By Amy Anderson
There is a friction inside me surrounding this date; a rubbing of grief and celebration, of sadness and joy, of sorrow and thankfulness. March twenty-eighth will always be his day. It is permanently marked in the joyful anticipation of baby Bryson’s birth. Though it grieves me that this day never met expectations, I can’t resist celebrating; celebrating that Bryson lived; celebrating the great impact that he had on my life; and celebrating who I am because of his life and loss.
On the other side of that celebration comes the friction, the sadness of not having him here against the joy of knowing heaven is his home; wondering what life and his birthday would be like had he been born that March day against the joy of knowing that his life has only known the perfection of living with our Heavenly Father.
As a bereaved mother, it became mandatory that I learn the art of holding infinite space for gratitude and grief. It is a process that quickly ensued after my Bryson succumbed to a 20-week battle for life from the womb. An induction tore his body from mine and a subsequent blur of events took place (among them choosing a crematorium, final goodbyes, and being discharged from the hospital). I was completely numb. Reality only hit when my body revealed its profound grief through endless, agonizing tears of gold. I felt I had lost everything, including hopes, dreams, and my perfectly envisioned future.
Initially, I attempted to suppress lactation according to doctor’s orders but these failed attempts only brought additional suffering, both physical and emotional. In shear desperation, I decided to pump a little to relieve my massive engorgement. Within a couple minutes, the bottles were nearly filled with Bryson’s priceless colostrum. An unexpected release encompassed me… I had a fleeting moment of clarity in which my mind, body and soul converged and altered my perspective forever. I suddenly realized that I still had a purpose as his mom. Hours of research proved that his life could benefit countless others with the invaluable gift he provided—his “liquid platinum,” or pre-term breast milk. My angels inspired me to see beyond my personal heartbreak and to brave the boundary between death and life, grief and purpose, hope and healing.
I fondly remember, as I would express Bryson’s milk every couple hours around the clock, feeling an overwhelming comfort and closeness to him. It was truly an expression of love! I had not expected this blessing in disguise. However, I discovered that love is all about the action, not the potential. The ability to love is placed inert into our hearts, but it only becomes real when one takes action and gives it away. My grief was so immense because I had an abundance of love for my angels, which they were unable to receive. Embracing Bryson’s gift by becoming a breast milk donor has blessed me infinitely. It has nurtured my healing process and provided incredible supports, given great meaning to my son’s existence by allowing others to learn from his legacy, and fostered a love beyond all time and space. As our journey continues, I am increasingly inspired to share this love in remembrance of my precious little ones.
In honor of my four angel babies, 11,762 ounces of Bryson’s breast milk was donated over an 8-month period; that’s almost 92 gallons that was spread across at least 5 states and 3 different countries! Furthermore, my Joey Skylor, Bryson, Bean, and SweetPea have awakened within me an additional purpose as their mom. It has become a highly treasured mission of mine to be able to connect with and support other bereaved moms. After Bryson was stillborn, I unfortunately had to lead myself blindly through my body’s postpartum pains due to commonly held misconceptions, inexperience in the realm of lactation after loss, and societal views toward pregnancy and infant loss.
Thanks to my journey, I have become passionate about advocating for the rights of bereaved mothers, spreading awareness and education about baby loss grief, lactation after loss, and the option of donating through grief. I am also dedicated to changing the terminology of the federal law to be formally inclusive of all lactating women. (Sadly, as I experienced, bereaved and surrogate mothers who choose to express breast milk can be excluded from the protection of the federal mandate simply due to the uniqueness of their situation.)
So as March twenty-eighth comes and goes for the fifth year in a row, I will rest in the tapestry that has been woven of my grief and joy. I will celebrate the precious life I carried even if that life isn’t here to celebrate with me. I will embrace my newfound purpose with great passion as an expression of a mother’s undying love.
To learn more about Bryson’s Legacy, please visit my Facebook page www.facebook.com/donatingthroughgrief/