A Neillsville, Wis., mother who lost her son just three hours after giving birth chose to pump her breast milk for 63 days after his death in an effort to help other babies in need.
Sierra Strangfeld and her husband, Lee, were ecstatic when they learned Sierra was expecting again. The couple, who already have a daughter together, were expecting a boy. But their excitement turned to devastation at 25 weeks when their son, who they named Samuel, was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a rare genetic disorder that occurs in roughly 1 in every 6,000 live births.
The condition, also known as Edwards syndrome, is caused by an extra chromosome 18. There is no treatment for the condition, which often results in stillbirth or early death.
After receiving the diagnosis, she chose to undergo an emergency C-section at 30 weeks. "When they told me he would more than likely pass, I asked for a C-section that day in order to see him alive," Strangfeld told Fox News in an email.
Samuel lived for three hours before passing away, the mom told “Good Morning America,” noting her son — who was born with clenched hands, clubbed feet and low birth weight, all of which are symptoms of Trisomy 18 — was “perfect.”
But Strangfeld, through her grief and anguish, decided to make the most of the situation, realizing she had something important left to give, even if it wasn’t to her son: breastmilk.
“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,” she wrote in a candid Facebook post that had about 3,600 shares and more than 13,000 reactions as of late Tuesday morning.
In the post, Strangfeld said her daughter, Porter, required donated milk for more than six months after she was born — another reason she wanted to pay it forward.
“Before Samuel passed, I told myself I would pump my milk to donate. After all, Porter was given donated milk more than half of her first year of life!” she wrote. “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,” she continued. “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!”
For more than two months after her son’s birth and subsequent death, Sierra pumped. On Nov. 13 — Samuel’s original due date — she donated all the milk she had so earnestly pumped to a NICU milk bank.
“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,” she wrote.
In the more than 1,000 comments in response to her post, Strangfeld was largely praised for her actions, with users commending her for her thoughtfulness and strength.
“What a beautiful gift you’ve given to others, yourself and your beautiful son,” wrote one.
“Such an inspiration,” remarked another.
“Heartbreaking and heartwarming. God bless you, sweet momma,” said a third.