The hardest thing I’ve ever been thankful for
Updated: May 18
By Lacey Fort, Birth Photographer (Written April 30, 2019)
The names of all our milk donors
My daughter was born a year ago in April, so a few weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of completing a creative project that was almost a year in the making. Besides having a natural delivery (which I did with the help of my amazing doula Joy and my husband who was the best birth coach anyone could ask for) the other parenting choice I had already made before my daughter was born was to breastfeed. My goal was to breastfeed for one year. Call me naive, but having been a mother/baby nurse for five years during which time I helped hundreds of women latch their new babies, I didn’t think I would have much trouble. I did know that a lot of women do have trouble breastfeeding, but I thought because of my experience I was set up to undoubtedly succeed. Having those expectations is probably what made learning I had chronic low milk supply initially so hard to accept.
We had multiple pediatric visits up front because our daughter was not gaining weight. The day that was the nail in the coffin so to speak was when she had not gained one ounce in a week. I had been nursing constantly. Triple feeding. Pumping after every nursing session. I barely made it to the car that day before the tears started streaming. It felt so unjust to me. I was angry. I cried all the way home. I cried in the parking lot of Walgreens while my husband went inside to buy formula. I cried as he shook the bottle up which he had to do because I could not bring myself to do it. Consciously I knew that formula is not innately bad. I have absolutely no judgement for moms who choose to give their babies formula. I just felt like that choice had been stripped from me. I felt like a failure. I felt like my body had betrayed me.
Fueled by words that the pediatrician had spoken I began to search for answers. Our pediatrician said that “some women can feed the whole neighborhood, some struggle to feed one. We don’t know why.” I couldn’t accept that. A dear friend of mine shared her own low supply story with me and told me about Facebook groups I could join in order to receive donor milk if that was something I was interested in. I was so relieved and excited to hear that and joined them as soon as I got home. For the next 11 months I would receive milk donations from 15 different women. Some of them neared 500 ounces! I am thankful for every single ounce. Every single donation whether large, medium, or small was a HUGE blessing! Their milk not only fueled my daughter for the first year of her life, it fueled me as well. It filled me with hope and was a reminder that God saw us. He knows each and every one of our needs. Each donation also motivated me to keep going. To keep nursing. And to keep pumping. I felt that if these women could be dedicated enough to pump as often as they had to to feed both their own babies and help feed mine, I needed to do my part by giving her as much of my own milk as I possibly could. These pictures are a reflection of my gratitude to these amazing women, but also of my journey of breastfeeding with low supply. In them is pictured a little cooler that was given to us with one of our earliest donations, and was used for every milk pick up we did thereafter. It was a close companion this last year as was my own pump. I took a few with my husband because he has been much needed support day in and day out. From the early days of helping prop my arms with pillows and bringing me water, to driving hundreds of miles to pick up milk. He also drew the picture featured in a few of the photos. The drawing was inspired by the ingredients in the lactation supplement that I felt helped my supply the most, Liquid Gold. My daughter is wearing a diaper designed by K&A designs that reiterates some of the best advice I got pertaining to breastfeeding: Don’t quit in your darkest hour.
low supply diaper designed by K&A Designs
I hope these pictures encourage other moms who are struggling with breastfeeding. Whether your baby is tongue tied, premature, or you have inverted nipples, or simply just don’t make enough milk no matter how much oatmeal you eat or water you drink, you are enough. Every drop counts! Whether you decide to keep nursing/pumping or your nursing journey ends long before you hoped it would, every drop you give your baby counts. I am here a year into breastfeeding with low supply. Some days are drip days, and some days I have pumped more. The drip days are hard. It’s tempting to quit, to feel that it isn’t worth it anymore. Then I look at these pictures and I am reminded of all of the wonderful gifts I have been given this last year and I can only have one response. To be thankful!
Loving this shot taken by my husband!