A Year’s Worth of Pumped Milk Nearly Lost . . .
but not her support from the motherhood community
By Julian Jamie Alessandroni
Late Monday evening, Not Safe For Mom Group (nsfmg) founder, and moderator Alexis Barad-Cutler received an anonymous letter in her Inbox from a Nashville, Tennessee-based mom, who had suffered a loss to which many of us can relate. The mother explained how, in addition to the existing challenges COVID-19 has placed in front of many of us, she had also been through a series of natural disasters that had literally torn up her city. Wednesday (today) had been her fourth day living without any electricity, because of the storm. She had been storing her breastmilk in the freezer for a year, in anticipation of going back to work. And, now that COVID had left her husband without a job, she would be returning to work earlier than planned. Except, now, the loss of electricity meant that her hard-won milk supply would be in jeopardy:
“I would pat those full bags of milk as I stashed them in the freezer, feeling so flipping thankful they were there — and would help me provide my baby with breast milk even when I returned to work, or [in the event that] my supply dropped [from] being away from [my baby] . . . Now this stupid storm has stolen that comfort from me. I am devastated. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
I have been a longtime member of the (nsfmg) community and have recently taken on the role of Community Outreach. In my time on the back end of (nsfmg), I have witnessed true vulnerability first-hand, but this anonymous letter hit me hard. During my postpartum with my first child, I was unable to produce breast milk for seven days. I had a retained placenta and had to go into emergency surgery directly after she was delivered, and — due to the physical and mental trauma — was unable to produce. Reading the Original Poster’s (OP) words triggered feelings that I had pushed deep, deep down — that hit me like a tidal wave. I knew her story would resonate with our community, as well.
They say don’t cry over spilt milk, but this OP had me in tears. As my husband was outside playing with our two, young children — I sat on our ottoman choking back on the grief her words evoked in me.
“I despise pumping,” she wrote. “This was an act of love and sacrifice for my precious baby, and now it is wasted! I feel like I have been kicked in the gut. I am struggling more in this moment than I have with everything else that has happened since March, combined.”
But as my heart continued to sink, Alexis and I watched as an outpouring of support and love filled the (nsfmg) DM’s soon after we posted this mother’s words.
Overwhelmed would be an understatement for how I felt.
Despite how the world feels so upside down, despite how so many of us have experienced monumental losses, we are still able to selflessly come together as a community and offer helping hands. The more I read from mothers all over the world — offering their personal milk supplies, their hard-earned dollars, their freezer bags, and their words of advice — the more reaffirmed my belief in the power of mothers and our selfless, loving and nurturing abilities became — despite the crap show we are all personally experiencing.
Not even a global pandemic can stop us.
Filled with gratitude, the OP reached out to Alexis after reading the mass amount of replies:
“I was moved to tears this morning while reading the kind, and encouraging messages from other mothers when I cried out in despair over the power outage, thinking I would lose all of my stored breast milk. Thank you so much for providing a safe space for me to unleash everything I was feeling. I truly felt grief-stricken and had a primal urge to just start screaming. I have been through hard things and hard losses in my life, but that was truly one of the most laid low, desperate, furious, heart broken feelings I have ever felt…” She continued, “I am so grateful for the outlet you have provided in this space where I could just completely unravel without feeling pressure to put on a brave face or look for the silver lining. . .Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Everyone’s kind words were the balm my aching heart really needed right now!”
Luckily, since sending her first email, this mom had built the confidence to reach out to other families in her area for help. She was able to save her year’s supply of breast milk. And because she was so moved by the generosity of so many strangers, she suggested that if our community wanted to help other mothers or families struggling in the storm-ravaged TN area, that we might consider donating to places like the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville and The Martha O’Bryan Center.
This community is virtual. We do not see each other’s faces. We do not know each other’s names. Yet there is something incredibly special, here. We are able to reach a common ground no matter our background; our race; our gender; our beliefs. We are able to wear our hearts on our sleeves without shame or fear of judgement.
We are here — as mothers, as parents, as humans — building a bond like no other.
We may be Not Safe For Mom Group, but in many ways, these gestures make the world feel a little safer, and kinder — even when so many other factors are here to make us feel otherwise.
Anonymous, if you are reading this, thank you for giving us all this moment of gratitude for community. We are thinking of you.
Art by Vanja Vukelic.
Julian Jamie is the newest (and first!) formal addition to the Not Safe For Mom Group team. She’s a mom of two, living in a small French-speaking town in Canada — who Alexis would be lost without during this insane pandemic time. If you’ve had the pleasure of hearing from her via DM, you know she’s what we New Yorkers call a “mensch”.