Friday, September 30, 2011

World Milksharing Week~On Surrogacy, Milk Sharing, and Raising a Village

As the first ever World Milk Sharing Week comes to a close, I wanted to share this story of one mom's experience with milk sharing. I'll warn you to grab a tissue now. Not only is this woman a milk donor, she is also a surrogate mother, twice over. What an extraordinary, selfless gift to give another person! Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your words and your journey to inspire others. 


Here is my milk-sharing story, it's mainly one of a donor, but I have a little recipient that was carried close to my heart as well.  <3

This story begins as a milk donor to a milk bank, when after the birth of my first surrogate daughter in July of 2008- I was a gestational surrogate to gay dads.  I had nursed my own son for two years, and a friend's child who had died due to necrotizing enterocolitis shortly before I gave birth. Basically, the gut gets tears and becomes infected- his was severe and he needed breast milk. His mom's milk had dried up before they found out about his illness, and they never could afford milkbank milk.  After Josh's son's death, I thought I would try pumping and donating, in the hopes that it might help some other baby.

Well, after A- my surro-daughter- was born, I did pump and donate, but I hadn't heard of milk sharing yet.  I had a falling out with her fathers, and I am convinced that the act of pumping- the hormones, the "forced down time", and the act of helping someone else- really helped me deal with that letdown of our relationship, and normalized my hormones at a much healthier pace than had I not pumped.  I had cross-nursed other friends' children when my son was young, just out of convenience for all of us, and my son Kenny had been cross-nursed by other women.  It seemed natural and right.  For six months, into the beginning of 2009, I pumped and donated to Mother's Milkbank of Ohio.  After weaning, I went on with my life, and eventually pursued a second surrogacy.

In summer 2010, I met J and H, another set of gay dads. After getting to know each other, we matched and decided to pursue surrogacy together.  J and H wanted a traditional surrogate, and I wanted to do a traditional surrogacy, to avoid all the hormones and risks of an IVF pregnancy.  I had already decided I was going to pump again, because it had been such an overall good in my life previously, and this time I was educated in the problems around milk banks, and the milk sharing that was going on (what a big difference just a few years makes!).  H and J hesitatingly brought up nursing.  They wanted the best for their child, and knew that breast is best- or normal, as I remind them.  Without thinking about it, I immediately said yes.  It seemed like a great way to ease pumping problems, by nursing first and getting a good start on supply. The possibility of closure was a draw, as well as knowing that I would be pumping for a definite person, not just a pool or stranger.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011, when we were nearing the end of our pregnancy, and preparing for the Big Day.  My friend T had recently given birth to surrogate twins, and had milk stashed from after the twins went home with their parents.  She and the parents had not wanted to ship, because of the cost, so she simply pumped until they left, then weaned.  Her stock was available, and she agreed to send it to us, so that H and J's baby could have milk until I had a stash to ship to them, should they so choose.  After E's birth, I nursed her until she went home with her dads, and they went home and waited for me to ship some as soon as I could.  That was in July of this year.  Since then, we have been pumping and shipping, with one "courier" delivery when my family and I drove to visit the new family in late August.

Also in August, my sister committed suicide because of the extreme financial difficulty she and her husband have gone through.  Pumping this time around has served a similar purpose in my life by giving me something to work for, and concentrate on, instead of my own pain.  The added boost of oxytocin- the "love" hormone, and the need to take time for myself have also helped my affect lately.

My extra milk has gone to a local mom who does not produce enough milk, and a batch is being delivered this weekend to another mom further in state that needs it.  All in all, I've been blessed to have created two new families via surrogacy, two other families via egg donation in the past, and helped to feed even more children for varying amounts of time.  At the same time, all of them have helped me through some of my darker hours, given me purpose when I needed it, and helped me to get back on my feet emotionally.  Pumping, donating, milk sharing, and cross nursing not only help the recipient of the precious liquid of life, but also greatly benefits the giver of this substance, in ways that we can't even think of until we are in that position.  Thank you, Human Milk 4 Human Babies, for educating and facilitating this connection of people and sustainability of economies.  Thank you, recipients of all kinds, for allowing us donors to be a part of your child's life.  As cliche as it sounds, it really does take a village to raise a child, and it takes families of all kinds to raise a village.  <3

Happy Milk Sharing!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Here, Lately

Ah, September. We meet again. The weather is cooling down and the autumn equinox is upon us. You know what that means? 

The Holidays are coming. 

Halloween decorations are already out in stores (and have been since July?!) and we're starting the quick descent down the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas/New Year slide. This also means that orders are starting to rev up in my little Etsy Shop (as evidenced by the felt pieces taking over my dining room table above). Since I have never run a toy store during 4th quarter, this may prove to be an interesting (and hopefully busy) experience. It is also likely that I will not have quite as much time to work on this blog or create new items when I'm swamped sewing old ones.  But fear not, I still have a few ideas rattling around in my mommy brain so keep an eye out for a couple holiday themed crafts. You may have also noticed the quality of my photos have not been the best. Our digital camera went to the big lens cap in the sky and we are currently researching new cameras, hopefully something in a DSLR. Everything has been relegated to slightly blurry Iphone pics, which really don't cut it for tutorials. In the camera hunting meantime, I wanted to share a few crappy pictures of  recent projects in case you missed them on the Mama's Felt Cafe Facebook page.

This bottle cozy was made for a friend who was pumping milk for her new little guy but wanted a way to show he was still getting liquid gold in his bottle. It's also great for moms who use donor milk with their babies. By the way, World Milk Sharing Week starts this Saturday, September 24! Human Milk 4 Human Babies~Nevada is looking for milk sharing stories. If you have donated or used donated breast milk, you can share your story for a chance to win a Mama's Milk Carton or a Mama's Milk Bottle Cozy. Find out how to win HERE

Since the aforementioned Fall is on it's way, I felt festive making this felt Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake for a scrumptious pretend dessert. For a real pumpkin swirl cheesecake recipe, see this one. For pie/cake/quiche felt food making basics, please check out the spinach and mushroom quiche tutorial.    

I was very excited to learn this delicious looking platter of tamales and enchiladas was heading off to The Children's Museum of New Hampshire for their Kids' World Cafe exhibit! Since it is not everyday that something you make by hand ends up in a museum, I celebrated by making the two kid sized felt food Flan desserts. 

I believe this flan is an Etsy first! I hope the little ones in Dover, NH enjoy the felt food!

Lastly, this carton of Mama's Milk is headed all the way out to Spain! That is the farthest from home one of my items has traveled. Thankfully, felt milk won't spoil on the journey over the Atlantic!

Happy Felt Fooding!


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Second Best Thing About Living in Reno--Hot Air Balloon Races

The Great Reno Balloon Race takes place the weekend after The Best Thing About Living in Reno aka The Rib Cook-off. Since we are on the verge of plunging into a 9 month long northern Nevada winter, I figured we should get out to enjoy before the cold envelopes us all. 

Although it requires an early wake up (which is not a problem for my early bird son), seeing the morning sky filled with hot air balloons is worth the yawns and extra coffee. 

There are several identifiable character balloons including Smokey the Bear,

and Darth Vader, 

complete with Storm Troopers standing guard. 

The flames from the balloons were a little intense, so Asher enjoyed sitting back and chowing down on Applesauce Spice muffins.

As the balloons move further away, 

we say good-bye. 


We saw this balloon touch down on the street when we were walking home. It's not everyday you see a hot air balloon in your front yard! Thanks for the ballooning fun, Reno! 


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday--The Best Thing About Living in Reno

Sorry to all the vegetarians out there--this post might not be for you.

There is a time of year that I look forward to more than Christmas. That's right, it's the annual Best in the West Rib-Cook Off. Each year master BBQ-ers descend on Northern Nevada, providing us with long awaited meat candy. More than 500,000 people come out to celebrate all the grilled goodness. Each BBQ team vies for top honors and a cash prize. There is also a rib eating contest. This years winner ate more than 7.5lbs of ribs! I ate significantly less than that. The ribs pictured above were crafted by Aussom Aussies and were delicious in a raspberry chipolte sauce.   

Hold on to your gall bladders as fried food is also a mainstay of Rib Cook-Off fare. From zucchinis to onion rings to peaches, there isn't much that isn't deep fried. We kept it light with these fresh cooked kettle chips. 

Libations are necessary for washing down all the meaty, fried goodness. This was my one and only drink--a hard lemonade from Great Basin Brewery. That's right, mothers of nursing toddlers occasionally drink booze!

Last but not least, the Rib Cook-Off would not be complete without a messy faced child drinking juice of a questionable nature from a plastic dinosaur bottle, falling asleep for the night on the way home. Ah, barbecue bliss. Until next year, Rib Cook-Off!

Happy Eating!



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