I suck at pumping, and not in a good way. Give me a baby, or two, or three. I can NURSE the friggin block. Pumping, not so much.
The thing is though, I believe in breast milk. Every baby, with rare medical exceptions, is made to be fed human milk. Sometimes, because of surgery or illness or really bad luck, Mom just cannot provide it. So I did something insane, something no reasonable woman with my relation to a pump would do. I decided to donate to a milk bank.
Now, I knew I could do it. I worked when my daughter was young, and she never had a drop of formula. I had to pump 3 and 4 times a day for 2 bottles. I went to nurse her at lunch so I had one less bottle to produce. I got up every day, EVERY day, at 5 in the morning to pump for months on end so I would have a bit of a fall back. I knew just a few ounces a week would add up, and I knew what they needed to add up to: 200.
Why 200? I never considered donating to any bank that was not a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, or HMBANA for short. There are other "banks" out there. Many are associated with a company that sells human milk at a profit, and does research in an attempt to patent components and make large sums of money. HMBANA banks are different. While human milk is expensive even from a HMBANA bank, the expense does not even cover the cost of testing Moms and processing milk. And if your critically ill baby needs milk and they have it, the baby gets it, even if you can't pay for it. There was no way I was going to DONATE milk to a for profit company to make money off of, when I could donate to a non profit organization that would utilize my milk in the best way possible. But to do that, I needed to get at least 200 ounces together. Any less, and it is just too expensive for the bank to ship, and to do all the testing required on the Mom to make sure the milk is safe to use.
So I pumped, and pumped, and pumped some more. I pumped once every single day. Some days I got 4 ounces, there were not many of those. On days when the only time I could pump was at night after nursing E-1 to sleep, I got an ounce. Usually I got three ounces. I started a bit late, because of the allergy issues E-1 had, and the fact that the first bank I contacted closed unexpectedly and suddenly. I also did not realize many banks take milk pumped prior to contacting the bank. I did not save anything before getting in contact, since E-1 wanted nothing to do with milk unless it was straight from the source. Some days I wondered if I would make it.
And then, I did. About a month ago, I went over. I stopped counting ounces when I pumped, and I got my blood drawn and all the final paperwork approved. Two days after E-1's birthday, a big blue cooler landed on my doorstep.
Tonight, somewhere between here and North Carolina, that blue cooler is 2/3 full of my frozen milk and sitting on a FedEx plane. I hope one day my children will be proud that despite the difficulty in doing the right thing, Mama is someone who puts her money where her mouth is.
Or in this case, where their mouths were...