Adoption and Breastfeeding – A #MyStoryMatters

by Meaghan McKracken

It could be said that my adoption story centered around breastmilk. A reality most wouldn’t expect in an adoption story but adoption stories, like all stories, are unique in their own right. This is mine.

If you’re on this site you probably already know that the realities of breastfeeding can be difficult. For many women, concerns about sufficient supply, struggles with engorgement, clogged ducts, cracked nipples, and more can turn what may be natural into what feels like an entirely foreign experience. An experience further complicated when almost exclusively pumping, grief of separation, and a new but essential relationship with adoptive parents. As a birthmom, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be set up for success. In reality, feeding my little boy naturally became the success of my adoption. 

Allow me to explain.

Open adoption is still adapting; still evolving. What it looks like today is vastly different from how it was even 10 years ago. Still, there are holes in the process because when you’re dealing with complicated human emotions and trying circumstances, finding a balance is an ever shifting and unique challenge. Stress, anxiety, and doubt from both birth mothers and adoptive parents are a reality of the journey. But there is also joy; so much joy. 

Meaghan and her baby

Breastfeeding became my test. Incorporating a breastfeeding plan would mean a very gentle transition for the baby and myself. There would be no sharp and severed moment of goodbye. Everything would be slowed down and transition of care would be tapered. I felt this would reduce huge amounts of stress and trauma for my little one and myself. If I could find a couple who was cooperative and willing to take an inclusive approach in involving me in the care of our child, allowing my milk for feedings I felt it would be better for all of us. Such an arrangement would fulfill my desire for real openness between our two families. If they valued nourishing my son through human milk, specifically the milk that was intended for him, I could trust them to put his health first in the future no matter what their anxieties. It was the perfect and natural way to unite us, just as it is the perfect and natural way to unite moms and babies.

My adoption agency shared my specific birth plan with their hundred plus adoptive couples, and over half replied with a very strong yes. When I finally picked my adoptive couple I was blown away by the level of inclusion they were prepared for. Working for my son’s health became a common cause for us to focus on together. A truly baby focused adoption. 

Rowan was born September 28th, weighing 6.8lbs and just 7 weeks later, he already almost weighed 10lbs. I nursed and pumped a bit in the hospital after the pregnancy. The adoptive mother used SNS (supplemental nursing system/at the breast with supplemental nursing system) with my milk so she could also have the experience of nursing and bonding, reducing nipple confusion. Once again I felt supported and valued in a practical way that was good for my son. I stayed with them after my hospital stay to establish my milk supply and to pump milk for them to get storage going for them.

Meaghan's adoptive parents

It was so fulfilling to see them build their family, to share in the happy side of adoption, and to feel accepted as an advocate for my child’s well being. I had a very primal and protective instinct to nurture and care for this sweet little one that was not only met but encouraged. It was simply love without ownership or possessiveness. And truly, what was there to fear? Bonding? Affection? Why would we want to protect our children from experiences like these?

I signed the papers a little over a week after giving birth feeling fully confident I would see my son soon. That all of us were on the same page about what story we were writing for our family. So far it has been a joy and an adventure; the most beautiful work I’ve done in my life. 

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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.

 ____________________

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).

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Meaghan's headshot
Meaghan McKracken is a 32 year old mother of two. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three year old. The adoptive couple of her youngest son also lives close by and they see each other on a weekly basis. Meaghan is a massage therapist as well as currently developing her skills as a Pilates instructor.
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Pumping And Grief In Adoption – A #MyStoryMatters

by April

To have swollen breasts filled with milk, and no baby to feed is painful, more so in the soul. The loss is magnified when the milk starts to come in, and you are faced with empty arms. Your body won’t let you forget and move on. Your body remembers. The right decision to be made isn’t always the easy one. Sometimes the right decision is difficult. I decided I wouldn’t fight my body.

I asked the adoptive parents if I could pump for them. They may not know this, but the fact they said yes helped me move forward. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose. One would think that pumping would increase the grieving process. In fact, it did the opposite.

Deciding to pump was healing for me as much as is helped the son I placed. I thought perhaps it would be hard to pump. But I loved my son so much I wanted to give him every advantage. I couldn’t give him much. What I could give him was milk. The research has shown the advantages of breast milk over formula. Due to his premature birth, it was needed even more. I decided to set aside my own pain and pump for his parents.

I placed a picture of him on the pump and the first few times, I wept. I think this was healing and cathartic. It started to hurt less and I started to feel that my self-worth wasn’t tied to my past and the only thing I was good for was being a baby carrier for 8 months. I was starting to look at my present and future. The baby I no longer had was being nourished with the milk I was able to provide with the love of his adoptive mother. I had an intermediary deliver the milk. Despite the fact my psyche was slowly healing, emotions were still raw. Seeing the son I placed regularly was not something I needed at that time. Knowing he was being given my breast milk was enough to start closing the mental wounds. It was enough to know he was given the very best nutrition despite being a few miles from me.

April image

My own nutrition and exercise regimen improved. Women already are faced with horrendous body image issues. Multiply that 10 fold after having a baby, and no baby to show for it. Pumping helped me lose the baby weight, eat right after my pregnancy (again, taking care of myself post adoption), which trickled into other areas of my life and become strong in the gym and out of the gym. I was able to face the world with a renewed sense of purpose.

Even though the baby I carried was gone from my arms, he wasn’t just a faint memory. He was real. I had to face it head on while pumping and that made me determined to be as healthy as I could post pregnancy. I did my best during pregnancy while battling hyperemesis gravidarium. Life didn’t end after the baby was delivered. This is so important to remember as birthmother. Life goes on. I had to go on too. Pumping milk reminded me of that, whenever I felt as if there was no future for me. Many people may feel that pumping was a selfless act. If anything, it was also selfish, in a very good way. It was part of my self-care.

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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.

 ____________________

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).

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April headshotApril lives in Chicago, IL with her son and and four pet rats! Post adoption she realized that being strong mentally and physically was important to her well being. She now works as a personal trainer teaching women to strive for more and be more. One of he goals is to combat the bodyshamng that is rampant in print and social media. She loves teaching women to shift focus from looks and the scale and INSTEAD, embrace their strength – whether it’s deadlifting their own bodyweight, swinging a kettlebell for 10 minutes without stopping, or doing their first pullup.

 

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#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. 

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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.

 ____________________

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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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.
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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.

____________________

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.
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