Despite dealing with so much grief and pain at the time of her son’s death, Sierra Strangfeld let her motherly instincts guide her into doing something amazing for children who weren’t even hers. Her son stayed only three hours before passing away, but his coming into the world didn’t have to be in vain. Sierra chose to pump and donate her breastmilk to other children who needed it .
Sierra and her husband, Lee, were very excited when they learned they were going to have a son. The couple already has a daughter together. Their hearts were deeply broken when they learned that their unborn child had Edwards syndrome or Trisomy 18, a condition that occurs when there is a triplicate of the 18th chromosome .
Trisomy 18, (unlike T-21 which causes Down syndrome) is a rare, potentially life-threatening chromosomal disorder that comes with very serious medical complications. It often results in stillbirths, early deaths, or for the few who make it to adulthood, an entire life in assisted living with developmental issues. Roughly one in every 6000 babies is born alive with this condition, and only 50% of the babies carried to full-term will be born alive.
Sierra, from Neillsville Wisconsin, underwent an emergency C-section right after learning about her baby’s condition. Her baby, Samuel, lasted only three hours before he passed. Speaking to Good Morning America, Sierra notes that although her baby was incredibly underweight, with clenched hands and clubbed feet, he was just perfect.
Helping other moms in the NICU
When Sierra’s daughter, Porter was born, she required donated breastmilk for more than the first six months of her life. Sierra’s sister-in-law had pumped her milk to save the baby girl. Sierra knew that if Samuel had made it, he would have required donated breastmilk from another mom at some point. So, she decided to leave his footprints on earth by donating her milk to save another child.
“When I found out I was pregnant again, I wanted nothing more than to be successful at breastfeeding,” Sierra wrote in a heart-rending Facebook post . “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. After all, 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.”
For 63 days after her son’s death, Sierra pumped and preserved her breast milk. There were times when she wanted to quit, days when she didn’t think she could go on any longer. But for the memory of her son, she continued. On November 13, her son’s actual due date, she donated 500 ounces of breastmilk to the NICU milk bank at his birth hospital.
“Some days were terrible, and it would have been easier to just quit, Samuel’s the reason I had milk to give,” she wrote. “It was one thing physically connecting me to him here on Earth. 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. I couldn’t save Samuel’s life, but maybe I could save another baby’s life.”
Forever in their hearts
Sierra kept a bit of her milk to be made into jewelry. She wears it in a heart-shaped necklace to always remember that her son had a purpose for coming into the world.
“Walking through the hallways of the hospital was just another step in healing,” she wrote of the day she donated her milk at NICU bank. “And I know, (because I felt him), that Samuel was there with me.”
In memory of their beloved son, the couple started the “Smiling for Samuel” campaign online and there are already branded T-shirts circulating. A scholarship fund has also been set up as part of the campaign and Trisomy 18 Awareness movement. They are hopeful that one day, they would start the Samuel Strangfeld foundation in memory of their son.
Rest in peace, little Samuel. Shine on forever among the stars.
- Madeline Farber, Fox News. Mom who lost son 3 hours after giving birth donates breast milk. NY Post. https://nypost.com/2019/11/19/mom-who-lost-son-3-hours-after-giving-birth-donates-breast-milk/. Retrieved 28-11-19
- WHAT IS TRISOMY 18? Trisomy18.org https://www.trisomy18.org/what-is-trisomy-18/. Retrieved 28-11-19
- Genevieve Shaw Brown. Mom whose son died three hours after birth donates milk she pumped in his honor. GMA. https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/family/story/mom-son-died-hours-birth-donates-milk-pumped-67039745. Retrieved 28-11-19
- Sierra Strangfeld. Facebook. https://web.facebook.com/sierra.coulthard/posts/3270467702994781. Retrieved 28-11-19