A Tale of Two Trees - How Donated Breastmilk Honors Little Lives Lost
Stepping into the milk bank’s reception room, you might describe the area as vibrant and cheerful. Decor incorporates numerous hues of blues, greens, pinks, yellows and purples.
Artwork depicts happy images of babies, children and families, a reminder of our joyful mission. A play area for toddlers is supplied with toys and activities.
However, the room is also home to a very special wall memorial, a magnificent tree. Its presence on the right wall is bittersweet, recognizing milk donation associated with sorrow, grief and healing. Sections of reclaimed wood are stained to blend with colors of the space and tiny, engraved leaves surround the branches. More than five hundred leaves are engraved with a baby’s name and birthdate.
When the milk bank opened in 2004, an unintended program took root. A baby named Carmen tragically died and her mother wanted to donate her breastmilk to help other babies.
In time, more bereaved mothers donated their milk after loss. Leaves dedicated to these babies were placed on a wall memorial, lovingly named Carmen’s Tree.
As more leaves were added over the years, families expressed gratefulness. It meant so much to be validated as a parent of a baby no longer in their arms. Knowing their baby helped others soothed unimaginable grief. They also knew they weren’t alone.
In 2019, the milk bank moved into its current building in southwest Fort Worth. A new tree was installed to display the original leaves and then new leaves began to fill all of the empty space. It became evident a second tree was needed.
That’s when Chisholm Trail Woodworkers came to the rescue, generously donating materials, time and expertise. Only founded last year, the nonprofit’s woodworking artists were quickly passionate about the project.
The group’s president, Kevin Pilgrim says, “Many of us were unaware of the mission or even of the need for a mother’s milk bank. It was impossible not to be touched. The tree was designed to complement the original, and to be built by different crafts people, yet look as if only one person built it. The cool thing for us was building it in individual shops and then coming together for a wood staining party. The install day ended with folks asking what our next project will be; that was inspiring. The mission, cause and need touched us all. I believe we will have no other project that will affect us as this one did.”