When Wendy Cruz-Chan’s lost her baby boy at 19 weeks gestation to a Haemophilus influenzae infection, she decided to honor her son and help other babies in a profound way.
In the three months since Cruz-Chan lost her baby, she has pumped over 2,000 ounces of breast milk that have helped nourish six other babies.
Wendy told Breastfeeding World that she breastfed her first child, Ariya, everywhere she went. “In church, parks, trains, restaurants, airplanes- anywhere in public, whenever Ariya was hungry,” she said, adding that her husband was very supportive, and she was able to breastfeed her daughter until she was two years old.
She became pregnant with her son, Killian, five years later. Tragically, she became very sick with Haemophilus influenzae (HiB) infection that spread to her uterus. After heading to the hospital with a high fever and in great pain, she was given the devastating news that a Chorioamnionitis infection was already spreading through her body and that doctors would have to induce labor to save her life.
Killian was born “sleeping” with the help of a doula after a painful labor. “I was in shock when I saw him,” Wendy said. “Killian’s body was long and defined, his eyes were still sealed shut. He looked like he went through a battle.”
The grieving mother and father had a short period of time to visit with their deceased baby before he was taken away. Wendy was treated with strong antibiotics and needed to be hospitalized for three more days.
She left the hospital devastated, with her breasts engorged with milk.
“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.”
Wendy spent the next three months pumping breast milk to donate to other babies in need. She set a goal for herself of 2,000 ounces, which is about 16 gallons of milk.
She even attended New York City’s “Big Latch On” in August, where she was the only woman not nursing a child, and she caught the attention of Breastfeeding World.
“In a sea of breastfeeding mothers, Wendy sat with her pump, proudly expressing her breast milk,” the advocacy organization wrote. “Wendy’s milk would not be used to nourish her son. It went to one of several families she pumped for.”
They donated a new electric breast pump to make the process easier.
Wendy has set up a crowdfunding page at You Caring to raise money for a “cuddle cot” for the hospital where she gave birth to Killian, New York Methodist Hospital. She retold her painful story there and explained the need for cuddle cots.
“The worst news my Husband John and I ever got was, ‘We have to induce you to birth your son who will not live in order to save your uterus and your life,’ she shared. “Within 1 hour after I was induced, experiencing the worst pain of my life, my water broke and I pushed Killian out.”
Wendy says that she and her husband were devastated and heartbroken. To make the tragedy even more heartbreaking, they were then given the news that they could only hold their son for a maximum of two hours before his body would begin to visibly decompose in a warm room temperature.
“During that short time, I tried to focus, remembering every details while drugged up with medications. We took pictures, held him, and said our goodbyes to Killian when we just met him.”
The experience led Wendy to research cuddle cots, which are cooling devices that keep deceased infants’ bodies cool so they can be in the same room with their grieving parents for a longer period of time.
The crowdfunding page had raised over $900 of the $3,700 goal as of Thursday morning. Any additional money will be used to help buy Cuddle Cots for other New York City hospitals.
Now, Wendy is focusing on healing her body to prepare for another pregnancy. In a Facebook post, she shared that she was exhausted but grateful for the experience.
Wendy says that she wanted to show the world that even after a tragic stillbirth, you can turn that into something positive and inspire those around you.
“Through my grief I evolved and learned to pull myself out of the darkness,” she says.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. October 15th, an organization that provides information and support about pregnancy and infancy loss, reports that over 15 percent of American pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth, or approximately one million pregnancies that end in miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a newborn child every month.
[Featured Image by alexkich/Shutterstock]