Janell’s Story: Grateful to be giving back

Newborn better with breastmilk

My son was diagnosed with a congenital pulmonary airway malfunction (CPAM) at 20 weeks. After a discussion with the doctor, a genetic counselor and listening to the wide-ranging possibilities for the remainder of the pregnancy, I was numb. At the same time, I was prepared to do anything that I could to take care of myself and my son for the remaining weeks of my pregnancy. This included caring for my daughter who was three years old at the time.

When my water broke at 36.5 weeks, I was scared, but excited at the same time. The Maternal/Fetal Medicine doctor who diagnosed our son with a CPAM came in that day for his birth, something I found out later was not common practice for her. My son, Lincoln, was born on December 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm.

On July 17, 2015, a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life, Lincoln had surgery. I watched them wheel him away as he raised his arms to grab for me. There are no words to explain that feeling, unless you have been there. We were the last parents in the waiting room, along with both of our parents and my sister, when the doctor came in. Lincoln had done very well. They only needed to remove the lower right lobe of his lung. When we finally got to see him, the tubes coming out of his chest, he was so serene, yet fragile at the same time. The chest tube was draining fluid from his lung, something I had seen on TV medical dramas countless times. Now it was happening to my six-month-old son.

We spent a total of four days at Hershey Medical Center, and the staff could not have been more supportive and kind. I met more families and children who, in many cases, were facing much scarier scenarios than ours. I was nursing the whole time, but because of his tubes, I had to feed my son with pumped breast milk. The nurses happily stored it in the refrigerator at the nurses’ station for us. As Lincoln continued to heal, I continued to feel such gratitude for the gift we were given.

One night as I was pumping before bed, I went to freeze more milk and realized my freezer was full. Knowing how blessed I was not only with my son’s health but plentiful milk supply, I wanted to find a way to share what I could with others. That’s when I stumbled upon an article shared by a friend on Facebook about the milk bank. After completing the process, which was pretty quick and easy, I mailed my first donation in April 2016. The feeling when the UPS driver picked up the box was one of pride and accomplishment for what I was able to do. I was also filled with hope that the sickest babies receiving the milk would be able to heal.

In total, I donated 542 ounces to Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank. Perhaps it’s because of what we went through with my son, and my daughter’s premature birth, or simply what mothers feel when they look at their children, but I truly feel blessed. Our story could have taken a different path. I am grateful that it didn’t and am happy to be able to give back to hopefully impact someone else’s life for the better.

– Janell, milk donor

Have you been touched by the mission of Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank?