When Ruby came home from the hospital (Leap of Faith…) she weighed under 5 lbs. Following the instructions given to us, we were feeding her every 3 hours- mixing up jars of smelly formula, waking her up if needed to make sure she got enough to bulk up a bit. Ruby was gassy and uncomfortable. Because her adoption happened so close to losing our son, Leo I had a sense that I could probably start producing breastmilk, but after my surgery (My Broken Heart…), I was nervous for how it would affect my hormones and how that would affect my heart. I called the milk bank, but paying out of pocket for breast milk was incredibly expensive. I researched formulas and learned that Germany has 2 brands of formula that are suppose to be much more gentle on newborn bellies. The problem became access. There is one American based website that sells it, but they sell out minutes after posting they have it available. A friend in Germany sent me a few boxes, but I realized it just wasn’t sustainable. Then, an amazing woman in my town contacted me and said she had an abundance of milk she had pumped and there was no way her son could ever drink it all. I was overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness and generosity.

We began shifting Ruby’s bottles to breastmilk. And the change for Ruby was incredible. She was so much more comfortable and her system was running more smoothly, if you know what I mean. I became focused on accessing as much breast milk as I could. I put the word out to local moms that I was on the hunt for breastmilk. A friend in Portland offered to pump for me, which was so thoughtful. And then a friend contacted me and said her midwife had a client who had a sister who had visited and left a bunch of pumped milk. Okay. Accepting milk from friends felt very different than accepting milk from a woman I had never met. I decided to take the risk and go for it. By this point Ruby was no longer having formula and she was such a happier baby. I became a mama on a mission for breastmilk. I discovered a Facebook page called Human Milk for Human Babies (http://hm4hb.net/). I posted my need and moms with milk responded directly to me. I also responded to posts from moms who had extra milk to share. I was constantly searching for milk. The very first woman I met through this site lived about an hour from me. She had learned midway through her pregnancy that her baby was not going to survive after delivery. She carried the baby to term and delivered a stillborn son. This woman made the incredibly selfless decision to pump for a month and donate her milk to a baby in need. Ruby was the recipient of this mom’s milk. We were both in tears when we met. This was such a circle of experience and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her gift.

Accessing milk became a huge focus of my day. I kept checking the site to comment on offers. I’d meet women at all times of the day and all over the place. I’d give them a gift card, and they would fill my cooler with milk. After a few weeks of connecting with women from Bangor to Portland, I had gathered enough donated milk that I needed to buy a deep freezer to make sure we properly stored the milk. At this point Ruby was 3 months old and I just kept telling myself we would do our best to keep her on breast milk for as long as possible. My goal was to get her to a year. There were a few times when we traveled that I was very nervous about keeping the breast milk properly frozen. We traveled to Austin and I was able to find a milk donor about an hour away who provided enough milk for Ruby for an entire week!

This week, Ruby turns 14 months old and I defrosted our last bag of breast milk. Aside from the important benefits I know Ruby has gotten from the breastmilk, a huge gift of all of this was meeting the incredible women who shared their milk with us. A few local women I met continued to pump for Ruby. Every few months I would meet up with them and we would restock our supply. One woman I met, who shared hundreds and hundreds of ounces of milk with us ,was a surrogate for twins. These are wonderful, loving woman who have made such an impact in our daughter’s life. I am forever grateful to them.