Those who attended the 2012 ILCA Conference had the wonderful privilege to view a video presented by Ryan Comfort, of Milk for Thought, which told the story of Amy and Bryan Anderson and their son, Bryson. There was an intense emotion in the room as they shared of their milk donation since his birth and death and we wanted to offer an update of their journey.
Amy shared with us the following:
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 early in the second trimester. 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 due to arrive March 28th, 2011. However, the Lord had special plans for our precious baby Bryson.
After a month of constant 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. It was a beautiful, sunny and windy day on that October 30th, 2010 at 1:04pm when I finally stopped trying to hold onto my baby boy as his body was torn from mine. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, relax and let go of my precious baby, whom I had been incessantly praying for and loving for what seemed like an eternity… I remember as soon as I felt him leaving I bawled and tearfully called out. I was hopeless and helpless. My whole body shuttered with the reality of what was happening. I just wanted him back, I already missed him so badly.
My husband and I were beyond ourselves, completely lost in our grief and despair and yet so proud of our son’s journey/life. Daddy noticed how he already resembled his big brother especially in the brow… that warmed our hearts. What a beautiful and fragile baby he was… I can only imagine how gorgeous he is in heaven, no longer weakened by his delicate body. Bryson’s body was 13oz and 10in of perfection, with 10 tiny fingers and toes with nails already formed on them. I fondly remember watching him on the dozens of ultrasounds we had… he certainly was a fighter and a persistent little one, much like his mommy. His personality was very strong and he had every intention of being a significant part of our family and our hearts… in that respect his life was a complete success! He has made a huge impact in the lives of many.
As we heard at the conference, Amy began pumping and donating her pre-term milk. Their “Donation Through Grief” has totaled 3,239 ounces of milk to Mother’s Milk Bank of New England and 8,523 ounces to Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio…that’s nearly 92 gallons of breast milk! Bryson’s milk was literally sent all around the country and even around the world.
Amy and Bryan are currently involved in advocating for bereaved parents by educating medical professionals and the community at large in how to care for those who have lost infants, especially in terms of lactation options after a stillbirth or earlier loss. Amy says,
I’m persistently advocating to amend the US federal law “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law is intended to support appropriate break time for expression as needed at work for “nursing mothers”. However, this verbiage has made it possible for my place of employment to say that the law doesn’t apply in my situation because I don’t have a nursing baby, therefore am not considered a “nursing mother”. Regardless of the fact that my body was lactating uncontrollably even though my baby was not at home to latch on. My goal is for the law to pertain to any “lactating women”, so employers cannot use the law to discriminate against a bereaved mother whose already experiencing unfathomable grief.
So far I’ve been completely unsuccessful with getting the attention of any of my state representatives, the Department of Labor has directed me to my local La Leche League, and the White House has also yet to reply to my e-mails (lol, yup, I even reached out to the president/first lady). My best bet so far is to get as many people as possible to hear my Bryson’s legacy. People need to know lactation can happen even after only 20 weeks gestation (and even earlier), and that donating their baby’s breastmilk is a precious, much appreciated gift that gives meaning their baby’s short life and helps with the grief process. I’ve already recieved a few responses that our story inspired a couple other moms to “Donate Through Grief” which is huge to me (though I understand it’s a very personal choice, the option needs to be available to the mom).
At Lactation Matters, we are proud to share Bryson’s story and know that there are many in our community who would have unique insight for the advocacy that the Andersons are pursuing. Please contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help take up the cause.
Have you worked with bereaved mothers to donate milk? How has this practice positively impacted them?