I am THAT Girl

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.

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  1. We walked by the CVICU four times a day in Rehab. It was always the most mysterious place in the hospital to me…. all sealed off.

    At our NICU, they called the torture chambers "rooming in"… sounds nice and cuddly doesn't it? A nightmare. You are right on the money. I did two nights with Margaret and 4-5 with William (two stints). Every single minute sucked. And then you get to go home with your child, completely relaxed and ready to face the world. 😉

  2. We did a 3 week stint in the NICU with our twins. I had the joy of pumping in a room full of those beeping monitors, shielded only by a curtain which at any moment might be opened by a clueless doctor on rounds. Not exactly relaxing for the whole let down process. "Luckily" those machines can suck the milk out of you let down or no. I also had the wonderful experience of trying to pump milk for my boy at a specialty children's hospital when he had hernia surgery. The pump looked so old I thought I might have to operate it with a foot pedal. Odd for a place that encourages breastfeeding. And then they didn't even know where to store the milk for him. I had to ask like half a dozen nurses. I had left over labels from the NICU,otherwise I think they would've just handed me some masking tape and a sharpie. Surreal. Several months ago I was cleaning out our freezer and found a couple of little bottles of frozen liquid gold. Probably two years old. My littles stopped nursing at 15 months, so it was funny to see our supply still hanging out in the deep freeze.

  3. I think the authorities will be there any minute! I am so glad we did not end up in NICU hell but I work in adult ICU hell and so I cannot imagine how much worse it is with a new baby. I ownder what they did with your milk?

  4. Small Town Girl says:

    Oh funny…..I can just imagine your face when you noticed you had someone else's milk!

  5. Wahzat Gayle says:

    Forgive me as I giggle at you! <>

    I think you can forget about the breastmilk police knocking down your door. The time has run out.

    No seriously though I understand your mortification. Pumping milk is no fun and to have mistakenly stolen some one's hard labour is no wonder it troubles you to this day.

    have a great weekend

  6. I'm sure you were in such a brain fog after those awful weeks that I think it's just amazing you brought the right KID home! That sounds so rough… And pumping is miserable! One of my least favorite parts of babyhood. I can't imagine the pressure of doing it round the clock!

  7. Its all her fault! Her containers were too close to yours. guilt-free. 😉

  8. Paulette says:

    If it makes you feel better, when Sophie was discharged from the NICU, one of the step-down nursery staff members handed me a huge bag FULL of tiny bottles of my breastmilk that I had been pumping and carefully labeling, freezing, and bringing to the hospital every day when I wasn't actually pumping at the hospital. You know, milk that they told me they were giving my child at every feeding? Some idiot hospital worker (I can say that since I work at a hospital 😉 ) had brought it to the wrong nursery and God knows how long it sat wherever- frozen or not. I still don't know what they were actually feeding her when I wasn't there. I ended up having to throw away several days' worth of my precious liquid gold that I had worked so hard to make for her. I seriously wanted to hurt someone.

  9. Statute of limitations has run out, but what a story! When Charlie is grown..the way to make him think you really are crazy…lol!

  10. LOVE THIS.

    When Graham was in the ICU, and not taking ANY feedings at all.. I filled up their freezer with breastmilk. They threatened to make me rent my own freezer as I'd filled theirs to capacity and left no room for other nursing mothers.

    Oh, and they had little rooms off the ICU that locked so one could pump in privacy. I may or may not have used that little locked room to engage in certain activities with my husband.

    Yeah. I'm THAT woman.


  11. any moment, an angry mom is going to be pounding on your door demanding her breast milk back, and brother you'd better have it! LOL

  12. I'm glad you clarified…for a moment I thought you'd thrown away that other mom's entire supply (like at least a week's worth)! I was a little horrified. One pumping? Eh, we all forgive you. :)

    I so remember the days of pumping at the hospital. We had locked pumping rooms, but the milk wasn't locked up. The freezers WERE right by the front desk, though, come to think of it. Later when Elijah was transferred to the ICC (infant care center) and I'd pump in his room behind a curtain (to avoid the pain of getting the key and waiting for the PUMPING ROOM), my least favorite was when nurses thought it was okay to just walk back there mid-pumping. I can't even count how many people have seen me naked. That's a nice thought. 😉

  13. I remember that day. Am I an accomplice since I didn't take it back or encourage you to. Hmmm….