Here’s a little-known celebration taking place in January: National Be On-Purpose Month. When I think about being “on purpose,” I consider how that fits into the vision of my blog: living life on purpose. So today, I’m sharing a story of how I wanted to live “on purpose” during the early season of motherhood–and how God presented me with the opportunity to do so beyond my own little family.
Growing up, my little brother and sister watched an after-school cartoon called “Duck Tales.” One particular day, the episode featured Uncle Scrooge regaling his nephews with a story about how there is a little hero inside all of us.
As a young teenager, I listened to that TV show, passing through to grab a snack on my way to finish homework. And I thought, “I have a little hero inside of me, too!” For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to give of myself to others.
One volunteer project stands out as truly special for me; I consider it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
This opportunity came about when I was a new mother caring for an infant son and wondering what else I could do with myself, my talents, and my time. I adored my child and felt thankful for this new season. I also longed to serve others in meaningful ways outside my family.
One night, I exclaimed to my husband, “I want to have more to show for my life than a million laundry loads of cloth diapers!”
So when I discovered a way to share myself that fit right into this new phase of life, I immediately embraced it.
One afternoon when Woodrow had just turned seven months old, my husband, baby, and I attended a reception for the birth center where I had given birth. After decades, this facility that had served thousands of women was closing, and we had come to say good-bye. While there, I noticed one mother wearing a t-shirt promoting attachment parenting.
Later that night, I looked up information on attachment parenting, curious to learn more. That search led me to an online group of attachment parents in our area. One of the moms on the site had posted details about a milk bank in the U.S. requesting donated mother’s milk.
You can donate breast milk? I thought. I didn’t realize this was possible. I went straight to the website for the milk bank and requested their information packet. I followed all the steps, got a blood test, completed the medical questionnaire, and waited to begin.
When I received the “all clear” along with a free pump for producing the milk donations, I could hardly wait to get started. At first, it was slow going. But I built up a supply over time—lots and lots of five-ounce white plastic bottles filled with “liquid gold” in our freezer.
Most every morning after nursing my own son, I would let him play near me on the floor or hold him on my lap as I pumped for the milk bank. Then I would wash all the parts and set them out to dry in preparation for the next pumping session. The process sometimes felt tedious and always felt time-consuming, but I knew my milk donations could help save babies’ lives. My milk, along with other milk donated to this bank, would go to hospitalized, premature infants who needed this nourishment. Because the mothers of these babies might not be able to produce milk yet—given the premature birth of their children—donor milk could make a significant difference in the health of these preemies.
Sending in the first batch of my donated milk in a big cooler packed with dry ice brought a sense of accomplishment. I believed so much in sharing with others the life-changing gift of my milk that I continued donating with the birth of my second child, too. When I finally completed my donations, I had given 56 bottles worth of breast milk—a little over 2 gallons.
Apart from a kind thank-you note from the milk bank (and a refrigerator magnet I still keep on the fridge door after almost 9 years), my milk donating garnered next to no attention. However, from my own kitchen—with one or sometimes two children playing at my feet—I helped change the lives of babies in need.
*For information on milk donation, check out the Human Milk Banking Association of North America’s website.