Circle of Mothers.




Today I was looking for a photograph to illustrate a quick "have a wonderful weekend" sort of post. I'm wiped out and didn't think I had a proper blog post in me tonight. I found these photos and I pulled them into the page and was about to type my words.

And only after I set them into the post did I realize their significance.

The scene, made by Lupine last week, is a circle of mothers around a smiling baby. (It has a bit of a baby Jesus feel, but Lupine told me no, they were all the mamas and the baby was a tiny girl.)

Because sometimes it's like that. So many mamas surrounding one child with love.

The past few days have been both amazing and exhausting. I've seen an incredible community of women throughout our town and even our state rally together to love and support a family – a mama and baby – in need.

An emergency left a breastfed baby without access to her mama's milk. Formula (the first night), yes, but no nourishing mother's milk. As soon as we heard what was happening we reached out – do you need breastmilk? Yes. So we made phone calls, facebook pleas, and sent emails. And from that spark a fire spread through a beautiful community of women who reached out to other mothers and within hours that baby was in arms and nursing contentedly with another mama. Soon more milk arrived, pumped by local women and before long baby was contentedly sleeping with a belly full of love.

Three days later and dozens of mothers have joined in along with other members of the community – pumping milk, nursing baby, plowing snow, scheduling meals, hauling firewood, stoking woodstoves, and otherwise encircling this family with love. Others are coordinating to drop off loaner breast pumps, distribute homemade mother's milk tea, clean the family's home, and transport milk to the baby.

I think we're surrounded by angels. (Most of them lactating.)

The milk has continued to flow. Not a drop of formula has been seen since the call went out that help was needed. Local milk deliveries are happening a couple of times a day and even a few coolers of milk are en route from around the state to keep baby nourished until her mama can return home. I think it's fair to say that we've all been brought to tears over this incredible support. Oh, yes. The power of the mamas.

I'm tired. I'm ready to step away from my telephone and the computer for a while. But really, I feel full. I feel honored to be participating in such an incredible demonstration of love.

I'm grateful, exhausted, honored, and humbled. Somehow it all makes me feel small. But in a good way – in a "there is something much bigger than me happening" kind of way.

I feel blessed beyond words.

Thank you, amazing milk brigade mamas. You are my heroes.

(And mama, your baby is in the most loving hands. Heal well and come home soon. You are all so very loved. xo)

P.S. (Posted a couple of weeks later: See the father's musical tribute to these amazing mamas at the bottom of this post. You will cry. Then laugh. Then cry some more.)

I've gone a bit further with this conversation over here, reflecting on the support of breastfeeding mothers in our society and our own judgement we might carry on breast or bottle.

31 thoughts on “Circle of Mothers.

  1. marni says:

    lovely. i had the privilege of donating some milk when my boy was tiny. a friend needed help. i loved it when her husband showed up at my door, haggard and in need. i offered those bags of gold willingly, as each day of mine was so exhausting too, but giving felt so right.
    as I handed him the milk and wished him luck, I thought about all of the illegal drugs that pass hands on my inner-city block most days: how awesome to be a part of a trade of love and sustenance.

  2. Trinitee says:

    This is the first comment I’ve ever left on a blog. I’ve been reading and gaining inspiration from your voice for quite a few weeks now, and I felt compelled to finally comment. I find it so incredibly heartening to read about your community gathering to lend support to one another, but this especially moved me. I am a momma to a nursing toddler and believe wholeheartedly in the power of mommy’s milk and mommy’s touch. I live in a community where, sadly, few moms nurse for a few months, let alone years. It’s wonderful to read how many mommas (and families) gave so much to this new little one. It warms my heart and makes me smile. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Marlo says:

    Aww, this is making me tear up. Most nursing moms I know cringe at the idea of nursing someone else’s babe (this has come up in conversations), so I am delighted and awed to see a family where people would help a mother and her babe with something so important. Good job all you ladies, you are awesome. I hope the mother gets well soon!

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    Marlo. Isn’t that interesting? I guess because nursing a baby is one of the most intimate things we do and – as a culture – we tend to struggle some with our relationships with our bodies. I think it’s beyond beautiful. My question was about how the grandmothers would feel who are taking care of the baby. They were both brought to tears by the parade of mamas. “I can’t talk about this without crying,” one of them told me the first day. “I’ve been crying all day!” They were as happy as the mama to have others nursing the babe.

  5. Tricia Millix says:

    Just beautiful……this is what makes the world seem right! When we can come together not only as mothers but as selfless souls to do what is right! Thank you for the tears and the feeling in my heart and soul from this post!

    “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of Love that is put into them that matters”
    Mother Teresa

    Sincere Gratitude…..


  6. Bobbie says:

    This is such a moving story. I am a grandma of six now, but I so remember the circle of moms when I was a young first-time mother learning all about breastfeeding and babies. I miss that part of my life, but have been blessed to have my girls each breastfeed their little ones too. It is such a good thing to have that love and support surrounding you in good times and bad. Blessings to all of you who have stepped in and helped this family!!

  7. Carrie says:

    that mama is my dear cousin. she and our whole family have been moved by this! we are all so grateful for your support of her and their whole family right now since we are not able to offer help for that very specific need. thank you rachel and all the rest of the mama milk brigade!!


  8. Amber J says:

    WOW!!!! I love this, I have tears streaming down my face at this moment. When my first daughter was born she spent two weeks in the NICU and I had so much milk one of the nurses suggested I donate it to a similar thing. There was no place to send it so it never was used except by my girl, how wonderful for there to be an organized effort like this. I so appreciate this. I have not nursed anothers babe however have felt compelled on multiple occasions when holding a newborn to nurse them. I always found this strange but it must be something in the hormones. Its kind of heartening! I love the idea of a circle of mothers taking care. It feels so right

  9. Alex says:

    thaks rachel for sharing this story with us here. I am profoundly moved by this… I nursed a friend’s toddler once, I gave my milk for one year, on a regular basis, to an adopted baby… and I deeply hope to be part of such an amazing community than the one you describe. I alos hope that if am in an emergency some day, someone will take care of my nursed little ones the way you and your friends did. What a wonderfull gift and friendship testimony.

    By the way, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and think about leaving a comment every single time I read your words. But…. i never dare, not knowing what I could say… today, I just knew! I’ll come back later and introduce myself, better…

    Have a wonderfull night (yes, it’s nightime in France!)


  10. Abby S says:

    A big thank you to you and all those Mamas, and everyone, as you help out our dear cousin/sister. Its such a selfless gift and we love her very much and appreciate it!

  11. Megan says:

    As another family member of this incredible mother who is in need, I can only begin to try to express the gratitude we feel toward this group of women. I am blessed to be a part of an amazing family but we are spread across the US. Knowing there is such a wonderful community of women coming together to help and hearing reports from those who are able to be there calms and warms my heart. Thamk you all so very, very much.

  12. says:

    It’s a bittersweet moment for me to read this story . . . for I am one of those pumping mama’s from whom the milk came, or so I have been told. And I can’t take any credit. The milk is a gift, really, from my daughter who passed away 4 days after she was born from prematurity. Josephine Anne was brave enough to come into this world at only 24 weeks and even braver to leave it for something still unknown to us. Yet she brings me reminders of how her life has a higher purpose and that the pain and great sadness I carry is not in vain. I pumped her “Josie milk” for 2 months knowing that she would not benefit from it, but trusting that she wanted me to give this liquid gold from her to another baby in need. And as a mother to now 2 angels in less than a year‘s time, I am comforted knowing that my daughter has had an impact on this world beyond my husband and myself. I’m still in the middle of writing her story down, but this will be included. I don’t know the details of your story or this family’s story, we haven’t met and perhaps never will. But I have to believe that my Josie is sending her bravery and strength through that milk to this little one, until his/her mommy is well again.

  13. Cris W says:

    As the oldest sister of that mother in need I cannot express enough thanks or emotion that we all feel to the community of mothers and families that have stepped in to care for our family. It is wonderful to know that in this time of selfishness that there are still many out there who would do this for others. Being hours away it is comforting to know that they are well taken care of. Thank you seems so little. I hope to meet some of you and give many hugs when I come out take my turn to help out.

  14. Kim says:

    What a beautiful gift for both mama and baby. Thanks for sharing this amazing story of sharing and love, it proves to me yet again that the world is full of wonderful, loving people.

    Hoping this mama and her little one are reunited again soon, and hugs to the wonderful mamas who stepped up, you are amazing!

  15. Kate says:

    This is so fascinating and wonderful. It seems that I’ve heard from numerous sources that breastfeeding a baby other than your own can be hazardous, but I never could understand it. Wet nurses used to be common and I would have thought someone would have noticed any detriment ages ago. I’m so glad there are people who are willing to act beyond what is “culturally acceptable” (for now) for the greater good. What a miraculous area you must live in.

  16. Kyce says:

    A health issue left me unable to nurse my six month old for 24 hours, and my circle of mama friends rallied around–my girl never had anything but breastmilk during that time. Have you heard the term “milk mother” for women who nurture another’s baby this way? It is such a gift.

  17. alexis moss says:

    Your post made me cry, if it was not for mothers in my own community my little one would not have had breastmilk. What a wonderful gift to give, I will always be so thankful to the mothers who showed such love for my baby. I now donate my own milk to my hospital so other babies can have mothers milk

  18. Brooke says:

    You and your little girl are angels. I too am donating milk to this momma, but I don’t consider myself a hero. YOU are a hero!

  19. bb81 says:

    A “precious drops” milk-bank has just started up in my local hospital (Bristol,UK) where breastmilk can be donated for the babies in the special care unit. How fantastic is that? I knew other cities did this, but am glad that next time I have a baby I’ll be able to help others who need it.

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