Thursday, October 27, 2011

Milkin' Mamas

If you followed this blog in June, you might recall the post about me pumping and the large quantity of milk I was collecting and storing.  I didn't note it at the time, but that photo was of our 2nd refrigerator in our garage.  Our kitchen freezer was also stocked with milk.  A few weeks later we bought a deep freezer, which turns out to have been too small.   

I was beginning to feel completely overwhelmed with breastmilk.  While Veronica was still in the NICU, I was told we would go through the milk quickly when Veronica came home, the theory being she would drink the older milk, and I would pump fresh milk to be frozen and used at a later time.  So that was our initial plan but I wasn't expecting Veronica to begin nursing exclusively as soon as she did.   If she was able to nurse, then I would no longer need to pump (to this day I still thank God for has made life sooooooo much easier).  But then the question became, what were we going to do with all of the milk, which at one point was probably well over 1000 ounces.  Someone at some point suggested that I donate.  Initially I didn't even consider this option.  I feared that there might come a time when Veronica would need all of that milk.  What if something happened to me, or what if my milk dried up?   Evenutally I came to the conclusion that donating would be the best option.  I wish I could say that this decision was out of the goodness of my heart.  But the reality is that it was the sheer volume of milk that pushed me to look into donating.  But whatever the reason, I am so thankful to have found Milkin' Mamas.

Milkin' Mamas works with Prolacta Bioscience, the creator of the only Human Milk Fortifier (HMF) made from human milk.  HMF is a fortifier added to the breastmilk of mothers who have extremely premature babies in NICUs.  HMF provides additional protein and nutrients that micro preemies need, which believe it or not, are not found in breastmilk.   For a long time, HMF was made only from cow's milk. 

I contacted Milkin' Mamas about a month ago to begin the donation process which included collecting a DNA sample and giving a blood sample, all from the comfort of my own home.  Milkin Mamas contacted my OB/GYN and Veronica's pediatrician to ensure that there weren't any reasons I shouldn't donate my milk.  They also sent me a thermometer to check the temperature of my freezers.  The entire process was quite fascinating and surprising simple.  Once I was cleared to go, Milkin' Mamas sent me two coolers to pack up my milk and ship it to Prolacta in California.  (You can see Liesl leaning on the box containing one of the coolers.  And there is cute Baby Veronica to her left.)

A few days later, I packed up over 200 ounces of breastmilk.  Unfortunately, much of my milk I couldn't donate because of medications I had taken at the time I had pumped it.  So basically our freezers are still packed with bottles.  Oh well....

After the milk was packed in the coolers, FedEx came to my home, picked them up, and less than 24 hours later, the milk was delivered to Prolacta  in California.  From there it will undergo additional testing, pasteurization, etc.  Eventually it will be made into Human Milk Fortifier, delivered to NICUs around the country, and given to extremely premature infants.  Amazing!!

For the past six months, we have benefited from the generosity and prayers of so many people.  And we feel so very fortunate and incredibly blessed that Veronica is continuing to do well.  It may sound strange, but I feel good knowing that from this entire traumatic premature birth and NICU experience, I am finally able to give something back by donating milk to help other babies.   It's the very least I can do....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Six Months

Six months ago this evening, I was sitting in one of the ante partum rooms on the labor and delivery floor of the George Washington University Hospital.  I had been on bed rest for six days but at that point I was feeling contractions and confident that we would at least get to 28 weeks, or even 32.  It was Palm Sunday and when I received Communion from a Eucharistic Minister earlier in the day, I remember telling her that I would see her the following Sunday (Easter).  Of course I would see her because I knew I would still be there....still on bed rest.  When I went to sleep that night, I had no idea that Veronica would be born only a few hours later. 

Six months have passed and so much has happened.  There were so many low points along the way but also so many moments to celebrate.  Not a day goes by without us remembering Veronica's beginning and her journey through the NICU.  Would I change the circumstance of Veronica's birth if I could, yes, of course.  But would I change the outcome?  Never.  Everyday we thank God for bringing  Veronica into this world.  And we continue to thank Him for how well she is doing.  We feel truly blessed. 

Below is a video of our NICU journey.  Even now, two months after discharge, I can't help but get emotional when I watch it.  Although we have started to feel that those first four months of Veronica's life are a distant memory, the entire experience will always be a part of us.  

For those of you who continue to come back to this blog, thank you.  Thank you for your prayers and support.  And thank you for allowing us to share Veronica's journey with you. 

Monday, October 10, 2011


October was the month I had been dreading since Veronica was discharged from the NICU because I knew it was the month I would be returning to work.  Shortly after Veronica's birth, Andrew and I made the decision that I would return to work while she was in the NICU so that I could be home with her once she was discharged.  April 18th was the day she was born and I returned to work eleven days later.  At the time, I wondered if that was the right decision.  But as difficult as those months were, working full time, traveling back and forth to the NICU, caring for five other children, I know it was the right decision.  The past eight weeks have been amazing and I am so thankful to have been home with Veronica and the rest of my family.  Normally, I would complain about returning to work.  But the entire NICU experience has given me such a different perspective.  How can I possibly complain about working when Veronica is home now, and healthy.  We feel so incredibly blessed that she continues to do as well as she is doing.  Here is the latest update:

- Veronica weighed in last week at 11 lbs, 1 oz. Wow!  Her length was 21 3/4 inches which is short for her adjusted age but a long way from the 12 inches she was at birth.
- Veronica had her first appointment with the occupational therapist assigned to her through our county's early intervention program.  The OT was impressed at how well she is doing but was a little concerned about her head control.  She recommended that Veronica have as much tummy time as possible - something that sounds easy to do but not necessarily so with five other kids around.  But we've been doing out best and have definitely seen an improvement.  The OT also recommended infant massage which we will start in a few weeks. Premature babies often develop sensory issues and the thought, or hope, is that the massage techniques could help prevent some of those issues from ever surfacing.
- Veronica is no longer taking Zantac, a medication she was taking for possible reflux.  We slowly weaned her off and haven't seen any problems so she is now medication free! She still takes a multi vitamin daily, primarily to prevent anemia.

Veronica is doing great overall and she has a wonderful disposition.  I've heard several times that premature babies tend to be fussier than term babies but we haven't seen that at all.  Just look how happy she is:

In other family news, our son Theodore celebrated his 8th birthday this past Friday.  Happy Birthday, Theodore!  The following day, he broke his clavicle during a soccer game.  Poor Theodore!