Katie Garza, an MMBA milk donor, ambassador, and Mrs. United States 2015, shares her very moving story and explains why she is dedicating her year to promoting milk banking and fundraising for the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin's Charitable Care Program.
As Mothers, our natural instinct is to nurture and protect all babies, not just our own. Every donor Mom has an incredible story behind what motivates her to donate, because let me tell you, pumping around the clock is no walk in the park. This is my story:
At 30 weeks pregnant with my first child, I awoke in screaming pain. I was told that it was labor, and thankfully the doctors were able to stop the contractions. After three weeks of bed rest and constant labor, Phoenix Madilyn would wait no more. Delivery was the scariest moment of my life. We had no idea what to expect or whether our girl would make it. She was born crying, and for a moment I cried tears of joy. Within minutes the crying stopped, and the doctors spoke in hushed voices while my tears of joy turned to heartbreak. She wasn't breathing on her own.
Within her first hours of life my teeny baby went from the comfort and security of the womb to being intubated and life flighted to Texas Children's level 3 NICU. I couldn't touch her. I couldn't hold her. And like most NICU Moms, I couldn't provide her with the milk she needed despite every effort.
During the hours spent in the NICU, we got to know the nurses and fell in love with her baby buddies. We were filled with joy at the successes, and heartbreak when things went wrong. Phoenix was 4lbs 4oz - huge compared to the rest of the babies in her pod. Some babies had Mommy with them around the clock, while other babies were alone. Having an infant in the NICU can cause post-traumatic stress and there are many things to be said on this topic, but I will save that for another story.
Breast milk is the single most powerful medicine a medically fragile infant can receive. Not only is it superior nutrition, it also has healing power. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the leading cause of death in preterm infants, and can be preventable with breast milk. If the Mother’s milk is not available, human donor breast milk is the next best thing. I wish I had known of this option. Maybe if Phoenix and the other babies received donor milk they would have been more comfortable, grew stronger, and came home sooner.
During our time in the NICU, I desperately needed to help my baby and the babies around her. There was nothing that I could do at that time, but now there is. Phoenix is now a healthy six year old with a brand new baby sister, Aubrey. I started pumping as soon as Aubrey was born with a goal to strengthen my supply and donate to NICU babies. These babies can only receive breast milk from a milk bank, so I chose to donate to my local non-profit HMBANA milk bank, the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin.
More importantly, I want to make sure that the families whose babies have a medical need to receive my donor milk never have to pay for it if they cannot afford it. So I fundraise to ensure that every baby receives breast milk at no cost to them, regardless of their insurance coverage through Charitable Care.
I also want to make sure that Moms KNOW about donor breast milk, because so many simply aren't aware (like myself). We are now working on an outreach and education program to touch every NICU Mom nationwide.
The taller my soap box, the farther our voices can be heard! As Mrs. United States my soap box is huge, and is opening doors to help get the message out for our preemies. The goal is to get more milk to more babies, and I am out there pounding the pavement, crown in hand (with pump breaks every 3 hours:).