After losing baby just before birth, Minnesota mother coping with grief by donating breast milk
HUTCHINSON, Minn. — One late evening last month, Megan Bah noticed that her baby, Eleanor, was not moving as much in her womb as she usually had.
After observing for a spell, Bah and her fiancé, Jarin Karjala, decided to go to the Hutchinson Health Hospital to get checked around 2 a.m.
After nurses couldn't find a heartbeat, both the couple's doctor and ultrasound tech were called in. At 3 a.m., the doctor confirmed that "Ellie" — her nickname — no longer had a heartbeat.
A few hours later, an induction process was started with the couple's family and close friends staying close by for the labor and the delivery of the stillborn baby.
In a Facebook post a few days later, 24-year-old Bah wrote, "We are heartbroken and happy to announce the birth of our sweet Eleanor June Bah" around 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 18.
Bah continued in her heartfelt post, "Our beautiful baby came into this world surrounded by loving family. At this time, we were able to see that she had a true knot in her cord that was pulled tighter causing blood and oxygen circulation to be cut off. There was nothing that could have prevented this horrible tragedy. Her body was put together perfectly. She was 6 pounds, 11 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. She had soft, thick, beautiful hair like the both of us and big feet like her mama and big sister."
The baby was held by family, including grandmother Cathie Wrigley of West Fargo, for 19 hours.
The couple's daughter, 6-year-old Stella, also tried to comprehend the loss during those hours. "That was the hardest part of it all — telling her about what happened to her baby sister," Bah said.
But for those few hours, the family was about to show their love to Ellie. Then they said their goodbyes.
After the funeral and burial, Bah discovered a unique way to cope with the loss — by saving and donating her breast milk.
After some research, Bah found a mother in St. Paul who had twins the same day Ellie was born and wasn't producing enough milk.
Not only did it keep her busy as the breast milk pumping and collection takes about 20 minutes every two to four hours, but she and her fiancé also found it to be a way to "honor Ellie and to make us feel better knowing that we were helping someone else."
"And we were actually helping two babies," she said.
She said her fiancé gets up in the night with her when she collects milk and helps her with bagging it.
Bah had been reading about breast milk donation sites during her pregnancy.
"So it was just on my mind," she said.
To find a mother in need, Bah worked with the Facebook page "Human Milk 4 Human Babies — Minnesota." There, she connected with the mother of the twins.
Earlier this month, the east St. Paul couple drove to Hutchinson and picked up the 900 ounces that Bah had saved.
"The woman thanked us so much and gave us some replacement bags as they are kind of expensive," Bah said.
Bah is still pumping and has another 800 ounces for the twins. The Twin Cities couple was planning to come pick up the second batch over the weekend. The mother of the twins chatted with Bah the other day as the babies turned about a month old, and she said they were gaining weight and that she was so thankful for the extra milk as it reduced her stress and gave her piece of mind knowing she had the extra milk in the refrigerator and freezer since she wasn't producing enough.
Bah said what she has done isn't probably for every mother in her situation and that some women may not even know that donating breast milk is an option.
For some grieving mothers, she said the process "might just be a reminder. Maybe some of those mothers would just want to return to something more normal rather than going through it."
Her grandmother from West Fargo thinks what her granddaughter is doing is "incredibly awesome."
"I can't believe her heart, her bravery to reach out to someone in need during this time. What a gift she's giving — it's so awesome," Wrigley said.
As Bah continues in her grieving process, she is thankful for her grandparents, including Cathie's husband, Blake, and other family members who have been there to offer support "every minute of this nightmare."
"I don't think we could have done it without them," Bah said.