One sunny August day, I was sitting at work eating Chewy Sprees, pregnant with my first child!  All of a sudden I got up and went to the bathroom because I thought I had an accident.  The embarrassment then turned to nervousness, when I realized my water just broke.  I was 24 and pregnant with my first child and he wasn’t due for another 8 weeks.  Four hours later and only 45 minutes after my first contraction, I welcomed my baby boy Garryn into the world!  Being born at 32 weeks, my son was quickly taken to the NICU before I had the chance to hold him.  Scared, nervous, emotional… I began my journey into motherhood as a NICU mom.

I was one of the lucky ones because Garryn thrived in the NICU and only had to spend 14 days there.  I was able to pump milk for him and when I couldn’t we supplemented with formula (I don’t know if the hospital did not have donor milk or if it wasn’t a thing that long ago??).  My pumping journey was short with Garryn because I was not emotionally ready for it all and he was never able to latch for breastfeeding (fairly common with preemies) so he was primarily formula fed.  Now 12 years later, Garryn is thriving!!!

Fast forward 7 year… Just two days after Garryn’s 7th birthday, on another hot August day… I started to go into labor with our second child.  Once again, my excitement turned into nervousness because she wasn’t due for 4 weeks.  4 hours after my labor started, I welcomed my little girl Irelynn into the world via c-section at 36 weeks. Irelynn’s entrance into the world was very scary.  She was delivered not breathing and had to be resuscitated… and was born with an Omphalocele.  Something that was undetected during my pregnancy.  Immediately after being delivered she was transferred to the NICU and once again I did not get to hold my baby.  While still in recovery, trying to understand everything that just happened, not even 1.5 hours later… She was transferred to a different hospital.  Once I got back from recovery and into my room I immediately got a phone call.  It was the NICU at the other hospital updating me on the status.  They talked a lot about the Omphalocele and their plans and then they asked for my consent to give Irelynn donor milk.  They explained that with her condition, her greatest chance and best outcome would be with the donor milk.  DONOR MILK?????  I didn’t even know that was a thing??? Was it safe??  After all my questions were answered, I gave my consent and that was the moment my donor story began…

Throughout Irelynn’s stay in the NICU her omphalocele was repaired and we later learned that she has a rare condition, Beckwith Wiedemann Syndrome.  5 years later she is thriving and full of sass and whit!  But the one thing that stuck with me over the years was the selflessness from other mothers, that donated their milk, that gave my daughter the best outcome possible.  There are so many mothers who can’t even produce enough for their own child and here were mothers donating their milk for mine!  I was touched in only a way a mother could understand.

Fast forward 4.5 years… on a cold November night, I woke up out of bed in labor with my third child.  The nervousness began all over again because despite everything we tried, every doctor we saw, every obstacle we overcame (having my appendix out while 26 weeks pregnant)… it was still 7 weeks early.  Three hours later, I welcomed my baby boy, Brandt, into the world via VBAC at 33 weeks.  This time my doctor made sure I got to hold him for at least 30 seconds, before he was then taken to the NICU.  His NICU stay was nothing short of eventful, but during this time I knew what my job was… pump for my baby.

I think that this time my body finally knew exactly what to do because I was able to pump and provide milk for my baby the entire time.  Not only was I providing for him, I had an oversupply of milk. Before my NICU stay was even over, I was looking into becoming a donor.  I officially became a donor and the day I dropped off my first donation (1000 ounces)… I cried.  I cried sooooo hard.  You know…that ugly, red faced, snot running down your face cry.  I was not crying that I was giving away my milk but I was crying because I was finally able to give back.  It was the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.  Having mothers help my baby and me so many years ago… finally being able to repay that selflessness is a feeling I can’t describe.

To that mother in the NICU, desperately trying to pump and trying to syringe out every single drop because even a drop counts for her baby… while exhausted from childbirth and all the events that just unfolded… I understand, I was you… I’m here for you… I SEE YOU!!!!

To that mother in the NICU, desperately trying to pump and  trying to syringe out every single drop because even a drop counts for her baby… while recovering from your C-Section (major abdominal surgery)… I understand, I was you… I’m here for you…. I SEE YOU!!!

To that mother crying in her hospital room because her baby was transferred to another hospital, desperately trying to pump and  trying to syringe out every single drop because even a drop counts for her baby… while scared and exhausted… I understand, I was you… I’m here for you…. I SEE YOU!!!

To that mother at home… mentally and physically exhausted… struggling to breastfeed but knowing you need to take care of you to take care of your baby… I understand, I was you… I’m here for you…. I SEE YOU!!!

To the mothers who can’t supply their baby with milk for various reasons (medical, adoption, etc.…)… I am here for you!  I have never stood in your shoes but I want to offer my milk as a way to help you along your journey.

Those are all the reasons why as a recipient of donor milk… I turned into a donor myself.  Every drop counts!!!