It took nearly 4 months, but I finally donated all of my pumped breast milk.
Mixed emotions would be the best way to describe how I felt about this act, which is most likely why it took so long for me to follow through. I wanted to give it away, I didn’t want to give it away. Mother’s Milk Bank was the the first number I dialed driving home from the hospital that day. I don’t know why, but I needed to know I could connect with someone strange and unfamiliar. My baby son had just died, how do you fully explain where your head is in those first few hours?
The phone interview was about ten minutes long and it gave me some distraction. Did you have any infections during pumping? Yes. How long were you taking antibiotics? Ten days. Do you use recreational drugs? No. Have you changed your diet since pumping? No, er, a little, less vegetarian these days. Etc. I answered their questionnaire honestly and thanked the interviewer. She apologized for the reason of my call and thanked me for the pending milk donation, too.
Weeks went by and a new month began. I had a friend, Brea, fill out the stack of paperwork for me. Some went to the donation center, some went to Kaiser. Those first weeks it was impossible for me to read or comprehend a sentence. She will always be invaluable to me for that support. Then, there was the blood I had to provide at a random lab located here in Whittier. That took forever for me to commit to. I’m not saying that my insurance company didn’t lag and take their sweet time with a few of the steps, but I sat on correspondence and didn’t pursue completing this exchange for weeks and weeks.
Once Mother’s Milk Bank called to confirm my blood was good and healthy, I finally arranged the pick up from FedEx and they gave me a three hour window. I couldn’t sit still that whole time and refrained from going to the back of the house, where I could potentially miss the door bell. It was weird seeing all my milk lined up and ready to go in large gallon bags…I had pumped it all for him, my Wyatt. I had worked up to seven pumping shifts per 24 hours, which I was very proud of. This donation had taken me weeks to produce…and now it was leaving me and my home.
When all this sacrifice was happening, I was happy to do it. Setting my alarm at 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. was a privilege, because I got to pump. I got to do something real for my Wyatt. And he did have a couple of good weeks there, where he was taking “cc’s” of my breast milk via nose tube, and I couldn’t be prouder. We were so connected. The allure of Mother’s Milk Bank, was that my donation would go to another baby in the NICU who’s momma couldn’t produce milk for one reason or the other. I knew breast milk was critical for a baby’s development and I wanted to be a part of that.
But it was hard, why couldn’t this milk, why couldn’t I, save my son? Two questions I am slowly starting to release from my mind and heart, as unanswerable and unhealthy for me to ask.
I catalogued this event. I don’t have a baby to watch and snap pictures of, so I take photos of anything that ties me to him and his memory. This is part of my ceremony, part of my healing practice that I must do in order to move through my grief. I carefully packed ice packs on top of the milk and attached the red EXPEDITE sign on top, then I wrapped the cooler in packing tape and awaited the door bell. I was nervous.
Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., the FedEx saleswoman said. It was 5:35 p.m., when my doorbell rang. The courier was in a hurry and shuttled the cooler off to his truck, swiftly. I stood there and watched from my porch.
After closing the door, I placed my head in my hands and cried for my baby. I will always honor Wyatt and his strength and I will always give to others in his good name. My dear, dearest, baby boy son.
Now that it’s done, I’m pretty okay. So it goes with most things related to my son.
There is room in my freezer and that’s kind of nice. I am making room.