Saturday, September 24, 2011

From Despair to Donation: A Mother Loses Her Baby and Shares His Milk


"Liquid Gold" Milk & Colostrum ~ Jude's Milk, pumped by his mom, Jennifer, and donated to Brazilian babies.

No one could do justice to the story that Jennifer Coias has to share: her hope-filled pregnancy, VBAC waterbirth plans, the loss of her baby at 35 weeks, subsequent weeks of waiting for him to arrive on his own (induction post-cesearean is dangerous), being dropped by both her midwife and OB, struggling to find someone to take an ultrasound picture of her baby, being dropped by her birth photographer, her subsequent gentle HBAC (home birth after cesarean) with a midwife found at the last minute, all the while living in a South American country far from home, friends and family, in an area where few understood or supported her belief in birth and trust in her body and her baby. No one could tell her story of all that she has endured, overcame, processed, learned, and continues to struggle through today - 9 days postpartum. No one, that is, except for Jennifer herself. She is writing, and plans to share with the peaceful parenting community when the time is right. But for now, without detailing all the momentous moments that have led up to this week, we'd like to celebrate the amazing gift that Jennifer is giving back to the world. Even in the midst of tears and pain, liquid gold flows forth, and through this, Jennifer is saving the lives of babies around her.

Today marks the beginning of World Milksharing Week. It is also the day Jennifer has pumped the most milk yet to share -- milk that was meant for Jude, but that which is now graciously given to babies in need, in his honor. A few days postpartum, a local Brazilian milk bank made its first stop at Jennifer's house to drop off bottles and pick up bags which she'd filled. While there are many milk banks across Brazil, actual pumps and pumping supplies are hard to come by, and very expensive when available. Most mothers who donate milk do so from hand expression and do not have a significant amount to give. Milk bank workers were astonished the following day when Jennifer had not only filled all their containers, but additional bags as well. This type of gift does not happen often, and everyone was thrilled at the quantity and quality of little lives that would be powerfully impacted as a result.

This past Wednesday, Jennifer pumped 29 ounces. Today, she finished with 40.5 ounces of her perfect milk. And she has been doing all of this with an old, used, broken pump -- one held together by a contraption she rigged with a bungee cord. Few people use pumps in Brasilia, and the cost of living (including purchasing or ordering items) is astronomical. The nearest location Jennifer could rent a much needed pump from was Sao Paulo. The price tag? $300.00 for the first month alone.

We brainstormed ways to help - to meet the need. We had to get Jennifer a hospital grade pump so she could get her milk up and going and put it to baby-saving use, and quickly. To rent a pump in the States and ship it would cost almost as much as renting within Brazil. It would also not be guaranteed to reach Jennifer for the next two weeks, Brazil charges a 100% customs fee on all imported items, it could be held for questioning at customs, and if any damage was done, it would need to be replaced (a $2,000.00 fee). As the result of many of these factors, few people living in Brazil have friends or family mail things to them. In fact, Jennifer has grown accustomed to bringing needed items back with her via plane when she is home in the States for visits.

With engorgement and clogged ducts setting in, and a pump barely hanging on, family and friends gathered resources and ideas, and put out a call for those willing to help on Jennifer's Facebook support page (found here at Facebook.com/Love4JC). Through heart-felt donations from individuals, including a couple mothers who had lost babies of their own, intactivists Jennifer had worked with in the past (the Barefoot Intactivist, among others), and a gift from The International Breastfeeding Symbol Store, we were able to secure a quality pump for Jennifer, as well as a few much needed breast shields and supplies. The pump is currently on its way via flight (with a friend) to Brazil and we all hope it will be in Jennifer's hands soon.

While there is so much more to this story to tell, we simply had to take a step back to look in awe at the hero Jennifer is. Truly, she is the epitome of all that World Milksharing Week represents: liquid love bottled for any baby and mother in need.


If you would like to help Jennifer and her family, find the tab below. She has yet to be able to cover her birth bill as a result of the unexpected (and extensive) costs of cremation and mandatory funeral home charges for her sweet baby, Jude. While there is often reprieve of these charges for little ones lost in the States, such programs to help parents whose babies pass away are not available in Brazil. She still hopes to acquire a special urn for her baby's ashes. ♥
Related Reading:

Love & Light for Jennifer Coias & Family

My Heart: For Jennifer

World Milksharing Week Homepage

Breastmilk Donation Resource Page

Human Milk 4 Human Babies

Eats on Feets 

Milkshare 

Joshua's Story: Why I Chose Another Mother's Milk

20 comments:

  1. Hi,

    I tried to post a comment just a few moments ago, but it was lost. I will try again.

    Thank you for getting Jennifer's story out in the world. It's an important story to tell. I, too, will be writing about her on September 30, in honor of World Milksharing Week.

    Thank you also for mentioning my site and its contribution. That was very appreciated.

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  2. What an amazing woman. Lots of love and healing to her and her family.

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  3. What an amazing woman. I've been following her story but it still breaks my heart every time I read about her.

    I pray this mama receives peace in knowing she is saving so many precious babies with her actions.

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  4. To date, we have received the milk of more than 10 mommas. In two of those cases, the milk was from mommas whose sweet baby boys had died. Jennifer, from all of the mommas whose babies you are/will be feeding, thank you!!!! You are such a blessing to them.

    http://lessonsfromaninfertilesocialworker.blogspot.com/

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  5. What an amazing selfless lady. My thoughts are with her.

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  6. This story gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing, strong woman.

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  7. What a brave, selfless woman.

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  8. I'm gonna cry, I can't read all of this right now. Jennifer is an amazing woman and I wish her so much healing and love.

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  9. How awful to be dropped by all of her support. I can't imagine dropping a birth client of mine because I didn't want to photograph a stillborn birth. In fact, since I am a NILMDTS photographer ( www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org ), I offered to photograph a birth 2 weeks ago for a mama birthing a stillborn. They declined, but I took photos afterwards.

    The babies receiving this mother's precious milk are so blessed. I am sorry she didn't receive the professional photographs she deserved, but glad she found a midwife to attend her.

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  10. I lost my first and only child, Jason Patrick, at 32 weeks gestation on July 24, 2007. I homebirthed him unassisted in my bathtub. I subsequently wet nursed and donated milk to the adopted baby of a neighborhood woman with cancer. He got my milk for 18 months! Much love to Jennifer and family, hopefully our boys make friends in heaven.

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  11. I still have the breastpump I used in 2010 for my son. Is there a way it can be donated for another mother to use? It was a very nice one (Medela double pump in a backpack)

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  12. I barely have words but wanted to post my support for this brave generous woman. What I'd really like to do is embrace her. What a wonderful selfless thing she is doing in the midst of her devastating loss. An example to humankind. Thanks for sharing her story.

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  13. Like my friend JoEllen - lost her little boy when he was three months and one day old to a congenital heart disease. She's pumping every ounce of Mama milk she can and is donating it. Though her loss was recent she says that donating her milk is helping her heal one ounce at a time.

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  14. OH MY ive cried for her loss and cried tears of wonder for this amazing gift she is giving. What a fantastic woman.

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  15. Amazing...a selfless act of kindness that so many mammas and bubbas will appreciate.

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  16. Some things we take for granted. We take our healthy babies for granted, our access to supplies, & our medical services available. I can't imagine how much her loss hurts. I hope she finds peace by donating her milk.

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  17. This is truly an amazing story. It's almost like a little piece of baby Jude lives on in every baby that thrives by drinking his milk. This is so inspiring. I will post this and hopefully more donations will come. It's so terrible that the burden of the expenses would fall on such a selfless woman.

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  18. Jennifer is a hero! Such an amazing story. Sending prayers to her and baby Jude.

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  19. This is very an inspirational story, despite of what happened to her baby, she still decided to donate her mil to other, This kind of story is really remarkable and worth reading. Thank you so much for sharing this story to us, you really let us be inspired by this story.

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  20. Is there any way to donate a pump. i have one i don't use & often find second hand ones here in UK for 5$. I'd love to help! ramani09@aol.com

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