Expressions of Love: A Mom’s Grief Pumping Journey
I wanted to share the amazing story of Joyce Arnold, a mom who chose to pump after the loss of her son Cooper 23 weeks into pregnancy. Her selfless act to help other families during their time of need is an inspirational display of bravery. I was lucky enough to meet Joyce during her pumping journey and am honored to have her as one of BeauGen’s first supporters as we bring moms a truly comfortable and game changing pumping experience.
I was 23 weeks into my 5th pregnancy only 9 short days after finding out via bright blue cake that we would be having a little man. We already knew his name would be Cooper.
I stopped feeling him move 7 days after our reveal party. The day of his big sisters 10th birthday party. I couldn't let anyone know how panicked I was, though underneath my birthday happy face ... I knew. I knew something was wrong. The little karate kid that had kept me awake all night was suddenly keeping me wide-awake for completely other reasons. I tried to stay calm that Sunday thinking it was just in my head.
Monday I called the OB told them what was going on, they suggested kick counts, cold liquids, quiet rest, to try and feel him best ... and I set off all that night by myself on mission Feel Cooper. I had told his dad I was feeling funny and had to go to the doctor the next day no matter what. Him working third shift meant he'd probably not go with me. At the OB I left my oldest and my 2 year old in the playroom there (against my own advice, because I could feel something was wrong). In what turned into an hour-long nightmare I got see Cooper 3 separate times on the ultrasound screen. To check if he was there, then back again to see if the placenta had moved, and again to check if he was deliverable.
My poor doctor watched me fall to pieces and I made the decision then and there to go ahead with labor induction that evening vs. waiting for things naturally. My health had to override things. I have two beautiful girls who need me to be healthy.
I was admitted at just 2 hours after my OB appointment. I had an amazing though terrible evening. My Michael (Cooper's daddy), my mom, my mother in law, my sister... we were all treated like royalty at the birthing ward of CRMC. They were so kind. By 5 am I was fully dilated and they were ready for me to push.
My doctor gave me the ok... and... I just let go. He was no longer safe in my tummy. He was beautiful... and so silent. My heart shattered into a million specks that flew around the room like dust.
The incredible staff brought in so many books and pamphlets throughout that morning. Among them was "When Hello Means Goodbye" the book that lead me to donating through grief. A little tiny sentence buried in a chapter called My Body Cried Tears of White... I immediately requested a pump be brought to my room as well as made my first call to The Human Milk Banking Association. I told Michael I had to. I mentioned to the ladies that we had NICU nephews that are very dear to us so I was feeling very convinced to do this for several reasons.
The funeral home was contacted. I couldn't sit and feel his cold skin any longer. It was knife to my chest. When that sweet Harold Ralph (funeral director) came in, he held my hand so tight while he spoke to me. I don't know what I had expected to happen, but he carried my tiny little man away in his arms. Wrapped in his blanket <3. Just swaddled so, as I had left him wrapped. The last whisper of him being with his momma.
I immediately called some more milk banks once he was carried away, and was lead directly to Mother's Milk Bank of North Texas. I beeped the nurses and requested the lactation consultant... the minute that little woman hit the door her face was covered in tears.... she had taken her big skirt and filled it with bottles pumps parts, cream samples, breast pads galore. She told me it was a gift and wouldn't be charged to my insurance. We talked for 2 hours. The nurse came in while my OB was checking on me to release me. Bless that woman; she was very loud and rough though sweet as she could be. She said so loudly "She's going to donate breast milk for a whole year isn't that amazing?" And I knew in my head then... that was what I wanted to do. A whole year for him. That woman's voice yelling that hung with me so closely.
I began pumping less than 5 hours after delivering Cooper.
Choosing To Pump
I knew my milk would come inevitably. I could not see that be wasted. I knew it could be something beautiful for him. It would be my way of teaching the world about my son. Our NICU nephews Nolan and Noah crossed my mind because I knew donated milk caters to NICU babies’ lives. Though I had never experienced NICU Life, I could appreciate its importance to their tiny bodies and needs.
I made it 366 days pumping in my Cooper's memory through grief. One whole year. 9633 ounces donated between the Mother's Milk Bank of North Texas and 5 informal moms from Facebook, 3 of those local to me. I never once hated pumping, I never once wanted to quit... it was all for him. Pumping and donating my breast milk was the only thing I could do for him here on earth and that was that. I would do it a thousand times over if it meant he'd know how loved he was. In a way filling up my freezer was filling up my heart. Sending off those cooler boxes was sending him off to be shared with the world. Saving those tiny stranger recipient milk bank babies was saving him.
I've followed BeauGen since before the Kickstarter campaign. If there was one thing Tu-Hien Le, the Founder of BeauGen, exudes it's girl power. I knew I needed to be behind her determination to change the pumping game. Once I got my nipple cushion, I was already on the last leg of my race, but that didn't make them any less amazing. I used them every time I pumped. They cut my swelling down immensely. That purple discoloration from pumping was nearly eradicated all together. Pumping became way less uncomfortable. I owe part of my ability to pump a full year mark to the help of BeauGen nipple cushions. Comfort changes pumping. My only regret was not having them sooner throughout my pumping journey. After the birth of my next child, I can't wait to laugh at those beginning weeks of torturous discomfort while pumping because I will have a secret weapon this go round. Clouds.
In memory of Cooper Ryan Hesson.