An Open Letter to Nathaniel From His Godmother

My dear friend Patty gave this speech at Nathaniel’s Baptism and I just sat there and sobbed. Feeling so blessed beyond words ❤

 

“An open letter to my Godson:

Nathaniel, we are so glad you are here! The joy you have brought to all of us in your short time on earth has electrified this community. You are a very special, special child. Now let me tell you about your parents, because they are so very special to us!

I think the first great test of a mother’s love is labor. Well, some women labor for hours, some for days. But your mother? She labored for years. Those who sow in tears… and that is the blessing of your mother – her beautiful culmination of an aching Hannah, and ever vigilant Elizabeth, coming forth with her own Magnificat. Your mother longed for you… Waited in sorrow and ached, inwardly ached for you. Every Christmas, every child’s birthday she attended, every baptism, every baby shower and wedding, Every Mother’s Day. For seven long years, she sat in sorrow. This was your mothers labor. We were there, waiting, watching, wishing we could take the pain away. Like Simon of Sirene we would look, through our hands full of blessings and say “really Lord? How can we help carry that cross” and look on that suffering face to realize we just had to press on. For 7. Long. Years.

And then there was you. The joy and the healing took place the day you were born. For on that day, from the ashes of all they hoped and desired, your mother and father were born too. What a beautiful sign you are, a witness to all of us that we are called to have life and have it to the fullest. Nathaniel means “gift”. And what an amazing gift you continue to be for all of us. Amen.”

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Adoptive Motherhood and the 4th Trimester

I’m so eternally grateful for all the sacrifices Nathaniel’s birth mommy made while he grew inside her for the first 9 months! I’m sure there so many days where she was just so uncomfortable. And she labored to birth him for 26 hours! He took on some of her physical appearance, there are some faces he makes and I see her so much in him! She was able to sustain his life with her body and he grew and flourished inside her! These are all things my body was unable to do. I’m in awe of her.

For many years I put up an emotional wall around the idea of motherhood because I was infertile. I thought of being a Mom as a title to be earned. And what better way to prove one’s self than to endure 9 months of sacrifice and such loving sacrificial pain of birth? Motherhood seemed to me to be the great reward after a marathon. I always viewed myself as too broken to ever be a part of that elite group of special people who have earned the title of “Mom”.

Now, because of one woman’s ultimate sacrifice to give another family the life they’ve always wanted, I’m able to be a Mom!

But I feel almost unworthy of the title “Mom” thus far. Perhaps because of years I spent putting up that wall of self-defense…training myself to go numb whenever I heard the word “Mom”, instead of feeling the intense pain of emptiness. Or perhaps because I don’t feel like I’ve earned it yet because I’ve had it easy! The first month has flown by and I can’t even complain! Nathaniel is a great baby and I have a wonderful husband who makes sure I get plenty of rest, food & water, and he has been on top of the housework while I tend to the baby! I’ve read so many stories of this time of life being so difficult, but I’ve yet to be knocked off of cloud 9.

But that emotional wall is slowly coming down by Nathaniel’s 4th trimester: defined by many as the baby’s first 3 months of life outside the womb. A baby’s needs are so great as they transition from a warm comfy watery bed to having to do things on their own, like breathe, eat, & regulate their body temperature. Newborns could not survive outside the womb without someone to care for them, and provide them with food, love, & comfort.

I am so eternally grateful to God that He brought our family together and has pointed me to the right resources to induce lactation. By breastfeeding Nathaniel, I really am feeling that much more connected to him during this 4th trimester. This miracle has afforded me the opportunity to provide 100% of his nutrients required for growth with my own body! This has been so healing for me as I’m realizing that my body is not broken after all! It was simply closed off to any child before him to ensure that he would make it into our lives. Babywearing has also helped me to heal immensely. Carrying him around attached to my body helps me to feel a little glimpse of what his birthmother may have felt during her pregnancy with him. It makes me feel more connected to her and to him. And he is so soothed by it! He can go from screaming to a sound sleep once I attach him to me! It makes me feel needed by him.

Needed. I think that’s where my perspective needed to take a turn. Motherhood for me is not so much earned, as I previously imagined…but I came to be a Mom because I was needed. Now, I know he won’t always need me to the same degree as he does now, but I am enjoying every minute of it nonetheless.

While I still wander off into an introspective dialogue with myself every time I refer to myself as “Mom”, I know that one day it will roll off my tongue naturally. My guess is that will be the day that Nathaniel confirms it himself by saying the most beautiful word every mother looks forward to hearing:

“Mama”.

Until then, I’m still in awe at the beautiful miracle of life, and the love, sacrifice, and complete unselfishness of Nathaniel’s birthmother. And I’m loving being a Mom and enjoying the 4th trimester.

God is so good! His timing. His beautiful plan. I never thought I would say this…but it was worth all the pain and the years of waiting. I’m so eternally grateful.

My outer womb, “Baby Bump”:

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Adoptive Breastfeeding – Part 2

Part 1 of how I induced lactation can be found here! 🙂

*BE WARNED* This blog entry contains pictures of breastfeeding! If you are going to be offended, do not proceed!

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As I’ve previously mentioned, we had a failed match back in October. I had excitedly told her that I planned to breastfeed, and while she told me there was nothing I did that made her change her mind, I had wondered if my plan to breastfeed had anything to do with it. For this reason I was hesitant to tell the next expectant Mama we were matched with that this is what I wanted to do.

So, then we were matched with Nathaniel’s birthmom 4 months after our failed match! We had our first phone call and everything went well. We were going to meet her in TX soon after and I was so nervous to talk about this subject! I decided to pray about it. I said to God, “Lord, I really want this expecting Mama to know this is what I’d like to do…and even to be excited about all it’s benefits! Yet, I’m afraid this will result in another failed match. If You think this is meant to be, please have the social worker tell her!”

Now…I have no idea how this social worker knew…since I never told her about it! The only person in the agency who knew I was going to breastfeed was the CEO. Well…the Good Lord intervened because I received a call from the social worker saying that Nathaniel’s birthmomma was so excited that I was going to breastfeed! Tears poured out and I praised God for His goodness and miracles! This was also another sign to me that our adoption was going to go through! Praise God!

The next hurdle I knew would be the hospital. Each hospital has its own policy on adoptive breastfeeding…some friendly, but some that are uneducated on the subject and unsupportive. I previously read some stories that not only were adoptive mommies not allowed to latch baby at hospital, but baby was only to be given formula instead of breastmilk! I continued to pray that God’s will be done and that I accept with grace whatever His plan was for our birth experience. Well, the social worker at the hospital immediately got to work to obtain the medical director’s approval for my breastfeeding…and it was approved in less than an hour! The only thing I wasn’t allowed to do was to keep my pumped milk in their fridge…this was because they had no way to label it since I wasn’t actually a patient. However, the nurses more than accommodated me with a cooler from the NICU and allowed us to help ourselves to plenty of ice (which my husband was so awesome at refreshing twice per day to keep the milk cool!) They also had a lactation room they welcomed me to use before we had our own room.

Nathaniel’s birth Momma, C., had a C-Section. We were able to meet Nathaniel within 15 minutes of his birth! We then joined her in the recovery room and I did some skin-to-skin. Immediately once placed on my chest he must have smelled the milk! He started licking and rooting! I figured it was as good a time as any and he latched!

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Nathaniel at about 30 minutes old, doing skin-to-skin, getting to know my scent, licking/rooting

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Nathaniel’s first latch!

I was breastfeeding! Hurray! All that hard work and this little guy was going to get so many benefits and so was I! I was so excited! We left the recovery room and went back to the nursery to wash up, then went to see C. once more before going to our room. There we were greeted by the awesome nurse Florence, who worked on positioning techniques and teaching the baby to nurse with us for about an hour. Since he was such a big boy (9lbs, 7oz!), they had to test his blood sugar before each feed to be sure that I was keeping up with his needs. He started to dip, so I syringe fed him a couple ml’s at a time after each nursing session for the first 24 hours, then his BGL was up to 74, hurray! He was peeing and pooping and loving nursing! I was still pumping 3x/day (after nursing) to relieve engorgement, and had an additional 15oz/day.

After a few days I noticed his poops were not turning from green to that normal yellow/seedy breastmilk pooped. I talked to his pediatrician about this and she said it was because I had such an over supply (about 25oz/day before nursing) that I actually needed to decrease my supply to meet his caloric needs, due to a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. She wasn’t worried because he was peeing practically every hour, but said I should make sure he is completely draining one breast before moving to the other – to make sure he was getting that good hind milk in addition to the fore milk. Now, that was something I didn’t think would happen!

Within a few days my supply leveled out and I didn’t need to pump at all, whohoo!!! Every once in a while though, if he was particularly fussy after nursing both sides, I would worry that perhaps I didn’t have enough milk. I would give him to Daddy, who would finger feed him with the Lact-Aid and I would pump. To my relief, I would still have 2-4oz left…so I knew it wasn’t a lack of milk, the little guy was just needing some extra TLC!

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Daddy doing an amazing job finger-feeding Nathaniel with some of my pumped breast milk!

While we were in TX I was able to find someone to donate all my pumped milk to for the 2 weeks while we were there! I did not want to have to carry a whole cooler full on the airplane. She was also an adoptive breastfeeding Momma! I did take a few oz on the plane for the way home and it was a lot easier to carry than I thought. I had to keep it separate from all my other carry-on items and they just shot a laser through the milk to test it and gave it back! Phew!

Then we finally got home, yay! While I did donate about 1,000oz of breastmilk from November and December, I did save everything I pumped from October. This was because I wanted my newborn to get the benefits of my first milk, which was clearly more gold appearing than my current, more mature milk. I am still giving him about 1-2oz/day, either at the breast or finger-fed by Daddy. I was worried that he wasn’t gaining weight…but he has been gaining one oz/day, yay!!

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Supplementing at the breast with a Lact-Aid!

Nathaniel has been growing, he no longer fits in newborn clothing! He is happy and healthy and nurses constantly. 100% of his diet has been from my milk!! I am loving this. Dan is such an amazing support system and loves that Nathaniel is getting such great immunities and that Nathaniel & I are so happy with this experience. It was so worth every effort throughout the last 8 months. Thanks to all those who have been such a great support and who have gone before me on the adoptive breastfeeding journey! I hope my blog inspires others who would not have otherwise known about this that it is possible and amazing!!

Feel free to share/message me with any questions!

Nathaniel’s Birth/Adoption Story

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Ultrasound photo of little Nathaniel!

 

Everyone has been asking for an updated blog post, I’m so sorry it’s taken me this long! I just know how fast this newborn stage flies by and I don’t want to miss a single moment! It’s taken so many years for this time and I’m taking it all in and basking. That and the fact that every time I sit down to work on this, the little guy wants to nurse! Well…I must adapt…I’ve decided to simply learn how to type while nursing him!

First off, a HUGE THANK YOU goes out to so many people! For all your prayers, gifts, love, encouragement and keeping us going through so many years of pain, we love you all so much!

So, Nathaniel’s Story:

Friday, March 4th, 2016:

We knew our profile was being looked at and stood on edge as we waited! We knew the name of the woman who was viewing our profile…I will refer to her as “C.” on here, so as to protect her privacy. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was holding a 24 hour confession and adoration and Dan really wanted to go. We decided to go and just open our hearts to God. We prayed for C. as she made her choice of who would be the parents of her precious little one. Whether she chose us or not, we hoped that she would be comforted along this journey. We felt such peace afterwards.

March 5th, 2016 at 10:44am, we got THE CALL!! It was funny because when the phone rang, I ran from the bathroom thinking “this is it, this is it!!!” because I knew she was viewing our profile the night before and I’d had another dream that this call was coming! Dan also felt like it was the call we had been waiting for as he heard the phone ring from where he was downstairs! We were matched with a little boy due in only 4 days!! We didn’t have much time to prepare…but thankfully we didn’t really have much left we needed to get ready, since we had already made sure we were “phone call ready” for any time.

We were so nervous and excited and decided to go shopping to get some things to pack. We got some food and litter for the cats and walked down the baby aisle to get him a few things. Walking back from the baby aisle though, Dan realized that he had somehow taken someone else’s shopping cart! We both had a good laugh. We told close family our good news and packed excitedly all weekend.

Monday March 7th We had our first phone call with C. in the afternoon and went to bed shortly after, since we had to wake up at 2am to catch our flight to TX. We landed at noon on Tuesday March 8th.As we were landing the pilot stated, “We’re having a little bit of a weather down there. So everyone should stay seated and the stewardess’ will take their seat as quickly as possible”. We landed with little fan fare and much to do about nothing. At the counter for the car rental we were told about a severe storm that just past through and tornado warnings were issued. Yikes! We drove to the hotel and quickly got settled in our room. We made a quick trip to the store to buy some snacks and other goods in preparation for our long stay. Dan wanted to be sure I tell y’all that this time he did not walk away with someone else’s cart, haha. It was tough to sleep that night since we were so excited to meet C. and her mom the next day! Little did we know our night was going to be a long night. A thunderstorm struck around 2am waking us up immediately.  The storm reminded us about tornadoes we wondered what  we should do if the sirens were to actually go off.  About a minute later, the sirens were going off.  We quickly jumped out of bed dashing for the door. Almost out of our room we  realized it was the phone going off warning us about flash floods. We laughed at our paranoia and tried to go back to sleep.

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Us at 3am, leaving for the airport! 

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Gorgeous sunrise take off! 

We met for breakfast on Wednesday March 9th and connected immediately! The social worker told C. that I planned to breastfeed and she seemed excited about it, which got me even more excited! They shared all kinds of ideas of where we should go while we were in TX. Dan tried to stay reserved, but even he was having a hard time after meeting up with C. We had a hard time saying goodbye, but knew we would all see each other the next day…meeting at the hospital for induction, scheduled for 0700! We went to Babies R Us from there and purchased a car seat for the baby…and of course we couldn’t resist some more cute outfits either!

C. was induced on Thursday March 10th and we were in the waiting room as C. was getting checked in. C. initially wanted us to spend the entire time in the waiting room, but then felt more comfortable with the fact that I was a nurse…so I had the privilege of holding her hand as the nurses placed her IV! Soon after that we were able to hear Nathaniel’s heart beat for the very first time! Our hearts just melted. She graciously allowed us in the delivery room at times throughout the day (we gave her privacy to sleep and whenever she was examined) and we all spent a lot of time getting to know each other. The staff at the hospital were SO FANTASTIC!! We loved both the social worker from the hospital and the social worker from our agency! Everyone was so welcoming to Dan & I, C., and her mother and sister, and made us all feel well taken care of. They even gave us our own room to sleep in that night! A nurse accidentally came into our room twice that night (wrong room)…and I jumped out of bed both times and asked “Is it time?!” She had no idea what I was talking about, lol. At 4am that morning all we could hear was “Get that baby out, GET that BABY OUT!!!! The baby is blue!!” Just as I was getting ready to jump out of bed and run into the hall, I hear a man’s voice yelling and then a nurse calming him down to assure him it was just a simulation. Ok, I can stop having a heart attack. Why on earth would they do that on 3rd shift?!

C. was a trooper and endured 26 hours of labor before the doctor’s determined a C-section would be best (she had been telling them this from the start!) Her mother immediately texted us pictures of Nathaniel once he was born and Dan & I nearly leapt out of our skin when we saw him!! He was born at 11:18 on Friday March 11th, weighing 9lbs 7oz, measuring 21 inches in length. He was born at Seton Hospital in Austin, TX. Fun fact: President Obama was in the same town that day for TX’s annual South By Southwest Festival!

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We got to meet little Nathaniel Isaiah in the recovery room with C. and spent some time together. We had some skin-to-skin bonding time initially and I was able to breastfeed him within 30 minutes of birth! We were able to get rooms next to each other and enjoyed going back and forth between each other’s rooms just visiting, talking, laughing and making very fond memories! Some of C.’s family came to visit and we enjoyed meeting everyone!

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We wanted to give C. something special and decided to take Nathaniel’s little suit that we planned to take him home in and put it on a bear for her to keep! She loved it and her mother said that in their family they always saved baby take-home outfits on a teddy bear…we had no idea! 

On Sunday the 13th, C. signed all her papers and we signed all of ours, officially placing little Nathaniel into our care! We said our good-bye’s to C. that night, knowing we’d be back to visit in the morning. On our way home we were in a sort of shock…we have a baby! Nearly 7 years of praying for this and we have a baby! During the whole hospital stay I had held on to every moment with little Nathaniel in case it would be our last. We cried tears of joy the whole ride home, but also cried for Nathaniel’s first mother, praying for her continued strength on this journey, acknowledging the huge sacrifice she made to fill our hearts with this joy. The reality hit us: we are parents now! In the middle of the night when the baby was crying at the hospital, we felt like professionals who knew what we were doing. Once we got back to the hotel and no longer had nurses to help us out during night, it was time for us to buckle up, take shifts, and be parents!

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We had Nathaniel’s pediatric appointment on Monday the 14th, which went very well! We loved the pediatrician and wished we could take her home with us! We visited C. right afterwards and stayed with her until she was discharged from the hospital. It was so nice to see her again! For the next few days we spent most of our time bonding with our new little one and enjoying a “Babymoon”. The weather in TX this time of year was so gorgeous, we didn’t want to come home…93 degrees and zero humidity! We spent some time in the sun, by the pool, enjoying the beautiful flowers around us, shopping and sleeping (on occasion!) We would go down for breakfast each morning and people would always comment how cute he was. We received many comments on how good I looked for having a 3-day-old, we would play into it for a minute, then tell them the little guy spent the first 9 months with his bio mommy…who was still recovering from how big he was!

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We took some pictures with little Nathaniel in the Blue Bonnet flowers outside the hotel – TX state flower!  They’re not usually out this time of year, but came out for Nathaniel’s birth! His birth family always took photos of their babies in the blue bonnets! 

Thursday the 17th we received word that we were now able to fly home whenever we wanted! We called C. to meet with her one more time the next day. On Friday the 18th we met Nathaniel’s maternal biological grandfather, his great-grandmother, his great-aunt and a few others. Everyone made us feel like such family instantaneously! It was, again, hard to say goodbye to everyone. C. then told us where to go for the best Tex-Mex in TX that she knew of. The 4 of us enjoyed our last night out together! Saturday was spent packing up and preparing for our flight back home…we again had to get up at 2am to leave for a 5:45am flight…why did we keep choosing such an early time?! Oh yeah, South by Southwest. After having to buy extra luggage from all the stuff we bought for Nathaniel in TX…Dan accidentally left the bag at the security check point and had to run back before catching our flight!

On Dan’s birthday, Sunday March 20th, we flew home. Nathaniel was great on the plane! He nursed when we lifted and landed so as to protect his ears. He didn’t cry except when I woke him up to nurse (he was much happier to be sleeping!)

We were so excited to be visited by family and start to settle into home. As for the cats: Melody was fine with him right away, though Treble didn’t know what to make of him at first. We are all adjusting well now and so excited to be a family!

Thank you again to everyone who has been there for us during this journey! I know we were difficult to be around at times, but for those who stuck it out and trudged through the trenches of childlessness with us, we love you so much! We can’t thank Nathaniel’s biological mother enough. Her courageous, loving sacrifice has filled that hole that was so raw in our lives. May she be blessed throughout her life and little Nathaniel will always know that she is our hero and that her and her family are an extension of our family! We feel so blessed and are so happy beyond words. Praise God!!

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Half The Cross: Waiting For You

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We’ve all seen the “best friend” necklaces, where each person gets a half of a heart. Perhaps most of us have even owned one. They represent a true connection of love, which conquers so much throughout our years that are full of growing pains. They symbolize that no matter what, through it all, our hearts will always be connected.

In some way, I already feel a similar connection with our future birthmother, whomever and wherever she may be. Except, while our hearts are definitely involved, I feel the stronger symbolism we would share is this: half a Cross. Perhaps a Cross with our hearts nailed to it would be an even more appropriate analogy.

Two halves coming together will one day provide one whole, beautiful story. This story, while built upon a foundation containing two different worlds of pain and suffering, will one day come together in harmony to provide a special life for a special child.

The first half: Our Infertility

Watching the latest episodes of “Downton Abbey” had me appreciating the film industry for recognizing the difficulties of infertility with Anna & Mr. Bates. I cried my eyes out watching every scene that included them because I have said ALL those same words, and cried all those tears! And Dan has ever been the reassuring comfort that Mr. Bates has personified. 72 cycles. 72 times have I screamed and cried at the loss of each child I so longed for. 72 long nights of my dear husband holding me in his arms and trying to offer reassurance and hope on a set of deaf ears. 72 times of crying out “Why, Lord?! Why would you burn my heart with this desire if my body can’t carry a child?!”

We spoke of adoption before we were even married. Before we even knew we were infertile. We hoped to adopt “some day”, because our hearts seemed to be called in that direction. However, we thought we would have a biological child first. We didn’t think we could afford adoption until “some day” ever came. As the picture became more clear, it became more and more real: this is how we were always meant to build our family. God placed adoption on our hearts a long time ago, yet we still tried so hard to do things “our way” first. It brought to the obvious surface the two virtues that I most lack: patience and humility. God sure has a way of refining virtue in a person, regardless of the stubborn resistance against it!

And we wait. Most people during this wait get to experience such joy! The positive test results come in: “we’re going to have a baby!” Excitement ensues. The good news is shared. A date is set. Perhaps a gender reveal and the painting/preparing of the nursery. Adoption is different. There is a quiet stillness. No baby to grow within my body, reminding me of their beautiful presence. Instead, the words “Be still and know that I am God”, says the Lord. “Be still”. Be humbled. Be patient. The Prayer of Saint Francis points it out the best:

“O Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life”

Which brings me to recognizing the other half of the cross:

 

The Second Half: Her Sacrifice

“Congratulations! Where are you due?”

“Is it a boy or girl?”

“Is this your first?”

“Do you have a name picked out?”

These are some questions I’ve observed people say to pregnant women…often times even before they’ve gotten the stranger’s name! I imagine it must be so difficult for our birthmother, especially once the conspicuous bump is revealed.

And yet, she does not get to experience the extreme joy that I assumed all women share once finding out they are with child. I imagine she puts her hand to her womb as the child within grows more each day, struggling with the emotions that ensue. She knows that, for whatever reason, this child was not meant to live with her outside her womb. She tries her best to stay strong, going back and forth between trying to establish what is meant to be. Everyone offers well-intended advice. She spends multiple nights in turmoil with all the choices set before her. She wants the best for her child.

But she is a hero already, for she has chosen to give this child life. If she chooses adoption, then next comes the more difficult part: handing over this precious life. Giving all her trust to people she hasn’t known for very long, but trusts that they will raise this child with all the love in the world. Knowing in her heart she will always be this child’s first mother. Knowing in her heart that she can only be there in spirit. Not knowing if the adoptive parents she chooses will be gracious to her even after the adoption. Giving the ultimate sacrifice.

 

The Glue That Binds This Cross Together:

I try to imagine all these pains and offer my sacrifices up for our birthmother. I can’t claim to say that I “know” what she is going through. But I love her already for her strength, for her sacrifice and for being an Angel sent from heaven to care for our child during the first months of his or her life, when I couldn’t carry a child within my own womb.

The grace that binds us together is that of hope. My hope has never been so strong. I feel strongly it will be this year. 2016. After my husband & I met, he had to wait 7 years for me. Just like Jacob waited for Rachel in the bible for 7 years and worked hard for her, so did my husband wait 7 years for me. This June will be our 7th Anniversary, and just as Jacob had to wait another 7 years for Rachel, so did we have to wait another 7 years for our little one. God has tested us in fire for so many years. He has prepared us for this next journey. One whole cross. Two painful journeys that build together one beautiful story.

Grieving Jordyn, Pushing Forward

It was all so perfect. Too perfect. I thought for sure it was going to happen. We only waited 4 weeks before we were matched with a lovely young woman who wanted the best for her little girl. She was going to be our little girl. Our daughter! Oh, I so longed for a daughter! Her birthmother was so sweet! She was going to let us choose her name. She wanted us there in the hospital for the delivery and wanted us to be there the whole time. She said “I want to be the one to hand you the baby, and I’m going to walk out of that hospital and never interfere. You will be her parents. I want to be like a Guardian Angel to her”. I was already making 8oz/day of breastmilk for her, praying for her as I was pumping, especially during those quiet 1am and 5am pumps by the fireplace with just a kitty cat for company. We were given so many beautiful gifts for her! Our whole community was ready to welcome this little girl into its loving fold! A fundraiser was held to help bring her home!

But then, the worst fear any adoptive parent could possibly have came to life: 3 days before we were going to fly to TX to be prepared for labor at any time, we got that phone call. Naively, I was excited, thinking “This is it, she’s in labor! She’s calling to let us know to come as soon as possible because this baby is coming tonight!”. But I was devastated to find that wasn’t the reason for the call. The social worker said “She has something to tell you”, and the phone was passed to our birthmother. I didn’t understand what was going on, her voice sounded so stern! “I’m so sorry” she said, “someone has offered to pay for all my needs and hers, and because of this I now have the opportunity to keep my daughter”. Filled with devastation and loss for myself, but, with God’s grace, complete understanding for her, all I could say was “It’s ok! You don’t need to explain. Of course you want to keep her!”, she begged me not to hate her. How could I hate someone for wanting to keep their child? My heart was shattered in an instant, but all I could say was “but you would have felt this way too. One of us was going to be in pain no matter what”. I couldn’t even breathe, much less speak, after that. I was in shock. She had the baby that night, according to the CEO of the agency, who spoke with us the next day.

Yesterday morning I was still having such a difficult time with the shock and pain. The birthmother and I had such a connection previously, that we exchanged phone numbers early on. I didn’t know how she would react, but I mustered up the courage to reach out to her. I had to see the baby. I needed to know her name. I didn’t feel like I could heal until I put a face and a name to the child I so longed for. And what did I have to lose if I did reach out to her? A daughter? Certainly I had nothing to lose. I told her this little girl would always have a piece of my heart and that I will always pray for her, and that I wanted to be that Guardian Angel she said she would be originally. To my surprise, she texted me back immediately! She thanked me for understanding! She gave me her name and gave me 3 pictures!

Jordyn Renee.

She was so beautiful! I saw her face and dropped the phone and the tears poured out like healing rain. I had to grab my chest as I nearly fell to the floor. I felt the shattered pieces of my heart coming back together with a swarm of grace that I have never in my life felt before. All I could feel was “that’s not my baby! She’s beautiful, but she isn’t the one!”. I was given peace and closure. That’s what I needed. Thank you God. Thank you to our birthmother. Thank you for grace. Thank you for healing.

This journey, while it’s been so very difficult for us, is not over. We are back into matching again, awaiting the child that is meant for us. I continue to pump milk, which has been both painful and healing. We await the next step. We are strong because we have eachother, and an amazing community to support us. Thank you everyone. We will push on.

Breastfeeding Our Adopted Child – Part 1

donatedmilk

This post is written to the audience of people who actually intend to do this, but I welcome anyone who is interested in the information to read! 

I have shared with many people that we plan to breastfeed our adopted baby. Many questions have been asked, so I’m going to update this post as I go along as to how I was able to induce lactation.

Part One: Gathering Information/Making the Decision

How did I ever hear about adoptive breastfeeding? When I was 16 years old, I read a fictional book by Bud MacFarland. It was the 3rd of his Triology, and it was entitled “House of Gold”. In that book, there was the end of the world, a newborn baby whose mother had died, and an infertile woman who survived. The infertile woman took the child to her breast for comfort only, and fed the baby at her breast through a straw. She eventually found she was producing milk!

Flash forward many years. I’m realizing that we are infertile. Breastfeeding is probably the one thing I would miss most if we adopted…but, was it possible? Was that just a fictional book, or was this a real thing? Folks, it’s a real thing (Yay!). That amazing bond PLUS all the benefits for the little one’s immune system…I was all over it!

Enter many choices. There are so many different ways to induce lactation! I could wait until the baby was born and just use a special device called a Lact-Aid (which is a pouch that holds the milk around your neck with a tube that inserts into baby’s mouth while suckling at the breast). This would allow baby to be fed at breast with either donor milk or formula and the baby’s sucking itself naturally stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete prolactin and bring some milk to the breasts. However, it takes time for the breasts to develop to prepare though, so I didn’t choose this route.

There are many different protocols to begin before knowing baby would be here, at match, and even at placement! The book “Breastfeeding Without Birthing” offers a great look at so many different ways. I chose Newman Goldfarb’s protocol: prepare the breasts by elevating estrogen, progesterone and prolactin before baby arrives (as would occur in pregnancy), then stop the hormones to mimic birth, then pump.

The most difficult decision was “when do I start?”, I believe this is the million dollar question all adoptive breastfeeding mamas ask before getting ready. I felt my heart being pressed to start very soon…only one month after we started the adoption process! The risk of starting too early was having to pump for a indefinite time with no baby…but I was willing to take that risk, believing I would just develop a freezer “stash” and could always donate if I needed to. So, I was blessed to find a lactation consultant in my area who was also an APRN!  And she knew about lactation induction!! What a miracle in itself! So I began the Newman Goldfarb Protocol* (see below for resource)

Part Two: Prep Work and Pumping

July 12th I began the hormones (Microgestin 1.5/30) in addition to an anti-nausea medication that increases prolactin: domperidone** (see below for where I purchased) and it was 12 weeks before we got “the call”. I’d started out with the regular protocol, but ended up stopping the hormones a bit earlier (it’s recommended to be on for at least 4 months), which put me onto a modified accelerated protocol.

After I stopped the hormones I started pumping every 3 hours during the day, starting at 4am. The first 2 days I saw only drops of a colostrum-like milk (I don’t say it was colostrum because I have been told you need a placenta for colostrum, but whatever was produced certainly looked like colostrum! It was thick, clear/yellow/sticky and difficult to pump)

By the end of day 3, I was able to collect some drops while pumping and had about 1/4 tsp!!

Day 4:


Day 5:

Day 6: 
Day 8:


Day  9:

Day 10: 

I was shocked to already have a small freezer stash by the end of 2 weeks! I was so thrilled at how my body was responding so fast! I then started pumping every 2 hrs at home, 3 at work and 4 at night.

I still took the domperidone, and since pumping have included: fenugreek & blessed thistle, mother’s milk tea, goat’s rue, brewer’s yeast, drinking lots of water and eating foods like oatmeal, carrots, sweet potato and greens.

I thanked God for every drop of milk, even in the beginning stages where there wasn’t much milk produced. I got up to 8oz/day by the end of 3 weeks.

But then we got the devastating news. Our birthmother had changed her mind. This was the risk we had taken. Since then I have chosen to continue pumping. I had more choices again at that point: do I limit my pumping and keep my supply at 8oz/day? Or do I keep pumping multiple times to bring my supply up, then slowly wean down the pumping when I’ve made a full supply to be ready for baby? I chose the latter option. My next pump schedule looked like this:

0100, 0500, 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800, 2100

I was up to 13oz by the end of one month! And my new goal was to have a full supply for when we were matched again with (hopefully) the little one that God had intended for us…it seemed possible!!

The lowdown of how my supply built:

6 weeks – 16oz/day

7 weeks – 20oz/day

8 weeks – 22oz/day

9 weeks – 25oz/day

After much research, it seemed that 25oz/day was an average, sufficient supply for a baby from age 1 month to 24 months. I was happy with this number, and soooo excited that I could then start decreasing my pump sessions! I dropped a session every couple of days and after 14 weeks of pumping I was down to 3-4x/day while maintaining 23-25oz/day! I would have weaned to more like 1-3x/day, but engorgement is too uncomfortable. Then I decided I would start dropping supplements. I dropped the Goat’s Rue and the Blessed Thistle. I had long since remembered to take my daily Mother’s Milk Tea. I’d only been taking Fenugreek & Brewer’s Yeast, along with the Domperidone. I was initially taking 80mg/day per the protocol, and took and extra 20mg (100mg total) to help boost my supply when I started pumping. I dropped 10mg here and there, making sure to monitor my supply for a few days and went down to 60mg/day at the 14 week mark, which I have maintained.

Part Three: Reaping the Rewards of Labor

So, there I was, pumping along…having such a hard time with the grief of loss initially, but then feeling better about things as I watched myself meet and even exceed my goals! But 24oz/day starts to add up! My deep freezer was getting very full! I figured I could build up a freezer stash of 6 months worth of milk, in case we were matched with twins, at least I could provide 50% of their milk myself at the breast, and supplement the rest. However, I was informed that there was a baby in need of breastmilk! Her parents were badly injured in a car accident and she was being cared for by a friend. A selfish thought that I need to save the milk for my baby(ies) first took told of me…but then I truly felt a nudge from above that this was what I was meant to do…and even perhaps why I had to go through a failed match while waiting for my baby. I donated about 500 oz of milk (first picture, above) and felt so happy to be able to give to a baby in need while waiting for mine! This message made it all worthwhile:

“Just wanted to update you that both the mom and dad are in rehab now in recovery. The baby is getting the milk you donated every day in daycare and doing well! 🙂 All thanks to you. Thank you so much.”

My arms may be empty, but my heart is full ❤

Special Thanks: To my amazing husband, who supported me so much throughout this process! You are so amazing and I couldn’t have done it without you! From your words of encouragement on days where I didn’t feel I could do it anymore, to washing bottles and keeping my water bottle full. I love you so much. Also a bundle of thanks to Mary Kilburg, who gave me a world of resources and introduced me into the Adoptive Breastfeeding group! And to all my friends who have cheered me on and given me so many tips!

In Conclusion:

Hope you can find this helpful, as I really relied on blogs of others who have done this before when I got started. One important thing to remember though: Breastfeeding without birthing is not so much about the milk as it is about that bond. There are supplemental nursing systems (I have a Lact-Aid) to feed at the breast, even if you have no milk! The baby suckling will bring in the milk, and even if you only have drops, each drop is full of antibodies!

Good luck to anyone who would like to do this. Though it isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when you are pumping after a failed adoption. Some day I will look back with my baby in my arms, my own body nurturing them and providing them with a form of nutrient that was created especially for them…from me (their Mommy!!), and it will have been so worth it.

Resources:

*Newman-Goldfarb Protocols on Lactation Induction: http://www.asklenore.com

**Domperidone – an anti-nausea medication (similar to Reglan, but does not cross the blood-brain barrier) that increases Prolactin, I purchased from Thailand at http://www.clickremedy.com

***There is a facebook group for those who are inducing lactation, called “adoptive breastfeeding” (you need to be approved prior to being allowed in, be sure to check your messages “other” folder for an information request from and admin)

****I also highly recommend the book “Breastfeeding Without Birthing”. For those of you local to me, it is available at the Canterbury, CT Public Library for loan (ask and you shall receive!)

*****For those local to me: The lactation consultant who is following me is Andrea Dameron, I highly recommend her! And she’s an APRN, so she can prescribe the hormones, should you choose to go that route.

******The Lact-Aid supplemental nursing system at the breast: http://www.lact-aid.com/

Tips: 

My pump – Medela Pump In Style Advanced. Keep cycling the “let down” mode multiple times throughout pumping.

Hands-free pumping bra…ESSENTIAL!!!! You can make your own by taking an old sports bra and cutting slits into it.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 OF OUR STORY!!

So Many Blessings! 

I can’t even believe how fast this journey is flying by! We had our profile out for only 4 weeks and are matched!!! We had the honor is speaking with our birthmother a few days ago and she is so sweet! We are so happy and thanking God! She told us the baby is 4-5lbs already…due date is Nov 10th, but she always goes 3 weeks early! Which puts us at…tomorrow! Yikes! Hoping she “cooks” just a bit longer though 😉 In the meanwhile, we have the most amazing friends and family who have stepped forward and offered us so many things we needed…and are hosting a fundraiser this Sat! I’m so amazed by everyone! This child is already so loved ❤ 

Reflections on Adoption…Here I Am, Lord

3 months of grueling amounts of paperwork are complete. We gave ourselves one week to make our Profile Book, the book that is meant to take a snapshot of our entire lives and paint a picture that would capture the attention of a pregnant woman who felt she couldn’t keep her child. And without many words, because “too wordy and they won’t read it, some of them can’t even read”. But I have so much to say!

We made our deadline and the books are on their way. I was originally so excited to get to this point! So excited that after years of infertility, we could move on from the grief! However, after our phone call with the CEO of our Adoption Agency, my view towards the whole situation had to take a 180. I was naïve. Why, after so many years of pain, would I think this would be any less painful?

I’d hoped we would be matched after a few months, have our baby, and live happily ever after! The reality is that the chances that our child will be ripped out of our arms at the last moment are 50%. After spending $4,000 for 2 visits (one to meet, one for birth), and our budgeted $6,000 for birthmother expenses…after gazing into our new child’s eyes, breastfeeding, allowing our hearts to gather in every ounce of this new child and the excitement of finally being able to welcome our child home…we could still lose yet another hope. Granted, we are used to loss. We are used to grief. We have practiced for this every month for 6 years.

Here’s where I realized that my mindset has to change: when we are eventually chosen by a birthmother, we have to take our Pro-life attitude to an entirely new level. I feel we’re being called and tested in fire. We are being matched with a woman in a crisis. One who, without help, could certainly never be able to fathom raising a child at this time in her life. These are the women who often abort their children, for they don’t know where else to turn. However, this woman who chooses us, she may or may not have questioned abortion…but she chose life for this child! We ought to be so happy for her! And she’s reaching out to us for help. We always preached about how we would help if a woman in a crisis pregnancy would ask for help…well, this is our time to shine.

I’ve always envisioned opening up my home, and/or giving $100 here or there…never $10,000…and 100% of my heart and efforts. Working so many extra hours to pay for this woman’s food and housing will be grueling physically, but we will also entwine with her life emotionally as we journey with her throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. Our hearts will swell as we share in the joy of this child’s birth and get to know this woman so much better…we won’t be able to hold back the joy!

But we must prepare. We have to be ok with coming home with empty arms if she changes her mind. Knowing that we helped this courageous woman choose life for her child should put some rain on the raging fires of pain that will go on within our souls. Perhaps if we weren’t there, she might have hurt herself in an attempt to kill her baby…but there will be life for her, and there will be life for her child. We have to be strong. We have to be ready. We can’t be naïve. We take up our cross and embrace this next journey. We hope to defeat the odds, but are prepared to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and do it all again if necessary. My comfort during this trial is that my husband is the only man I would want to go through this with, thank you God for him! He is my everything.

So here goes. Let the calm before the storm begin. We wait to be called. We’re ready.

“Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard You, calling in the night! I will go Lord. If You lead me. I will hold your people in my heart”.