Mother of Stillborn Baby Donates Breast Milk to Other Babies in Need
January 19, 2017
Catt McGrath remembers her pregnancy fondly. “I loved being pregnant and I really miss it. I miss being pregnant with Daniel — that was the only time I got with him.”
McGrath, 29, was only days away from her due date in September when she knew instinctively something was wrong.
“I woke up and I didn’t feel him move,” says the Charlotte, North Carolina-based legal assistant. “I tried not to worry too much.”
But after a few hours of no kicking she went to the doctor.
“The nurse tried to find his heartbeat and couldn’t find it. I started crying. I knew. Then they did an ultrasound and I could see his head and his spine and nothing was moving.”
Her husband Dan, a project manager, was on his way to meet her when she gave him the news.
“I don’t know how he did that drive,” she says.
The baby she and her husband had named Daniel died after a “true knot” developed in the umbilical cord. Doctors told McGrath it probably happened early in her pregnancy, but didn’t cut off his circulation until he got bigger, leaving little room left in the womb to move around.
“My OB said I did everything right,” McGrath says through tears.
Soon after delivering Daniel, McGrath’s breast milk started to come in and she met with a lactation consultant. An organ donor herself, she tried to donate her son’s organs but it wasn’t an option because of the way he died. She realized she could, however, donate the milk that had been meant for him.
“I didn’t know if that was a real thing — giving away breast milk — so I asked. I started pumping right there at the hospital and the first two weeks it was amazing. I was thinking, there are so many babies that need this.”
But the reality of the situation soon came crashing down.
“It hit me really, really hard that this was supposed to be for Daniel and he’s not here to drink it.”
She says it provided some comfort to know how many families she and Daniel were helping.
She pumped for three and a half months.
Some of her milk went to WakeMed Mother’s Milk Bank in Raleigh, North Carolina, which provides milk to families with premature babies. The rest went to moms in her community in need of breast milk to supplement their own.
One of these was stay-at-home mom Alexandra Malissen, 31, who used Daniel’s milk to help feed her newborn Claire.
“I was really struggling with my milk supply,” says Malissen. “I didn’t have enough to feed her.”
“It’s unreal to think that someone who is going through one of the most gut-wrenching, life-altering, heartbreaking experiences is still willing to sacrifice and pump for other people’s children,” she says. “It’s mind boggling.”
McGrath says she and her husband are still healing but want to try for more kids eventually. Right now they are focused on keeping their son’s memory alive.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Daniel and it’s important to me that he’s remembered and his name is said.”