#MyStoryMatters: Adoption ≠ A Better Life, Just A Different One

by Alyssa Ruben

Nobody prepares you for the grief you feel when you sign those relinquishment papers and forever become what society deems a “birthmom”. Nobody prepares you for the reality of your child’s adoptive parents closing what was promised to be an open adoption. 15 years ago, I gave up my oldest child for adoption. Everyday since that day has been a test of my strength because every day I feel weak. A test to my willingness to keep living, because there were many days in the beginning that I had wanted or tried to kill myself from the soul shattering grief that I live with everyday. 

Coercion in the domestic infant adoption industry is real. They feed on the love that mothers have for their children. They look you in the eyes and make you believe that your baby is better off with strangers. Young impressionable women, told over and over again how much better off their baby would be without them. How more money, 2 parents, a college fund, big house, older more established parents equals a better life. 

I was 17 when I discovered I was pregnant, and much to far along to have an abortion. It was a child by that point, in every sense of the word. Both legally, emotionally, and psychologically. I was homeless, bouncing from one friends couch to another. Unsure of where my next meal was coming from, let alone how I was going to keep a baby. Nobody offered solutions. Nobody offered alternatives. Nobody showed me the resources available to me to keep my baby. The family I ended up living with for the majority of the remainder of my pregnancy told me in no uncertain terms that if I choose to keep my baby I would be out on the street. They also didn’t offer my poor naive teenager self any alternatives or resources to help me make an informed choice. Just adoption. Only adoption. 

I distanced myself during the pregnancy. I told myself I was a surrogate carrying someone else’s baby, that he wasn’t mine. That he was never meant for me. I repeated all the crap the adoption agency told me in my head over and over again trying to convince myself that this was the right choice….and for many years it worked. I believed those words. Until I stopped drinking the “Kool-Aid”. Until I took a real look through open eyes at what I had done. What had been done to me, and what I had done to my child. I died the day I signed those relinquishment papers, forever severing my rights to my child. The girl I once was…is gone. She won’t ever come back. The child he should have been is gone too. He will never be who he should have been. I live everyday with a giant piece of my soul missing. Nothing will ever fill that, even with reunion.

I would love to say that promises were kept and my open adoption stayed open. It didn’t. Once they got what they wanted, they closed the adoption. They ran for the hills and never looked back, except for when they wanted to blame my genetics for problems that he has. Never once stopping to consider that it was because he was an adoptee that these problems exist in the first place. 

Holidays are hard, his birthday is even harder. Watching my kids that I’ve raised mourn the loss of their brother that they should have had is gut wrenching. Not being able to ease their pain, because I can’t even ease mine, is soul shattering. Adoption doesn’t just affect the natural parents. It affects everyone. It affects the aunts, the uncles, the grandparents, the raised children and the spouses. His life is not better because I gave him up. And my life is not better because I gave him up. Adoption doesn’t equal a better life. Just a different one. 

There is so much more I could write, and maybe one day I will. But I’ll leave you with this. If you are considering adoption please remember these words. Your situation is temporary. Adoption…adoption is forever. 

 ____________________

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.

 ____________________

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).

____________________

image1
Alyssa Ruben is a 33 year old doula, CPST-IC, student midwife, placenta encapsulation specialist and stay at home mother to 5 children. 4 that she is raising. She’s an advocate for national midwifery licensure, domestic infant adoption reform and passionate about car seat safety. When she’s not acting as chauffeur, personal chef and official boo boo kisser she enjoys reading, volunteering, and serving and holding space for laboring and pregnant women. She currently resides in Southern Wisconsin with her husband of 14 years and 4 children and one very fat cat. You can follow her on Instagram @squishymommy1.
Share

The Pumping Birthmom: Pumping for the Baby I Didn’t Take Home- Talia’s Story #MyStoryMatters

by Talia

Talia, guest post, leaky to leaky, open adoption

My son Yeshua was almost two when I realized I was pregnant again. But this time instead of tears of joy I cried tears of fear and disbelief. It wasn’t the right time. I called Journeys of the Heart and this is where my adoption process began.

I had never even heard open adoption before but Beth, my adoption counselor at Journeys had me convinced that it would be the best situation for me and the baby, so I was immediately on board. I found a nice couple that already had three boys and things moved forward fast. We had visits, Yeshua started playing with their kids, and Nikki (the adoptive-mom-to-be) even came to ultrasounds with me. We would have lunch and write deep sounding lovey fluffy emails to each other expressing our feelings about this crazy open adoption process we had entered together. Everything seemed perfect…until I was 36 weeks.

Now I’m a breastfeeding fanatic. Yeshua hadn’t had a drop of formula and I pumped at work for him like a dairy cow. I’m all the way crunchy. I even put my breast milk in my own ear when I got a sinus infection (I would have put it in my son’s ear too if he ever had one! But he never did, because he was breastfed). With all that being said, I was determined to pump and send milk to the adoptive family after this new baby was born as well. Even though I knew Zachary wouldn’t be coming home with me, I still wanted to give him the gift only his birthmother could give: breast milk a.k.a. liquid gold.

At 36 weeks it was time to sit down and make a “contract” that would set expectations or guidelines for how our open adoption relationship would play out once Zachary was born. I considered my expectations to be quite low, but one of them included sending milk that I had pumped. I never imagined in a million years that someone would turn down liquid gold for her newborn child. This couple refused. They gave no explanation for why, but they simply stated that they “preferred not to take it.” So I said, “Well they prefer not to have my child then.” Beth and I were onto a search for a new family that was right for me.

I fell in love with a parent profile that I had overlooked earlier with a couple named Robin and Jeff in it. Before I met them though, I asked Beth to call them to ask them their feelings about me pumping milk and sending it to them. Not only were they ecstatic about the idea, they actually already had a freezer full of frozen breast milk waiting for them from a friend whose toddler would no longer drink it. It was truly meant to be. We met and three weeks later I gave birth to Zachary Isaiah.

I was afraid to latch him to my breast. I was afraid to fall even deeper in love than I already was and I knew that many promised adoptions were ripped to shreds once the baby latched and the birthmother changed her mind. But I also knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t have those holy sacred moments with my perfect 6 pound newborn baby.

guest post, leaky to leaky, tail's open adoption story

I was sad and afraid that it was breaking Robin’s heart to watch me nurse the son she would take home the next day without being able to feed the same way, but she supported me and made me feel loved. I secretly asked her to forgive me in my mind. Leaving the hospital the next day without Zachary was the hardest moment of my life. I mourned the loss of a living baby which is so strange and distinct, but what was even stranger was that I was able to go home and start making milk for him right away, just as if he was right in my arms. A month after that I moved 5 hours away but that didn’t stop me; I kept pumping and froze the milk. In the meantime Robin’s friend with the freezer milk spent a small fortune mailing the milk over dry ice and between the two of us Zachary was an adopted baby that drank breast milk exclusively for the first 6 weeks of his life. I pumped for about three months but eventually I got a full time job and the supply was less and less. I lamented deeply as it all diminished.

I was able to visit with Zachary and his parents several times within his first few weeks of his life. The hardest part of those visits were holding my baby and smelling him and my body’s natural response was for my milk ducts to let down and say, “hey lady, it’s time to feed your baby.” I longed so badly to nurse him when I visited at their house, but I knew to request something so absurd would be crossing the line and I would never want to make Robin and Jeff uncomfortable because we had a beautiful open adoption. So instead of nursing him I went home and pumped and labeled the milk baggies “I love you Zachary.”

birth mom breastfeeding adoptive baby

Two years later Robin shared with me that because of our unique situation, Journeys Of The Heart had created new guidelines for new incoming adoptive parents. Now they tell adoptive parents that if the mother wishes to pump it is “highly recommended” to accept it. I felt honored by that change and hope to be an inspiration for birthmothers in the future to be encouraged to give a beautiful gift of milk that only they can give.

____________________

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.

____________________

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.

____________________

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).

____________________

guest post, leaky to leaky, Talia's open adoption story 
Talia lives in southern Illinois with her fiance and son.  After having an intense all natural birth with her birthson Zachary, she realized her dream is to be a midwife and help other women empower themselves through having the birth of their dreams as well.  She currently works as an OB RN and prenatal massage therapist, with plans in the near future to start midwifery school.
 
Share

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?

____________________

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.

____________________

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.

____________________

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).

 ____________________

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.
Share

The Forest of Grief- How To Support Someone Through The Loss of Their Child- Mighty Gabriel

By Nicole Keesecker Plourde
This post made possible by the generous support of CatBird Baby Carriers.
Note from the editor: When Nicole and Beth shared the story of Mighty Gabriel with us we knew it was a story we wanted to help share. When they talked about how they walked with their friends through their grief, we knew the lessons they learned were ones we wanted to pass on. Mourning the loss of a child is difficult beyond words, being the friend of someone going through such pain often feels like a hopeless situation. These practical suggestions for how to love and support someone we care for in the midst of the greatest pain of their lives won’t eliminate their suffering but it can help them know they are not alone. If you are grieving the loss of a child, please know that we are here for you, TLB and the wonderful moms running CatBird Baby are ready to support and care for you, our hearts ache for you with the loss you have endured. You are not alone. ~Jessica 

file5351253071753

Being the friend of someone who is grieving the loss of a child, be it through pregnancy loss or after their child was born, can be an overwhelming position to be in. How do we care? How do we support? How in the world do we appropriately honor their grief without causing them more pain? Is that even possible? While I don’t have all the answers and I’m learning myself, I wanted to share these 5 points with you:

  1. Be there. No really, show up. With food or a mop to clean their bathroom, whatever it is, they’ve already lost so much, they shouldn’t lose friends too. 
  2. Stick around. Our lives are busy and our attention spans short. We will move on to the next thing—they will not. Continue to reach out to your friend even after the initial event has passed. Grief never really stops; it is carried. They will need you three months from now, three years from now and three decades from now.
  3. Say their child’s name. Mentioning their loved one will not make your friend more sad than they already feel. That’s not possible. It tells them that their child has not been forgotten.
  4. Follow their lead. Some days will be better than others. The grief is theirs and not yours. Let them do things their way and be there to support them.
  5. Blanket them with your love. Listen and be honest. Hug more and talk less (I need to work on this one). Then love some more.

I wish I didn’t have to write any of this, but I do. Gabriel taught me that walking through the forest of grief is never something any of us should have to do alone. Here is his story.

guest post, leaky to leaky

Mighty Gabriel’s Forest

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and this year tragedy hit a little too close to home. The Catbird Baby carrier I gifted to my friends and fellow parents would never be used. Their beautiful baby boy, Gabriel Anthony Allen, was born on June 24, 2015 and passed peacefully in their arms just 64 days later. No parent should have to go through what they have. And at Catbird Baby we want to honor baby Gabriel and bring awareness to the disease that took him from us. We want to share his family’s story to bring people together, to find a cure, to let everyone who has lost a child know that they are not alone.

Gabriel had Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Even his mother, a family physician, hadn’t heard of it. SMA is a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants. SMA is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. This means that, generally, both parents must pass on a faulty gene for the child to have SMA. There are four different types of SMA. SMA type I—the kind Gabriel had—is the most severe and also the most common. Babies with type I usually face greater physical challenges than individuals with other types of SMA. The expected lifespan of a child with SMA type I can vary dramatically based on many factors.

There were no warning signs. An induced, unmedicated birth followed a healthy and happy pregnancy. Gabriel had good APGAR scores and passed all of the screening tests. He nursed like a pro just minutes after birth. Then the nurses noticed that he was a little “floppy.” Low muscle tone in very young infants is often the first sign of SMA type 1. He stayed in the hospital for observation and more tests. Everything came back normal. They took Gabriel home.

guest post, leaky to leaky

They enjoyed time together as a family. Big sister, Eleanor, jockeyed for space on her mama’s lap and at the breast. Although a bit tricky at times, everyone got what they needed. All was right with the world.

Then one day he had an episode of blue lips while nursing and that night he was struggling with his latch. After a visit to the doctor everything seemed okay. But, a few days later, Gabriel was working hard to breathe and his whole face turned gray. A trip to the ER, followed by helicopter ride to the Children’s Hospital ended with a stay in the PICU. After a couple days he was too tired to nurse. He wouldn’t even take a bottle nipple. He needed help breathing, so his mama started pumping day and night so that he could receive her nourishment from a feeding tube.

At four weeks old Gabriel was diagnosed with SMA. As his respiratory system as struggling, his brain was developing. He wanted to play, like any other baby. He was fussy and hated to poop, just like any other baby. He was loved and adored, just like any other baby. There were no easy choices. Life at the hospital was hard. A plan was made to care for Gabriel at home.

guest post, leaky to leaky

After 30 days in the hospital, the family reunited at home. Gabriel’s bedroom windows faced the woods. They sang, played music and read books. They spent time outside when they could. His sister enjoyed singing “Twinkle, Twinkle.”

They had been home from the hospital for two weeks. Gabriel’s breathing became more shallow. After a clear, warm and sunny spent in the woods, Gabriel died in his parents’ arms.

Gabriel’s short life has meaning. Gabriel taught everyone in his corner of the universe how to love deeply, and to live in the moment. We will hold our children closer, and speak of love and life. His mama donated a cooler full of breastmilk to a local mom, sharing the milk her body made for him with another baby in need, a healing move for more than just one.

And, it just so happened, that one of Catbird Baby’s new mei tai prints featured a forest—just like the one outside Gabriel’s window—filled with deer, rabbits and foxes. We knew. It was mighty Gabriel’s forest.

Might Gabriel CatBird print

MightyGabriel Catbird MT

He never grew up to run and explore the wonderland outside his window or learn to skip rocks alongside his sister. But we know that his spirit lives on in the whisper of the wind, the rustling of the leaves, in the playfulness and purposefulness that is nature.

A portion of all CatBird Baby Mighty Gabriel’s Forest mei tai sales will go to cureSMA, an organization that funds research for the treatment of and cure for SMA. To honor Gabriel, the little guy who never got to go in his own carrier, the CatBird family is walking through the forest of grief with our friends and hoping to inspire others to do the same. 

guest post, leaky to leaky

Help us spread the word, find a cure and stand with our friends and loved ones who grieve the loss of a child. Nobody should walk the forest of grief alone and we hope that together not only can we support each other, we can also help find effective treatment and cure for future little ones with SMA. For Gabriel.

catbirdbaby_logo

____________________

To learn more about SMA visit cureSMA.org.

To learn more about Mighty Gabriel and his story visit here.

To learn more about surviving child loss and infertility visit this site.

____________________

guest post, leaky to leaky
Nicole is the Director of Marketing for Catbird Baby. When she’s not talking about baby carriers, she’s usually wearing one while playing mom to her three amazing girls with a coffee in one hand and her phone in other.
Share

Aja’s Story; A #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Aja Davis

Aja Davis, breastfeeding support, guest post

I didn’t always know that I wanted to breastfeed. When my closest friend gave birth at 19, I was happy when she supplemented her milk for the short time she nursed so that I could feed her baby from a bottle. When she became exclusively formula fed, I had made the decision to feed a specific formula to my baby because it didn’t stain clothing or stink as much as the first formula my little goddaughter had.

A few years later, my sister had her second child and was determined to nurse her. She fought the good fight with a nipple shield for almost six months where she was informed that my niece was suffering from “failure to thrive” on her mom’s milk alone and was told to switch to formula.

Shortly after, my friend (mentioned above) had a multiple birth and her babies were sent to the NICU. She was urged to pump for them. The weeks that she transported milk to the hospital, she was a warrior mom! Her dedication to her babies and her milk left me in awe. I visited one day with her and she took me into a very special place called The Lactation Lounge. I had never heard of such a thing. There were a few hospital grade pumps for moms to use to express milk for their babies. There were encouraging signs and posters all over the room. I left the place curious, inspired, and weirded out to have seen my friend topless.

These were my experiences with black women breastfeeding until last year. I delivered a 9lb 3oz beautiful baby boy in November. When we were left for a few minutes after delivery, I tried to latch my little boy on to my breast and he did it! He was suckling like a pro, but he had been sucking his thumb on 3rd trimester ultrasounds, so it wasn’t so much of a surprised that he loved suckling on me.

Things were going well but due to his size, he was a bit of a sleepy eater. It was explained to my husband and I that we needed to wake him on schedule. We woke him, stripped him naked, plucked the soles of his feet, bounced him, turned the tv up as loud as it would go… Nothing worked to keep him awake through feeds. Our 3 day weight check bought on a 4 and a 5 day weight check. At his lowest weight, he had gotten to 8lbs even. We were sent home on Day 5 with a case of formula and ill-sized nipples, told to supplement one ounce of formula at the end of each nursing session.

I was certain I had officially failed my son. I knew that formula could lead to supply issues for me. I nursed my little one when we got home and when he dozed off, I handed him to my husband who attempted to give him a ready to feed bottle. I cried as I pumped, trying to produce an ounce of my own milk so that at the next feed, we would supplement with MY milk.

And we did.

By the next day, he had gained 7oz. I went on to meet with a lactation consultant when he was 9 days old. He had great milk transfer. We were all set to continue on our breastfeeding journey!

At 11 weeks, I returned to work full-time. I was determined to make time to pump at work for at least the first year. Between 11 weeks and 8 months, we dealt with thrush twice, washed more bottles and pump parts than I can count and used many, MANY breast milk storage bags. I am eternally grateful to my supervisor who gave me a wide berth and unyielding support for my dedication to pumping. I am also incredibly grateful to my mother, who looked after my son while my husband and I were at work. She followed proper storage and thawing protocol, as well as stored hundreds of ounces of milk in her deep freezer. At 8 months postpartum, I realized that I was dealing with an oversupply and worked to correct that by not pumping on the weekends and by dropping from 3 pump sessions to 2. This continued until my little guy was 11 months old, when I dropped to one session per work day. At 12 months, I stopped pumping all together. I felt liberated and felt like being free of the pump left me able to nurse forever! Or so I thought.

We had a great time bonding after work and during the middle of the night feeds. At 15 months postpartum, I realized that we were expecting baby number two. While excited, I was concerned about how a pregnancy would affect my breastfeeding relationship with my first baby. A friend suggested that I join a group about nursing aversion (just in case) and one about pregnant/tandem breastfeeders. Both groups were immensely helpful in aiding my navigation of this new, strange territory. It was great for me to learn and see, once the icky feelings of nursing aversion began, that I was not alone. This is especially common in pregnant women. I was able to make my peace by laying boundaries for nursing to help get us closer to my initial goal of two years.

Unfortunately, we made it to nearly 21 months. There is a bit of sadness about that part of our relationship, something that was so sweet, peaceful and calming for us both being gone, but we are okay. During the 21 months we spent as nurser and nursling, we went through several colds, a stomach bug, and the eruption of 16 teeth, and donated over 300oz of milk to babies in need. I am excited that we had the time together and that I will be able to start all over again with his baby brother in December.

Breastfeeding has been one of the best things I’ve even done. I had many people try to tell me I couldn’t do it, suggest formula (which wasn’t need), that I let someone else feed him give him cereal, etc. But in the end, my instincts won out and I am proud of what we have accomplished as a family. (Special and eternal thanks to my husband who washed pump parts and packed my bag many nights, who retained information in our first hours as parents when my mind was full of mush and wonder, and who acted liked nursing a baby was the most normal and natural thing in the world.) I hope to inspire and support other moms, especially black mo, who feel like nursing isn’t a feasible option for them. Moms who feel like breastfeeding is weird, embarrassing, or unnatural.

____________________

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).

____________________

Aja D. is a wife and mother who resides in Philadelphia. She hopes to create a nonprofit organization to offer support and education to women of color and/or with low income, aiding them in becoming properly informed of their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum options.
Share

Healing Power of Breastmilk Donation After Loss- In Memory of Maya; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

 by Ulrike K. Ingram

***Please note, this piece covers infant loss in detail and may be triggering for some.

infant and pregnancy loss

My daughter Maya was stillborn at 35 weeks gestation. It was a sudden and devastating loss to find out that after an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy, she had died due to a cord accident. While still being in shock after her death and birth, I started to think about what to do once my milk came in. I knew early on that I wanted to try to pump for donation purposes, but wasn’t sure if I could really do it, physically and emotionally. I planned to just take it one pumping session at a time. I didn’t want to make a long term commitment and then fail. My milk came in when I woke up on the Friday after she died on Wednesday. I started pumping that day and collected maybe 2 ounces of milk during the first session.

I have two older children who I breastfed. When they were younger, I was working part-time and I only had to pump occasionally. Pumping exclusively after Maya’s birth was a challenge. I tried to pump 6- 7 times in a 24 hour period. Three weeks later, I was consistently getting about 5 ounces of milk per session. I was still taking it one session at a time, always worried that my supply was decreasing, or that I was just too tired to get up in the middle of the night to pump. I was very close to stopping maybe five weeks after Maya was born. I struggled for several days with whether to continue or stop. After talking to my husband and praying about it for several days, I felt a piece in my heart about continuing on this journey. It felt like a God given guidance that it was good to pump and good to continue for longer.

Three months went by and I was still pumping, though not as frequently, probably only about four times per day. I didn’t plan how long I would continue to pump because it my only connection to Maya.

Sometimes when I pumped during the day, one or both of my sons would sit with me, or play on the floor next to me. My younger son would ask, “Mommy, why do you have to pump?” or when I’m done, “Mommy, why are you stopping?” I have explained to them why I pump. Although I wasn’t sure they really understood, I recognized that it was okay. Once my younger son told my husband that he likes to play in our guest bedroom because that’s where mommy pumps.

Almost five months went by and I stopped pumping at the end of July – 4 1⁄2 months after Maya was born. I decreased my pumping frequently from four times to three times per day. I then limited the remaining pumping sessions to 10 minutes, then 9 minutes two days later, then 8 minutes, and so forth. I was eventually able to stop pumping without feeling engorged. It was a slow process of letting go, physically and emotionally.

In total, I pumped for 131 days, and donated 470 breast milk bags, an estimation of 2300 ounces of milk. I donated the milk to local moms through a Facebook page, which matches milk donors with moms looking for milk, who for various reasons do not have enough milk for their baby, or want to provide breast milk to their adopted child.

guest post, leaky to leaky

It has been a privilege and an honor to use Maya’s milk in a meaningful way. It was one of the few things I was able to do in my daughter’s name. It’s part of her legacy. It’s her milk. It was made for her, and I was able to give it to somebody else who needed it. On the difficult days, when I was tired or emotionally drained, I sometimes wondered whether it was worth it. I suspect that the recipient cannot appreciate the value of this milk to the full extent. There is a lot more meaning and love in this milk and the act of pumping and the invested time than the recipients will ever know. I imagine that Maya has been watching over our family from heaven, seeing me pump, and understands that it was for her. It’s her legacy and her memory that is being carried forward and passed on to others.

 ____________________

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).

____________________

Ulrike and her husband have two older boys and then got pregnant with their daughter Maya in 2013. After an easy pregnancy, they found out that she had passed away at 36 weeks gestation due to a blood clotting issue. Ulrike pumped and donated Maya’s milk for several months. It was a way to keep her memory alive in one tangible and physical way for Ulrike.
Share

My Journey As A First Time Mom; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Kelly Warner

guest post, leaky to leaky

Meet Samuel. This is my rainbow baby, who we welcomed with joy in January, 2014. After struggling with infertility for 5 years, my doctor in Houston told me it was unlikely that we would ever conceive. When we moved to St. Louis we started seeing a fertility specialist, who discovered a few factors that were either keeping us from getting pregnant or not allowing us to sustain pregnancy (an underactive thyroid, being a carrier for MTHFR and either not absorbing folic acid well or clotting after conceiving, and low progesterone). Once we addressed those issues we got pregnant right away, which was so encouraging after having our arms ache to hold a child for years. Unfortunately, we miscarried at 9 weeks and would later miscarry a second time at 6 weeks.   We were in a very dark place but continued to trust God with our fertility. A few months after our second miscarriage we found out we were pregnant again. 40 weeks later, after a snowstorm and before another one shut down the city for a week, our sweet Samuel Bennett was born!

I was so focused on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and having a natural birth that, admittedly, I didn’t educate myself on breastfeeding. Our Bradley Method instructor encouraged me to attend LLL meetings while pregnant to meet other like-minded moms, but I didn’t make it a priority to go. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed for a minimum of 12 months and had hoped that I would be able to make it for 2 years, but I figured I would have the baby first and then it would just naturally come to me. You know, because so far my story has been so natural and easy that it makes sense that I would just figure it out.

We had a beautiful natural birth and our nurses were great about immediately putting Samuel on my breast and delaying all newborn procedures until we had time to bond. He didn’t latch right away but found comfort sleeping on my chest. (In his defense, he did have a pretty long and intense birth that included 4 hours of pushing, his cord wrapped around his neck twice, and the threat of a C-section before I pushed so hard I broke my tailbone and his head came out before the doctor was even suited up to catch him). I kept trying to get him to latch and had just about every lactation consultant and nurse helping too. We were adamant about not using bottles, sugar water, or formula, so when he started showing signs of dehydration, we all panicked. The LC informed me that the combination of my flat nipples and large breasts were making it difficult for Samuel to latch and she recommended we use a breast shield. I was a nervous first time mom, who just wanted her baby to eat, so I took her at her word and began using the shield. I have since come to learn that there are absolutely medical situations that warrant the use of a shield . . . but mine was not one of them. Samuel began “latching” and getting colostrum, but it was so frustrating, painful, and messy for me. Worried that I would give up with breastfeeding, the LC convinced me to rent a breast pump to take home, pump my colostrum, and feed with bottles until my milk came in. Although she unnecessarily encouraged me to use a shield, I have to give her credit for pushing breastfeeding. She showed me how to use the pump and was shocked when I pumped 2 ounces of colostrum in a few minutes. At the time I was super confused why she was all giddy (and felt the need to show my liquid gold to everyone working in the maternity ward) but have come to learn that colostrum is not typically measured in ounces. That gave me hope that I was going to be able to feed my baby – it was just a matter of figuring out how.

My milk came in a few days after we got home from the hospital and my already large breasts became so engorged I didn’t know what to do with them! Seriously, they practically had their own zip code (38-K)! I had a serious oversupply problem and a fast letdown that Samuel did not find nearly as amusing as my husband and I. He’d pull off the breast and get super-soaked in the face or just grimace as a stream of milk shot halfway across the room. I guess when you’re an exhausted new mom you find the humor in anything, because everything else is just so, so hard!

We continued to use the nipple shield but struggled. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit. Thankfully, my husband knew, deep down, I didn’t really want to quit and I just needed to be encouraged to continue. He was up at every diaper change and night feeding with me, sitting at my feet, praying for me. I remember one time in particular: It was 2am and I was exhausted from nursing Samuel around the clock during a growth spurt. My husband and I got up to feed him and I burst into tears when Samuel latched and I felt the “60-second sizzle.” I said I didn’t want to mess with the shield anymore and that I just wanted to feed my baby. He comforted me in that moment and said he had read that night feeding was a good time to try to wean off the shield. So, figuring it couldn’t get any worse, we took off the shield, and together, we re-latched Samuel. I’m talking, all 4 of our hands were trying to hamburger my nipple so Samuel could latch! There were more tears (by me) and more words of encouragement (from the hubs), and finally Samuel latched! This was such a small thing but felt like such a big breastfeeding victory!

I continued to pump out a few ounces before EVERY feeding to soften my breast tissue so he could latch better. It was really annoying to be tethered to my pump and time-consuming to have to constantly be cleaning out pump parts (and during the winter, which made my hands crack and bleed), but it was worth it to be off the shield and begin having a successful nursing relationship with my son. Plus, it allowed me to build up a good stash of breast milk that I donated to my friend to give to her adopted newborn.

By the time Samuel was 6 months old my supply had finally regulated. It was so freeing to be able to feed on demand and not have to pump first. Samuel was healthy and happy and in the 50th percentile for his weight, and an added bonus was that he was a really good sleeper! Shortly after he turned 7 months old, however, he started waking up multiple times at night to nurse. We brushed it off and assumed he was just teething or going through a growth spurt, but it continued for weeks. I called my pediatrician and asked her why she thought his sleeping pattern changed suddenly. We ruled out ear infections, viruses, the Bubonic Plague, and continued to be dumbfounded . . . until my ped asked if it was possible that I was pregnant. I probably offended her for laughing so loud on the phone, but, come on! Me? Pregnant? I mean, sure, it was a possibility I could be pregnant, but I was exclusively breastfeeding, had not introduced solids, and remember how it took the stars aligning for me to have a healthy pregnancy with Samuel? I hung up the phone, dug out an expired pregnancy test from the Dollar Store, and took the test . . . and then proceeded to take another 3 before I believed my eyes! I told my husband and he didn’t believe me, so he went to the pharmacy and bought the most expensive digital pregnancy test . . . which told us the same thing the 4 tests prior did, only in words instead of hieroglyphics. I. Was. Pregnant!

guest post, leaky to leaky, pregnant photo

Once the initial shock settled we were thrilled for our news, but clearly my milk supply had already begun to decrease. Ahhhh the irony! My ped suggested starting a supply-boosting supplement that was safe while pregnant, but cautioned that it was likely we would need to supplement with donor milk or formula. Having just donated all of my pumped milk to my friend for her adopted baby, we were forced to supplement with formula. We chose the only organic formula that we can buy locally and hoped that it would be palatable. Only, Samuel wouldn’t take it. Clueless about what to do, I emailed Jessica from The Leaky Boob for advice and was so humbled that she took the time to answer me. She encouraged me to get a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) to keep stimulating my breasts to produce milk while getting Samuel the supplementation he needed. He had lost so much weight he dropped to the 5th percentile, so we were ready to try just about anything. All I can say is using an SNS is like trying to juggle flaming arrows while blindfolded! I feel it apropos to high five any mom that has successfully nursed with an SNS. First off, that thing is impossible to set up alone (thankfully my husband is really supportive of me breastfeeding). Secondly, the tape that is supposed to keep the tube in place is worthless! Thirdly, my son was so offended that I was trying to sneak that tiny plastic tube in with his latch. Needless to say, we gave up.

After giving up on the SNS we tried to introduce a bottle. By this time Samuel was close to 9 months and had only had a bottle when I pumped my colostrum the first few days of his life. If he was offended about the SNS tube, he was not having the bottle either. We must’ve bought one of every brand of bottle on the market only to find out he would rather starve. We tried syringes, medicine droppers, spoon-feeding, sippy cups, open cups and this kid was not impressed. The only thing that he took a liking to was a straw – and not a sippy cup with a straw because that’s far too juvenile for a 9 month old – a straw that you, a grown adult, would get at a restaurant. He’d sip on the formula throughout the day but never really had a “feeding” like he would with breastmilk. We sneaked it in smoothies, made popsicles, and just about anything to get that kid to drink milk.

Keep in mind I’m still pregnant through this . . . I’m tired, hormonal, my nipples are sore, and I’m nauseous! I lost 10 pounds from throwing up and not being able to eat food while pregnant and still nursing Samuel. Those days were ROUGH! I kept telling myself that, “This, too, shall pass.”

We found our rhythm and made the most of our cuddles and nursing sessions until Samuel started throwing fits when I offered him the breast at nap-time or bed when he was 13 months. After a few days of us both crying at every feeding, I assumed he was no longer interested in nursing and wanting to wean. I stopped offering it and we just, kinda moved on. Looking back, I honestly believe he was having a nursing strike from being frustrated from having to work so hard to get any breastmilk.

In May we welcomed our daughter, Felicity Claire, into the world. Once his sister was born he started showing interest in nursing but it was as if he had forgotten how it all worked. He constantly talked about my “ba-ba’s” and wanted to touch them for his sister’s first month of life. 4 months later, he asks for milk at bedtime and smells and touches my breasts asking for more. It breaks my heart that I likely cut our nursing relationship short, but I am glad we were able to overcome so much and still make it 13 months.

guest post, leaky to leaky

So far, Felicity nurses like a champ and I feel so much better prepared this time around. While I wouldn’t wish my struggles with breastfeeding on anyone, I am glad I had to persevere through them. Not only did it show me how much support I have, but it highlighted how important a good support system is for breastfeeding. I hope that other moms find support to help them reach their breastfeeding goals and that my story encourages them in their journey.

____________________

guest post, leaky to leakyKelly is a mother of two from St. Louis, Missouri, who lived a good chunk of her adult life in Houston, Texas.  She and her hunk of a husband struggled with infertility for 5 years and had multiple miscarriages before having their first child in 2014.  Prior to starting a family, she taught 7th grade life science at a college preparatory charter school for low-income, minority students in Houston.  When she’s not nursing her 5 month old or telling her 21 month old to stop throwing balls at his sissy’s head, Kelly enjoys hanging out with her husband, binge-watching Gilmore Girls, and writing music.  Despite many struggles with breastfeeding, Kelly nursed her son for 13 months; 6 of those while pregnant with her daughter.  In addition to being passionate about breastfeeding, Kelly loves baby wearing, cloth diapering, staying up to date on car seat safety, and having grandiose dreams of being a midwife someday. In the meantime she’ll stick to chasing her sports-nut toddler around the neighborhood and hoping that she remembers to put her boob away before answering the front door.  

 

Share

Breastfeeding Back to Work; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Annie Laird, a Leaky

guest post, #MyStoryMatters, leaky to leaky, Annie Laird

I was attending the Naval Postgraduate School when I had my first daughter. Luckily, I had her at the end of a quarter, and got to take an entire 3 months off school before going back. The Department Lead of my curriculum has also breastfed all her children and was very supportive. She allowed me to use the office of an adjunct professor that was on a leave of absence to pump my milk for the fist year of my daughter’s life. I had an abundant supply and exclusively breastfed her for 7 months prior to introducing any other food. I built up a freezer stash that was sufficient to cover my overnight absences from her starting at 7 months when I got underway for a week at a time on research cruises off the California coast (I was working toward my Masters degree in Physical Oceanography). There was no way to store my breastmilk on the tiny vessel, so I diligently pumped every 3 hours and poured it all down the drain. Just before she turned 1, I stopped pumping during the day, and we continued nursing until just after her 2nd birthday, when I had to deploy overseas as the Weapons Control Officer on a Guided Missile Destroyer. 

I breastfed my 2nd daughter fairly easily, albeit, without ever being able to build up the huge freezer stash I was able to with my first. It probably was because I only got 6 weeks of maternity leave before I had to be back at work. When she was 3 months old, I flew with her and my oldest daughter to Bahrain to visit my husband, who was deployed there. The fact that she was breastfed made the trip so simple. She slept most of the 14 hour flight from Washington D.C. to Kuwait! No bottles to mix, no formula to drag along. Shortly after that trip, I left Active Duty Naval service, and started my first civilian job. I let my supervisor know that I would need a place to express my breastmilk throughout the day, and it had better not be a bathroom, thank you very much! A retired Master Chief himself, he ran all over base, finding an adequate space for me.

My supply tanked when my 2nd daughter was about 7-8 months, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then, oh! I’m pregnant! Surprise!! I cried every time my daughter would latch on; cracked, bleeding nipples were the order of the day. The scabs would dry onto my bra and as I would open my bra up to nurse, the scabs would rip off, starting the bleeding all over again. I finally called up a local IBCLC, Robin Kaplan, and cried over the phone about how miserable I was. She replied, “Annie, first rule: Feed the Baby. If you aren’t happy with the situation, transition to formula and quit breastfeeding.” So I did! I hung up my pump when my 2nd daughter was 9 months of age, and she weaned directly to an open cup (thank you Navy day care ladies for teaching her that!).

I gave birth to my 3rd daughter at home, and she took to breastfeeding like a champ. I took 8 weeks off of work, and then me and my pump started making the trek every 2-3 hours back to the pumping room at my place of employment. I keep my supply up by cosleeping with her and nursing throughout the night.

____________________

Annie Laird is the podcast host of Preggie Pals (a sister show of The Boob Group podcast), a Certified Labor Doula, Lactation Educator, Navy Veteran, Navy Wife, Mom to 3 little girls, and a Government Contractor. She has breastfed all her kids while holding down a job (at times, multiple jobs) outside the home and is currently breastfeeding her almost 6 month old exclusively.
Share

Cuddle = Nurse; A #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Andrea Jacko, a leaky

When I was pregnant with my first child I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. My mom nursed my siblings and I until we were one and I wanted to do the same. Looking back I didn’t think we would be going as long as we are with no end in sight. Maggie, my very energetic, free spirited 21 month old is so amazing. I treasure our nursing sessions because it gives us a few minutes throughout the day to just sit and cuddle. Cuddle is the word she uses when she wants to nurse – how can anyone say no to that?! 

guest post, breastfeeding

I’m an RN in a very busy critical care unit, working 3-12 hour shifts a week. I went back to work when she was 10 weeks old and I was determined to continue breastfeeding. Maggie reversed cycled something crazy and only ate 4 ounces on days I would work. That meant she was up all night long making up for the fact that she didn’t eat all day. Thank goodness for cosleeping or I would be miserable! Because she reversed cycled, I built up quite the freezer stash and I have donated over 1000 ounces to other moms for their precious babies.

When Maggie was 14 months old we found out we were pregnant! My biggest fear was my milk drying up and Maggie being forced to wean and her not being able to decide when to stop. My milk did dry up around 13 weeks and that’s when I stopped pumping at work. Thankfully, Maggie never stopped nursing. My colostrum came in around 25 weeks and Maggie was so excited! Nursing a toddler has it’s challenges and being pregnant I’ve had some nursing aversions but again, I want Maggie to decide when she’s ready to be done, not me. We have set limits with her and I night-weaned her at 19 months. Now we snuggle at night instead and she is perfectly happy with that.

Her vocabulary is expanding every day and I love the things she says when the time comes to nurse. Yesterday I was getting dressed and I didn’t have a shirt on – she looks up at me and goes “boobies, yumm!” And then proceeded to smile and sign to nurse. How can you say no to that? She frequently will kiss my breast and say thank you after a nursing session. Absolutely melts my heart. Hopefully she is okay sharing because it looks like I will be tandem nursing her and her brother when he’s born in 6 weeks.

_________________

Can you relate to this Leaky’s story? Comment telling us how and if you would like to share your story, please do so by emailing content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces) with the subject line #MyStoryMatters submission. Join us in sharing #MyStoryMatters and normalizing breastfeeding with the wide variety of infant feeding stories we all have.

_________________

Share

My Nursing Days Might Be Done

by Karen, a Leaky

It appears as if after 10 years of breastfeeding my 4 children, my breastfeeding days are done. I had hoped that my “baby” (now 25 months old) would have chosen to continue our nursing relationship longer, but he appears ready to move on to be a “big” boy and catch up to his older siblings. 

With my older children, they nursed before bed or when they needed comfort after a boo boo, until well after their second birthdays. With all of them, as I was starting to feel ready to wean, I would gradually not offer, but I would not refuse nursing requests. My older two were about 2.5 years old when they each weaned and my third child was 3.5 years. I was sad when #3 weaned because we did not think we would have more children, but after 3.5 years, we were ready. I was so pleasantly surprised when I became pregnant with number 4 and was thrilled to be able to have that nursing relationship once more. And what a relationship it was. My little guy was milk and soy protein intolerant and so this lacto-ovo vegetarian mom cut dairy and soy out of my diet and I fought the doctor repeatedly when they pushed me feeding formula (both when he was severely jaundiced at birth and again with the MSPI). I was confident in my nursing ability – making milk was my super power and the way that I could calm and comfort my babies in a way that no one else could. 

I go over in my mind what I have done differently with this child than the others that he would wean sooner. Finding myself overwhelmed with four kids with 11 years between the oldest and the youngest, keeping up with activities, and therapies for my child with mild asperger’s syndrome, I was fortunate to bring in childcare help. At times when I had things to do, my toddler was distracted by getting snacks or cups of rice milk, or other activities. Being busy with other activities, there were times that I wasn’t able to be there at bed time to put my little guy to bed. We were blessed that he has always been a great sleeper, but that meant that there weren’t the middle of the night feedings (since he was around 2 months old – that was a first for me) and he was even so flexible that as a toddler he would go to bed for Daddy or a babysitter with a story and a cuddle. In general, I limited that to one time a week, but still, it could be why he was ready to move on so soon.

I can’t remember the last time my little guy really nursed. For the past month or so, he would latch on for a few seconds, then tell me all done. Recently, when it is my turn in the bedtime routine (after Daddy reads a book and then gives the little one goodnight hugs, it is my turn) he refuses to come to me in the nursing chair. He goes over to the crib and says “nigh nigh” wanting to go in. He is avoiding me at bedtime, and it breaks my heart. I ask him to come give me a hug and he eventually does so begrudgingly. Then I offer nursing. Sometimes he will do the few second thing, and even when I hand express down what is left of my milk, he says “all done.” Lately he says “no” and puts his head on my shoulder for me to sing our bedtime blessing. I think even though I am not ready to be done, he is.

I know I have done my job in providing nourishment and comfort to my children over all those years. I feel blessed that I made it through the tough stage four separate times and had as long a nursing relationship as I did with all my children. Our family is complete with four children. I am just sad that nursing seems to have ended before I was ready.

Last night as I was changing my little guy’s diaper at bedtime he asked to nurse. I got a little excited, but remained calm as I sat down in our nursing chair. Then when I lifted my shirt and took out my breast he very clearly told me “no” and “all done.” Perhaps he is a little conflicted by the fact that he asked, but something shifted for him and he seems done. Over time, I will come to accept this change and realize that child number 4 is really anxious to grow up like his siblings. I think from seeing babies nursing and from reading books about potty training he has come to see nursing as something that babies do and he does not see himself as a baby (even if I do).

Thank you for being there as support over the years. Thank you also for reading this far in my story. It seems like there should be some sort of ceremony for reaching the end of breastfeeding as well as the end of my childbearing years. 

Sincerely, 

Karen

_________________

We agree, for those that want a weaning ceremony, that can be a very meaningful experience. This post has 12 suggestions for ways to commemorate the end of your breastfeeding journey with your child.

What would be a meaningful way for you to celebrate the end of your breastfeeding journey?

_________________

Share