When they arrived at WakeMed, Sue Evans met them at the portico, started opening the freezers, and said, "Oh my."
Never had one family shown up with so much milk. The freezers held 7,260 ounces.
It had been only two weeks since Reese died. It had hurt to pack the milk up, and now it hurt to unload it. Lynn and Chris were silent as they worked, thinking about Reese, and how she was here but now she wasn't, how it was so hard to believe that they had lost her and that they were giving away what was supposed to have been hers.
They helped the nurses stack the milk on hospital carts. All those plastic bags and Costco containers and frozen bricks of opaque ivory. Some of the milk went back to the first week of Reese's life. Of the vast quantity Lynn pumped, Reese had been able to take in only about 10 ounces, less than a small coffee at Starbucks.
Handing over the last bit felt like a goodbye, as if they were letting go, again, of Reese herself. Lynn was crying and the nurses were crying, and Sue Evans kept hugging her and thanking her. Sue hadn't understood why Lynn and Chris wanted to drive seven hours round-trip, but now she got it.
"If anyone asks," Lynn said, "tell them we did this out of love for our babies."
It took four nurses three hours to catalog the milk.
On the west coast of Florida, Laura Oursler gave Lynn's milk to her son, Keegan, who was born with a neurological condition that left him unable to eat normally.
In Orlando, Lisa Vratanina gave Lynn's milk to her son, Thomas, whom she adopted two years ago when she was 48.
In Maine, Julie and John Montemurno gave Lynn's milk to their son, Gabriel, after he was delivered by emergency C-section 10 weeks early and Julie was unable to pump.
In all, Lynn's milk was sent to 16 infants, two young children, and six hospitals. It nourished a lot of babies.
Last fall, at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, where Reese spent her entire life, Lynn got ready to do it all again.
"Do you want the lights dimmed?" a nurse asked.
"I don't care."
"Would you like the birth filmed?"
"Do you want a mirror so you can watch your baby being born?"
"I don't think so."
On November 14, at 1:04 a.m., Ashtyn Grace Page was born. She weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces. She had her father's nose and mouth, her mother's long, graceful fingers, and a swath of black hair. She was a healthy, full-term baby.
Within an hour of her birth, Ashtyn's pink O of a mouth gaped wide and latched onto her mother's breast.
It was such an odd sensation, this tugging and pulling that was so foreign but so welcome. Because until then, despite pumping more than 56 gallons of milk, Lynn Page had never nursed a baby.