The Final Donation
By the time donor milk reaches a baby in the hospital, the bottle is just one number in a line of many. But what is really in those 3 ounces? Try pumping at 4am. Overnight shipping. Dry ice runs. Freezers so full that the neighbors are storing milk too.
Some would simply say, “Magic.”
It starts with a donor number; the alias of a superhero.
That number retires with the donor and Victoria’s goes down in the record books. Victoria arrived with more milk than I had ever witnessed in a single drop-off. In total, she brought us 2,400 ounces of milk, in addition to the 6,000 ounces she had donated over the last year. She met me with four coolers and put our staff to the test to transport it safely into the freezers as fast as possible. Victoria was humbled to finally see the facilities and understand the path her milk travels after it leaves her home. She thinks it is incredible knowing which hospital her milk is delivered to and can’t wait for the next update email.
“How has your idea of breastfeeding evolved as you’ve gained more experience with it?”
“I always knew that I wanted to try to breastfeed, so I was ecstatic that I was able to for a full year with our first son, Colton. When our second son, Nolan, was born, he ended up being in the NICU for 5 days for a pneumothorax. I started pumping every three hours and I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to produce enough milk for him. Once my milk came in, I quickly realized that I had an oversupply. As we collected more and more and our freezers filled up, we considered buying an additional freezer. I knew that I could decrease my supply, but after seeing so many of my friends and family members struggle with their milk supplies,
I knew that my oversupply was a blessing, so I kept on pumping.
That is when I started to do some research, and I found the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Florida.”
“What do you hope your children will gain when you explain to them what happened to your extra milk?”
“Since the beginning, I’ve told Nolan that he was sharing his milk to help other babies. He never had to have a single drop of frozen milk and we have been able to donate our entire frozen supply. I don’t know if they’ll have memories of me nursing them or seeing me with the pump, but they were definitely a part of this whole experience.
This is easily one of the things I am most proud of doing in my life, so I hope that my boys are able to see that.
It was a family effort from the very beginning. My husband, James, was supportive and encouraging from the start and helped with everything along the way. I hope that they always feel connected to this and will find ways throughout their lives to give back to others whenever they find an opportunity to.”
“Over 8,000 ounces of milk later, are you sad the process is ending?”
“I am definitely sad for this process to end! It really hit me when I was emptying out our freezers for this final donation. Yes, it took some time and effort to pump the extra milk, but I will never regret a single second of it. If you are able to produce more, please consider donating! Even if it’s only a few ounces, every one counts.
There are so many precious babies and parents out there who will treasure this gift.
It is definitely a sacrifice, but it is so worth it!”
Victoria is a special case. Not every donor needs a second freezer. Not every mom donates for a year. Each donor’s circumstances are as unique as the breast milk they produce. Some women are blessed with an oversupply and others are blessed with a generous community. In either case, we have a community of families raising their children to understand, right from birth, that they can change the world, even save lives, simply by giving to others.
Interview and article by Cheyenne Drews.