A Birthmom Raises the Question of Breastfeeding and Adoption- #MyStoryMatters: Vicki’s Story

by Vicki

Kevin and Vicki

I am birthmom to Kevin. What is a birthmom you ask? That means that I did not raise him. I gave him to a family to raise. I was lucky though, open adoption was just in its infancy and I have known Kevin and his family his whole life. They are part of my family! When I got engaged I called my parents, my soon to be husbands parents and Kevin’s parents.

He is now the age I was when I had him. He is 21 years old and I could not imagine him raising a child at 21, just like I could not imagine myself doing it then. It is crazy to think I have a 21 year old kid when I am still like only 30 years old! Math can be weird that way. To me, being a birthmom means that Kevin is my son, but I am not his mom. He has a mom. The mom that raised him. The mom that tucked him into bed every night. The mom that he does not call or respond to while he is away at college! (No respect!)

Kevin photo

For years after I placed Kevin I worked as an expectant mom counselor. I helped moms make adoption plans for their unborn children. The reason why parents choose adoption is as varied as the reasons people have kids, but the main reason is wanting more for their child than they feel they can provide. A better life!

Breastfeeding and adoption has always been taboo. On both sides. But I do not think it should be and I hope it changes! And how do we change it? By talking about it and sharing our stories! I wish I had considered breastfeeding Kevin. I would have loved having that special time with him the first few days after he was born. And knowing I had provided him with milk for the first however-many-months would be a joy to me, even now.

Expectant moms are not encouraged to breastfeed when considering adoption. It is not even part of the conversation. The fear is that it will make placement harder for them. Having that intimate connection will make saying good-bye more difficult. So the perspective adoptive parents and counselors would not suggest something that they believe may encourage the mom to parent. But the truth is, it cannot be harder than it already is to give your child to someone else to raise. I know a few moms that breastfeed or pumped and sent milk. And it is amazing. I hope it continues to be more and more common.

On the flip side of the coin is induced lactation for adoptive moms. This is also taboo. This one is harder to put my finger on. There is some odd belief that breastfeeding a child that is not biologically yours is somehow gross or odd. (Crazy!) But there is also an emotional aspect for the birthmom. As a birthmom, once your baby is gone, what you have left is the knowledge that your body sustained the baby, there is connection that no one can ever take away. And the fear is that breastfeeding will somehow lessens that connection. The adoptive mom’s body is also sustaining the baby. And that makes the birthmom less important.

Of course neither of these things are true. It will not be harder to place your baby if you breastfeed (and if you decide to parent, good for you!). And an adoptive mom feeding her baby is not weird and will not lessen the birth mom bond. The important piece in all of this is doing what is best for the baby. Even if emotionally it is hard for you, we all need to step back and remember is not about us.

First and foremost, of course, feed the baby! However that looks. But my hope is that breastfeeding can be part of the adoption conversation, wouldn’t that be awesome?

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What do you think of breastfeeding and adoption?

Do you have any experience with breastfeeding and adoption?

Share in the comments below your thoughts on adoption and breastfeeding.

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If you are a birthmom or know a birthmom looking for support or a community, On Your feet Foundation is an excellent resource. They have retreats, case management and an amazingly supportive community just for birthmoms.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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vicki's headshot
 
Vicki lives in Palatine, IL with her husband and 2 cats! After having Kevin at 21 she suffered from secondary infertility and is unable to have more kids biologically and has decided to live child-free. Vicki has always worked in women’s issues and currently works as a community manager at Ameda, a breast pump company where she loves helping moms meet their breastfeeding goals.
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Comments

  1. If I had had kids younger, I would like to think I’d have breastfed or pumped at least for a while. I know if I ever have the chance to adopt a baby, I’m breastfeeding him or her! I’ve had two myself and ended up feeding my first much longer than I expected (she was 2 when we started weaning) and hope to make it at least that far with my 7 months old…

  2. Darillyn Lamb Starr says:

    This is a lovely article, and I thank you so much for writing it! I’m also happy that you have a relationship with your son!

    I’m an adoptive mom of six kids, born between 1983 and 1995. I nursed them all, some with much more success than others. At the beginning of that time, I knew that adoptive applicants had been turned down because of voicing a desire to breastfeed, on the basis that they weren’t mentally stable and wanted to pretend they had given birth to the baby. Other than that, however, I wasn’t aware that it was considered tabu. Perhaps that was because so few people knew that anyone did it, back then. The first baby I nursed openly, wherever we happened to be, was born in 1989. As near as I could tell, it was as well accepted as bio moms breastfeeding. When I got the internet, however, I started to find negative sentiments about it, mostly from birth mothers. That really surprised me, because I see it as part of raising the baby as I would have, had I given birth to him/her. Isn’t that what birth mothers want an adoptive mother to do?

    As far as birth mothers breastfeeding in the early days after birth, it has surprised me that anyone else would even think they had a right to an opinion about it, let alone a right to discourage her. It’s her right to do what she sees fit, and even if breastfeeding did make her change her mind about placing her baby, it probably wasn’t the right thing, in the first place. Sure, that’s painful for the family who had hoped to get the baby, but they will adjust, and are still free to keep looking for their baby, where a birth mother has to live with her decision, every day for the rest of her life.

  3. What an amazing story to read!! The suport you are giving adoptive moms is amazing. I adopted my son at birth, induced lactation and we are still nursing two years later. His birthmom was so supportive and actually suggested me inducing lactation first! The bond we have from breastfeeding is amazing and to know I did so without ever being pregnant still baffles me. It is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done!! I know my son loves his nursing time. To know I’ve made him healthier, stronger and gave us a better bond is completely amazing and humbling to me. Thank you so much for this article!.

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