This article was originally submitted for the Jan/Feb 2014 Share newsletter.
By: Kimberly Clausen
On 1/12/13, I my son Aaren was born still at 38 weeks of pregnancy. It came as a complete shock as I had a healthy pregnancy and three other healthy children. I went in for a routine checkup, and there was no heartbeat. I refused an autopsy, and we don’t know why he died.
I’m a very strong advocate of breastfeeding. I was fortunate to have my lactation consultant from my previous children to be my doula during Aaren’s birth. I asked her about what happens to my milk and she commented that I could pump and donate it. My first reaction was that she was CRAZY!!! I had breastfed and pumped with my three other children and know all of the hard work and time that pumping involves. The thought of producing his milk was VERY heavy on my heart. Aaren was born around 2am and by 10am, I decided to pump his milk and donate it. From that moment on, I pumped continuously for the next 4 months! Aaren was born on a Saturday morning and by Tuesday, I already had milk stored up and was able to start donating it that day. The 2nd donation was even made on the day of his funeral.
Pumping my milk was more healing than I thought it would be. I did it four times a day for 10 minutes. Those 40 minutes became very precious to me. It allowed me to reflect upon everything that had happened. I cried and prayed during every pumping session. I prayed for Aaren in heaven, myself for strength and healing, and for all the babies that would be receiving the milk. It’s very therapeutic to have something positive come from such a traumatic event.
When I first started, I gave myself the goal of 6-8 weeks. I was able to pump for 11 ½ weeks, and my last day of pumping was on April 3. Since my milk was my last physical connection to Aaren, I was afraid that it would be hard to stop pumping. I slowly weaned myself off from the process and had no problems when I stopped. I was at peace with the whole process because I knew that it was time.
I was able to produce over 2,000 ounces of milk, which is equivalent to over 15 gallons! The pumping process helped me to deal with all of my grief in the beginning, and just recently my donations helped me to know that all of that hard work, love, and prayers I put into pumping was worth it. I know in my heart that Aaren is smiling down on me. I was able to donate locally to five babies that were special to me for various reasons. I was able to personally meet them and their mothers and share Aaren’s story with them. My other son, Aiden, was 17 months, and I gave him 5 ounces of his brother’s milk each day. I also donated to the Indiana Milk Bank because I wanted to be able to help preemies, too. My final donation was to a mother who adopted a baby in July. The baby’s first milk will be from Aaren. How AMAZING is that?!?
I wish more than anything in this world that I would have been able to give my milk to my precious baby, Aaren, but I feel blessed that I was able to do the next best thing by giving it to babies in need. Knowing that there are children living on this earth with a little piece of Aaren in them is very comforting to me. I hope I am able to inspire other moms or caregivers to at least be aware of the option to pump and donate milk after an infant loss. From people I’ve talked to and the stories and books I’ve read, it’s not really talked about or even suggested, and I hope that can change.
Below are links to two Facebook stories and a blog from the Indiana Milk Bank that have been written on my milk donations. The Facebook stories received over 1000 likes each! The comments are WONDERFUL and validated all of my hard work and my message of donating milk after a loss was heard. POWERFUL STUFF!
My husband and I made a music video of our precious moments with Aaren to share with our friends and family during his memorial service. The video was very comforting to make and has given us much healing by sharing it with others. We decided to put it on YouTube so other people can be inspired by it as well.