Mom pumps breast milk for her friend’s adopted baby after her own infant daughter passed away
Donating breast milk is a gracious act. But feeding your friend’s adopted baby after the loss of your own infant is more than gracious — it’s entirely selfless. This story of a grieving mom deciding to donate breast milk to her friend is so deeply moving, and something not every mom would have the strength to do.
Today contributor Lauren Casper told the heartbreaking and incredibly touching story of friend Sarah Rieke’s decision to donate her breast milk to Casper’s adopted daughter Arsema. The friends were expecting their children together, with Casper awaiting adoption of a baby girl from Ethiopia and Rieke 20 weeks pregnant. The day of the “big” ultrasound, the friends excitedly anticipated news of the little one’s sex.
Casper writes, “I was secretly hoping for the news to come back that she was having a girl. I was dreaming about our daughters being great friends, just like their big brothers are. The text came… girl… but there were complications.”
As it turned out, those complications weren’t compatible with life and as Casper says, “I prepared my nursery for the homecoming of my daughter and Rieke planned a funeral.” Yet, her friend was still supportive, even in this time of unimaginable grief. She writes, “We spent a lot of mornings together crying and talking and even laughing at times. She threw me a baby shower and gave me two blankets out of a packet of four… the other two would be wrapped around her daughter after she was born.”
Shortly after Arsema was brought home from Ethiopia, her friend approached her with a heartfelt offer. Rieke said, “I was wondering if you would like to have my breast milk after Evie is born. I thought maybe you could use it to feed Arsema. I don’t know how long I’ll pump or how much I’ll be able to produce, but I’d love to give it to you if you want it.”
Rieke’s daughter, named Evie Caris, was born the month after Arsema came home and lived for just four hours. Only a week after her baby passed, the grieving mom made good on her offer and started bringing milk to her friend’s baby every week. Of the selfless act, Casper wrote, “Each time I filled Arsema’s bottle and sat in the rocker to feed her I would think about Sarah and Evie. I would pray for Sarah’s broken heart and thank God for the gift Sarah had so selflessly given me and my daughter.”
She further explains that her friend wanted to do something “meaningful” and it seemed pumping for Arsema was healing for her in a way, as she grieved the loss of her own baby girl. In giving Arsema her milk, she provided a gift Casper couldn’t give her children. “She knew one of the painful losses of infertility and adoption was my inability to breastfeed my children. They each had such a rough start in life and I wish I could have been able to at least give them that.”
To some, it might be hard to understand how a mom could have pumped milk for another baby only days after losing her own, but if you’re a parent, her probable reasons come into focus rather quickly. She likely wanted a connection to her child and to feel she had some impact on the world, no matter how small. By pumping the milk that was meant for her daughter and allowing it to nourish another baby, it kept Evie’s memory alive in some way. And gave a beautiful gift to a friend, establishing a bond they’ll have for the rest of their lives.
Of Rieke’s selfless act, Casper writes, “I wish I could have breastfed my children. Sarah wishes she could have fed her daughter (and so do I… oh so do I). But life doesn’t always make sense. When everything is broken and mixed up, we have to create our own beauty from the pieces.”
And that’s exactly what these friends did.