Thomas’ birth, like many, was anything but ordinary. He came quietly into the world, gray and barely moving. My midwife, Lydia, shoved the scissors into Jake’s hands as the blue lights went off in our room, and he cut the umbilical cord as the pulled Thomas out of Lydia’s hands.
We were lucky. Thomas was a meconium birth and, the longer we know him, the more we realize that assessing first and reacting second is a cherished part of his personality. In the moment, though, I have never known such fear.
After 10 minutes, and stabilization of my son, the hospital took him to the NICU. Jake followed Thomas down as I stayed behind, paralyzed from epidural and from fear.
An hour or so later, a doctor called me from the NICU asking me if I wanted my son to have donor milk. I didn’t know how to respond. Everything I’d read talked about skin to skin and breastfeeding, and the first experience I had looked forward to with my child out of uterine was now no longer a possibility.
I asked the doctor what she suggested, since I was still being stitched up (what a birth it was!) and wouldn’t likely get to see him for a few hours still. She reinforced the good work of the milk bank, and reinforced that giving my son donor milk was both healthy and safe, and would keep him on the path to good health. I said yes, and the first food he had was a gift from someone else.
I can’t say that I was thrilled in the moment (in fact, I was completely confused, numb, you name it). But once I saw him with my own eyes and realized he was in one piece, I started to ask questions. The NICU nurses told me about Northwest Mothers Milk Bank (NWMMB), and I filed it in the back of my mind for the future.
Fast forward three months, and I am back at work, and pumping more than I will ever need. I knew this was a possibility based on my oversupply throughout much of the fourth trimester, but I didn’t realize how much milk I would have! I had several other friends give birth around the same time as me, and they weren’t as lucky with supply. I decided then to call NWMMB and undergo the screening needed to donate my breastmilk for babies like my own. The donations I was making to both NWMMB and my friends who needed it helped me through the angst and annoyance of pumping. Almost 1.5 years later, I still make enough milk that I donate 200-300 oz a month to NWMMB.
There are milk banks across the United States. If you’ve donated, please share your experience below. If you’d like to learn more, send me a note or contact your local milk bank.