A few hours after Alice passed away, I was sitting on my brother’s couch with friends and family all around me. Dallas had tried to force feed me pizza, but I was too distraught to eat. I was only able to stand with the help of my husband, and he had assisted me to the bathroom probably 25 times in the last 4 hours (a bizarre, but common effect of shock). I hadn’t thought about anything that day besides my overwhelming sorrow. My physical needs had gone completely dismissed until suddenly I experienced a familiar feeling that I knew I couldn’t ignore.
My milk came in.
My heart broke all over again and I cried to my mother, “I have milk”. My body hadn’t accepted what had happened, and honestly neither had my mind. I pumped just enough to relieve my pain, but the emotional toll of knowing my daughter would never drink this milk that I had made specially for her, was almost more than I could bear.
My supply had been on its way out for the past month or so, but I desperately wanted to provide at least enough breast milk for Alice to have some her whole first year. I had diligently pumped each night before bed. The strict schedule had coached my body to make between 6 and 8 ounces a few hours after Alice had fallen asleep. Each time I added a bag to my growing stack in the freezer, I beamed with pride.
In this new circumstance I had been forced into, my dwindling supply that had once felt like an insult to my womanhood was now a huge blessing. It was too upsetting to pump, but my milk was completely gone two days after she passed.
It wasn’t until a few days after my milk was gone when I thought, “What will I do with my frozen milk? ” I looked up some milk banks and read their requirements for donating mothers.
I didn’t qualify. I cried and cried. Was my milk not good enough? If I had done something differently would Alice have grown better? If I had just given her formula instead of pushing my insufficient product, would she have been stronger? Would she have lived?
I decided there must be a mother out there who needed milk, who wouldn’t care about the reasons I didn’t qualify for the bank. I posted on a Facebook page of mothers all across the country and explained my situation and offered to give my stock to anyone who wanted it.
The response was overwhelming. Mothers from all over were begging for my milk. I wish I had enough for each of them, but one mother’s story in particular spoke to me.
Her name was Morgan. She talked about how she had fought with herself over a failing supply. Her son, Roman was born about the same time as Alice. She told me her story and we shared several other similarities that resonated with me and confirmed that we would be the perfect fit.
When she came to get the milk, I was nervous. What if her little boy didn’t like it? What if she was disappointed that it wasn’t that much? What if he drank it, but he didn’t grow well? I was overwhelmed by what-ifs and fears and inadequacies. When I met Morgan, she was so kind. She was stunningly beautiful, but her gentle and loving way told me I didn’t need to be intimidated. She had come to my house to pick-up the milk, and she took me to her car where her little family was waiting so I could meet them.
That’s when I saw Roman. He stole my heart. His light and his innocence reminded me of Alice. He looked at me like he knew I had something for him, and immediately gave me a gummy smile that seemed to say “Thank you”.
Periodically Morgan will send me videos or pictures of Roman enjoying his gift. These are two of my personal favorites.
A few days after she picked up the milk, Morgan posted this picture of her feeding Roman on Instagram (You can follow her @morgallen) and the following caption:
"This last week we experienced several tiny miracles so I just had to share one of them. A couple weeks ago I started losing my milk supply. Ever since breastfeeding William it has been difficult to maintain a consistent supply regardless of the tips and tricks I've been offered. I wanted so bad to breastfeed Roman longer than 5 months, I really did, especially with his delicate health complications I wanted him to have those extra nutrients; but it just wasn't in the cards for me. Roman refused to take formula through, I mean fought me tooth and nail, and he clung to breastfeeding like his life depended on it.
Only problem is that I didn't have milk or when I did I only had tiny bits at time, causing him to try and eat every 30 minutes in vain, and once even going two days without eating because I had absolutely nothing there and he refused his formula.
I was at an absolute loss on how to help my baby.
But then I met @sarahannjazz who selected Roman to receive her amazing supply of breastmilk. Sarah's BEAUTIFUL baby girl Alice suddenly passed away in January, leaving her with an overwhelming supply and completely heartbroken. Sarah wanted to help another baby so she selflessly gave that supply to Roman. Since then he has been flourishing in a way I haven't seen him. He's happier, he's fuller, dare I say getting fatter...and I'm no longer hurting watching my baby be constantly starving.
I'm not sure I can ever repay her for her incredible generosity toward my baby, but I can only hope I can learn to be as strong and selfless of a woman as she is.
My breastfeeding journey may have come to an end, but the meaning going forward for now means just as much. 💕"
As I read these words, my concerns were dissolved. Tears filled my eyes again, but this time it was because I felt an overwhelming joy that I hadn’t experienced since before finding Alice on that horrible morning. My sorrow surrounding the milk she would never drink transformed into a warmth and understanding I had previously been unable to find, but when I read these words, it clicked. That milk I pumped was never meant for Alice--all along, it was for Roman.
I remember when my sister lost her daughter, Margot, and I wondered why she didn’t pump more and donate her milk. Now I know it’s because it’s difficult and it’s taxing to make milk for a baby you know won’t be able to drink it. If you can’t or you choose not to donate yours, that’s ok. Don’t feel guilty. You made it, and it’s special and you can do whatever you want with it. For me though, it was a way to find joy and meaning in the darkest, most confusing time of my life. The milk was a gift to me, it was a gift to Morgan, but most of all it was a gift from Alice to Roman.