It’s been almost three years since this happened, so I guess it’s OK if I tell you guys the story now. . . if the cops show up at my front door I’m blaming y’all, though, kay?
When Charlie became very sick, he was transferred to a large, well-reputed Children’s Hospital—one with a very fancy NICU services. One of the missions of this esteemed hospital was to encourage women to breast feed—even women like me whose kids were in no shape to actually nurse. “Nursing” mothers were given a food allowance and free pumping supplies. Right outside the NICU they had a little room with sinks, storage supplies, and a TV where you could go and take advantage of the super-charged pumps that hospitals have. Next door to the Pump Room was an industrial freezer and each woman was given a lock box to store their milk. In the haze of drugs and anxiety, it could be difficult to remember your lock combination, so eventually everyone would ask why exactly we were locking up breast milk. You carefully labeled every container, so what’s with the high security?
That’s when someone would whisper the story of The Crazy Mother--a distraught mother had stolen another woman’s milk because she wasn’t producing enough. Since breast milk is a bodily fluid,it’s considered a bio-hazard for anyone other than the intended recipient. Basically, it was like this woman had poisoned her baby. As far as I know, the baby was fine, but they instituted the lock box policy after that.
Charlie wasn’t in the NICU. Charlie was on a specialized floor called CVICU which stands for “Cardio Vascular Intensive Care Unit.” A whole floor just for babies with heart problems. One half of the floor was traditional ICU and the other side was designed specifically for families who would be taking their babies home. You slept in the room with your child and administered all of their needed food and medications. I’m pretty sure that if you were to wind up in hell, it would be a lot like that part of the floor: the stress and pressure of a medically-fragile infant combined with incessant beeping from monitors and a schedule that would make grown men weep. Fun times.
Since we required to be with our children at all times, they set it up so we didn’t have to go down to the Pump Room any more—they arranged for pumps in the rooms and there was a fridge on the floor where we could store our containers of breast milk. Once a day we would trudge down to the NICU floor and drop off our liquid gold in our lock boxes.
Finally, after two and half weeks on the step-down unit, we were permitted to go home. It took about two wagons to get all of our stuff out to the parking lot. I went back at the last minute with a mini ice chest and collected my milk from the processing room by the NICU and the fridge on the CVICU floor.
You can see where I’m going with this, right? I mean, it’s me—how else could things possibly go? When I got home, I realized that I had accidentally taken the breast milk of another CVICU resident. There it was, clearly labeled with the name of some mystery child. I WAS A BREAST MILK STEALER. I was THAT woman. People like me are the reason breast milk has to be locked up.
I couldn’t think of a good way to return the breast milk—I figured there was some type of protocol that would prevent them from using milk that had left the “chain of evidence” or whatever. Besides, it’s not like I was going to show up and admit to stealing someone else’s breast milk—even if it was a completely accident--so I threw it out.
So there it is. . . maybe people are whispering about me now? You never know.
After reading this over I feel duty-bound to add that I didn't steal a day's worth of the stuff--just one pump's worth. The rest of the stuff I grabbed was mine--I think hers was just too close to the area where mine was.