The Comfort of Connection
We are privileged to share donor mom Ashleigh and Addie’s NICU story:
“Addie was born at 31 weeks because I had preeclampsia. She was 3 lbs 7 oz when she was born and I don’t think my husband or I have ever been so scared. I saw her very briefly in the operating room before they took her down to the NICU.
NICU journeys are all about ups and downs. Progress can be painfully slow. Addie was able to come off CPAP very quickly and was tolerating her feeds of my breastmilk. At one week old, my husband and I got to hold her and that was one of the best days in our lives. Then, the next day, Addie’s breathing and heart rate were increased and she started to drop her oxygen levels. This led to the discovery that she had a hole in her heart called a ventricular septal defect and this was causing her heart and lungs to struggle. She had to be put on oxygen and some new medications to help her heart and lungs. It was a very scary time.
Then, it was a waiting game. Waiting for the medications to start decreasing the fluid in her lungs, waiting for her to grow, waiting for her vital signs to stabilize. We spent our days holding her for a few hours at a time, talking to her, reading, singing, and playing music to help support her development. And then, before we knew it, she started to progress towards being ready to go home very quickly and we had to start making sure we were ready!
After 41 days, our baby girl was ready to come home. Finally getting to bring her home was incredible and it’s hard to put into words how much happiness and joy we felt feeding her, bathing her, changing her diapers, just getting to take care of her on our own and in our home.” Addie will turn 1 year old in December and is thriving!
During Addie’s time in the NICU, Ashleigh learned about the option to donate extra milk to a milk bank after reading a brochure about donor milk in her daughter Addie’s NICU room.
Ashleigh shares, “After seeing the brochure, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Being a parent to a NICU baby means you will go through/have been through a journey most people cannot understand. There are many days where you stand by the side of the isolette, staring at your tiny, fragile child, sometimes unable to hold them, and feel just utterly helpless. So much is out of your control.
For me, being able to make milk for my baby helped ease my feelings of helplessness. Because Addie was born at 31 weeks, I was fortunate that I was able to make milk for her. Breastmilk is so beneficial for premature babies as it is gentler on their tummies and is loaded with antibodies that help their fragile immune systems fight off infections. Knowing Addie was getting this gave me tremendous comfort.
When you meet another NICU family, you feel an instant connection. Here is another family who understands what it is/was like. And knowing how much comfort I took in something as simple as Addie getting breastmilk, I wanted to be able to give that comfort to other families.
Knowing my milk has and will help babies like Addie has been healing. It feels incredible to think that I am giving something that may help premature babies survive and thrive. It has been one of the most meaningful experiences in my life.”
Ashleigh has now donated 1,661 ounces. We’re so grateful to share Ashleigh and Addie’s NICU and donor story during this Prematurity Awareness month.