I’ve been making mama milk for two years. I feel like I should celebrate, bake a cake or do something to thank my body for nourishing my babies under tragic circumstances. Thanks to my mama milk, I could provide my premature babies with something that no one else could. Somehow I managed to establish a milk supply for Micah and Zachary by relying solely on a breast pump. Neither of them could nurse because they were born too early. Somehow I managed to continue to make milk when my boys’ lives were at risk. I made milk when Micah was critically ill. I made milk before, during, and after each of Micah’s countless surgical procedures. I even made mama milk the night we said goodbye to precious Micah. In the hours, days and weeks after our tragic loss, I continued to make mama milk for Zachary. Mama milk gave me this fundamental connection to my babies.
We just celebrated Micah and Zachary’s second birthday, and for countless reasons, I still make mama milk. I’m not sure when I’ll let my milk dry up. Not only does Zachary love to have a warm bottle of mama milk before bed, but when Micah was so sick, my milk was the one and only meaningful thing I could give to him. When Micah was really sick, I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t even move his body. But, I could nourish him with my milk, and that was an amazing gift.
Micah and Zachary were 24 weeks along when I carefully wrote out my birth preferences. I planned to have a natural, vaginal birth, with as few interventions as possible. I planned to avoid all unnecessary medications. I planned to breast feed the twins immediately after they were born. I planned to avoid formula and pacifiers. I dreamed of having this beautiful, life changing, amazing experience to welcome Micah and Zachary into this world.
Three weeks later, I was on an OR table. Micah and Zachary were born just shy of 28 weeks via emergency c-section. I could not even see my babies after they were born. They were taken out of my body and immediately whisked away to the NICU to fight for their lives. My intense anguish and fear overwhelmed any feelings of hope and happiness.
In the OR recovery area, I begged my nurse to bring me a breast pump. I had never even seen a breast pump. I just knew I needed to start making milk for my babies. My nurse refused to bring me a breast pump. She said I’d need to wait until I got to my private room. I cried and begged, repeatedly, explaining how important it was for me to establish my milk supply for my tiny babies.
Two hours of crying and begging finally earned me my breast pump. It arrived, but I had no idea what to do with it. I placed the cups on my breasts and hit the button. I pleaded for my body to make milk for my babies.
I pumped for 20 minutes every two hours around the clock and didn’t make a single drop of milk in over 24 hours. If my milk didn’t come in soon, my babies would be given formula. I already hated my body for not holding and keeping my babies safe, and now I hated my body for not making milk.
Nearly 48 hours after giving birth, the smallest drops of milk dribbled down into the plastic cups. I was so relieved and thankful. Soon enough I had a freezer full of milk for Micah and Zachary. I often felt helpless to my twins, but making milk allowed me to do something to help nurture them.
At the hospital, I made milk in the boys’ rooms, in front of their whole care team and our family. I was so committed to making milk, I did not care who was in the room or who was trying to hold a conversation with me. I could talk and make milk at the same time. My babies needed my milk. If seeing me make milk made someone uncomfortable, they could leave the room.
By the time, Micah and Zachary were six weeks old, my milk supply was well established and I had plenty of milk for both of them. But, Micah could not tolerate the formula fortifier they insisted on adding to my breast milk. Micah developed necrotizing enterocolitis and became critically ill. I continued my round-the-clock milk making schedule, through intense uncertainty and discouraging comments.
“You can stop pumping so often now.”
“Pumping is so awful.”
“You should stop waking up in the middle of the night to pump.”
“Don’t you want some privacy while you pump?”
“Micah can’t even eat anything, why are you still pumping for him?”
Seriously? The one and only meaningful way I could nurture my premature babies was by making milk for them. I failed at keeping them safe inside of my belly, I would do everything I could to give them mama milk.
Throughout Micah’s 11-month hospitalization, I continued to make milk for Micah and Zachary. Neither of the boys learned to breastfeed, thanks to their rough start to life, so I exclusively relied on a breast pump to nourish their little bodies
Tragically, due to necrotizing enterocolitis, we lost Micah when the boys were 11 months old. Despite our tragic loss and the hell that I watched Micah endure, my body somehow managed to continue to make milk. I have donated breast milk to local families who have adopted children and to milk banks who pasteurize the milk for hospitalized babies. Providing mama milk for my babies and other babies in need, brings me such peace and fulfillment. Losing a child is one of the most tragic losses anyone can experience. My heart will forever ache to have Micah back in my arms. Yet, I am so incredibly blessed to be healthy enough to have given my milk to both of my babies and other babies in need. Cheers to making mama milk for two years.