first hospital stay, I lost 6 pounds every 4 days at 8 weeks pregnant.

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

My doctors suggested I terminate the pregnancy due to the risk of baby or I (or both) being unable to survive another 30 weeks. I couldn’t walk anywhere for myself and had to be pushed in a cart or wagon if I wanted to go somewhere, which most of the time I didn’t. The vertigo was severe, and I would find myself passing out with any little movement. I associated this with my diagnosed Hyperemesis Gravitum and was excited for the pregnancy to be over so I could have my life back. Little did I know, that wouldn’t be the case.

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

Even months postpartum, I can’t sit or stand for long periods (sometimes as little as 5 minutes on bad days) without feeling woozy, as if my head suddenly weighs a hundred pounds on its own. Turning or standing up quickly makes black dots dance in front of my vision. Video games are a no-go because I can’t handle the screen movement. I self-diagnosed POTS, and a specialist confirmed. My doctor gave me a handicapped tag for my van and said good luck because he had no treatment options.

Returning to work wasn’t an option. No job would cater to someone who couldn’t even sit or stand for long periods of time. Now there would be no break from the house full of kids. No building on successful retail management or even medical/residential care type career I could be proud of. Even getting a college degree would be difficult because I couldn’t guarantee travel for myself, or stare at a computer screen for a length of time. So now what?

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

I spent a good length of time hating my existence, and just pouring out my fears and dreams to my newborn. We suddenly began to bond in a way I had never allowed myself to with my firstborn when he was that small. This time, there was no work or custody battle to get in the way of our relationship. We were both stuck with limited mobility and learning a new reality together. We cuddled and cried together over things we didn’t understand and were each other’s source of comfort through it. Although painful at first, we persevered through the struggle to breastfeed, and the way his tiny fingers brushed my arm, fingers, and breasts while feeding made me never want to give it up.

That was when I realized how strong the bond of a mother and child truly is. When you let them become your whole world, you see how you have always been THEIRS, without a question, and only blind trust, faith, and love you are ‘mommy.’

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

Even though breastfeeding was physically draining for me (I had to compensate by eating 3,000 calories per day while being completely sedentary— and yes, I was still losing a pound a week again— I loved the idea I could fully support my baby. If we were sick, the milk changed from white to yellow with antibodies to whatever bug had gotten to us. I was still pumping 8-20 ounces a day to freeze in case my supply dropped. One little problem though… Leo wouldn’t take a bottle.

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

I’ve always been an overproducer, and while most women typically have to wait 3 days for their milk supply to come in after birth, I had 80 ounces frozen in the first 5 days home from the hospital. So now I had a huge amount of bagged milk in the freezer, and nothing to do with it. Though I briefly thought of selling it, I wasn’t really sure what the process was, and immediately turned to Facebook pages for donor milk.

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

I live in a very rural area 4 to 6 hours away from any major city, so I expanded my search area to within a 3 hours drive. Fortunately, I matched quickly with a mom of a 9-month-old who lived nearly 2 and a half hours away. I was able to give her my entire frozen stash. I read through posts and depending on the number of ounces a mom is looking for, I can usually have within a week or so for bulk storage. I usually say about a week or so in case the mom is seeking dietary changes, such as due to allergies from milk or gluten. I can modify it to meet their needs, although I do love milk on my own time!

I may not be able to do the things most women are expected to do in today’s society, but I can do the one thing God granted women the ability to do… Carry and feed my beautiful babies. He has also given me the ability to feed other’s babies and help moms who are struggling with the hard choice of work or staying home, or who may not be able to produce enough on their own. Maybe they just don’t feel comfortable to do so. Whatever their reason, I don’t judge. I feel like I finally have a place and a purpose within a community of women that society claims are outdated. A mother’s love and a village of supportive women will never not be needed to raise a child.”

Courtesy of Stephanie DiNatale

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