The week before Thanksgiving, I mailed a thank you card to a very special woman to whom—and for whom—I am incredibly grateful. This type of gratitude is quite specific, and her sacrifice (and that of hundreds of women just like her) often goes unnoticed.
When Jack was 9 months old, our pediatrician showed us he had fallen off the growth chart. Between 6 and 9 months, our chunky little guy actually lost weight. It became apparent that (for me and my body) growing the new baby, supporting Jack’s breastfeeding needs, and staying healthy myself required more calories and gallons more water than I could actually consume, though I tried for a couple weeks to step up my game.
It was an emotional experience for me, a huge believer in breastfeeding, to acknowledge that I needed help—I couldn’t sustain my son on my own. There were some moments of terror, too. Calculating how many days’ worth of breastmilk were in our freezer, I panicked: we only had 1.5 days.
I reached out to my close circle of friends and one who was still breastfeeding her own child volunteered to step in and fill our immediate need. Along with my dwindling supply, these supplemental bottles of breastmilk carried Jack for a couple weeks. Her quick response to my cry for help—Of course I will pump for Jack!, she said— was an incredible gift. We will always be grateful for her sacrifice in our hour of need.
She also told me about Eats on Feets, an online community that connects local women to one another for the purpose of sharing breastmilk. Unlike milk banks or the online vendors you may have read about in the news recently, Eats on Feets supports local, person-to-person, informed milk sharing (not selling!). For our family, it was an answer to prayer. Immediately, a donor contacted me, offering to share her milk.
When I arrived at her house to pick up our first stash, we chatted for a while, introduced our babies, and she gave me 100 ounces—double what I’d asked for. It might seem silly, but I wept as I gave Jack the first bottle that night. Not because I was disappointed that my body could no longer produce—despite how badly I wanted it to—but that this woman would sacrifice for us, whom she hardly knew! And Jack was not the only recipient—this incredible woman supplied milk to three other families besides ours!
Over the following two months, we received about 1,000 ounces of breastmilk from this ordinary mom whose gift made an extraordinary impact on our little boy. Jack gained an entire pound in the first month and jumped back up on the growth curve, where he remains today. Our donor is just one of many hundreds of moms making it possible for babies all over the country to receive breastmilk in a safe, affordable way. For her and for all the others, I gave thanks during the Thanksgiving season.
Laura, I don’t know if you’ll read this, but from one mom to another, I am deeply grateful for the gift you gave our family. Thank you for the hours of pumping, the willingness to share, and the joy with which you gave. Your sacrifice is noticed and wholeheartedly appreciated.