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!