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A Donor Mom's Story from Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I can't even think of an intro to this, so I'm just going to say that this is the story of one of the donors to the Mother's Milk Bank:

On December 8th, 2004, my son, Aiden, was 5 days overdue when the doctor decided to induce labor. After an uncomplicated pregnancy, my husband and I anxiously awaited the arrival of our firstborn. As Aiden grew inside of me, we marveled at his energy and affectionately referred to him as "our wild child." I knew he was going to be just like his dad.

After an unremarkable course of labor, Aiden had not fully turned in the birth canal and was not advancing well. What my husband and I thought was to be a routing c-section ended with tragic results as Aiden was pulled from within me, unexplainably limp and without a pulse.

The hospital staff were able to resuscitate Aiden, however we were informed several hours after his birth that he had suffered severe brain injury and that his prognosis was very poor. By the next morning, there was evidence that Aiden had incurred damage to all of his major organs because of the lack of oxygen at birth. His body systems began shutting down and early the following morning, 35 hours after his birth, Aiden died as my husband and I held him in our arms.

At some point during that ordeal, my sister and aunt suggested that I might consider donating my breast milk. I recalled reading about plans for the opening of Mothers' Milk Bank of Ohio in Columbus earlier that year. It is a service of Grant Medical Center that collects, pasteurizes and distributes breast milk to ill and/or premature babies, greatly increasing those babies' chances for survival and good health. Before I left the hospital after Aiden's birth, I had decided that donating our milk was definitely something that I wanted to do. I say "our milk" because it would not have been produced had it not been for Aiden.

Early on, many people expressed disbelief about my decision to donate our milk, concerned that pumping would be incredibly emotionally painful for me. They wondered aloud about whether they would be able to do the same thing if they found themselves in my shoes, as if I were somehow making a huge sacrifice.

Going into it from my perspective though, which I was acutely aware of Aiden's absence each time I pumped, I yearned for him every other minute of the day too. All activities seemed to lead to thoughts of him, so I didn't find pumping significantly more painful than other tasks I did throughout the day.

Pumping our breast milk for donations actually ended up being very emotionally healing for me. It allowed Aiden to give something to the world and it gave his brief life more meaning and purpose. It was a way to validate his life so that others would know and understand that our Aiden was a person who had something to offer, not just an infant who died before he had the chance to live. Aiden did live! He was full of life inside of me for 9 precious months and he will always be very much alive in my heart.

Donating our milk helped me to prove that Aiden was not an accident, that it wasn't a mistake that he was conceived and born. My donating the milk that was intended for Aiden allowed him to live on and help so many other babies who were fortunate enough to survive, but were in need of our help. Without my son, it would not have been possible to offer that help.

The hardest part emotionally of the whole experience of donating my breast milk turned out to be stopping pumping. As the weeks went by, I had come to see that pumping was the only remaining physical connection I had to Aiden. It was the only tangible part of him that I had left. Pumping our breast milk for donation was the last direct link to my pregnancy experience, and in fact, I saw it somehow as an extension of my son. As long as I was still pumping, then Aiden was in some way still living on.

As I weaned myself from pumping, I felt like I was losing Aiden all over again. It seemed that I was moving farther away from him when all I wanted was to be close to him. Stopping pumping was a gut-wrenching experience, as it seemed to make Aiden's death that much more real and final. In spite of that painful time however, I do feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in the Mothers' Milk bank program and I hope that word continues to spread about this wonderful resource. Although I wish that my son would have had the opportunity to thrive on the milk that was meant for him, I am so glad that we had the chance to share Aiden's gift of health and perhaps life, with so many babies in need. I take comfort in the fact that Aiden's life served to help so many ailing babies and I hope that other moms in my position have the chance to experience some healing by donating their milk as well.

Participating in the breast milk donation program helped to acknowledge the importance of Aiden's life and it helped to assuage my worst fears as a grieving mom - that Aiden will be forgotten by others.

Here's to Aiden...may his brief life be an inspiration to many.

Please, help spread the word about human milk bank donations.

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