This weekend, I was so incredibly blessed to be a very small part of what has been and what will continue to be an amazing journey for a special family that I know.
I’ve always been fascinated with adoption and foster care. My husband is actually one of ten children, six of whom were adopted. Most of my 4th year research in college was on Attachment Theory, and my undergrad degree was in Psychology. Last year I followed the blog of a woman who served as a surrogate to carry another couple’s baby when they couldn’t. This time, however, my small opportunity was none of these things.
There’s a quote, “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” This always makes me think of a gift I received that I’ll never be able to repay or even say thank you for. When I was 17 years old, I was the recipient of another person’s bone – actually, a cadaver’s bone – which was drilled into my spine, fusing my lumbar and sacrum together. For years, that isolated bone glowed on my x-rays until it was in my body long enough to dull to match my own, with bone grafted from my hip fusing it into place.
Fast forward a decade…
My older son was just a few weeks old when I returned to work from maternity leave, so I pumped twice a day there (and sometimes at home before I left) for a year to supply enough milk for him to have at daycare. I’ll be honest, it was hard. Finding a private place was absolutely non-existent in the 1970s-built-pod-school where I taught. Remembering to bring all the pump parts, freezer packs, cooler, bottle tops, tubing, power cord, wetbags – I felt like every day I forgot one component of the pump. And I never had teacher coverage while I pumped, since my schedule was so inconsistent, so there were days I barely came home with any milk. Other days, I came home with plenty for the next day – it just depended on my water intake and what time(s) I was able to pump that day. My heart had many episodes of tachycardia while nursing both my children, and I’ll be paying off cardiology bills for the next year.
Woke up in the middle of the night engorged. This was all from one side. Ouch!!
I nursed E until he was 18 months and weaned him when my husband and I needed to travel out of town for a week without him.
I was also pregnant with my second son before this trip. When he was born, I was able to stay home with him until he was 13 weeks old. Once at daycare, he crushed bottles of my expressed milk like a champ until he was about 10 months old. I spent the summer at home with him, and when I went back to work in August, he refused bottles of any kind. No interest whatsoever. It didn’t matter who was holding the bottle, or what brand, or what temperature. Which left me with a freezer full of the precious liquid gold that I had pumped and so carefully frozen. Now at 13 months, he still nurses when we’re at home (and all throughout the night, every night), but if I’m not there, he won’t take my milk in bottle form.
Truth. Or left it out on the counter overnight.
When he was 10 months old, I began researching how and where to donate my excess milk. After calling local hospitals, I found that a lot of them actually had enough frozen breastmilk to support their NICU babies, so I was given phone numbers to call to locate hospitals all over the country who might accept my milk. The process of testing the milk and testing myself would be extensive, not to mention packaging and shipping the frozen milk, but it would be worth it.
I had just started the process of milk donation when I learned that God had a different plan for my milk.
A mutual friend of mine, after years of prayer dedicated to adopting a child, got a call that a newborn was ready to come home. That sentence took me only a moment to type but represents a lifetime of prayer for this little baby. In getting together the things she would need for her new baby, she put out a request for any moms who had breastmilk to spare.
I did! A total of 144.5 ounces. To put it in perspective, it’s almost $1500 dollars’ worth of “liquid gold” and over 35 pumping sessions. It equates to 18+ hours of pumping, although with 2 sides at once, it was more like 9 hours, give or take. But double that to include the time it took to wash all the teeny tiny pump parts and Medela bottles and caps every night, dry them, and pack them to do it all over the next day. And then washing the wetbags I used to transport all the wet bottles and pump parts. My husband washed every single bottle and pump part, by hand, every evening. (Thank you!) I carefully measured and labeled each bag for future use.
Yesterday, I studied the Medela guidelines for thawing frozen breastmilk and checked the date on all of my milk. To my amazement, not a single drop of the 144.5 ounces was expired. I had pumped every bit of it in the last six months. Even more amazingly, the “oldest” frozen milk I had will start expiring in about 2 weeks, so I was running out of time to find a place to accept it.
I know this baby is going to be supported in big ways and always with an abundance of love. I am so incredibly honored that I got to help with such a specific need – I told the baby’s mommy that I felt like I just donated an organ and am praying it’s a match – that the baby will accept this same precious milk that continues to sustain my own little boy as he nurses. This new little baby was born on my son’s due date, exactly 12 months later. We serve a most amazing God whose timing is always spot-on.
Family arrived with a cooler today to transport the milk to its new home. 🙂
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19