This is a guest post written by Caitlin of All About Growing up and Becoming a Famous Author.
I always imagined that I’d be the one donating milk. Well, not always, but I’d been turned on to the idea of Human Milk 4 Human Babies during my second pregnancy. When my son, Maxwell, was born the breastfeeding around the clock began. Through postpartum issues that required an ambulance ride and Max’s habit of back-arching and screaming through nursing sessions we persevered, pushing through the groggy haze of near constant breastfeeding and crying.
It was at three months that things began to go downhill for Max. Again and again I was assured that nursing every two hours (even more often than that) in those days was normal. The screaming? Maybe I had an overactive letdown. But there was one issue that no one could explain away with reassurances of normalcy of infanthood; his first drop on the growth curve.
Starting out at the seventy-fifth percentile it is heartbreaking to see my son at rock bottom, completely dropped off the chart with a big fat “zero” on his chart. When he was six-months-old I cut out dairy and we saw some improvement. Miniscule, but some was better than none. After several failed trials with three separate reflux medicines we were referred to a GI doctor.
Concerned by Max’s eating habits and gain 300 grams, lose 400 grams cycles, he immediately ordered a swallow study and upper GI. But in the meantime, he wanted us to chart what he was eating and begin a supplement of soy formula. My husband had accompanied us to that appointment and commandeered the van keys from me before we’d even left the doctor’s office; we were going to buy the formula.
I can still feel the weight in my chest. It pressed against my heart, this dense ball of guilt and self-hatred. Had I caused my son’s problems? I sobbed, asking my husband again and again, what had I do wrong? I’d done everything the “right” way my second time around. Max was a successful VBAC and I’d only nursed my daughter for a mere three months before switching to formula. How? Just how had I screwed things up?
But Max wouldn’t take the soy formula. Not even when a mere half scoop had been added to several ounces of pumped breast milk. And after every rejection I bitterly poured the milk down the drain. The milk that I’d worked so hard to pump during about a two-week period when Max hadn’t been crying non-stop.
Knowing that we needed to get more in to him I approached my husband with the idea of looking for a milk donor. There was no hesitation on his end.
It took me several days before I finally posted on the local HM4MB page. Guilt and apprehension were waging a merciless war in my head and my heart. Guilt, for it wasn’t that I couldn’t pump any milk. In the moments that I could steal away (that largely ended with a wailing Max clinging to my legs or waking with an unexpected start an hour after he’d been laid down for the night) I could pump about 4 ounces
of milk per day, spread out over two to three pumping sessions. And that was the confusing part, if I could pump an ounce of milk after he’d already nursed, why wasn’t he gaining weight?
Finally, after several not-so-gentle nudges from my husband, I posted.
“I am in need of dairy free milk for my 10-month-old son who is struggling with weight gain. I have a very small freezer stash that we are using to supplement with and we are quickly burning through it. We are in the Macon / Warner Robins area but willing to drive.”
The response came quickly. A woman who was already donating to not only one but two other women had 150 ounces of dairy-free breast milk that she’d be willing to donate to us. It was an almost five-hour drive but my husband and I knew that we had to do it. Armed with a cooler full of ice and a few sandwiches for the ride we made the trip up there and back, totaling almost eleven-hours round trip due to nursing stops, potty breaks, and roadwork.
The next morning I nursed Max in bed as normal and then wrangled the kids downstairs for breakfast. Like every morning Max’s crying began immediately but I bounced and shushed him, promising him that I had something for him as I warmed the donor milk.
But he didn’t want it. He just flat out wasn’t interested. At a loss I repeatedly offered him the Nuk cup, pressing the rubber spout against his tightly locked lips as he flung his head this way and that to avoid it.
“Just try it,” I pleaded. “You’ll like it. I promise.”
For two days we offered him thawed milk after he’d already nursed but he was never interested. His nose crinkled and lips turned down as if to say, “Mom, this isn’t what’s wrong.”
Eventually we relented and formulated a new plan. At meals, the ones where he threw most of his food on the floor and cried, we offered him his cup with two or three ounces of breast milk. Eureka! My husband and I high-fived as he gulped down the milk in lieu of table food.
From that point on he’s enjoyed a cup of breast milk at meals. Even when he chooses to eat what’s offered it’s a guarantee that he’ll also drink his milk. Those extra nutrients and calories are so important for him as we’ve still fluctuated between periods of weight gain and loss since starting the extra milk.
Our situation is not typical of receiving donor milk. As we now know my milk supply wasn’t in question. Max has had several health issues and we’re counting down the days to his endoscopy that will hopefully provide us the concrete diagnosis that we
need. But in the days of near-constant crying that stretched on for nearly 11 months, when I couldn’t bare to set my hurting child down to hook up the pump, and when sleep never came in stretches longer than an hour, one woman with three children of her own was able to pass on the most precious, beautiful, and vital gift that anyone has ever given us.
This Guest Post was written by Caitlin. About Caitlin:
Caitlin is a wife, a mom, and a lover of words living on an Air Force base in the middle of nowhere. In between chasing after her 20-month-old, Penny, folding laundry, and spending half the day in the kitchen, she tries to jot down a few words in her notebook and blogs over at All About Growing up and Becoming a Famous Author. She and her husband are expecting their second child in June.