It started as a typical day for Rachel Olsen and her children, Ryder and Finley. The Wisconsin mom got her two kids dressed and ready to head to daycare. “It was a normal morning,” she said. “I dropped her (Finley) off and my three-year-old son (Ryder) off and went to work like I normally do.”
However, hours later, that normal day would turn chaotic and Olsen’s life would change forever. On Jan. 13, Finley was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for the treatment of a fractured skull.
Sadly, Finley’s caregiver -who had been watching Finley's for 11 days- was charged with killing the infant.
Sitting in the hospital hoping for the best, but getting news that Finley wouldn’t make it, Olsen made the decision to keep pumping her breast milk.
“The lactation nurse that was at the hospital, she was checking on me,” Olsen said. “She told me when you’re ready and want to look at it, here’s information on The Milk Bank.”
Instead of tossing the information to the side, Olsen used it to help her through her grief.
“It was always kind of in the back of my mind as I was pumping…because your milk doesn’t stop instantly,” she said. “By still having to pump, it was my connection to her. I just kept thinking of it as 'her milk' and that something good could be done with it.”
While the pain of losing her daughter still gathers in a lump in her throat, Olsen said becoming a bereavement donor was a source of healing for her.
“It’s a lot of mixed emotions. It’s so hard because I miss her so much,” she said. “I think it definitely has helped to some extent working through this grieving process.”
As tears would sometimes stream down her face because she knew her daughter would no longer get the milk she pumped, Olsen stayed motivated hoping Finley's milk would be a source of hope for other babies and their families.
“It just kind of gave me that feeling that she would be happy knowing that she would be able to help other babies,” she said. “Something good had to come out of what has happened.”
And something good did happen. Olsen donated about 400 ounces to one of The Milk Bank milk depots in her area.
Olsen said she is still trying to cope with her loss, but she advises other bereavement moms to find the positive in the bad.
“Definitely lean on that support that’s offered to you. Try to focus on the good and the memories you have to keep yourself going,” she said. “It’s a very fulfilling feeling knowing that your child can still help another baby by donating the milk.”
Find out more about becoming a donor or the donation process here.