“The most notable gift I gave this season was the gift of 1,836 ounces of breastmilk to the mom of the preemie twins who were in the same room as Oaklee in the NICU… I gave her over half of my freezer stock that’s left after having given 1000 oz to my neighbor, too. What a blessing it is to be able to be this blessing to another NICU mom. I don’t think I’ve ever given a better gift.”
For every minute I sat alone with my pump, every time I washed the pump parts, every discomfort I felt in having an oversupply of breastmilk, every tear I cried through our breastfeeding battle, I found redemption in the opportunity to not only feed my child, but her NICU roommates as well.
Over the course of Oaklee’s 69-day NICU stay, I was able to get to know a fellow NICU parent. In a room of eight isolettes, babies came and babies went, but two isolettes were occupied the entire time by twin girls born at roughly the same gestational age as Oaklee. Their mommy, L, and I would chat briefly as we passed each other in the halls or turned in our breast milk to the Nutrition room.
As we both prepared for the discharge of our kiddos, L mentioned the challenge it would be for her to maintain her pumping regime while adding the sole responsibility of feeding and caring for two babies on top of it.
L is a single mother. The twins are kiddos two and three for her. While, at the time, I did not know her story, I saw a great opportunity in what I did know to help Oaklee’s NICU roommates. On the day of Oaklee’s discharge, I left a note with L that included my phone number and told her of my overabundant supply of breastmilk. I urged her to reach out if/when she ran out of her own freezer stock once the girls came home.
Over the course of the next couple of months, I didn’t hear anything. Eventually, my freezer stock filled my deep freezer, my parent’s larger deep freezer and my parent’s upright freezer. I had an unruly supply of breastmilk – one I would never get all the way through, and one that was taking up more than my fair share of space in another person’s freezer.
With no way to get a hold of L, I reached out to my neighbor, whose son was born one day after Oaklee and had been on donor milk ever since. Over the course of two deliveries, I gave him 1000 oz of breastmilk, clearing out the upright freezer of my parents and dipping into their deep freezer.
Breastmilk is good for one year when stored in a deep freezer. Knowing I had more than I could use, I was aware I would need to donate more, and I would need to do it in a way that gave the receiver enough time to use it up before it expired. I didn’t know if L would reach out to me, and unfortunately, I couldn’t wait.
Similarly to how I’d decided the end of the year would be the end of the breastfeeding battle, I decided December 29 would be the cutoff for my waiting on L. On December 29, Oaklee would be 6 months old. My breastmilk would have a minimum expiration time of 6 months so long as I found someone to donate to quickly.
And on December 29, I received a text message from L, inquiring about the milk. In retrospect, I can see how many moments of our journey were clearly Divinely aligned, but this one was obvious from the moment I received that text message.
On the 29th, my husband and I made the trip in a blustery, winter storm to my parent’s house and retrieved from their deep freezer the milk I was willing to part with… and then more, before driving to L’s house to unload box upon box of bagged, frozen breastmilk. We filled her deep freezer and left boxes on the porch in the 8* night for her to bring to her parent’s deep freezer for future use.
I am a firm believer in giving when you have the opportunity to give. This particular giving opportunity may have been once-in-a-lifetime. I didn’t hesitate to give more than I felt comfortable giving. Oaklee was breastfeeding pretty comfortably. She was getting what she needed, and now, L’s baby girls could continue to get what they needed too.
L and I teared up. We hugged. We knew this moment was sacred.
Every minute I sat alone with my pump, every time I washed the pump parts, every discomfort I felt in having an oversupply of breastmilk, every tear I cried through our breastfeeding battle… it was all worth it. I would do it again and again if it meant babies – preemies especially – were being fed breastmilk they otherwise would not get.
On December 29, we completed the last stage of our 2017. In a time when most were looking ahead to resolutions, we had found resolution. Our baby was home. She was healthy. She was breastfeeding. She was sharing her mommy’s extra breastmilk with those in need – her own NICU roommates.
Good Pregnancy –> Bad Pregnancy –> NICU –> Breastfeeding Battle
Turning the page on this chapter in our life was so, so sweet. I will forever hold these dear, redemptive moments close to my heart, and while it took me an entire year to see the fruits of my detested labor, I feel incredibly blessed that God chose me to be a part of this story.
In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: 10lb 8oz (12.1.17)
Adjusted age: 13 weeks, 6 days
Actual age: 26 weeks, 1 day
Days in the hospital: 69
Days home: 114
Appointments since home: 22