Even though her son died, Sierra Strangfeld generously donated her breastmilk to other babies in need as it could save their lives.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 25, 2019. It has since been updated.
Sierra Strangfeld was over the moon when she found out that she was pregnant again. It was her second pregnancy and the young mother couldn't wait to breastfeed the child growing in her womb. She'd been unable to share the intimate experience with her firstborn, 18-month-old daughter Porter, as the little one had a tongue tie that kept her from nursing. However, Sierra's hopes and dreams for her second child came crashing down when at 20 weeks, she learned that her son wouldn't survive due to an extremely rare condition called Trisomy 18, or Edwards' Syndrome.
According to PEOPLE, fetuses with this condition have an extra chromosome that causes severe developmental delays, such as an abnormally shaped head, clubbed feet, and birth defects in their organs. The chances of such babies surviving are extremely slim as most pass in utero from an early miscarriage or die shortly after their birth. Speaking to the publication about the moment she and her husband Lee learned the news, the 25-year-old said, "It was earth-shattering, not knowing what our future held. Not knowing if we’d get to meet our baby or not."
"I felt in a daze most days. But cherishing every second of every day that I got to carry him," Sierra added. After spending the next two months going to regular checkups, on September 5, the salon owner from Neillsville, Wisconsin, was warned that her son would likely pass in utero in the next week. Although heartbroken by the news, Sierra was adamant that she wanted a chance to hold her little boy — whom she would name Samuel— and pushed for a C-section delivery. "The unknown of what was about to happen was scary. And I believe the whole thing was traumatizing," she said
Following the delivery, Samuel survived three hours outside the womb and Sierra was grateful for having had the chance to hold her dear son in her arms. Although she lost her child, the young mother was determined to do something special in his honor. She decided that she would pump the breast milk that had come in for her son and donate it to babies in need. "It was something I could control. I couldn’t control Samuel’s diagnosis. I couldn’t control his life or his death. But I could control what I did afterward. 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," said Sierra.
Although Sierra initially set a goal of pumping 1,000 ounces of breast milk by November 13 — Samuel's original due date — she realized that she wasn't producing enough milk. She then reduced her goal to 500 oz and when the day finally came, donated it all to the NICU milk banks. Sierra revealed that while the experience was challenging, she also found it gratifying to an extent. She said, "It was a good feeling, knowing I was going to help someone else in need. But it was also very emotional. 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!"
Speaking of the day she made the donation, Sierra said, "It was a very emotional day. 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." The young mother took to Facebook to share her story and the post has been shared over 4k times since. "We promised him we would tell his story, but we never expected it to go nationwide like it has. This is his story to tell, and he is certainly telling it through every Facebook like and share, and through every news article. Our goal is to have a non-profit organization in Samuel’s name called Smiling for Samuel — we have big hopes and dreams to carry on his legacy," she said.