Wednesday, June 15, 2016

liquid gold

When Eleni died this January, our chest freezer was stocked with over 1000 ounces of breast milk.  One thousand ounces.  That's about 3/4 of a large chest freezer.  The only thing that went as I had expected during her babyhood was my milk supply.  Even though I was exclusively pumping, I had enough to feed her 100% breastmilk every day that she was allowed to eat.  And although her food went in via a tube into her stomach, I was proud to be feeding her the very best nutrition.  This one thing, just as it should be.

6-30 with grandma

Maybe that's why there was so much.  I wasn't going to let go of getting this part right.  In case my supply should suddenly plummet, I was prepared.

But after she died that milk, Eleni's milk, was hers no longer.  It belonged to other babies.  I knew that, and I was eager to find it a home.  Within weeks a few moms, connections from milk sharing boards, came by to pick up that liquid gold.  Every one of them didn't bring enough bags, ice chests, ice packs.  There was just so much, so, SO much.

Sprout mini quilt {project}

I'll never forget one mom in particular, whose baby was about 9 months old, so near Eleni's age.  She had driven over an hour to pick up the milk, with her baby in tow.  She had been breastfeeding, but everything stopped when she became unexpectedly pregnant.  (A sharp jolt of jealousy for two healthy babies.)  Now her baby was refusing all substitutes.  The closest thing she could buy that her baby would drink was goat's milk, not quite nutritionally ideal.  Her little girl was small, not chubby.  I was glad to give her my milk.  As they packed up to leave her mother prompted, "Give Rachel a smile!"  And the little cherub grinned so beautifully, so quickly, effortlessly.

I made it back to my porch before breaking down in racking sobs.  Something so kindly offered hurt so deep.  I think that Eleni's smile was, in the end, all I was hoping for.

Sprout mini quilt {project}

I took a break from giving away the milk then, until this last weekend when another mom came to pick up the rest.  Her son has a genetic condition that prevents his body from properly processing fats other than those from human breastmilk.  She took the milk for her son and for another little girl with the same condition.  These children struggle to grow physically and to maintain health given their digestive challenges.  We chatted comfortably about frequent hospitalizations and family transitions when a medically complex child becomes a part.  In our conversation it came up that Eleni had not been able to swallow.  The mom asked shocked, "Since birth?"  "...Yes."  And I realized, clumsily, that she was surprised.

After she left, I glumly reflected that my child's disabilities were something even this special needs mom took for granted.  Eleni was so severely disabled.  And then later on I remembered that I often took for granted that she could grow.  My baby actually grew a little faster than her siblings had.  She seemed to comfortably digest her food.  Her body was round and beautiful.  These critical gifts that others struggled with, I took for granted.

Sprout mini quilt {project}

Each of us has something, many things more likely, that others lack.  Each of us has some treasure we take for granted and more than enough of it for ourselves.  It may be tangible:  home, fabric scraps, food, family, money.  Or it may be something we forget we own because we cannot capture it on Instagram or touch it with our hands.  Excellent health.  Extra time.  Effortless hope.

Sprout mini quilt 
{project}
 

I don't wish loss on anyone, though loss does show us what we have.  Instead I wish for us to be people that open our hands to share with those who are hurting.  Not all things that are lacking can be given.  Some emptiness is too profound to fill.  But, when my treasure is within my power to give, may I be a person who gives - thankful when it is that easy.

 Sprout mini quilt {project}

p.s.  The project in this post is another pattern included in Patchwork from Scraps, my online class running July 4 - August 4.  Registration opens on Monday morning, about 9 am eastern time!

p.s.s.  Making for this class has reminded me how fortunate I am to have a bountiful library of fabric scraps.  In the spirit of sharing, I will ship complimentary handpicked scrap packs sufficient for making a Sprout mini quilt to the first 5 class registrants (U.S. or Canadian) who indicate they are short on scraps.  xoxo

63 comments:

  1. Gorgeous gorgeous lady xxxxxx

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  2. Your heartfelt comments are so appreciated. And you are right to remind us to be thankful for the many things that we all take for granted.

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  3. I don't comment nearly often enough, but I want to tell you that I find you to be very inspiring & genuine... God bless you for giving that precious milk away... ❤️

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  4. Gah, *crying at work* again! What a beautiful story. The gift of milk to babies that need it may be such a no brainer to you with your freezer full of it but to them, it was the world. I realized when I nursed my babies how good it made me feel to nourish them.

    Continued prayers for you and your new little life!

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    1. Thank you for your well wishes, Kristin. Sorry about the crying at work ;)

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  5. Such a sweet thing to do, to donate the milk to babies in need! Love your Sprout mini!

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  6. It may be different for each of us but it is always good to remember how much there is to be thankful for. You have wonderful insight, Rachel.

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    1. So true - it is different for all of us. And what is easy for one to give is hard for another, sometimes for very good reasons. I hope I have avoided making generalities or making anyone feeling guilted. I just wanted to share these formative moments with you all.

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  7. You have written so beautifully about something that must still be terribly raw for you, I hope that writing this post has helped you a little to process your feelings and emotions.

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  8. A flowerless stem, waiting for a blossoming flower to grow. 8 leaves. Each with layers of progress.

    Your little girl smiled at you, in her heart and her eyes. Eleni left this earth too early for comprehension by those she left behind. Your selfless act of donating her milk to others is such a strong thing to do.

    Smile Mumma, your little girl loves you.

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  9. Rachel - what a touching story and sentiment. You must realize that you already share treasures with us. Your creativity and talent, your teaching, your journey. You mustn't feel that you don't. If it is not enough and you feel that this is something more you are meant to do, I recommend looking up Jeff Goins - The Art of Work. He has found a process that lets us realize what we are meant to do. Often finding that is preceded by loss. Peace on your journey. Take care of and be kind to yourself.

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  10. I cried, again, at the sadness and beauty of your story. I will say a little prayer for Eleni.

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  11. Thank you for the reminder and the courage to share your story.

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  12. Thank you for sharing in so many ways. Such beauty and kindness.

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  13. Awwww. It is so sweet to see adorable Eleni.
    When we can, we have to share. I never thought there would be a network for needed breast milk. I am so glad that you had it. I am so very glad that you could share it with babies that needed it.
    I am really really so proud to know you. I love you Rachel.♥️

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  14. I have never heard your voice but I hear the strength and wisdom as I read your words : words that can only be spoken through a heart that has suffered and grown from the deepest of pain. Your experiences have touched so many. As always, thank you for letting us in.

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    1. I appreciate your comment, Karen. I am only now becoming truly, fully happy for the ways Eleni's life has blessed others. For so long, it was hard to accept that her pain and suffering was helping others because it seemed like a poor trade off. Now it just "is" rather than being a trade off. I'm so grateful to have a place where I can share so that her suffering can mean something to many.

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  15. Racel you are so inspirational. Elani went to exactly the right Mom. You were incredible. I'm sorry you cried again but soon you will have a new little life and for this I am really grateful. I love the look of your new class. It is new isn't it? Sorry you won't mail your scraps to England but I shall still sign up. Lots of Love Patti xxxxxx

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    1. Patti, Yes, sorry about the scraps to England. I am hoping to get away with mailing from my house, rather than going to the post office. =) Patchwork from Scrap is indeed a new class. I will share more details with a class outline on Monday!

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  16. Thank you so much for sharing, for such beautiful words, and for the reminder that we all have something others lack, and that it is so easy to take those blessings for granted. I kissed my five-year-old son's forehead and handed him over to an anesthesiologist for the 41st time today, and it took me many years to begin to learn this lesson, the beauty that can be found in medical struggles. For so long, it seemed so much easier to fixate on what we didn't have, than the beauty we'd been given, and we've been given so much! I truly am amazed at your ability to write so powerfully about what you have been through, and the way you pull the good and the beauty out and shine a light on that. (And I totally identify with the swallowing issues! For me it was the flip, though--when my daughter was born, I thought it was the strangest thing in the world that she could swallow right off the bat!)

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  17. Sweet Angel Elani is smiling down at your good deeds and is so happy for you to share the milk that was once destined for her. Mothers always look for anything positive, even with a severely disabled wee one. Bless you and thank you for sharing your inner most thoughts and feelings. It was endearing to see her picture again.

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  18. Beautiful, beautiful thoughts. Thanks for sharing again. I do love reading your words. I'm so glad you get to try again. xxx

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  19. 1000 ounces!! That's incredible! When my preemie baby learned to breastfeed and was discharged from the NICU 35 days after birth, and after attaining the huge weight of 4lb 2oz, I was able to stop pumping and found myself with an excess of about 225oz of milk. I was incredibly lucky to not have to bottle feed ever, and I was so glad that I was able to donate my extra milk to a medical milk bank where it would help other preemie babies. Your huge amount of milk puts my measly amount pretty much to shame, but so much more than that, I honour you for your generosity in giving despite your grief, and for giving despite the awful reason you had all the extra milk to give away in the first place. 💔

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  20. I was so in need of your words tonight. I have felt a real yearning since the tragic events in Orlando to search for what it is I have to give to make the world a better place. I'm still searching but am hopeful that I will find some "milk" to share. Still missing Eleni and am shedding a few tears with you. God bless.

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  21. What a beautiful act of mercy, giving your milk away to babies in need.

    "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink..." Matthew 25:35

    God bless you, Rachel, for giving a part of yourself - and Eleni - to those in need. Your little Eleni is still touching lives, even from heaven.

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  22. you have such a beautiful spirit.

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  23. I've been reflecting on the word "treasure." Usually people want to hoard it, protect it and defend it. But you have shown God's loving grace and generosity in giving it away. Some part of you and Eleni is living on in others. Thank you for posting such a beautiful and heart-rending experience,

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  24. Thank you for sharing your touching story with us.

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  25. (((hugs))) and prayers

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  26. Your articulation of your life with and without Eleni is a beautiful testament to you, your family and precious Eleni. I don't know you except through this blog but I am so proud of you. Know that sounds silly but I'm not sure I would have your grace in a similar situation. Thank you.

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  27. I have TONS of scraps. If you want me to put together some bags for thus project, kept me know amounts, sizes, etc. jerisew@aol.com. Hugs.

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  28. Each time I read your beautiful words I am left speechless.

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  29. I love the peacefulness of beautiful Eleni in the picture. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today. You always write so beautifully and descriptively - so I feel the emotion of what you are thinking and feeling. It's not an easy thing to do. I'm thankful you have a safe place to share.
    Take care, LauraT

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    1. I so appreciate your comments about my writing, Laura. I too am very grateful that I have this place to share. It has made a huge difference in my ability to cope over the last year. In part I write pieces like this to remember, to record for my own self. But, of course, also to share with others who might identify with bits or pieces of my story and feel they are not alone.

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  30. Thank you for sharing your story with us. This is my first visit to your blog, and I am touched deeply. I admire your strength and insight, and your perseverance.
    My daughter lives 3,000 miles away from me, but during her recent visit, we kept returning back to the concept of "abundance." We both came to the realization that we need to focus on the abundance in our lives, rather than the lack.
    Your words encourage a person to feel their abundance, and to share it with the world.
    Love the project!

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  31. Thank you for sharing, my friends' little boy, Rick, had microencephaly and his short life had such an effect on those who knew him. I'm sure Eleni's spirit did to for her short time... my heart goes out to you and you are so right in what you have written.

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  32. Thank you Rachel for always giving and sharing yourself with us. You are a treasure. You make a difference in our lives with your words. May God bless you the way you bless others.

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  33. You are an amazing lady! Your thoughts are profound and I thank you for sharing your heart with us! God bless you!

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  34. "But, when my treasure is within my power to give, may I be a person who gives - thankful when it is that easy." Immediate tears. This is such a powerful statement. Thank you for continuing to share so raw and honest. I may never meet you in person, but I can say without a doubt that you have one of the most beautiful hearts. xo

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  35. You're such a great person for sharing your/Eleni's mil with these other babies now who need it. I don't know if you really realize what a big impact you and Eneli have on other people's life but you both do and you give a lot courage to others. Thanks for that.

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    1. Thank you, Hildy. Though I feel compelled to say, for the record, that many, many moms share their milk. In some ways it wasn't hard for me to give this, because I didn't need it any longer. I even more admire those who give sacrificially!

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  36. Rachel, you are such an awesome person. Easy to see why God picked you for Eleni. Thank you for bringing so much to my life and helping me grow. I hope you see what a positive gracious impact you have on the lives of others. blessings.

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  37. You did such a beautiful thing for Eleni by providing your breastmilk - it's more than liquid gold, it's liquid mother's love! I can only imagine it was wrenching to share it but it is a great gift from you and from Eleni to another child. Hugs.

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  38. I have been so enjoying your blog. my heart breaks for you. what a wonderful blessing you have been to many children. we lost a granddaughter over thanksgiving. a traffic accident. so my heart is still very tender. there have been so many tender mercies shown my son and his family. but to read your journey of Eleni where you have been a tender mercy to others is inspiring. I know it's hard. you have been in my prayers.....

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  39. That was a beautiful post. And lovely to see Eleni's face again. I'm sure she's smiling over you all in some way now.

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    1. Oh, thank you Jane! I'm glad you all don't mind seeing her picture now and then =)

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  40. Loved this so, so much. Thank you.

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  41. Well I was not going to read this story because I knew it would make me cry! Not only did it do that, it made me think about how blessed I am. I lost my husband 3 yrs ago this Tuesday and I donated everything I possibly could. I know he saved a lot of burn victims (this I was told) and it did my heart good. I would much rather give than to receive. Thank you for being such an inspiration to us all. My thoughts and prayers are with you! May the Lord Bless you always!!

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  42. I have one sister who had the same issue. My dad took his family to LA to do his Masters but he managed to finish it and bring us all back so that my little sister could meet her grandparents before she pass on. I was too small to remember all this.

    Anyway, a year later the first of three brothers came along a year apart.

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  43. So poignant and beautiful, Rachel! I am so glad you were able to find a home for that priceless milk. As a mom who had to pump for 4 preemie NICU babies, I know exactly how precious that liquid gold is. Gold doesn't even begin to describe it. I've come to think of it more like blood - it's something my mother body produces that nothing else can. It was always so completely frustrating to me when others who kindly helped care for my babies would waste it quite carelessly, like it was baby formula that could be fetched from the store. THere's just no explaining it unless you've been an exhausted mom who's gone to the effort of pumping and storing it, desperate to do "that one thing right." Your gift to those other mothers and babies is immeasurable. And I love your incredibly mature insight about all of us having our own treasures. It's true. I hope I am open handed and generous with mine, too. Thank you for your thoughts. And hugs!!! Joy alongside the pain, right?

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  44. As always, Rachel, your gift of expression fills me with warmth, and hope, and reminds me of just what's important and what's not! Enjoy your weekend, honey.

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  45. God will richly bless you for the good you are doing! When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, I was single; trying to keep the status quo the same for my (legally adult college age) children; and just get from day to day. Six weeks later, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was 51 years old and hair to my waist because it was just easy to pull it back out of the way. Before I started treatment, I had my hair cut. The stylist told me that my hair was so long and so thick that she thought, there might be enough hair for two wigs for children. I didn't even realize that I was going to have alopecia when I went through chemo. I didn't even know what protocol we were going to use. After chemo and radiation, my hair came in naturally curly, especially in the back. The front is, if I keep is pretty short. I have grown my hair out twice and donated that hair, also. The last time I had it cut for donation, I decided at 64, I didn't want to grow my hair again. I wanted short hair for the ease of it and it is hot, hot, hot already this summer in OK. Then I realized that God has still blessed me with thick hair (even though I still take an anti-cancer drug which thins the hair and can cause hair loss - since I'm high risk for recurrence). I decided that I think I have at least one more donation in me. So, I'm on that journey again. I have a friend that has thin hair and has it down to her shoulders. I've only known her a couple of years - we met at Grief Share when we both lost our husbands. I think with her thin hair, she'd look better with a short cut. It's not my business - it's her hair and she's apparently with it. I have lots of health issues and when I signed my driver's license the last time, I marked that I was an organ donor. I don't know what the doctors could use for someone else. If one person can benefit from me, then I've done what I think I'm supposed to do. I can at least try. Who knows? My skin might be of use, if nothing else. What a great gift your family gave to others! I applaud you and your message to others. I'm sure I've missed many, many opportunities to give. It's not always a material thing we can give either - some people need a smile, a hug, or friendship.

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  46. Your thoughts always touch me ..I often end up in tears. But what you have to say also lifts up our souls and shines light in the darkness. Thank you Rachel.

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  47. Rachel, lovely post. Thank you for the reminder....sincerely

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  48. Thank you for sharing your story My baby died, too.

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  49. Such a beautiful post and inspiring message. Thank you. Bless you.

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  50. Oh Rachel. You are a wonderful person, always fortifying the intentions and aspirations of your friends and followers. I am confident your kindnesses will be repaid, pressed down and shaken together to overflowing! A belated happy hug to you and yours for your new wee one!

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  51. That picture of your baby girl is so precious. Also precious is what you have done for others. What a gift you are able to bestow thanks to your precious daughter. May the Lord bless you.

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  52. So beautiful - I see babies everyday and know to never take things for granted. How wonderful that you can share with so many in need. Inspiring thoughts. So sorry for your loss.

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  53. Beautiful story indeed. When you said the Baby smiled quickly I thought of Eleni and tears formed in my eyes know that's something you wanted from Eleni. She was so beautiful. Because of Eleni you were able to provide to so many others the gift of love and life. May God Bless and wrap in his love.

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