I clutched the receiver of the phone. “My milk is coming in and I’m in so much pain. I can’t seem to get anything to pump out and I can’t nurse my baby because…because my baby is dead,” I sobbed. “If my baby was here, I could nurse him and everything would be fine. But he died. I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know what to do. Please help me. Please.”
I arrived the very next morning at MilkWorks Lincoln by appointment. I feared I would have to explain why I didn’t have an infant with me like every other woman in the waiting area. Nobody questioned me. As I filled out paperwork, I became increasingly agitated by the babies fussing, and immediately, I was offered a private room where I could fill out my information.
Name, birth date, and birth weight of baby. Reece Carlson. November 8th, 2015. 4 pounds 15 ounces. Current weight. I wrote one little word that caused me to spill over into sobs.
My counselor met me with hot tea. It occurred to me that my story had been shared with every staff person there because no one asked me about the missing infant. I shared my story, his name, what he looked like, his confused brothers at home who were wanting to meet their baby brother. Then there was an examination of the nipple damage I had caused by desperately trying to express milk that was really hormonal swelling. I was given topical healing treatments and more tea and invited to stay as long as I needed. We discussed my desire to pump milk. I honestly don’t know why I chose that route. Milk was just the next logical step after birthing a baby and it was one of the last physical anchors that I had carried a baby to near-term and then he died. The presence of milk assured me it wasn’t all just a dream, that he was real, even if he was gone.
MilkWorks Lincoln loaned me the equipment to pump as long as I wished to pump. With every bit of yellow milk that leaked from me, I saw his giant baby feet and his strawberry blonde hair and his sweet dimpled chin. I meditated on his soft baby skin and his sweet little hands. I began to fill the freezer with bags and bags of milk. Reece’s milk. After about a month, it became clear that routine, frequent pumping was too difficult to do with two busy boys to take care of. MilkWorks helped guide me through reducing and drying up my milk. At the end of that season, I was able to donate all of my equipment to MilkWorks and they would do the work to rehome all of the items.
The freezer full of milk found its way to a mother of twins, a mother of an adopted infant, and a woman who is a force of nature. At the time, she was my yoga instructor. Her baby was born at 25 weeks after complications. It wasn’t long after, a breast lump was discovered and diagnosed in her. Rigorous cancer treatment began, to include removal of all breast tissue. A medically fragile baby and no breasts. Two full breasts and no baby to feed. I reached out to her with my humble offering. To this day, her little girl carries a piece of my Reece around on this planet, her legs strong from what my tiny baby didn’t need.
If you or someone you know has experienced the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, help is out there. No one should grieve alone.
Healing Embrace (Omaha)
No Footprint Too Small (Lincoln)