Donating breast milk was never something I considered doing. I hate pumping and with my first child I had enough milk but never an abundance. After Punkin was born in February my milk supply seemed to come in fast and furious and I have no problem getting large quantities with each pumping. Then I saw that a friend on Facebook was looking for donations for a friend of hers who was due with her third child in a few short weeks and desperately in search of breast milk. I figured, “Why not!?” and offered to build up a supply of milk.
I wrote about my experience of pumping for this stranger at the Right Start blog, I donated my breast milk: a humbling experience that brought me to my knees. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, that’s for sure. But once I had a decent amount stored (and no more room in my freezer) I was put in contact with this woman. I found out her name was Val and she only lived a short 45 minute drive from my home. There was talk of giving the frozen milk to our joint friend to pass along but in all honesty I wanted to meet this woman. Who was she? What was she like? Why couldn’t she breastfeed herself?
It’s a strange thing giving away something so personal. It almost feels as if I am handing over my underwear. Maybe it’s because breastfeeding is such a special bonding experience that the milk produced from this action seems equally as personal. Although I hate to admit it I was a little protective of all this milk I had stored up. It represented a lot of hard work and I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just handing it off to some undeserving woman.
We made plans as a family to do a day trip to the aquarium and I would drop off the milk on our way. I took one last look at all this frozen milk I had worked so hard to pump for this woman and loaded up the liquid gold into a cooler bag. As we drove up to her home my nervousness switched from meeting her to what would she think of me? Would she judge my milk and decide she didn’t want it based on how I presented myself? My inner monologue began defending my milk, coming up with all the selling points that make my milk the best milk she could ever get for her child. Silly isn’t it!? I can’t believe I even thought those things but what can I say maybe it’s all those years working in public relations. I am so used to pitching products I even thought of how best to pitch my milk.
I rang the doorbell and saw her two beautiful girls through the window wondering who this woman was standing at their front door. The moment Val opened the door and gave me a huge smile my fears subsided. She was the most gorgeous 39 week pregnant woman I have ever seen, but what really struck me was how genuine she was. Her demeanor was so relaxing I found our conversation to easily flow from one topic to another. She was very open about her inability to breastfeed and I learned that she had a double mastectomy at age 27 – the woman had NO milk ducts! Turns out her mother had died from cancer at an early age and she had found she was a carrier of the BRCA gene, the same gene that had resulted in Angelina Jolie having a double mastectomy. She had tried formula with her first two babies but they suffered from horrible reflux and never responded well to feedings. She had never even thought of breast milk donations until her doula suggested it. This woman is so dedicated to helping her baby have the best start that she has been driving all over to get donations.
I was so happy I could deliver my milk in person and put a face to this stranger for whom I had been pumping for so many weeks. Meeting her and being able to connect was so much more wonderful than I could have imagined and I feel blessed to be able to help this little baby boy have the best possible start in life.
Kate Wilkinson is a wife to an amazing man who loves to cook (yes she knows she’s lucky!) and is blessed to be a stay at home mom to her three year old Little Man and 6 month old Punkin. Come join her adventure to maintain sanity while she juggles a VERY energetic toddler, housework that never seems to end, and the occasional date night that isn’t thwarted by falling asleep in the movie theatre. When mommy brain allows Kate blogs at RetroModernMom about family, faith and the funny things in between. It may be hard living in LA but she’s a modern mom doing it the old-fashioned way.