Donating Through Grief: Leeona’s Little Life



By Kassie Lee Cook-Herrick

This is possibly Leeona’s final gift to our world. She gave every bit of herself that she could. She was able to help the lives of five children with her organs, and she will now gift children of the NICU the milk that was intended to nourish her body.

I read something, I believe on the Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast page, that was written by a bereaved mother. It said something about milk being the tears your body cries for your infant. It’s true, I have cried and cried, so many days I feel like I can’t stop crying, and then there are days that my body couldn’t produce another tear if it tried. Here they are though, here are the tears that my body has cried. Not my eyes—my body begs to take care of her.  But it can’t. It is my job as her mom to make the best choices for her.  Her father and I chose to donate her organs, because that was what was best for the world. That was what made her live on in others, and hopefully, that is what she would have wanted. So then, when my chest was engorged, and felt like it was going to crush me if I didn’t do something, I knew I HAD to do something.

I expected every day to panic if I had to pump. I expected one day it was going to hit me, hard, that this wasn’t right—I shouldn’t be pumping, I should be nursing. Although these thoughts did cross my mind, it was never in anger, it never caused me anxiety. Those were the times that honestly I felt closest to her, like my little Leeona was guiding me. She was holding my hand, and walking me through it. She was right beside me, telling me that I was doing the right thing.

I donated 202 ounces of her milk. I have a little over 100 more ounces that the milk bank is unable to use, due to pain meds after my emergency surgery; that milk will go to my sweet nephew who is on his way in a few short weeks.

This has been another step in my healing process. She is still with me, wherever I go. I have stopped pumping now, and have begun the process of drying up. Still though, when I think of her, or when I hear a baby scream and cry, my body cries liquid gold, for her.

I know my daughter is loved, and I know she has touched the lives of many. In her short nine months that she lived, she has saved the lives of some, and helped the lives of more than I may ever.

Many see the lives of the stillborn as never living. My daughter lived for ten months, and then she died, and then she was born. Those ten months are the best months of my life. And I would do it all over again, I would feel this pain tenfold, as long as I could feel her wiggle and hiccup in my belly again.

Leeona Christine Marie, wherever you are, you are loved, by so many.

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