No parent should ever lose a child, this we know for sure. In a perfect world, no parent would ever have to experience this kind of incomprehensible grief. But we do not live in a perfect world. People lose children and have to somehow figure out how to see their way forward. And one grieving mom made the courageous decision to channel that grief into helping people and chose to donate her breast milk after losing her baby girl. The level of empathy that must have taken is simply stunning.
Alexis Marrino of South Dakota sadly lost her baby girl McKinleigh at the end of July. It seems McKinleigh suffered from a serious condition called anencephaly, where the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. It must have been a devastating time for the Marrino family, and certainly no one would have blamed Alexis if she needed to wallow in her grief for a little while. This mom chose to grieve in a different way, however. She chose to donate her milk to other little ones and their families who might need it.
"I knew that when I found out I was pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed and/or pump, but when I found out that McKinleigh had anencephaly and wouldn’t make it home, I decided I would donate my breast milk instead," Marrino wrote in an emotional Facebook post. "I knew I couldn’t save her life, but I could at least help save other little babies lives."
Marrino went on to pump over 1,000 ounces of breast milk between the end of July and the middle of September, as she shared on Facebook, and clearly found some joy in knowing she was helping others and making her baby girl proud at the same time.
"It was a long and hard and even painful journey, but it was worth it," she wrote on Facebook. "There were days that I just cried because I kept thinking 'how is it fair that I’m doing this for someone else’s baby instead of mine!?' But, through it all, I kept going and I’m finally done! I wanted to make McKinleigh proud and I’d like to think I did."
Babies who are born prematurely can benefit greatly from being fed breast milk as it contains nutrients and antibodies that a small baby needs to grow. Unfortunately, though, it can be difficult for some moms to produce enough milk for their little ones, which is why donated breast milk can make such a difference. Why Marrino's selfless act of kindness made such a difference, in fact.
Several social media users took to Marrino's Facebook post — which has garnered over 16,000 reactions and more than 4,8000 shares as of Thursday — to make it clear they admired her generosity. "You are a fierce and beautiful person. I am humbled and inspired by you," one person commented on her post, while another said, "Bless you, your kindness, generosity, tenacity and caring is hero worthy!" One more wrote, "Thank you for taking care of other babies in McKinleigh’s memory!"
I like to think that Alexis Marrino found a kind of peace in her decision to donate her breast milk. A bit of solace in helping others. And I hope she knows what an inspiration she has been to other parents out there as well.