In the winter of 2006 I gave birth to my first child—my 34-week, four-pound little fighter. They lost me twice on the table while doctors tried their hardest to save us. I had been in a coma and felt as though I failed my sweet baby boy.
Breastfeeding was important to me. I grew up hearing the story of my great grandmother’s fight to save her own children. My grandfather was the first, and survived thanks to a farmer's wife who hand-expressed into mason jars. It was 1942, and every hand was needed on the farm, but this woman gave her time to help save my grandfather’s life.
As a little girl, I listened to his story of my aunts and uncles dying, of him as a small boy standing outside of local stores during the Great Depression, watching his mother beg women to nurse her babies in hopes of saving them. Out of seven children, only three survived. If not for the farmer’s wife and that chance encounter outside a feed store, I wouldn’t be here today. And I wouldn’t know until years later what his story and my grandfather’s words would mean to me, and how they would directly affect my life in the coming years.
Everett, my little fighter, made his way into the world, but, unknown to me, I wouldn’t find out until days later that we even had a son. It was touch and go for us. I had preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide and we survived, but we had a long fight ahead of us.
I hated milk banks.
I hated milk banks for denying my son donor milk.
I hated them for the baby girl in the isolator [incubator] next to my son’s, fighting for life.
I hated them as I listened to the nurse telling that girl’s crying mother that she was denied donor breast milk.
I hated them upon awakening from a coma to find out my baby hadn’t had a touch of breast milk.
And I hated knowing that it would drop his chances of survival.
I hated them for denying my son a fighting chance—a chance that donor breast milk would have given him….
I remember standing over his isolator soon after coming out of my coma and realizing that one of the only things I could do was pump milk. He was denied the milk from the milk bank, but I wouldn’t give up on my sweet boy. I was going to do all I could. The only thing I could: pump non-stop.
Even though I had so much hate for the milk banks, they helped shape my life and my drive to give my premature child the best start by pumping my milk. It hurt to know they had banked milk sitting in a freezer, just feet away from my son, and he was denied it. It wasn’t being used and there were no other sicker babies at the time. The milk was just sitting there—a freezer full. It helped push me into pumping as much as I could whenever and wherever I was.
Lucky for me, my Husband and my mother in-law an MA [Medical Assistant], took turns pumping for me while I was in a coma. They supported me in a way that, still to this day, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around. My husband—the rough, tall, military man—pumped his wife’s breasts while she lay in coma to help their baby. The wife that may not make it, but he still did it in hopes I would pull out and be able to help fight for our son.
Well, I made it! Because of the love of my husband and the support of my mother in-law, we beat the odds. My son was on my milk in the NICU and we never looked back.