This past holiday season my family was able to take a rare and much needed vacation to fly around and visit family we don’t get to see very often.
We were gone for about 18 days!
I was faced with the situation of traveling with breastmilk and pumping on the go.
Normally I look for a milk recipient where I am staying, or bring milk home to donate but in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria I’ve heard of the desperate need for breastmilk in Puerto Rico. As many may be aware, the hurricane devastated the island and recovery will be long and hard. Even to this day there are continuing power issues and much of the island still uses generators. Many people lost all ability to keep refrigerator and freezer power. No freezers mean no way to store breastmilk and hundreds of mamas lost what they had for their little ones and what there was to share with others. The ability to plug in to pump became an issue for many mothers and caused some to wean from pumping to donate or exclusively pumping altogether. This also contributes to a mass breastmilk shortage in Puerto Rico.
After careful preparation and planning I was able to donate just over 3,500 oz sent to Family in Puerto Rico. Originally it was to go to family and friends of family in need as inquiries went out for recipients. There was careful planning as to freezer space and power availability.
Finding Out Where My Milk Went
When returning home from my travels, when my last flight landed and I turned on my phone a message popped up on messenger from a family member in PR who was the caretaker for a good portion of the milk donated.
Part of her message was this:
“Greetings Elisabeth! I hope you have arrived at your house, are resting and have not had any difficulties pumping milk. Let me tell that today you and a young stranger made my day. I went to pick up your milk at Abuela’s house, with the plan to take it to my cousin and his girlfriend, for their 3-week-old baby. On the way to my dad’s house to pick up Leo, Lisa calls to tell me that a father called her, from Dr. Mario Ramírez reference (who is a pediatrician and lactation expert) since she had written the Dr. about your case and that you would be sending milk to PR in case a mother needed your milk.
Lisa asks me if I already had the milk because the father who called is a young widower, with a 3-month-old baby in search of breast milk.
Immediately Lisa and I identified with the guy and his story broke our hearts. Initially I gave half of the milk, but after giving it a little spin in the head I spoke with my cousin and I saw that his baby does not have the need for your milk at this time and I decided to donate it to the father. This family is so incredibly grateful for the donation of milk. So much so that I saw the young man with his watery eyes and he told me that he even wanted to hug me in gratitude … and I gave him a tight hug. I felt so happy, as if I had donated my milk (but without the work).
Although you have a “disease”, for many it is a gift and a blessing since you help so many small and large babies/kids/parents in their basic nutrition, health and plans for the future. So thank you very much from the young man and from our side.”
I WAS IN TEARS.
This is the first time I’ve been made aware of my breastmilk going to a baby who lost his mother through childbirth and my heart aches. I cannot fathom the pain and loss. I want to hold and snuggle this child and tell him that he is perfect and loved. That his mother is an angel that left him here for all to love and cherish while she looks over them all.
I’ve since learned that the fathers name is Guardín Sosa. A young father who is doing the best job possible for his children after the loss of his wife during a difficult childbirth. He is doing what he believes his wife would want for their son and in his own words “I just want the best possible for Joaquín and will continue as long as possible.”
This means providing their son with breastmilk.
Guardin has been purchasing breastmilk from the US at the price of $750 for approximately a weeks worth of milk.
This in addition to rush shipping costs is taking its toll financially on the family who is still grieving the loss of an amazing wife and mother.
There are other options available to get more breastmilk to little Joaquín, including mine but at this point assistance is needed for shipping costs and ensuring that the family’s freezer has power at all times.
This Father Needs Help
I’ve created a fundraising campaign to assist this family while fulfilling the wishes Joaquín’s mother would have had.
I ask that if you are able to, please consider this amazing family. Share this story. It takes a village, and even more so in this situation.