I don’t think anyone can fully understand the concept of being willing to literally lay down your life for someone else until you become a parent. Becoming a mom has shown me that there’s pretty much nothing I wouldn’t do to ensure the safety and well-being of my kids — and that feeling has been there from the moment I saw those two little pink lines on the pregnancy test.
The instinct to protect our children is a fierce one, for sure, and Melissa Churchill is a mom who knows that all too well. As her sister Amanda Tilberg tells Babble, Churchill was hospitalized just 22 weeks into her pregnancy for pre-eclampsia, but after four weeks in the hospital, things took a turn for the worse, and the mom was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening variant of pre-eclampsia. This meant that her twin boys, Maverick and Manning, had to be delivered by emergency C-section at just 26 weeks and 3 days, weighing in just 2 lbs., 8 oz. each.
Both Churchill and her micropreemies have faced distressing health diagnoses from the moment the babies were born on August 17, but Churchill hasn’t let that stop her from doing her best to mother her boys with all her heart, and with whatever strength she can muster. In fact, despite being in the ICU because of severe liver failure (one of the many effects of HELLP syndrome), Churchill has been finding ways to pump breast milk for her boys — something that is especially critical for vulnerable premature babies like Maverick and Manning.
This past Sunday, Tilberg shared a photo of her sister lovingly pumping for her boys on Breastfeeding Mama Talk’s Facebook page. Tilberg’s homage to her amazing sister, along with Churchill’s strength and protective “mama bear” spirit, is truly inspiring.
In the post, Churchill is pictured in the ICU, connected to various IVs and medical devices, as her sister helps her pump. Not only is this a beautiful testament to the power of sisterhood and support, but pumping alone is an incredible feat considering all that is going on for this new mom and her family.
“I would just like to publicly recognize my sister,” Tilberg shared in the Facebook caption. “She is currently in the ICU after delivering twins at 26 weeks due to HELLP syndrome. Even with her liver failing to the point they’ve talked about transplantation, she is still committed to giving her boys the very best by pumping breast milk.”
Tilberg shares with Babble that at the time this post was written, Churchill wasn’t just dealing with her own health crisis, but also that of both her baby boys, who were in extremely critical condition. The twins were on oscillators, and baby Maverick was dealing with a Grade 4 brain bleed, low blood pressure, and an EEG that showed no activity.
But despite all this — and because she knew how critical any amount of breast milk was for her preemies — Churchill continued to pump.
“I know it’s not been easy for her with everything going on,” Tilberg shared. “But even when she physically struggles to pump, she still does with the help of others. Here is her pumping while I assisted. She was on 4 different IV meds as well as many other orals. She even was refusing pain meds to try and make sure there was no concerns with the milk her micropreemies got. She is amazing.”
I don’t think “amazing” even begins to describe the well of strength and all-encompassing love this mother has for her sons. Not one tiny bit. This mom is truly a heroine, and a badass one at that.
The good news is that Churchill’s health seems to be improving. As of yesterday, Tilberg says her labs seem to be improving and she has moved out of the ICU. Still, due to the effects of HELLP syndrome, she is weak, and needs to sleep most of the time. Any energy she has left is reserved for pumping and tending to her babies.
And unfortunately, Tilberg had some heartbreaking news to share the morning of this writing: She tells Babble that baby Maverick’s health has taken a turn for the worse, and he was taken off life support. Though the family continues to hope for the best, they are also taking this time to hold their baby, and savor whatever time he has left.
Tilberg says that is all the more reason for Churchill to continue pumping, especially for baby Manning who still has a long road ahead of him.
“Pumping will mean even more now to her as she will want to do everything she can to ensure the other survives and thrives,” she says.
I can’t imagine what this family must be going through, and all the prayers, good vibes, and love in the world are needed right now to get them through this devastating time. If you would like to help off-set some of their medical expenses, as well as support the rest of their family as they pour all their time in resources into this crisis, you can donate to their Go Fund Me page now.