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August 5, 2018
On May 2nd of 2016, my life began to change in a way I never saw coming. My family and I were going to a follow up 23-week Anatomy Ultrasound, after my unborn daughter decided not to show the necessary parts in the scan, just a few weeks earlier. At the time, going to another Ultrasound just meant I would get to see her wiggling around in my womb once again.
It was at this Ultrasound that we found my cervix had begun to dilate to 1cm and my membranes were hanging through it. I was told not to move and was rushed to Emanuel Hospital. For 6 days we tried everything to keep my baby girl safe in my womb; from keeping my legs up and not walking, to getting a cerclage which eventually failed after a day. My cervix was already dilating and nothing was going to stop this baby girl from making her entrance into the world. She had a plan. She had a story. I was just becoming the vessel to help tell her story.
On Mother’s Day, at exactly 24 weeks old, our beautiful Aivlene Rose was born and our NICU journey began. With a baby born prematurely, you relinquish all control to the faith of the Universe and what it may have in store for you. However, there was one thing I was fortunate to be able to control: the supply of my breast milk. When I realized I was able to produce, producing was all I did. Day in and day out, while sitting in the NICU 24/7 watching my daughter fight for her life, I pumped religiously every two hours. Knowing that with this milk I was giving her the best possible chance to survive. That’s all I could do. That’s all I could control. The rest wasn’t up to me. So pumping became my job. I pumped so much that I ended up producing what they said was “enough for twins”.
We were just a couple weeks out from beginning the nursing part of our NICU journey. The part, while sitting there endlessly pumping, I had dreamt of. That first time I would be able to hold her in my arms to nurse her. Unexpectedly, after a great night of breathing for her, things took a turn for the worse. After 48 days of fighting and many beautiful smiles together, our sweet Aivlene Rose could no longer fight. With her body tired and an infection she just couldn’t fend off, our sweet girl passed away due to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) the most common and serious intestinal disease among preemies.
With my heart shattered and all of my dreams I had for us gone, I was left with an abundance of milk and engorged breast to remind me of what I was once doing for my baby girl. At first, I hated my breasts. While wanting to just fall to floor and collapse, I had to continuously lift myself up from the floor to pump to relieve just a bit of the pressure from my breasts in trying to dry my supply out. I was so angry about the need to keep being brought back to doing something that I had thought, “no longer mattered anymore because she was gone.” I treated my pump, and it’s parts, with hatred. I could no longer save the milk I was pumping. I just wanted to see it all go.
As my milk began to dissipate slowly, my sadness now switched. I was beginning to feel sorrow that my milk was drying up. I was now in tears that the one thing I was doing for my daughter, what I worked so hard to do, was now coming to an end. I was feeling further away from her. I no longer wanted it to stop. It was our bond. Though by this point, it was too late. What I did have left though, was a deep freezer full of my daughter's precious Preemie milk. What to do with it was the next question.
As I was figuring out what to do with the freezer full of milk I kept thinking of how fortunate I was to be able to create such an abundant supply of milk. Something so many mothers are helplessly struggling to do. It pains me to think of their hurt as they try for something they so desperately want to be able to produce for their own child and cannot. I feel you Mommas. And I’m sorry. I also I wanted a way for my daughter to be remembered. For her life to serve a greater good. She was a gift that gave me a gift. A gift I knew Aivlene Rose would want me to give to other Preemies, like herself, to help them to fight the hardest fight of their life. That is when I reached out to NWMMB to start the process of donating it all. In that process, I welcomed the feelings of many different emotions. The one that stood out, amongst others, was the fact that due to my baby girl’s short but meaningful life, together we would be able to help hundreds of babies like herself. Once again, working together. I’m so proud of her.
I was able to donate over 500oz to Northwest Mothers Milk Bank. The other half of my milk I donated to a mother of twins, who I met in the NICU, who was only able to produce enough for one baby. To this day, I look back on that time and am grateful for what my daughter and I were able to do together. Who we were fortunate to be able to help.
Fast forward 20 months later I found myself back in the NICU, pumping just the same, for our second chance miracle, Maebel, who was born at 28.4 weeks. With her angel sister by her side, and four more weeks of growing power inside my womb, Maebel became a NICU Graduate at 36 weeks CGA. Tiny but fierce, Maebel has yet to be able to eat all the milk I can produce. My second donor story begins here.
To date I have happily been able to donate over 2000 oz of Maebel’s milk. Roughly 900 oz will go to NWMMB after completion of the screening process. The powerful first month colostrum milk has been donated to a 2 year old baby girl with an auto-immune disease and a fellow 28-weeker, born two weeks before Maebel, who’s mother is only able to produce enough milk for a few feeds a day. Unknowingly, we found out that this Preemie weighed in as a 24 weeker, 1lb 4oz, just like Aivlene Rose. It’s almost surreal to have found this mother and baby to help. I take that as a sign that we are on the right path.
Without my daughters, I could not do this. Two different stories. One enormous feeling of gratefulness for what I have been blessed with.
This post was submitted by Kristine B. as part of our Mother Pumper program. If you have a pumping story you'd like to share, we'd love to hear it! You can submit details here.
Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.