I got a letter from the milk bank inviting me to share my story so I spent the morning writing up a short story, just over 500 words, which I thought would be fine because the form had a 2000 word count limit. Most stories seemed to be on the short side, though, so I tried to keep mine short as well, and then I noticed that it actually said 2000 character limit!
I took a hacksaw to my story and cut it way down but when I tried pasting into the form a window popped up telling me that it was actually a 1000 character limit so I had to cut my story in half once again. How do you tell a complete story with only 1000 characters (that includes spaces!)?
My submission ended up being 182 words:
Our little girl was born healthy and right on time—such a relief after the difficult pregnancy I’d had. We were discharged together, which was elating; but I couldn't help reflecting on the birth of her brother. He came 2 months early & spent 5 weeks in the NICU.
I thought of the families we'd met in the NICU, of the tears shed in the pump room by mothers struggling to produce enough milk (an experience I'm grateful to have avoided), and of the sweet preemies, helpless and fragile, but so full of fight.
I wanted—and needed—to help those babies! I was excited to find a non-profit milk bank (I donated 15 gallons from our premie to a for-profit milk bank). My littlest one is now 4 months old and I've donated 14 gallons of milk, and plan to continue donating as long as I can.
I've always wanted a large family but my recent pregnancies have me convinced that will never be, so I love knowing that I'm helping other children and families. I'm a mother to few, but a milk-mother to many.Andrew said that I should post the long version, too, so here's that:
On June 3, 2012 I woke up to labour pains in the early hours of the morning. My husband rushed me to the hospital and a few hours later we had a third child, a beautiful little boy, on our hands—two months early! He was life-flighted to the NICU at the regional hospital soon after he was born and I was left alone and scared in my recovery room. I wanted so badly to follow my baby and felt like my world was completely out of control. Then a nurse brought in a breast pump and instructed me to pump every two hours, so I did.
It was something to do.
It was something to control.
Every two hours I pumped while I cried over pictures of my poor baby hooked up to machines, surrounded by monitors and alarms. It paid off because by the time I was discharged I had a few syringes full of colostrum sitting in the fridge. I was so excited to see my little boy that I practically danced out of the hospital—completely forgetting my milk (so I had to sheepishly go back for it).
Seeing my baby in the NICU was terrifying and thrilling. Finally getting to touch him made me feel whole again and I soon got used to leaving the hospital day after day with empty arms. He stayed in the NICU for five weeks and I pumped every two hours, night and day, the whole time.
By the time he was ready to come home I had approximately fifteen gallons of milk in my mom's freezer, which I blithely donated to a for-profit milk bank before making a cross-country move.
Three years later, on May 23, 2015, we welcomed our fourth child (and our third girl) into the world. She was born healthy and strong and right on time, which was a relief after the somewhat challenging pregnancy I'd had with her. She and I were discharged together; it was elating to walk out of the hospital with my little baby (and no oxygen tanks or apnea monitors), but I couldn't help but reflect on the more traumatic birth of her older brother.
I thought of all the families we'd met during our time in the NICU, of all the tears shed in the pump room by mothers who struggled to produce enough milk to feed their babies (an experience I'm grateful to never have had), and of the sweet little preemies, so helpless and fragile, but so bravely fighting for life.
When my milk came in I immediately knew I wanted to help—I needed to help—those babies! I was excited to find a non-profit milk bank. My littlest one is four months old and I've donated fourteen gallons of milk so far, and I plan to continue donating for as long as I can.
I've always wanted a large family but my last two pregnancies have me convinced that is not a possibility for me. I will never have as many babies as I want but I find comfort knowing that I'm helping other children and families. I'm a mother to a few, but a milk-mother to many more.Some people were confused by me calling myself "a mother to a few," but honestly, that's what it feels like. I've really had to come to term with the fact that I'm going to have a "small" family—and, yes, I consider four a children "small" family. It's a smaller family than either Andrew or I grew up in. And we grew up in "normal" families. Number is relative, I suppose. But I'm still coming to terms that I probably won't have as many children as I wanted, but at least the possibility of one more is out there.
My dear friend Jenni said she understood completely—she has four children as well and whether she wanted to be or not she's completely finished having children. She suffered from placenta percreta with her last pregnancy so had a c-section where they took the baby and the works (placenta, uterus, basically everything).
I have another friend who had her seventh baby shortly after I had Rachel (my first baby). I remember her talking about how she didn't feel like their family was finished and how crushing it was that they weren't having any luck getting pregnant—with their eighth baby (who they did eventually have and is now about two years old, I believe).
Another friend has only been able to have one child. She wanted more—she wants more—and yet...no baby has come.
I don't know why some people seem to manage to pop them out every year or so (Julia, I'm looking at you!) or why others only get to have a few when they'd like more, or why others still carry baby after baby after baby only to have them die minutes after they're born, or why some people have a lot of miscarriages, or why some people are unable to conceive at all. Life's just like that, I guess, and we each find a way to handle the cards we're dealt.