This is a very special story that we encountered while in Hartford, CT. We asked Amy to provide a blog post to accompany the video that highlights her family’s story of “Donating through Grief”.
Bryson’s legacy begins eleven years after I fell in love with my high school sweetheart. We had been married for five years and were already the proud parents of two precious children. Our firstborn, Brody, was a passionate 3½ year old boy. And our Joey Skylor was born into heaven in December 2009 for unknown reasons after 13 weeks. Our family felt prepared for the additional joys and love that a new baby would bring, so we were all overjoyed with anticipation to find out we were expecting a baby boy to arrive in March 2011. However, the Lord had special plans for our precious baby Bryson.
After a month of medical interventions to save our son from the complications of a rare condition called LUTO (Lower Urinary Tract Obstruction), Bryson went home to join Joey on heaven’s playground. October 30th, 2010 is the day I finally stopped trying to hold onto my baby boy as his body was torn from mine. It was a hello and goodbye day to my sweet baby, Bryson Anderson. I felt like time stopped when I lost my Bryson, like I will forever be pregnant with this dream that I will have to live a lifetime to see come true.
I turned to the good Lord throughout the days ahead “Dear Lord: I pray to be filled with comfort and strength to carry on with my life; to be sheltered and accompanied through my treacherous journey as a ‘Mommy of Angels’; and that my faith will give me a sense of belonging and purpose from this day forth. Amen”. The answer to this prayer quickly ensued and my purpose became obvious.
When Bryson left at 20 weeks, the doctors didn’t think I would produce milk. However, my body had a grief of its own, and its tears were flowing white. When Bryson’s milk arrived, it came with great intensity and initially I didn’t know what to do. I was hurting horribly both physically and emotionally… this was supposed to happen when there is a baby to latch on, not when my baby had gone.
Even when I felt I’d lost everything, I still had something invaluable to give — Bryson’s “liquid platinum” or pre-term breast milk and a chance at life for other sick infants. This realization came about when I felt, that through my heartbreak, I still had some purpose as Bryson’s Mommy. Bryson and Joey gave me the hope, courage, and strength to be able to help others even in my time of heartbreak and sadness… what a comfort to be able to turn my personal tragedy into someone else’s triumph. Expressing was emotionally hard at first but then it became therapeutic, almost like an obsession, to get as much as possible to save others from this pain.
A woman who pumps breast milk is said to be “expressing milk”. For me, donating Bryson’s breast milk is the only physical way to “express my love” for my forever babies; to keep their memory alive and give meaning to their short lives, not only to me but to others as well. The other invaluable benefit would be to prevent another family from feeling the deepest, most horrific pain, grief, and despair ever imaginable, the loss of a precious child and all the hopes and dreams that accompany that new little life.
It is said that all life has a purpose. Maybe the short lives of my angel babies were to inspire their Mommy, giving hope, courage, and the strength to save the life of someone else’s baby, though I could do nothing for my own. I know that besides helping others with this gift, it helped me too; to stay close with him, and help me work through my heart-wrenching grief. For 8 months following Bryson’s birth, I expressed and donated over 87 gallons of his milk between the MMBO and MMBNE. His milk has gone to several NICUs throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and even Sick Children’s in Canada. This was definitely the best decision I made following Bryson’s life. Through the Milk Banks, I found some wonderfully supportive friends who have shown a great reverence in sharing Bryson’s milk and his legacy. Additionally, through Milk for Thought, we were able to meet a recipient family. It was such a healing experience to see my Bryson’s donation come full circle and a family rejoicing with their little blessings!
Bryson may have come into this world never having taken a breath, but he had every intention of being a significant part of our family and our hearts, and in that respect his life was an amazing success! Furthermore, he has made a huge impact in the lives of many even beyond our family. And while I never got to look into his eyes, nourish him at my breast, or hug and kiss him a zillion times; his life has taught me more than I ever could have imagined. He taught me to be stronger, to love deeper, and to always keep the faith. He proved that we can never take life for granted. He is a tiny hero whose legacy will forever live on in the lives of other babies who have begun to thrive due to his gift of Mommy’s milk. His life is truly one to be celebrated!