In a letter to other milk donors, Jessica honors the amazing life of her son Theodore, who defied expectations and warmed hearts during his two and a half years.
Persistence is always worth it! Don’t give up!
Well, I don’t have to explain persistence to this group, obviously—a hat tip to you all! Kudos for everything you do for your babies, kiddos, humanity; to help others and become an honorary global mommy—how rewarding! Helping others never stops there—it’s a chain reaction that is never-ending.
I am honored to be part of this group as well. I learned about breastfeeding and all of the rewards with the birth of my daughter. I loved the books and pamphlets I was given from the hospital—so encouraging and educational. So four years later when I learned I might not (well I was told I would not, actually) be able to nurse my son—before he was even born—it was devastating to me. It felt like the superhero powers I was graciously blessed with were literally being stripped from me.
Our little baby boy was diagnosed with bilateral renal agenesis in utero. We were given a very grim prognosis—but we wouldn’t accept it and so searched for a solution. Even with the miracle of a successful birth, the journey would be extremely challenging, we were rightly told.
A different breastfeeding journey
But without a second thought I knew this next breastfeeding journey would just be different, but not absent. So I just focused on day to day, milestone to milestone. I read up on a lot more breastfeeding tips. Since I anticipated my body wouldn’t be able to receive the natural trigger for volume production, I committed to both machine and manual pumping, as I wanted to ensure I could make as much as needed for our precious little miracle.
Theodore, our literal gift from God, required a complex management of “ins and outs”: his food would have to be limited since he required dialysis without the production of urine. Regardless, I pumped and pumped with a regimented schedule. This little boy was doing all he could; this was the least I could.
Persistence and teamwork
We had to invest in a deep freezer—later even followed by another—always anticipating when he could have this liquid gold. During our journey (from one hospital to another and then ultimately to our home!), we even had to transfer this precious milk across many states. My dad was entrusted with that journey, which required dry ice, coolers, careful planning, and confidence! We had the love and support of many family members: thanks to my dad for the transport services, thanks to my mother and my mother-in-law for washing my pump parts, giving me encouragement and support, and for everyone’s support and love. Special thanks to my amazing husband for his love, his support, for washing parts, measuring out volumes, labeling bags, helping me manage the inventory, and always helping me sleep!
The persistence and patience and teamwork was well worth it, as several weeks after his birth, due to progress on his liquid management, he was finally granted the ability to start having breast milk! We were elated, so anxious for him to begin having colostrum to help his amazing body. Since he was stable with this needed food, the amounts of breast milk he was given were gradually increased.
Theodore latches on
And then I began trying to breastfeed. What a blessed day, an absolutely amazing gift to have experienced. He latched beautifully. Clearly my volume was too much at this point, with my production, but he was able to nurse like a champ! Seeing him peacefully fall asleep mid-drink was so rewarding.
As time went on, I realized I couldn’t match my milk inventory and production with his allowed intake amount. Clearly I didn’t want all that hard work to go to waste, especially when I saw so many needs in the NICU, so many beautiful babies that needed milk for one reason or another, and maybe some mothers that couldn’t produce for one reason or another. So I planned to donate the oldest milk so it could be used.
I donated a few times throughout our journey, carefully monitoring my supply and inventory age and Theodore’s limited and carefully calculated requirements to ensure every drop wasn’t wasted. I was honored to help my baby plus others—and to be able to experience the beauty of breastfeeding and to provide such an amazing food. I am grateful for what my body did and can do, as I know all donors are, all thanks to our precious little ones.
Theodore overcame obstacle after obstacle, surpassed expectation after expectation, and I was constantly told how much my milk must be helping him do these amazing things. He wasn’t given one day, or a few weeks as a result—he and we were blessed with over two and a half years of enjoying this little boy’s amazing life and love. Why it wasn’t even longer than this, we may sadly never understand—the mystery of life. But we are grateful it happened and are grateful we enjoyed and maximized each and every moment we were granted. He changed and impacted everyone he met. He is a constant reminder to never give up, never lose faith, and always believe in the power of love.
Theodore’s final gift
I donated a final time, another precious gift our Theodore gave to the world. Thank you for honoring him with a leaf. Thank you for reading this tribute to him. We miss him terribly. Blessed to have had him and glad we could help others as well as a result.