*Trigger Warning* This story was submitted by one of our bereaved moms who chose to become a donor - it is very raw and real and may be difficult for some to read. We are deeply sorry for her loss and very grateful for her generosity in choosing to donate her milk.
November 17th, 2020
It’s unbearable to think that my life has stopped dead in its tracks today. But the world outside goes on around me. My loved ones are gathered at home waiting for us to come home empty handed and empty hearted. My husband sits beside me waiting for my body to do something it isn’t ready for. For my unborn child to make its way into the world but lifeless. My nurses and doctor wait outside, coming in when I have questions about how my lifeless baby will be transported to a funeral home... about whether I wish to have my sweet girl's hand and footprints taken. I lay here with my head on my husband's chest crying about how we wish to honour this perfect angel.
I go through the motions of labour, this time knowing I won’t be leaving with the greatest gift, a newborn baby. I take the medication but opt out of an epidural, wanting to feel my baby be born and not check out of the process. Wanting to honour her birth. To know it mattered.
November 18th, 2020
The time comes, the doctor isn’t here as she is in an emergency delivery but she popped her head in before to tell me she cared and she would be there as soon as she possibly could. My nurse tells me to listen to my body and do what it needs. In a brief moment, I deliver our baby girl and the grief hits me like a ton of bricks. I tried to hold back hoping I could hold onto her a little longer. Hoping if I didn’t deliver it wouldn’t be true. But it was. Ollie Emily Black was stillborn at 1:08 a.m. November 18th at 23 weeks weighing 0.6 lbs. Our doctor ran into the room two minutes after delivery. She held my face and told me this is hard but with every passing moment it will get better. My nurses held me, they cared for my baby. I’ve never experienced humans with more compassion. In the following moments, we were able to hold and see baby Ollie. To take pictures. And be with her. We were given momentos and support and information. And then we were discharged. We walked the hospital halls without a baby and with massive holes in our hearts. I am so thankful despite COVID, I was given the compassion to have my husband and my mom with me. I have such deep sorrow for those suffering alone or grieving alone during this time.
December 8th, 2020
There are about a million things I never thought about prior to experiencing a stillbirth. One of those things was that mothers who deliver stillborn experience all the same postpartum symptoms as any other new mom. They have afterpains, they bleed for weeks, they have huge hormonal shifts and they produce breast milk. I can tell you firsthand that a lot of that is intensely triggering. A cruel reminder repeatedly throughout the day that you carried your baby, you loved your baby, you prepared and planned for your baby, and here you are postpartum with no baby in your arms. While I was in the hospital I read a short paragraph in this standard grief book you’re given when you arrive about milk production. In that short paragraph it’s mentioned that there is an option to donate milk. The majority of the information given to you is about suppressing milk production right away. For some and maybe many women, milk production is triggering just like the other symptoms. When I read the line about donation, I immediately knew that was something I’d be interested in doing. Breast milk is quite literally liquid gold and I knew how valuable that could be to a mom struggling to produce and/or a baby struggling to thrive. I knew what a difference having breast milk available to me would have made when they had to supplement my son in hospital when he had jaundice, had plummeting blood sugar levels and was lethargic and unable to feed.
I also knew that being able to donate Ollie’s milk to another baby was like gifting her little life to someone else. For me, it was a deep and meaningful way to honour her life. Breastfeeding my son was one of the most significant and meaningful things I have ever experienced and I knew that I needed to do this for Ollie. This week, I’ll be dropping off the milk I have produced with NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank and they will have the great honour of passing that milk along to other fragile babies. I am thankful for this tiny beacon of goodness in a deep pile of grief.