A mother’s love knows no bounds, and Kaleena Pysher proved this old adage to be true in 2015. The teen mom may have handed her newborn over to new parents, but that didn’t stop her from intervening in the baby’s life in a very special way.
Pysher, who resided in Anchorage, Alaska, found out that she was pregnant towards the end of her senior year of high school. Her doctor told her the news, but the then-18-year-old could barely believe it. She tried out a couple more at-home pregnancy tests before accepting it, in fact.
Pysher told the Anchorage Daily News that she had thought, “OK, what are my options?” and subsequently decided that adoption was the best way to care for her unborn child. She then found out that a family friend was hoping to adopt, so she chose that woman and her partner to be the unborn baby’s new parents.
She didn’t just choose this option because she knew who the baby’s new parents would be, though. “The reason I went with this family friend is not because she’s family,” Pysher said. “But also because I know that she’s going to be able to provide the life for my daughter that I want her to have.”
And throughout her pregnancy, Pysher made sure that the adoptive parents saw every ultrasound and were kept aware of the baby’s development. “I would tell them, ‘Oh, she has the hiccups today’ or ‘She’s moving around a lot today,’ Pysher explained to TODAY.
Eventually, the day came for Pysher to deliver her baby. “During birth, I had an epidural, so I couldn’t feel a lot. But I could feel a lot of pressure,” the teenager told the Anchorage Daily News. “I was just so excited to meet my daughter.”
The newborn baby, who was given the name Raylie Brooke, brought her mom an instant sense of joy and relief. “It was the greatest feeling to have my daughter on my chest and know that she was healthy,” Pysher recalled.
But the two wouldn’t spend much time bonding like most new mothers and their babies. Pysher hoped that, by handing Raylie over to her adoptive parents two days after the birth, Raylie would then forge an attachment with them and not her biological mother.
“When the adoptive parents arrived and I was still in the hospital, I handed them Raylie. And from that moment on, I didn’t hold her until about a week later, because I wanted them to bond with her,” Pysher said. “I wanted my daughter to realize, ‘These are my parents,’ and not to have to be torn away from somebody she’s already bonded with.”
But the teen didn’t hand all of her maternal duties over in that moment. Months prior to Raylie’s birth, Pysher had been informed by a nurse about the benefits that her breast milk could provide to a newborn baby.
“When a baby is fed breast milk, they are just way ahead of the game,” Pysher told TODAY. “I decided that I wanted my baby to have the best options and be able to grow. And so I knew I was going to pump and give her that benefit.”
Raylie’s adoptive parents apparently agreed. Not only did they buy Pysher a breast pump, but they also said that they would pay her to send her frozen milk to them. The teen had trouble keeping up with her baby’s appetite initially, though.
“When I started pumping… I realized Raylie was eating about 2 to 4 ounces every two hours,” Pysher told the Anchorage Daily News. “And I was only creating four ounces with both breasts combined. I thought, ‘I need to up my supply really quickly.’”
In spite of the pain that came with pumping, Pysher increased the time that she dedicated to it. “Instead of ten minutes at a time, I did 20 minutes at a time,” she said. “And I was pumping every two hours, even throughout the night.”
With that, she boosted her supply to the point where each of her breasts could produce 6 ounces of milk every couple of hours. Raylie’s adoptive parents consequently built up a stockpile of frozen breast milk so large that they told Pysher they no longer needed her to send any more.
Pysher admitted that these developments had affected her emotionally. “As long as I’m still giving them breast milk, they still need me for something,” she said. “But now that I’m tapering off, I feel like they’re not going to need me anymore.”
But Raylie’s adoptive parents promised that wouldn’t be the case. And, better yet, Pysher was also able to do good with the massive amount of her breast milk that her daughter no longer needed. “I’m going to be donating it to a breast milk bank, so that NICU babies can have that,” Raylie explained.
“A lot of NICU babies don’t get breast milk because a lot of people don’t donate it,” Pysher continued. “And so they end up getting formula – and if I’m creating so much, why not give that gift to NICU babies?”
La Leche League International, an organization that strives to help breastfeeding mothers around the world, lauded the teenager’s decision. “[We] greatly support the tremendous efforts of this young mother to give her milk for this baby’s health,” Diana West, the group’s head of media relations, told TODAY. “It is a gift that will benefit the child for a lifetime.”
And it’s possible that Pysher had an impact upon more babies than just her own, because her story went viral in early 2015. At the end of that year, Pysher, who was studying to become a dental hygienist, told TODAY, “I can’t imagine what made people so touched by my story. I’m delighted that it brought so much attention to breastfeeding, as it’s a natural and wonderful thing.” She also revealed that she had been able to stay in touch with her daughter’s adoptive family, even visiting them for Raylie’s first birthday party.