When 19-year-old Kaleena Pysher found herself unexpectedly pregnant last year, she knew what she had to do: place her baby for adoption.
The Anchorage, Alaska teenager had seen firsthand the challenges of being a teen mother. Her sister had given birth at age 14.
Kaleena decided that open adoption was the best choice for her baby and eventually chose a couple to adopt her.
But it was what Kaleena did next that makes her story so remarkable: Ever since November she has pumped breast milk for her baby and given it to the adoptive family.
She says she’s doing it for same reason she chose open adoption.
“I want her to have the best,” she told the Alaska Dispatch News.
Kaleena got the idea after a nurse explained the benefits of breastfeeding on the antibodies and brain growth.
Initially, to meet her baby’s voracious demands, Kaleena pumped breast milk every two hours and gave it to the adoptive parents in sealed plastic bags.
They have since flown home. And yet despite the pain in her body and her heart, Kaleena has continued her regime, focusing on her baby’s needs.
“I just sucked it up and kept going,” she says.
To ensure the milk stays frozen, Kaleena ships it to the adoptive couple in boxes marked “Fresh Seafood – Keep Refrigerated.”
In fact, she has produced so much milk that she decided to donate the excess to a milk bank in Colorado, where it is being used to feed premature babies in a neonatal intensive care unit.
All the while, Kaleena has struggled with feelings of loss.
“I was not wanting to grieve for that loss,” she says. “I basically swept all of my feelings under the rug.”
She sees a therapist each week. She says that as long as she keeps producing the milk, she feels her baby still needs her. But she worries that after she signs the relinquishment papers, the adoptive parents will cut off contact with her.
They’ve told her that they have no plans to end their relationship.
Kaleena has had to grow up quickly over the last year. But she has no regrets.
“Now,” she says, “I know there’s a stronger love.”
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