When the Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank opened in 2013, our first official donor was a special mama named Danna. At the time that Danna first reached out to us, she was a newly-bereaved mother. Her lovely son Sylas had passed away within an hour of birth, and now her milk had come in and she wasn’t sure what to do with it. “I didn’t want to just dump it down the drain,” she said. “But I wasn’t sure what to do with it.” Danna met with our clinical director Keri, after which she proceeded to pump three times a day for six weeks before gradually letting her supply run dry. Danna made the momentous decision to give all of her pumped ounces to the Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank, in order to help fragile babies in Oklahoma NICUs.
Danna was born in south-central Kansas in a small town called Medicine Lodge. She attended college in Topeka and then moved to Kansas City straight after college. More recently, she has relocated to the Oklahoma City metro area, but she had first learned about milk banks when she lived in Kansas City. Danna and her husband Sean had daughter Rosalyn, who is now three, before giving birth to Sylas. Danna said that she and her husband learned partway through the pregnancy that Sylas’ life would be cut short by a devastating condition. His brief hour of life has impacted many others, however, and Danna’s continued love for her son is obvious. She admitted feeling frustration and despair when her milk came in, with quite unfortunate timing, as she and her family were en route to Sylas’ funeral three days after his passing. Danna confessed that she was surprised; she had reasoned that if she did not have a child that she was nursing, then her milk would simply not come in. Simply put, the healthcare system failed Danna by not preparing her for the breast milk that was going to come even though her child was no longer there to consume it. Confused, sad, and engorged, Danna began pumping the milk. Not long into this process, she said that she remembered hearing of milk banks before, and she began researching to see if Oklahoma City had one. Luckily, the OMMB had just opened. Danna stated, “I couldn’t do anything to help my son, so being able to help someone else with their child was healing for me.”
Since becoming Donor #1, Danna has also become a donor again–this time with baby daughter Lyla, born in late March 2014. The circumstances behind her donation are much happier this time around, though it is in remembrance of Sylas and others like him that motivates many other breastfeeding mothers to donate. Donation from grief is a common story among donor mothers, though their losses are not always as profound as Danna’s. OMMB and its volunteers salute bereaved mothers who make the huge sacrifice to pump, often around the clock, for the critically-ill babies that OMMB serves. Each pumping session is no doubt a very visceral reminder of those they have lost. For her part, Danna says that she is glad that she donated in memory of Sylas. Not only did her milk help other babies, she said, but she also reaped the health benefits that come with breastfeeding. When we asked Danna if there was anything she wishes that she could do to make things easier for bereaved mothers, she automatically responded that she wished her postpartum healthcare providers had prepared her for the fact that her milk was going to come in, and give her options about what she could do. The lack of information she received, she said, was astounding. In addition, Danna also sees the need for Oklahoma healthcare professionals, such as obstetricians, midwives, nurses, pediatricians, and lactation consultants, to become aware of the OMMB and what it does for the infants and parents that it serves. She remarked with surprise that her physician hadn’t even heard of the OMMB. Readers, you’ve learned it here: let’s use Danna’s experience to help make things better for other bereaved moms. Though we can often do little to help in such a devastating situation, let’s do the best we can. By helping to raise awareness of the milk bank to medical providers that see children, pregnant women, and postpartum mothers (including bereaved ones), we can help babies and their mothers, one by one. Many thanks to Danna for her contributions, to both the milk bank and this post.