Friday, March 22, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The kindness of strangers

Since I've weaned from my left breast, life has been so much simpler. No more mastitis!  Not even a single blocked duct! No more absolute dread and fear every time I end up going longer than a couple of hours without pumping! The change is significant. It is glorious. 

And now, looking back, I can't believe I went through mastitis six times in a little over three months. It was fairly terrible. But I guess it felt that imperative to provide Magpie with my milk. I know it is different for different folks, but providing breast milk was important to me (and I was surprised at how strongly I felt this way). It felt like if there were any way I could do it, I wanted to. 

As a single-breast milk producing mom, life is much, much improved. But as expected, my supply is not up to snuff to provide all of the milk that Magpie needs. It's not too shabby...I am producing about 17 ounces from the one breast. That would be more than enough for Magpie if I had two breasts providing milk, but she is drinking about 30 ounces now, so 17 ounces is far short.

I had hoped to get to at least four months exclusive breast milk for Magpie. Much of the research I'd read showed benefits from that amount. I also thought it might be possible to make up for the missing supply after I weaned by working on pumping the other side. But I knew that would take time. To buy some time, I looked into milk banks and found, to my surprise, that there is only one designated milk bank in New York State (one! How crazy is that!?). So I went to them to help tide me over as I went through the weaning process on the one side. I didn't have a long-term strategy. I was hoping to get to four months and then come up with the next plan from there. Hoping to see what my supply would do once I was clear of the recurrent infections and antibiotics. The bank sold me a few small batches of pasteurized donor milk, enough to get us to four months and a little bit beyond. 

I knew I couldn't keep it up using the donor bank milk, though. It was just a stopgap. And so I planned to transition to supplementing with formula once we got to the end of my freezer stash. I wasn't thrilled about it, but I was ok with it.

But then, in the meantime, something wondrous happened. A reader contacted me and said her child is about Magpie's age. She said she had extra milk. A lot of extra milk as a matter of fact. That she had so much, she was running out of freezer space.

She asked if we wanted it. She lives across the country but she said she would ship it to us. 

Will and I were so moved. We were overcome with gratitude. And we started doing a lot of research. Would it be ok to use milk from another person? How would we even get it here? How could we ensure that the milk was safe?

We also asked ourselves how we felt about using this body fluid from another person. Was it too gross? Was it too personal? It felt simultaneously amazing (what a gift!) and a little bit icky. But then I thought... before Magpie's arrival, we had gotten to end-stage infertility. We reached the point that we looked to use another woman's eggs to have a baby, and we came close to using another woman's uterus as well, through surrogacy. Both of these things felt ok. Was using unpasteurized donor milk really any further out there?

After thinking about it awhile, we decided that yes, we could feel comfortable with this wonderful gift. The big if wasn't the yuck factor, it was safety.

Safety is a big deal when using donor milk. Breast milk is a body fluid not unlike blood. If this wonderful woman were unknowingly infected with any of a number of things, our little Magpie could also be infected. We realized this potential risk was our biggest concern.

So we talked to this woman at length about potential risk factors in her life (there weren't any). And we asked her, and she agreed, to do a ton of blood work, just to be absolutely certain all was well. We read up from many sources, including breast milk bank guidelines and Eats On Feets, a milk sharing resource guide and followed their guidelines about blood testing. And this woman kindly had bloodwork done for syphillis, HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B and C, CMV, and West Nile Virus. She checked out fine - nothing we needed to worry about for Magpie.  

We also researched in depth how to transport the milk. It needed to stay frozen solid throughout the journey, so the best way to do this was using an insulated cooler in insulated cardboard. We found informative posts about how to do this here and here. We shipped it Fed Ex overnight. And I think both she and I kept our fingers crossed and breath held the whole time!

Shipping box after arrival on my kitchen floor

Just to be extra careful that the milk stayed frozen, we also used dry ice:

dry ice left over after overnight shipping
Luckily the milk arrived safely and it's been feeding Magpie wonderfully since then.

Having this milk has been a godsend. There are no more worries that I won't produce enough milk (at least not for a while). I use this milk in conjunction with my own so that Magpie gets my fresh milk with all of the antibodies that she needs (and protection from germs she and I are exposed to) plus the donor milk with its own unique blend of nutrients and antibodies. In my mind this milk represents all of us women coming together to create a village to raise our young, banding together to offer each person what another might need.

Will and I were just overcome that we were given this gift from a stranger. That she would be willing to go to so much trouble to help us feed our little girl (and I know how much trouble pumping is!). And we were again astounded at the amazing people this blog has connected us to over the years. People who have become real life friends, people we haven't met but care deeply about, and people who have offered the most amazing things to help us in our journey (you know who you all are, and we are so grateful to you). This blog is part of our village, our community of women and families coming together across the miles.

Because of this woman's generosity, here is what our freezer - previously empty of milk - now looks like:

540 ounces of amazing donor milk. A life changer!

Our path to Magpie was a long one, but we also know there are many ways that we have been very fortunate. This is just one of them.

I am protecting this woman's privacy and am not naming her or linking to her blog. But I do want to say a public and a heart-felt thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


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Monday, March 18, 2013

Magpie at four months

This post is late...almost coming at Magpie's five month birthday....but here is Ms. Magpie's four month photo. She's growing up!

She's got quite a personality now - very smiley, very interactive. She's fairly mellow, but she knows what she wants and will definitely let you know if you're not providing it!

Magpie still very small for her age. We were just at the doctor last week and she now tips the scales at 12 pounds, 3 ounces. Not much, especially considering she was born at 8 pounds, 1 ounce. She's at the 6th percentile now (down from the 45th). I try not to worry too much about this, but I do find that her weight continues to be on my mind. She's drinking approximately 30 ounces of breast milk a day now, so it should be enough. Not sure why she doesn't grow a bit faster, but alas. Perhaps when she starts solids at 6 months she'll pick up the pace a bit? Or maybe she is just going to be a wee lass. We shall see.

I don't have her measurements with me for her length and head circumference, but both are at the 25th percentile, which the doctor was happy with.

So enough of the numbers. The bigger question is, What is Ms. Magpie up to these days?
  • She's smiling at everyone, including Moxie, even when you are across the room.
  • She's looking at everything, everywhere we go, her head a constant swivel as she soaks in the world around her.
  • She turns toward you most of the time if you say her name.
  • She's grabbing for toys, for mommy's hair, for the placemat on the table when she's on my lap, for  the paper on the doctor's exam table. Everything she can get her little hands on.
  • She loves putting everything she can into her mouth - her hands, her toys, your hands, your arm, eeevvveerrything.
  • She's rolling over front to back.
  • She's rolling over back to front.
  • She has great head control and likes tummy time for long stretches.
  • She loves to bounce herself up and down in a standing position on mommy's lap...over and over and over.
  • She coos and groans and gurgles.
  • She makes bubbles and "spppttth" noises with her lips (maybe she's a future trumpet player?)
  • She's drinking about 6.5 ounces at most feeds now and is using the Playtex Nurser Bottle. She seems to prefer the fast flow nipple.
  • She grabs her feet with her hands and pulls them up toward her head.
  • She loves to sit up if you help her balance.
  • On a good night, she sleeps from 8 or 8:30pm until 3am. Then drinks another few ounces and sleeps until 6am or so.
We are still swaddling her but transitioning out of this soon. Still using paci for sleeping and as a last resort for soothing during the day.

She really enjoys her swing and also loves her Fisher Price playmat. Looooves it. Maybe I'll have to do a "Magpie's favorite things" post soon. She has a crinkly Winnie the Pooh book that she also loves (I think she loves the sound more than anything).

Little girl is a joy and is growing up! One day at a time. I still can't believe she's mine.


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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sisters sharing

Moxie and Magpie sharing the blanket, playing side by side. 

Ah, sisters! 

We were pleased to catch these moments on video, and the music playing in the background couldn't have been more appropriate! By the way, Moxie is playing with her own toy...we draw the line at that kind of sharing at this age, especially since Magpie likes to put everything in her mouth!


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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sad news

Bernadette from Rasta Less Traveled lost her beautiful son Hayden, aka "Master Cheeks" today, a week and a half shy of his first birthday.

I've been following their journey since before the twins were born in India via surrogacy and have been astounded at Bernadette's calm yet determined advocacy for her son - first to care for him in India, then to have him brought home to the United States via medivac and then to help him be as comfortable and as completely cared for as possible in the midst of an impossibly complex medical situation.

If you have a moment, please send your support Bernadette and her husband Duane's way and keep Hayden's twin sister Scarlett in your thoughts. Heartbreaking.


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