Getting Into Milkchief With Kelly Cox

I’m Kelly. And, no, I don’t have kids. And, no, I’ve never wanted kids. Yes, that’s right, it’s never even crossed my mind. I’ve never wanted to be a mother. From the beginning, I knew I was meant for a different role.

So how did I become a pregnancy and birth guru, a lover of all things pre-, peri-, and postnatal, and (or so some have said) a baby whisperer? Honestly, it was sort of an accident.

I started out as a licensed clinical social worker. For years, I worked with mothers and children, helping them navigate all the stressors that come with parenthood and family life and build skills to overcome depression, lifelong trauma, and all the difficulties of modern life. But, still, I knew therapy wasn’t the whole picture for me.

Kelly Cox

In 2010, I left that world and decided to open a yoga studio for children. Bend Yoga in Charlottesville was born. I hadn’t planned on working with parents, but I could see the need for prenatal yoga in our community. What a lucky road I chose to walk. It changed my life.

I fell in love thousands of times over that decade. I fell in love with the humor and grace mamas showed as these babes usurped their bodies. I fell in love with the way these parents carried themselves (wobbly or not) and the beauty of pregnancy. I fell in love with all the sweet babes, so easily placed in my arms, so accepting of my love. I fell in love with motherhood.

Working with these parents, I began to understand the colossal stress that surrounded feeding babies. We’re told breastfeeding is the most natural thing we can do. It’s the reason we have breasts. Breast is best. If you don’t breastfeed your child, you’re a failure.

But breastfeeding is damn hard, for many reasons. I listened as mamas whispered about formula. I could see the shame in their faces. Feeding struggles sent parents into spirals of anxiety and depression. But I also saw how these parents supported each other, comforted each other. At Bend, friendships were forged; a community was built. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

Then, of course, life threw me a curve. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But a funny thing happened—I was inducted into a new club. Other survivors reached out to me, offered support, helped me navigate this new road. That was when I realized a whole other level to breastfeeding difficulty. I wanted to help survivors who were no longer physically capable of producing milk.

I started sourcing donated milk as clients asked. Some had excess supply. For some it was the unimaginable—pumping after the loss of a child. Some had received donor milk in the past and wanted to give back. It became my mission that any parent who wanted human milk for their child could get it. I became a one-woman milk delivery system, connecting donors and recipients and often delivering the milk myself.

This type of informal milk sharing wasn’t new. Most parents and caregivers used Facebook groups—but they complained that it was cumbersome, took up too much time, was too difficult for new parents who were often already exhausted and too busy to jump through hoops.

I knew there had to be a better way. I dreamed of an app that would connect parents as easily as Bumble could connect me to a potential partner. But, of course, who has the time to develop an app?

Then COVID-19 surprised us. After a decade, my partner and I closed Bend. We were proud of what we had built—the community and connections that we had helped create—but it was time to travel a different road.

That new road is Share the Drop—expanding my mission to connect milk donors and recipients, to give every parent and caregiver the choice to feed their child human milk. During the pandemic, communities broke down. New parents had no way to connect with other new parents. The kind of connections made at Bend—the comfort, the solidarity—no longer existed.

Share the Drop is a way to recreate those connections. To rebuild community. To find the village we all need. You never know where life will lead you. But just follow that road; sometimes you’ll find it’s the right one.