I am ready to tell my story… I’ve never fully shown or told anyone start to finish… so grab a tissue and here we go! It’s a long tale that started when I was young.
When I was 16 I underwent a breast reduction. Now they told me the risk was I would never be able to breastfeed but as a young teenager you don’t really understand.
Fast forward to August 2015, I’m holding my baby Declan. After 3 days of desperately wishing and hoping I could breastfeed I give up in the middle of the night when the postpartum drop was rearing it’s head. I handed my baby to Steven and begged him to take him away because I was clearly causing him harm. My mom sat and held me in tears as I failed my baby, I failed to feed him.
Thankfully I had collected some donor breast milk in advance as I really really wanted to exclusively breastfeed. My hopes and dreams dashed away as he lost weight because he wasn’t getting enough nutrition and as a mom I felt guilty. I felt guilty for that 16 year old me that got a breast reduction because I needed to decrease my back pain. Desperately wanting to still give him the benefits of breast milk I dove head first into receiving donor milk. At first I was getting random messages from people saying how I was killing my baby by giving him untested donor milk, but I could not afford $3 an ounce at the milk bank. That was more than our rent, he was drinking 40-50 ounces a day. We (or my mom) drove to Calgary almost weekly, we bought 6 deep freezers. Started making trips all over the province, Saskatchewan and everywhere we could possibly drive. I bought countless boxes of milk bags to give to our donors. I breathed the donor milk page every chance I could get to check if anyone was donating. Posting myself looking for milk as well. I made the most beautiful friendships of moms who donated to Declan, most of which I am still friends with today. Like Amber H, who donated approximately 21 cu ft of breast milk to Declan! I solely fed him for 6 months from her milk alone. My goal was get to 6 months, then 12 months (I sold a couple of freezers because we were nearing the end) then 18 months and I made it.
The week I sold some of our freezers I found out I was pregnant again! SO I kept going. A lot of the donors trickled from Declan to Liam as the milk is good in the deep freezer for 12 months (ish). Every month or so I’d reorganize the freezers again and rotate, marking each bag with which person donated it and when it was pumped. It was a well oiled machine. Liam came and I tried breastfeeding again to no avail. So back to the donor milk it was, then 6 months, then 12 months and finally we made it to 18 months with Liam too! But I was pregnant again… Could I do this again? It’s exhausting. Maybe I can try breastfeeding again, made it to 6 weeks this time before I dried up completely.
So many people have told me this donor milk is the easy way out, that I have it easy because I don’t have to pump or breastfeed. I mean yes it’s great I can give my kids a bottle and Steven can feed them, or my mom but I was back to work 2-4 weeks postpartum with all of them and it sure didn’t feel easy to leave my baby everyday that young. It sure wasn’t easy to not be his food source, to not have that bonding time AND it sure WASN’T easy to drive all over the province every week collecting milk. I remember when Payton was 3 weeks old I planned 21 milk pickups around Edmonton and area. I drove around for 10 hours, I mapped everyone’s houses and circled the city, 3 kids in tow BY MYSELF and prayed they would all behave while I had to get this done. More categorizing and organizing and labelling milk, it seemed like it never ended. Thankfully I didn’t sell any freezers this time but I did have to borrow space from a friend Jenni when a freezer broke once in the middle of the night and I frantically needed to find a home for the milk. Calling Stevens mom and my parents if they had any freezer space. Borrowing (indefinitely) my Dads freezer because we ran out of space and needed more freezers. I think we had almost 9 full at one point. You see I learned something by the 3rd baby. I learned that people didn’t want to donate to an older baby so I needed to obtain all the milk I needed to get them to 18 months by time they were 6 months old. It was a lot of work in a short period of time. 6 months, 12 months and finally 18 months flew by…
BUT I was pregnant AGAIN! Last time Larissa, you can do this…more driving, more milk bags, more collecting, more sleepless nights wondering if I would have enough milk to last. If I would be able to find donors. Then Covid hit and people didn’t want to donate as much, it was hard. Was I going to get enough for Riley? Then Riley was sick, if he survives then it is even more important. Come on Larissa you can do this. Steven, can we buy a bigger freezer, I need this $1200 stand up one that’s 21 cu ft because some of the old freezers aren’t working anymore. Steven, I need a second $1200 21 cu ft freezer. I know we have 3 deep freezers in our basement and my moms stand up freezer is full but we just don’t have enough. If we don’t buy another freezer then we have to throw out all the food, the milk is more important. It’s liquid gold you know. 6 months went by and I thought I had enough.
July passed and I stopped collecting milk for the first time in 6 years. It felt freeing. Today we organized it for the last time, today we have enough to last Riley until 18 months and today we still have 5 deep freezers in our house, 4 of which are full of milk. Today I sat on the living room floor with tears in my eyes and a proud heart. Thank you to all the donors who helped me get here, thank you to my family and friends who collected and stored milk for me. Thank you for not judging me when I fed each of my babies around 30-40 donors each all from different backgrounds and lives. Thank you to my amazing husband for going on this crazy journey with me and all the miles we drove. And yes they have amazing immune systems so it was WORTH EVERY PART the bad and the good. I am so thankful to close this chapter and finally not have 5 freezers soon
Normally I do the blogs in a different format but I felt it important that this one be in Larissa’s words. Thank you for reading and please share with those you feel it may be able to help or with others that will enjoy the read.