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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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