The Most Important Gift For My Son

By Julie Howard

It was Thanksgiving 2009 and I was on hospital bed rest “for the long haul” I had been told. I had Pre-eclampsia and was on my last day of my 28th week as a first time mom, and was determined to make it to 34 weeks which my OB had said would benefit my son. Little did I know that just a few hours into Black Friday, my body begin shutting down to die as I had developed HELLP syndrome and the only way to save my life was to deliver my son. He arrived weighing only 2lbs 5oz and was only 14” long and not only the tiniest baby had I ever seen, but the most beautiful.

I was lucky to meet several amazing lactation consultants in the NICU at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, WA, and remember vividly the first one who sat down and was honest with me. I was a first time mom now at the tender age of 41, my son was an IVF baby and he was born at only 29 weeks. There was a large chance that I would not produce milk, but anything I could produce would be liquid gold. She went on to tell me that if I don’t produce, that I shouldn’t beat myself up for it, it’s just my body having other plans than I did.

We laughed later on about that conversation. It seems my body had decided I would be a great mother cow and I could be awarded one of the few “golden boob” awards of the NICU. As my milk came in, this same wonderful lactation consultant told me about a few great things I would need, like Lanolin and a hands free pump bra. Why would I need a bra that could hold the pumps? When your child is in an incubator and is too small to nurse, you have to pump every three hours, just like you would feed a newborn. Holding pumps for 10-15 minutes every three hours became old VERY quickly (especially in the middle of the night) so I invested in a Simple Wishes hands free pump bra which quickly became my best friend in the NICU. I then purchased one for home so I wouldn’t have to transport it daily to and from the NICU, again, another wise decision.

We spent 64 days in the NICU until I was finally able to bring our first child home. Little did he know that we had to go out and purchase a full size deep freeze to house all the milk I had produced, and I even donated a week’s supply to two different adoptive families that I knew for their babies. My son would only nurse from me in the morning, laying in bed and I had to use a nipple shield. No matter what I did or tried, that was his time, and it was short lived.

But he was still small and he needed my milk.

So I continued to pump solely until he was 9 months old. My sanity was saved by that beautiful pink Simple Wishes hands free pump bra…and my son had my breast milk for almost his entire first year thanks to the bra and the deep freezer.

Today my son is 17 months old, weighs 23.5 lbs and is 30” long. He is one of the most cheerful children I’ve ever known and is quick to flash a beautiful smile to anyone. He has a rare brain malformation which only affects his balance, but is learning to walk using a walker. I don’t think I missed out on bonding with my child because we didn’t nurse together that long, after all, I was a great mother cow.

Inspired by her son Spencer, Julie Howard started her own company It’s a Preemie Thing which brings humor to the tough situation of having a preemie with fun onesies and t-shirts for preemies, and preemie theme related adult shirts for the parents and NICU Staff. Find support of other preemie parents.

1 comment to The Most Important Gift For My Son

  • Beth

    Thanks for sharing your story!! It’s nice to know other mommies of preemies who have exclusively pumped for their preemie. My son was born a 26 weeker last year weighing only 1 lb 9 oz and was in the NICU for 71 days. Though we also worked hard to get him to nurse it didn’t work out for him so I am still pumping all of his milk at nearly 11 months old. It feels good to be able to give him all hose great nutrients even though he can’t get it “from the source”.

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