Honoring Infant Loss through Breast Milk Donation
The team at Breastfeeding World met Wendy Cruz-Chan through our 2016 NYC Big Latch On. In a sea of breastfeeding mothers, Wendy sat with her pump, proudly expressing her breast milk. Wendy’s milk would not be used to nourish her son. It went to one of several families she pumped for. Her donation was one from her heart. Due to a Haemophilus influenzae infection, her son Killian was born still born at just 19 weeks gestation.
Through her grief, we was able to honor her son by pumping and donating milk to babies in need. Not only is she able to pump her liquid love to provide sustenance for other babies, she is also raising money to provide Cuddle Cots to the NYC Methodist Hospital she gave birth in, as well as other hospitals in NYC. (To Find out more about her efforts and to donate to her cause, please click the link here)
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Each month, an estimated one million pregnancies end in miscarraige, stillbirth, or the death of a newborn child (source). Breastfeeding World is extremely proud to be able to share Wendy’s story. We are focusing this month on lifting the stigma of pregnancy and infant loss. Too many families grieve in silence. Stories like Wendy’s brave journey can hopefully help other families cope and show support to others. You are not alone. When President Ronald Regan established October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, he stated,
When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.
My Lactation Journey – Wendy Cruz-Chan
When I had my first child, Ariya, I breastfed everywhere. In church, parks, trains, restaurants, airplanes- anywhere in public, whenever Ariya was hungry, using a nursing cover. I did not care what others think as I breastfeed me child. My husband was very supportive. I happily breastfeed Ariya until she was 2 years old.
5 years later, I discovered I was pregnant again, and this time with a boy. Just a few days away from hitting my 5 months into my pregnancy, on July 3rd, 2016, I began experiencing flu-like symptoms . The next day, on July 4th, 2016, my fever spiked over 101 degrees. I had body aches, heart racing, light bleeding and feeling my uterus contracting. Worried and in pain, my husband John and I headed to the hospital that late evening.
Upon arriving to the hospital, they immediately checked me in and examined me. The staff discovered I was in labor, dilated at close to 2 cm. My uterus had become infected, and so did the baby. Doctors told us the worst news, we had to induce my labor to birth my son sleeping to save my uterus, and my life. The infection Chorioamnionitis, had already begin to spread throughout my body. I screamed and cried and begged them to save my baby, but he was too undeveloped to survive in the outside world. That’s when I decided to call for my Doula friend, Kerri for support. I knew John and I were not able to go through this without a doula’s support.
When Kerri arrived, she induced me with Cytotec internally. The contractions came at me like a bullet train. I rip off my hospital grown and got on my hands and knees as I try to survive through each powerful contractions. In 10 mins, my water broke, stained. Kerri was helping me breathe and giving words of support I needed to hear. I saw John looking anxious and helpless while I was in so much pain. The contractions were not like normal contractions. This was like no pain I have never experienced before. It felt like being stabbed with a hot poking stick into my uterus. I screamed for epidural, but even after it I received it, the drug did not work fast enough. I felt the urge to push, and out came my baby boy, Killian, sleeping.
Grieving my Son
I was in shock when I saw him. Killian’s body was long and defined, his eyes were still sealed shut. He looked like he went through a battle. John lost it as he screamed and cried at the sight of Killian. Kerri tried to calm him down and I was still in stock. When the nurse cut the cord and took him away and delivered my placenta by force. I became very ill. The doctors were very aggressive with antibiotics to help me get better as my fever went over 103.5 degree. My blood pressure was very low and my heart was racing very fast. Once I had more strength, John and I spent time with Killian. We held him, took pictures of him, cried over him, sang to him, pleading for forgiveness that my body could not protect him.
We left the hospital 3 days later, and I fell into a deep depression. I cried and mourned for my son, and for the pain I experienced to birth him. My breasts became engorged, leaking breast milk for Killian. Realizing how full my breasts were of milk for Killian, I decided that I should pump for other babies, and share my story on social media.
I will not be silent. I want heard, and to feel that I’m not alone in this journey. I want to honor Killian by pumping my milk and donating to babies in need of breast milk. I want to bring awareness to my stillbirth- and to stillbirths in general. With my goals in mind, I attended “The Big Latch On” in NYC Time Square on August 6th, 2016. Among the crowd of nursing moms with their babies, I sat, the only one pumping- and proud of it.
Healing through Donating Breast Milk
I shared our story on social media. I received so much support through sharing my story. So many mothers read about our journey. All over social media, people expressed their condolences to me, supporting me for pumping and donating. “Breastfeeding World” heard about my story. They were able to gift me a new electric portable breast pump, in order to continue and support the work that I do for other babies. The kindness and generosity I felt overwhelmed me. I know I am not alone.
Even though my pregnancy failed, I know I can bring healing to other babies with my breast milk. It didn’t matter to me that I got sore nipples, by pumping 8-9 times a day every 3 hours. It was giving me a purpose, a mission to spread awareness of miscarriages/stillbirths and for people to remember Killian’s name. My breast milk became his legacy, and with that I have expressed and donated over 560 ounces of my breast milk to 3 different babies, in one month.
I’m doing this for the love I have for my son, Killian. For all the babies that are in need of breast milk to thrive. I am doing this for women and their families who have lost their babes and are too afraid to speak up, or talk about it. To our society that pregnancy loss is not a taboo and it does happen often. And finally to normalize breastfeeding, and not shaming it.
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