Saturday, March 12, 2011

Donating Milk, Love and Life for Clara

Below is Ana's story of her daughter, Clara and how human milk helped them on their journey. I feel blessed and honored to share this moving story with you. As I put together this blog post, I could not help but let the tears flow freely. What a precious, beautiful daughter! What a strong, loving mother!

Hello! My name is Ana and this is my milk donation story. 

My beautiful daughter Clara was born on March 2nd of last year. Her pregnancy was blissful and I spent many happy months looking forward to finally meeting this amazing little person and starting on our long nursing relationship together! Her older brother had been a champ at the breast from the very start and had nursed all throughout the pregnancy, so I was also looking towards tandem nursing my baby girl and her 3 year old brother! 

Her birth was a bit rough, but when she was finally in our arms all was peaceful. She latched right on and fed hungrily from the very get go :) No problems at all. So we thought....

Then 3 days later, as we prepared to go home, her blood work started coming back showing signs that her liver was in distress. After 2 weeks in the NICU and a zillion tests later, she was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia, a rare but serious liver disease. 

We were transported to Children's Hospital to await the first of her major surgeries. All went well, and we were given hope that the procedure (which involved taking 1/2 her liver, portions of her bowl, and rerouting her intestine) would allow her body to function properly. She was 3 weeks old at this point and still nursing great. 

In the months that followed, however, as we watched our sweet baby grow more and more yellow, watched as her belly swelled, and as she grew weaker by the day, we knew that the surgery hadn't been a success. Her weekly blood tests showed marked worsening of her condition. 

And that 9 day early separation from the breast, despite my fervent pumping, and the stress of living in a hospital and watching my precious girl be cut apart and sewn up again started to take it's toll on my milk supply. 

But after 6 weeks, we went home. And still, we nursed. I laughed about it. After all I'm a Lactation Consultant! If anyone could do this, it would be me!!

Then month 4 hit. She was hospitalized with a massive infection and we started to move towards full liver transplant. 

It was during this hospitalization that our kind, wonderful group of doctors and advisers sat us down and told us that there was a good chance that she would not make it. Her body wasn't responding to treatment, and she wasn't the ideal candidate for a transplant. She continued to grow weaker. Suckling at the breast became a massive exertion that would leave her exhausted and expend more calories then she took in. With a failing liver, food absorption was enough of a problem already! So we put in a Nasal Gastric feeding tube to ease her struggle. And I pumped. God, did I ever pump. I had to get up every hour on the hour with her throughout the night to medicate and care for her as it was, so I pumped then, too. 
But despite my knowledge as a LC and seasoned nursing mother, my milk supply dwindled. I didn't sleep. I cried. My baby was dying in front of my eyes and I couldn't even give her the one thing she needed most. Due to the extensive injury and openness of her bowl, formula wasn't even an option. We tried out of desperation and it was very quickly obvious that it hurt her, and I took it off the table of her nutritional care options entirely. 

So I put out the call. And it spread. It spread like wild fire. 

As I type this, I'm sitting here crying a waterfall of tears remembering each and every woman, many of whom I didn't even know at the time, showing up at my door with coolers full of their own liquid gold. Women from other states were driving up to deliver milk. Friends, relatives, sisters in motherhood were giving my child the gift of life. And this TRULY is what it came down to for her. My sweet Clara's life would not have been as long without all of that precious breast milk. 

It was a gift that I can never repay. These women gave selflessly, expecting nothing in return, simply holding me and crying with me and essentially nourishing my child as their own. 

I wish I could say that this story has a happy ending. That Clara's transplant was a success. But after 6 months of fighting and pain and suffering we were told she was not a candidate for transplant at all. 

So, we took her home. 

And there she rolled in the grass, she played with soft kittens, she snuggled up on our warm chests every night. It was the most joyful time of my life. 

She lived 8 long beautiful months and she took her last breaths in the comfort and security of our arms on November 6th.

As I came slowly out of the shock and grief in the weeks that followed, I realized that my freezer still held the milk that ongoing donations had piled up and had sustained my Clara. 

So again, I put out the call. 

And late one December night I drove back to Children's and walked up those familiar steps into the NICU to deliver a cooler of milk to yet another mother. And I held her, and she held me, and we cried. 

This is the gift that keeps on giving. And to each and every mother out there who is sharing her milk I say THANK YOU!! You are sharing life. You are sharing love. 
Thank You. 

Much mama love, 

Please take a moment to join the Human Milk for Human Babies Global Network. You never know when you will meet a baby in need of milk. Spread the word, spread the love!


  1. Thank you for sharing Ana's story. My tears are flowing as well. Ana, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm so happy for the time you had with Clara and for the help you received. I will light a candle for your little girl, Clara, and remember your angel as I remember mine.

  2. What a beautiful testimony!! Rev. 12:11 I was completely blessed to be able to help someone quite a while ago with milk. It is something so many of us do not think of as an option. God be with each and everyone of you and may this story educate others of the need to share.

  3. I remember the day one of my local AP moms posted a need for milk for Clara. I was out of town and watched it unfold in the email threads of our board. I could not believe the mobilization of milk that occured. It was amazing.
    My heart breaks for your untimely separation, Ana. But yours and Clara's story speaks to my soul, my heart. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. What a touching story you have to share with others. I donated breast milk when Noah, our son was stillborn at 25 weeks. I sobbed when I received the call that 11 NICU babies were getting Noah's mink. What a wonderful gift for me during the fresh grief of losing our baby.

  5. wh a sad but mazing story...i just had a baby and i goin through tests on my chest and they gave me iodin so i cant nurse for a few days..i didnt want to give formula so i asked my older sis whos nursing but not sure bout sharin milk bshe gave me a few of her frozen milk bags..i love what us moms can do..sharin life and love for children is amazing..sorry for ur loss..thanx for sharin an amazin story <3

  6. We never met, but I am deeply honored to say that I sent you some of my milk. You are amazing and I am incredibly sorry for your loss. I pray for your family and know Clara will live on in your hearts always. I wish I had more words to express how emotional I am in response to your story. Thank you for sharing...and reminding me just how precious life truly is.

  7. Much love to Clara's family for all that they have been through

  8. tears, tears, tears!! The gift of donation is a beautiful gift indeed.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing the story of your precious daughters life. It is so wrong that she was taken away from you so young.

    Donated breast milk helped keep both my twins going while I struggled to bring my milk in after an emergency c/s with them at 32 weeks. Sadly we only brought one son home in the end but I will never forget the gift other women gave us through their breast milk.

  10. Your family is in my prayers, I cannot imagine. I am very sorry for your loss.