When Giving Feels Like Receiving

My friend’s pregnancy overlapped mine by a few months and, after my baby was born, I said, “Please let me know if something happens and you need any milk!” And I meant it. I had abundant breastmilk for my third baby, and everyone who knew me knew I was saving up to donate to a milk bankwoman with sparkler

This friend, C—, had some health concerns and was facing an early induction. I kept wishing there was something I could do for her.

Meanwhile, some relatives were coming into town to visit for Christmas and I found myself with an entire afternoon child-free to enjoy the city with my sister-in-law. The only problem? I had no idea what to do with her. 

We stood aimlessly in a store enjoying free samples and pondering what to do when my phone rang. C—‘s doula was calling. C—had birthed her baby, but had some complications and was in the ICU. Additionally, the baby was working through hypoglycemia. Could I bring a bag of breastmilk to the hospital? I wasn’t entirely sure what was wrong, but I heard her asking for what I’d offered earlier. If that would ease her worry, help her relax a bit and focus on getting better, then for sure I could help her.

As it turned out, I was due to pump anyway, and my SIL and I were a few blocks from the hospital. My SIL works as a doula, so she felt very excited about this helping mission. The whole thing felt very serendipitous.

I myself had had a rough birth four months prior, and as I walked through the labor and delivery unit with C—‘s doula, I realized I would walk past the very operating room where I’d been rushed a few months prior. I started to worry about how I’d respond to being there, but a great calm came over me because I was doing something different. I had been trusted enough to ask for help.

That felt very meaningful to me, and when I saw my friend hooked up to so, so many tubes, I just felt totally calm. C— had had so many challenges with her pregnancy and delivery and since her baby had come early, she just wanted the absolute best for him. While the hospital at large frowns upon informal milk sharing, the specific nurses helping C— supported her request and they got me a hospital-grade pump.

C—‘s doula took my SIL on a tour of the unit while I sat in the ICU to bang out a few bottles of milk for a brand new baby.

In that moment I was so happy to feel needed, so happy to have something that would put this new mama at ease. C—‘s baby was closely monitored for blood sugar levels and body temperature and C— later told me these few ounces of breastmilk helped keep him from the NICU.

And in giving that milk, I felt the weight of remembering my crash cesarean ease up a bit. That fear I carried remembering those early moments of my son’s life seemed to ease, since I knew he was now a robust baby with enough milk to share with this new, fragile friend.

After handing over the milk, my SIL and I decided to try a new cafe for lunch. On tap was a beer called Milk Maid, and we laughed, knowing for sure this was how we were meant to spend our day together.

Have you ever given breastmilk to a friend? Leave a comment to share your experience.

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