Amanda Bernier, the Connecticut mom who inspired millions after posting about the odds she overcame to breastfeed while battling ALS, has died.
Bernier, a former firefighter, learned that she and her husband, Chris Bernier, were expecting their first child in 2014. Two weeks after receiving the news of her pregnancy, Bernier was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS,) and told that she and her unborn child may not survive.
Defying all odds, Bernier gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Arabella Grace, in November 2014, at 39 weeks gestation. Bernier — who once ran races and fought fires — lost the ability to move and depended on a ventilator to breathe. Yet the 32-year-old managed to breastfeed her daughter for several months, a task shewrote candidly about in a viral Facebook post in September 2015.
"I can’t take care of my daughter, but I can give her the gift of breast milk," Bernier wrote in the post. "I will continue on until my body no longer produces."
After bringing Arabella safely into to the world and breastfeeding the infant, Bernier set another goal — to live to see her daughter's first birthday. Bernier planned a birthday celebration for her daughter with the help of friends and family, and came close to seeing Arabella turn two, dying just months before her second birthday.
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"It is with a heavy heart to let you know that Amanda passed away," reads a post on Amanda's Facebook community, Amanda's Angels. "She is now free from this horrible disease. Amanda fought until the very end and inspired so many."
"Her infectious smile radiates through our beautiful daughter," the post continues. "Our family is forever grateful for all the love and support that so many have shown. Words alone cannot express our gratitude."
Bernier spoke on several occasions with TODAY Parents about the ways she planned to leave memories behind for her young daughter. In addition to writing cards for Arabella to open on future birthdays and holidays, Bernier kept lengthy journals of memories and information about herself to gift to her daughter at the time of her death.
"I hope Arabella will know how much I love her, and that she showed love to me. I would like for someone to tell her how we defied the obstacles we overcame to breastfeed, and what a special time we shared between us," Bernier, who was one of TODAY.com's 'Voices of 2015,' said in a previous interview.
"I pray that Arabella will grow up to be kind, loving, careful, joyful, intelligent and courageous," Bernier continued. "I have learned what true, unconditional love is. I tear up every time I think about how much I love her. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to be a mom."