“‘Thank you, you’ve got no idea how much this means to us.’ She said with teary eyes as we loaded the last of the frozen breastmilk into her trunk. Her baby boy, who this very milk was going to help feed, was sleeping in the car seat next to her feet. Giving the gift of liquid gold, an incredible blessing to an often-unheard need.
I am getting ahead of myself though, so let’s go back a bit. At a young age, I’d known I wanted kids someday. Then 2 years into marriage we were told, due to a couple of medical reasons, ‘You would never have biological kids.’ At least not without a good deal of prayer and medical intervention. Shortly afterward, with a broken heart, I began working at a non-profit daycare servicing low-income families. It was there I first encountered the need for breast milk.
I began working in the infant’s room with a new class. All the kids in the age range of 3-5 months. I quickly learned the ropes of bottle schedules, formula portions but also how to properly heat frozen breast milk. One day a mom came to pick up her little one. The baby fussed and she sat down in a rocker to nurse them before getting them into their car seat. ‘I need to treasure this,’ she began, her voice cracking a bit. ‘I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to nurse her. My supply is dropping and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it back up.’
She and another teacher began talking of ways she could try to boost her supply. The whole concept was foreign and terrifying for me to think about. We were still childless but over my few months working with infants, I’d decided if we ever got to have kids, I’d love to be able to nurse them. The amounts of effort to find a good formula that did not upset your baby’s tummy or give them a diaper rash and the cost, not only in money but in the stress on the mother, made me want to give breastfeeding a good try first.
The timer beeped. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and held up the test. I opened them and could not believe what I saw: two pink lines. We were finally pregnant. My excitement making me not care it was nearly 1:00 a.m. on a weekday night. I immediately woke up my husband to tell him. He, of course, did not believe me. It wasn’t till the phone call came back from the blood test the next day that it sunk in. He dropped to his knees and kissed my belly.
‘Hey little one, I can’t wait to meet you! Daddy loves you,’ he said, kissing my belly again before wrapping me in a huge hug.
Nearing the end of my pregnancy, I devoured books on breastfeeding, read articles, and videos on it as well. It was fine to have the head knowledge, but I knew that was only one part. Putting it all to actual practice would be the final test. I didn’t have to wait much longer though. I woke up the morning of week 38 to a pain wrapping around from my back to my belly button and I knew it was time.
After nearly 36 hours of labor, our baby girl was here. My midwife placed her on my chest and our little girl immediately started searching for food. It took a few attempts as I was exhausted to put it lightly, but I finally got her latched. My heart filled with love, joy, and relief. She was here, she was healthy, and she was nursing.
Over the next few days, my milk came in and I found myself faced with a problem. A problem I hadn’t prepared for or had really even heard of. I had an oversupply. I’d stocked up on things to keep your supply up, but I’d never thought of the opposite happening. After baby girl would nurse, I’d have to lay her down and pump. I tried not to pump too much but just enough so I wasn’t in as much pain anymore. Even as our girl started sleeping through the night, I would wake up in pain, needing to pump. I felt like I couldn’t even talk to anyone about it because having a huge supply seemed to be as elusive as winning the lottery. No one wants to hear you vent about problems related to winning the lottery!
Soon our freezer in the fridge was full of frozen milk. I made milk ‘bricks’ and began moving them into our new deep freezer. I’d look at it in wonder sometimes, knowing deeply how much of a blessing it was. Within a few months I had a new problem, my small deep freezer was quickly nearing capacity.
As I’d said, I knew of no one to ask about this situation, so I turned to the internet. A few searches later, I stumbled upon the topic of breastmilk donation. Most of the sites were for milk banks. After looking into several, I decided I didn’t feel like shipping my frozen milk. It’s a lengthy process that includes dry ice. I didn’t even know where to buy dry ice! So, I began the search for somewhere local. That’s when I turned to social media. I quickly found a Human Milk For Human Babies group in my area.
‘Why am I actually nervous about this?’ I thought as I typed up my breast milk donation offer and sent it off to the admin. Within minutes of my offer going live several mamas reached out to me. Within the hour, the number was well over ten moms. I sat there in tears. There was this gaping need. A need I’d never known existed. A need for food for babies. Not babies halfway around the world but within blocks of my house.
The stories were so varied too. Most couldn’t find a formula that agreed with their baby’s tummies and didn’t give them rashes. Some were preemie moms that knew breastmilk would be amazing for their baby’s immune system. Some were moms that through all their own research and beliefs wanted breastmilk for their babies; even though they themselves couldn’t produce or produce enough.
‘What’s wrong?’ My husband asked while giving me a hug. He’d just come in from work to find me on the couch crying. ‘I want to help them all, but I don’t have enough.’ I got out in sobs.
I could have blamed the waterworks on been a sleep-deprived new mom but this broke my heart. How would I just pick one? I made the painful decision and sent off a reply to the mom. She instantly sent me an excited reply. We set up to meet at a coffee shop the next day to give her the milk.
She walked in, baby carrier in one hand, a gift bag in the other, and a smile on her face. The gift was milk storage bags and a coffee shop gift card. We talked and she told me more about the brain tumor she’d survived that left her unable to produce milk. We didn’t want to stay and talk too long, though. It was a cool fall day, but the frozen milk still needed to get back into a freezer. So, we went out to the parking lot and transferred the milk from my coolers to hers. ‘Thank you, you’ve got no idea how much this means to us,’ she said with teary eyes as we loaded the last of the frozen breastmilk into her trunk. I looked at her son sleeping in his car seat next to her feet and thought how crazy it was I was going to help him grow.
From then on, I pumped with purpose. There were babies out there in my own city that simply needed to be fed. A problem that I was uniquely positioned to help with. Since then, we’ve gone on to have two more miracle babies. Each time I’ve been blessed again and able to give throughout the time nursing my own babies. Each story breaks my heart and makes me thankful that I can help this mom and this baby that need it so badly. I’ve gotten to give to a baby right out of the NICU. I’ve gotten to give to a mama adopting a newborn also getting out of the NICU. The heartfelt hugs, the tears in eyes, and each thank you makes those late-night pumping sessions worth it.
I’d just one person though. There is a huge need. Even hospitals need and gratefully accept breastmilk for their NICU babies. So please if you do have extra, let’s help meet this need together.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily-Ahna Anderly from Loveland, Colorado. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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