Breastfeeding is such a beautiful part of motherhood. It creates an emotional bond with a mother and baby, something that cannot be replaced. Sadly, some mothers are not able to breastfeed, and this can cause them a lot of heartbreak. On the other hand, there are mothers who lose their babies before they are born and are left with breast milk they cannot use.
For Sierra Strangfeld, she found out at 20 weeks pregnant that her second child, a son named Samuel, had a rare condition called Trisomy 18 or Edwards' Syndrome, which means that he had an extra chromosome that caused developmental delays, abnormally shaped heads, or other birth defect. Most babies with Trisomy 18 pass away in utero or shortly after being born.
“It was earth shattering, not knowing what our future held. Not knowing if we’d get to meet our baby or not,” Strangfeld, 25, told PEOPLE about how she felt when she and her husband Lee learned the news. “I felt in a daze most days. But cherishing every second of every day that I got to carry him.”
For two months, Strangfeld went to the doctor for checkups and updates, and sadly learned that Samuel would pass within a week of her most recent visit. She and her husband knew they wanted to hold their son, so they asked for a C-section delivery, even though there was no guarantee their Samuel would be born alive.
“The unknown of what was about to happen was scary. And I believe the whole thing was traumatizing,” she said.
Baby Samuel lived for three hours out of the womb, and Strangfeld knew she had to do something to honor his life. She chose to pump her breast milk and donate it to those in need.
“It was something I could control,” she said. “I couldn’t control Samuel’s diagnosis. I couldn’t control his life, or his death. But I could control what I did afterwards. It was the last, physical thing connecting me to him here on Earth. I couldn’t save Samuel’s life, but by donating my milk, maybe I could help save another baby’s life.”
Donating breast milk can help babies, especially those who are premature or sick, gain their strength and health. When a mother cannot produce breast milk or is not around to breastfeed, donated breast milk from a milk bank is used by hospitals. While it's not the same connection as breastfeeding directly, the breast milk can provide a different kind of care to newborn babies. Strangfeld's goal was to pump 1,000ox of milk by Samuel's original due date, but she realized she wasn't producing enough milk to do this. Instead, she reduced her goal to 500oz.
“It was a good feeling, knowing I was going to help someone else in need. But it was also very emotional,” she said. “I could feed a complete stranger’s baby, but didn’t get to feed my own. Samuel was the reason I had milk to give, and I would do that in his honor. I tried to look at it in a more positive light, and It was actually much harder (mentally) to stop pumping than I thought it would be!”
The 25-year-old mother posted about her experience on Facebook, and it went completely viral.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I wanted nothing more than to be successful at breastfeeding.
But when we found out of Samuel's diagnosis, I knew that was not going to happen. Just another hope that was taken from me.
Before Samuel passed, I told myself I would pump my milk to donate. Afterall, Porter was given donated milk more than half of her first year of life!
I couldn't save Samuel's life, but maybe I could save another baby's life.
Pumping is not for the faint of heart. It's hard. Mentally and physically. And it's even harder when you don't actually have a baby.
There were times I was angry because why did my milk have to come in when I had no baby to feed? Why was I waking up in the middle of the night for this? The other part of me felt it was the only thing connecting me to Samuel here on Earthside. I sure hope he's proud of me!I pumped for 63 days after his birth. I am not an over supplier by any means- but I did it.
And today, his due date, I donated my milk to the NICU milkbanks for the first and last time. Walking through the hallways of the hospital was just another step in healing.And I know, (because I felt him), that Samuel was there with me💜#smilingforsamuel #trisomy18awareness
Update: Wow, thank you all so much for your kind, encouraging words. I NEVER ever expected this to go viral like this! I did keep some milk for jewelry ❤️ and thanks to all of you, Good Morning America be doing a story on us and our Sweet Samuel! All we ever prayed for was to spread Awareness of Trisomy 18- and here we are doing it💜 thank you from the bottom of our hearts 💜https://www.bonfire.com/store/smiling-for-samuel/
Strangfeld donated her final bags of breastmilk to the NICU on Samuel's due date, something that was extremely hard to do.
“It was a very emotional day,” she recalled. “It was the first time I stepped foot back in the hospital since having Samuel. But, walking through the halls, I definitely felt Samuel wrap his arms around me. It was a sense of healing.”
Strangfeld wanted to honor her son's legacy, and is happy that he's bringing awareness not only to milk banks, but also to Trisomy 18.
“We promised him we would tell his story, but we never expected it to go nationwide like it has,” she says. “This is his story to tell, and he is certainly telling it though every Facebook like and share, and through every news article. Our goal is to have a non-profit organization is Samuel’s name called Smiling for Samuel — we have big hopes and dreams to carry on his legacy.”
Donating breastmilk, especially after your child's death, is such a selfless act. Thank you to the entire Strangfeld family for sharing your story.