In thinking about my own fertility experiences—getting pregnant, having babies, nursing babies, return to fertility after the babies—my heart went straight to one of my stories that really isn’t about any of those things. My husband and I joke that he could sneeze on me, and I would get pregnant. Five deliveries in seven years—this was a blessing as we desired a large family.
During the third trimester of my third pregnancy, I wasn’t feeling our baby girl move as strongly, then one day her movements just stopped.
Our worst fear came true—our dear baby girl passed away in my womb. The next twenty-four hours were some of the most difficult moments of my life—knowing that we were going to deliver a baby, but unable to bring her home in our arms.
Our children would meet their sister, but only hold her once. We loved on her for a short time, but will not see her again until we are face to face with Jesus. Following her delivery, we spent sixteen hours with Suzy Katherine—holding her, skin to skin, rocking her, praying over her, introducing her big sister and big brother to Suzy. We cherished and celebrated her little life even in death—because, if we are honest, no matter what God’s plan for us—how much time He gives us here–this is the story of every single one of us.
Upon returning home, there were moments that I could barely breathe because of my broken heart.
Then day three came and so did my milk. This sign of life on the third day was Jesus pursuing me in the most beautiful way. You see, my body was used to producing milk for our babies and thought that I was still supposed to give it to baby Suzy. I had a hard talk with the lactation consultant. She advised me that I could let it dry up or pump and donate, which was unfamiliar to me.
My body could not sustain the life of my baby anymore, but this gift—Suzy’s and mine— could be nourishment for another baby. The sacrifices of motherhood and the crosses that Jesus offers us in this life collided in my broken heart as one of the most difficult, but restorative choices I have ever made.
Because, as a Catholic. . .as a follower of Christ, I know that every cross brings new life.
I spoke to my husband, and we both agreed that if my body could gift her milk to other babies in need, then I should give it a go. The first few times I pumped, I cried and cried, telling myself that this milk should be for Suzy. I prayed through the intercession of our Mother Mary, and her mother, Saint Anne—that I would feel peace in my heart. Slowly, my heart began to soften. Donating Suzy’s milk was a way for us to help other babies in need. It was a chapter of my grieving process that consoled me at times.
In grief, it’s hard to see past the immediate and intense sensation of sadness. It’s difficult to see any hope. However, that’s why we have the gift of faith—being able to trust in something, even when we cannot see. We are also given moments of grace that affirm our hope and faith.
With time, my grieving changed. Of course we still have a hole in our hearts that weeps from time to time, but I believe that milk donation was part of the healing process for me.
“Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 618