I am three years out after the loss of my little girl; I am 18 months out after safely delivering a warm, breathing little girl. I hold a deep desire to help other mothers, whether they’ve experienced loss or not, by pumping milk my body is still producing from having my rainbow baby and donating to other babies who need it.
While I was pregnant with Sage, my rainbow, I saw and read stories in the PALS private groups about mamas producing milk after their losses and donating that milk as a way to heal their hearts and make something beautiful from the deep sorrow of loss. My body did produce milk during my second trimester loss, but thankfully and gratefully I had a toddler at home who had only just started to wean when I went to hospital to deliver my stillborn daughter.
I remember crying and telling the nurse while in labor, “Being here–away from my daughter–will definitely dry me up. There will be no turning back from weaning her now.” The nurse stroked my arm and said, “Oh honey, your body is delivering a baby and will be tricked into thinking the baby will need milk. Your milk will come in just as though you’ve had a live baby.”
I cried. I bawled.
I was trying to wean my toddler because I was pregnant. And now, with that baby gone, I realized that reason was no longer there. I was happy to continue nursing her, but devastated that death was the reason it was possible. She went onto nurse for another eight months, until I was again pregnant and able to more naturally wean and dry up.
But today, I know my family isn’t growing beyond the living girls we have; Sage is the last baby I will nurse. I didn’t pump for the first 15 months of her life (well, other than for comfort when she as first born). I decided to start when I realized this milk supply won’t last forever, and I want to do good in memory of my loss and that experience. I pump to heal–to continue healing three years later.
I pump to do something good with my grief.
And each time I pump, I remember that conversation with the nurse–every.single.time. Maybe it’s one of those ways we reconnect with the experience we had, no matter how devastating it is to recall the events around our losses.
And each time I hand off a bag of milk to a mama who needs it, I think of the warrior mamas who pump to relieve the milk that’s coming in for a baby who isn’t alive to thrive from it. I think of their courage and strength, when insult is added to injury.
Our bodies are amazing, even when we feel they’ve failed us in the most brutal way possible.