Milk Donor: "I Would Do it All Over Again"
Reliving a NICU experience isn’t easy. The trauma of premature birth followed by the day to day uncertainty, exhaustion, and anguish in the hospital leave emotional scars, even when there is a happy outcome. We are so appreciative that Rachel from Wylie, Texas, is sharing her story. Although reflecting on her ordeal was difficult, she wanted to share how her journey led her to help other parents and babies fighting to make it home.
My story began with a routine ultrasound exam at 26 weeks. My husband and I knew something was wrong when the technician rushed to get the doctor. I had already dilated to 4 centimeters. After being rushed to labor and delivery, I received multiple medications to stop premature labor. I spent the next four weeks on bed rest at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, an hour away from my two other children.
A neonatologist had prepared my husband and me for the likelihood that our daughter would be born prematurely. The medical team tried to delay her birth as long as possible and administered steroid shots to mature her lungs. However, contractions eventually couldn’t be stopped and at 30 weeks, Reagan Caroline was born weighing 3 pounds, 4 ounces.
Immediately, Reagan was unable to breathe on her own. Among many challenges, she struggled with stridor, maintaining an optimal temperature and having the strength to nurse. Reagan was fed donor milk for two weeks from a feeding tube while I started pumping to increase my milk supply. I’ll admit, initially I shuddered at the thought of someone else’s milk nourishing my baby. But I knew that donor milk is safe and would prevent Reagan from acquiring life-threatening complications.
Before long, I pumped such an excess amount of milk, I knew I could feed Reagan and become a donor to help other families. When you have a baby in the NICU, you feel so helpless and overwhelmed. There is guilt for not being able to sustain a pregnancy full term and deep disappointment if you can’t produce enough milk. Seeing Reagan thrive encouraged me to pay it forward for other babies in need. Becoming a donor was a way for me to help other moms get their babies home.