Capable and Strong After Pregnancy Loss: Dana’s Milk Donation Story was originally published by Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast on October 18, 2021. We are honored to share Dana’s story here on Our Milky Way with permission.
Photo credit to the author and Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. Enjoy!
My name is Dana Scarantino, and my husband Domenic Salvemini and I have been together for eight years, married for four.
Two years ago this month we finally got the happy news we’d been hoping for for almost a year, a positive pregnancy test. We were elated, and dreamed about our future as a family, and how we’d tell everyone over the holidays about the baby we were due with in June. In mid-December, I had a missed miscarriage at 12 weeks, and a D&C the very next day. We were heartbroken to say the least, and had to wait a few months to be physically and emotionally ready to try again. Then came COVID, and when things were still looking like a lockdown would be short-lived, we made the call to try to conceive again. In April 2020, we got another positive pregnancy test.
A new start after pregnancy loss
Pregnancy after loss, compounded with the pandemic, was so anxiety riddled and stressful, but luckily our babe was healthy, growing perfectly, and was due January 1, 2021, a beautiful start to a new year. But this babe had other plans! Ten days after her due date, after trying everything possible to kickstart labor naturally, my OB/GYN team scheduled me for an induction. I had already begun to mourn the birth preferences I’d envisioned, but came to realize that “here and healthy” had been the goal the whole time, especially after the loss of our first.
Getting induced, more preferences went out the window. I was very slow to dilate, got an infection with a 104 fever from my water breaking, and the team found the baby’s first stool in my amniotic fluid, so off to surgery we went, with the NICU team on standby. Lydia Michele Salvemini was born via C-section, 13 days late on January 14, and came out perfect. But because she’d spent so much time on the inside, we were too slow to get a dirty diaper, and the doctors told us we had to supplement with formula. I was so disappointed; my body kept “failing” me with everything not going according to plan, and now my milk wasn’t enough to sustain little Lydia.
Building milk supply
So I kicked into determined-mom-mode and tried every tip and trick: I power pumped, had her skin-to-skin and latching every chance I could, and got my supply to a place where it was great, only having to use formula a handful of times. My supply was then so abundant I was able to start to freeze a stockpile so I could keep her on breast milk for as long as possible. It was a few months before I realized Lydia was a milk snob, and did not like my milk once it was thawed.
From there, I knew I had to do something with all this milk. Determined-mom-mode kicked in once again, and I found Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast to donate to. While the screening was definitely a process, the team there was so grateful for all the information I shared, and how quickly I wanted to get the ball rolling, which made me really feel like I was making a difference.
Donating milk to help other moms
I wanted to donate for those moms like me whose plans got thrown off the rails, in hopes that it stings a little less when your milk doesn’t catch up to the needs of your baby. There’s no shame in formula, but breast milk is magical, and should be offered as an option in all hospitals to new moms in their emotional state. My husband wanted to donate to get back the freezer space! But really, I know that Domenic is genuinely proud of me, and we can’t wait to be able to share with Lydia one day what we did together.
After baby loss, pregnancy after loss, a late-term birth that ended in a C-section, and nothing going according to my birth preferences, it’s incredibly empowering to know that my body is capable and strong, and is providing milk for not only my baby, but other babies, too—NICU babies at that.
Screening to become a breast milk donor is an easy four-step process. Once accepted for donation, milk can be shipped for free door-to-door or through one of our donor milk depots throughout the Northeast.