How to Help Your Kids Love and Connect with Their Father After Divorce (Even When You HATE HIM)

by Shannon Streger

I will be the first to tell you, I HATE divorce!  I never thought I would find myself divorced, single at 35, whilst raising 3 kids under 8; but life is unpredictable.  There is a LOT of judgement out there when it comes to divorce. I know I’ve dealt with my fair share of critics, especially having walked through this as not only a Christian, but also, a pastor’s wife.

People told me I was “ruining my life”, that I was likely, now “damned to hell”, and the real zinger, “I had selfishly ruined my kids FOREVER”.  And, all this to scare me into staying in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship I had worked hard to keep together for over 17 years. I realized that with hard work and openness, my kids didn’t have to be “ruined” and infact, they could very well thrive in a two-home, co-parenting arrangement.

One of the first steps was coming to an agreement with their father about how that would look.  He was in agreeance we needed to work on having positive exchange and open dialog about our children, especially in front of them.  They needed to see we were on the “same team” when it came to parenting. I would like to share with you some steps I have learned towards having a healthy co-parent relationship that gives your children space to feel connected to their father, while still allowing you to “move on.”

*It is important to note: these steps may not be possible in every situation. If your ex is unwilling to work with you, the fact is you will only be able to do so much and if your ex is not a safe person for your children to be around at all then your path will look completely different.  

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Provide a means for them to communicate with him directly..and often.

In this day in age of smartphones and FaceTime, connecting face to face with someone is easier than ever.  While at times I find it tempting to discourage phone calls for the sake of busyness and staying on routine, this is a lifeline that could be crucial to showing your child you will not stand in the way of them building a strong relationship with their other parent.  It’s not always convenient but it’s important none the less.  We often will do facetime calls from the car on the way home from school or they take turns on the couch talking to Dad while I make dinner.  

TIP: Avoid calls when they are emotionally vulnerable such as bedtime. Sometimes you may feel that an exception is appropriate but be aware that this could potentially be upsetting.

You may opt for a regular phone call vs. facetime, particularly in the beginning.  I was given this advice early in my separation.  Seeing their other parent but not physically being with them can be confusing for young children.  At times too, when emotions are high, it can be a manipulative exchange and in turn will create an unhealthy relationship for the parent and child.

 

Share stories and point out commonalities.

As you find yourself healing from a separation and/or divorce, it is tempting to rid yourself of all things that include or remind you of your former partner.  You may even catch yourself becoming irritated at the very mention of their name.  To help my children feel connected to their Dad, I began making a point of sharing stories or pointing out common interests.  My kids favorite story about their Dad is “the roach story”.  I’m pretty sure my re-account gets longer and more dramatic with every telling.  They also love when we talk about where they got some of their distinctives such as hair and eye color.

TIP: You never want your child to feel that because they may remind you of your ex that you are rejecting them. Encourage them that the traits that they share with their other parent are ones you love, even if you don’t love it in your ex.

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Encourage them to celebrate special days and help provide a means for them to do so (birthdays, religious holidays, Father’s day, etc..).

Kids love giving gifts as much as they enjoy receiving them. Perhaps with little ones, give them each a certain amount to spend on an individual gift and give suggestions on things you know your ex-husband will enjoy. If they are older, this is a great opportunity to teach savings and budgeting, allowing them to plan their own giving.  But, better yet, a homemade gift goes just as far, if not further. Remember, this is their father, and gifts are a great way to express love and build a deeper connection.  Allow them to brainstorm what their father enjoys, his interests, hobbies, etc.

TIP: Let them own the gift as being just from them, not from you, no matter how much you did to make it happen. And then let it go, don’t expect your ex to make the same effort and don’t stew on that because this is about your child and their relationship with their other parent. You’re doing this for your child, not your ex.

 

He isn’t JUST their father; he is ALSO their parent.

Make a point to keep the other parent informed, whether that be phone, email, counselor, or direct communication from their school of successes and difficulties your children may be experiencing. You may now be leading your household alone, but it doesn’t remove their other parent from helping to guide and teach. For instance If your child is having a tough time making good choices, or is struggling with their friend connections at school, give their parent an opportunity to speak into that situation as well and address disciplinary problems. This will further cement the fact that as a two-home family, Mom and Dad are still “on the same playing field” when it comes to their parenting roles.

Tip: Do not take this as an opportunity to blame-shift or use the other parent as “the bad guy”.  This will jeopardize the co-parenting relationship and create a toxic environment for everyone! Also, do not make disciplinary decisions for the other parent. For instance, do not set restrictions that apply to their time with the other parent. Allow Dad to set his own consequences for his home.

We all worry about our kids and want them to thrive as they develop into the amazing people they have the potential to become. Even through divorce, your children can and will flourish and develop normally emotionally, and having a strong plan in place will help make that possible. This isn’t realistic in every situation, and that’s ok! Your children still have a strong future ahead of them, with your help. You’ve got this!


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Shannon Streger, a work at home mom, is the project manager for The Leaky Boob. She is a (not so proud) native Houstonian.  Truly the most un-Texan Texan you’ll meet. She has 3 amazing children who keep her days full! She has a degree in Kinesiology and Psychology from Houston Baptist University. Recently, she began the certification process to become a birth doula and IBCLC.  In her free time, Shannon enjoys road trips, anything outdoors with her kids, and 90’s movies. 

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10 Ways to Love Yourself, Love Your Life, and Not Lose Your Mind

by Brianne Martin

The alarm rings, I jump up, get dressed, run to the kitchen, make coffee and breakfast, wake the kids, prepare their lunch, pick out their clothes, and send the them off to school. In the midst of the morning madness, I make sure my husband doesn’t forget the leftovers from the night before, and a hot cup of coffee to go. That is just a glimpse to the start of my day. The chaos continues throughout the day with feedings, diapering, meal prep, clean up, dinner time and baths. As moms our jobs are never done and with hectic schedules it is easy to forget one very important thing. Ourselves!!!

Just recently I found myself sitting in my bed, but not in dreamland anticipating the sound of the alarm. I was sitting there crying my eyes out. I let myself go. I lost my identity. I was mom, and no longer had a name that I once belong to. I stopped caring for myself which basically had a domino effect on my family. Since I wasn’t taking care of myself, I slowly slipped into a dark bitter place. I was no longer enjoying my children and I was no longer my happy self. My attitude was affecting my children and husband in a negative way. My relationships with them were becoming unhealthy.

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To understand what was going on internally with me, I had to ask myself some important questions. Why did I stop caring for myself? Why did I put everyone else’s needs before mine? I think as mothers, we tend to naturally put our kids first. We tend to feel guilty when we do things for ourselves, but I am here to tell you to push the guilt aside! If you don’t fill your cup and shower yourself with some love, you are going to grow weary and become bitter. I know many of the reasons I didn’t do things for myself was due to financial stress and the cost to treat myself to something so luxurious as a spa day.

I decided to put together a short list of things you can do for free or almost free to fill your cup!

  1. Take a hot bubble bath or shower- Be sure during this time you are kid free and totally alone. It is important to find peace to regroup for another full day of adventures. (If it requires some bonding time with Netflix and your kids, it is worth it.)
  2. Give yourself a pedicure or manicure- soak your feet or paint your nails in silence or while listening to your favorite tunes. (Netflix can help with this too.)
  3. Barter babysitting with a friend- this will allow your friend some free time and you some free time and there is no cost involved for childcare. Us moms have to look out for each other!
  4. Read a book- turn off the television, close the laptop, and put down the phone. Get lost in a book for an hour while sipping on your favorite beverage. And don’t fret about the Lego pile that has magically appeared in the living room.
  5. Write in a journal- take a few minutes to write down things that are bothering you or things that make you happy. I find writing helps me feel free of things that may have been weighing me down. Doing this when kids have just settled for sleep even before doing the dishes or cleaning can help clear your mind.
  6. Get outside- go for a walk or jog. Breathe the fresh air, stop and look at all that Mother Nature has created around you.
  7. Borrow a fitness video from a friend- I know exercise is not for everyone, but it really is important for your health. It will help with stress and we know as moms we deal with SOME stress.
  8. If you like it and you wear it, put on make-up – sometimes make-up can be that added touch to lift our spirits.
  9. Get dressed up- take off the yoga pants and put on something that makes you feel pretty.
  10. Take a nap- If the kids are napping, leave the dishes and dirty floors, and climb in the bed and rest. Sleep really helps us in so many ways.

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It isn’t always easy finding time for yourself, but it is important to make the time recognizing that what that looks like for one person may be totally different from the next. It is important to love and care for yourself because in turn you can better love and care for your children. As moms the most important people in our life are our children and significant others. For us to truly love them, we need to love ourselves. Loving myself doesn’t come easy, but I will continue to work at it every day to be a better mom and wife.

You can find more ideas on ways to nurture the nurturer with a multi scenery approach here, when you’re in need of an oxygen mask here, 22 more ideas for taking care of you here, and that point where you have to do something here.


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Brianne Martin, a work at home mom, is the brand coordinator for The Leaky Boob. She has 3 children so her days are always full of activities and adventures. She studied American Sign Language at the University of South Florida. In her free time, Brianne enjoys reading and spending time with her kids and husband. They currently reside in sunny Florida. 

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#MyStoryMatters; Breast Cancer

by Ashley Thompson

Ashley Thompson- headshot

Nursing wasn’t easy for me but I knew it was what I wanted for me and my daughter. I’m 32 years old and my daughter was born almost 2 years ago. I’m so fortunate that I have been able to stay home with her full time since she was born. When she came to this world, I went ALL IN! I nursed exclusively on demand, I gave up dairy, and I very comfortably nursed anywhere I was. I loved nursing and so did my daughter!

Around April of this year something changed. I was feeling like maybe it was time to wean, and ultimately made it happen. Three weeks later, during a self exam, I felt a lump. I first called my OBGYN, and then a breast surgeon (I have a strong family history, and have seen one since I was 27). Neither had any sense of urgency, and were quick to dismiss me as I had just stopped nursing. I was told that breasts of a nursing mother are too lumpy, and milk would distort imaging. But I knew something was wrong. My mother, 2x breast cancer survivor, made one phone call to her doc and I was in the next day.

Four days before Mother’s Day, I got the call. One month later I had bilateral mastectomies. Six weeks after that, CHEMO. Breast cancer does not discriminate! I can’t tell you how many incredible young survivors I have met through this journey. What you said really hit home with me. Enough soup cans with pretty pink ribbons, and No Bra Day? Women don’t need to see beautiful models showing their brastraps in support of awareness.  Real, raw stories are what they need.

Ashley Thompson, breast cancer, guest post, Leaky to Leaky

 

Anyway… I’m done with chemo and now cancer free! I’m still in the process of reconstruction and I will likely be treating/preventing this the rest of my life, but it will be a long life! I am still mourning the life, and the body I had before, but am so grateful for the future! Children are so resilient and my daughter has been so amazing through it all! I miss nursing, and I hate that I will never nurse again.  Although my breasts are gone, nothing can take those memories away. Not even cancer!

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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.

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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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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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A Poem on Postpartum Depression; A #MyStoryMatters

by Melissa Hoos

depression and motherhood

I’m mama to one amazing 10 month old boy. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder at age 15, I knew I was at a high risk for postpartum depression. Pregnancy gave me a wonderful break from depressive episodes (my psychiatrist would tell me, just get pregnant! It’ll solve all your mental health issues!), but after my son was born, the relief didn’t last long. The hormonal high lasted a few short, awesome days, and then the baby blues set in. My husband went back to work, and I spent that day’s midwife appointment sobbing on her couch – partly because I just couldn’t stop crying, ever, but also because she said the words I was hoping to never hear her say: I think you need to consider going back on medication.

I’d worked SO hard to get off the medication so I could get pregnant, and I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed if I took the same medication again. So I was determined to overcome PPD/PPA without it. My husband took some more time off work, we made a plan, and my mom came to help for a while. It worked, for a few weeks, until it didn’t anymore. 

I knew I loved my son. I knew I could take good care of him. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just not good enough to be a mother, and he would be better off without me. He wasn’t a colicky baby, and it wasn’t very often that he just cried and cried. My inner monologue often went along the lines of “what kind of mother gets angry at her baby? He’s just tired/hungry/wet and now I’ve made him scared too!” 

No matter how calm and rational I made my thoughts, I just could not translate that into calm and rational actions. It was like being stuck inside my own head, watching someone else pick up my baby with rough hands, hearing someone else say to my baby “what the f*ck do you WANT??” And then the next instant it was me again, sobbing and hating myself because how could I have lost it again? Nursing him after those awful moments was just as much an emotional reset for me as it was for him.

One night as I laid in bed crying, watching my baby in his bed after over an hour of fighting to get him to sleep, I wrote this poem. The first sign of a depressive episode for me has always been the loss of my creative side. I normally love to write, and I decided that despite the fact that I did NOT want to, I needed to. Even if it’s only to unscramble my brain so I could sleep. I let my husband read it in the morning, and I think it was the first time he truly understood how I felt. 

I don’t know exactly what snapped me out of that awful episode. It had been months. I knew the whole time that I should probably stop trying to muscle my way through and just take the damn medication. And then one day, I realized it had been a few days since I last felt out of control. I think, for me, the worst part was the anxiety. I was suddenly able to say to myself, “Hey, if he wakes up, it’ll be okay. I’ll just nurse him back to sleep.” Or, “Hey, if I can’t get him back to sleep, hubby will take a turn and I’ll go get a glass of water.” I started being able to recognize the start of a “bad brain day” and could take self-care measures to prevent another episode from beginning, just like before I was ever pregnant. The cognitive behaviour therapy, anxiety classes, and counselling started coming back to me.

It’s not completely gone now. And since depression and anxiety has been a part of my life for well over a decade, I doubt it ever will be. I don’t know what the next postpartum experience will hold, but I’m writing down ways to cope so that next time, maybe I can bypass a little more of the darkness. Ignoring it just doesn’t work, so I hope that shining a little light on the topic can help someone recognize PPD/PPA in themselves or someone they love, and get the help they need. 

This is my poem

When he’s screaming I can’t 
think and everything starts to look 
red and I just want to
scream right along with 
him, this baby I waited so
long for and asked
God for and 
thank
God
for

Where does my heart 
go when I’m so
angry because it isn’t 
here loving my
son, it is somewhere else and I just
can’t quite reach it

My brain tricks me into
thinking how dare he cry, but he’s just a 
baby and he’s telling me momma I 
need you which these ears fail to
hear with all the 
screaming

I just want to be a good
mother but all I seem to do is 
lose my mind and this isn’t 
me, it isn’t 
me, someone please 
help
me

In the dead of night I watch my baby
sleep in his crib and 
wonder if he will remember the
angry momma or the loving one and the
thought breaks my 
heart because what if he
remembers the
angry one?

He is a piece of me and I
love him fiercely but 
he deserves 
better than
me

God help me

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For more information about postpartum depression visit Postpartum Progress.

  If you’re seeking for advice and guidance, here’s an article on postpartum depression and anxiety.

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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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Melissa Hoos

I’m mama to one amazing 10 month old boy. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder at age 15, I knew I was at a high risk for postpartum depression. 
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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.

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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.

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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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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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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.

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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.

____________________

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.
 
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What You Need to Know About Jaundice, Breastfeeding, and Your Newborn Baby

by Linda Zager, RN, IBCLC
This post made possible by the generous support of Ameda, inc.

 

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You just went through this transformative experience. You created life! And then, as you bask in the glow, you are told the newest member of your family has jaundice.

What does it mean? How concerned should you be?

 

guest post, jaundice article

Jaundice is a very common condition in newborn babies. Newborn jaundice is caused by a pigment substance, known as bilirubin, and when it increases in the baby’s blood it makes him/her appear yellow. More than half of all newborns become jaundiced within the first week of life. This situation is usually temporary and resolves on its own within a few days without treatment. This is termed physiological jaundice. Physiological means what happens normally in the body. Physiological jaundice is not a disease but a temporary condition.

So what exactly is bilirubin? Bilirubin is formed in our bodies when red blood cells die off. This is a normal process. Red blood cells contain the substance bilirubin. Newborns are born with a surplus of red blood cells. When greater numbers of red blood cells break down, this yellow pigment, bilirubin, accumulates in the newborn’s blood and is deposited in the skin, muscles and mucous membranes, causing the skin to appear yellow. Bilirubin is fat soluble, meaning it mixes easily with fats and oils. For the body to get rid of bilirubin, it needs to be water soluble. So how is it possible for the body to get rid of bilirubin if this is the case? That’s the job of the liver. The liver processes the bilirubin, changing it from fat soluble to water soluble and is then passed into the intestines. From the intestines, the bilirubin leaves the body through the newborn’s bowel movements. Some bilirubin, however, is reabsorbed back into the body after becoming fat soluble again. This occurs if the baby is having very few or no bowel movements. The less bowel movements, the more bilirubin gets reabsorbed, resulting in higher bilirubin levels. The most common cause of increased reabsorption of bilirubin is insufficient intake of breast milk. Bilirubin levels on the third day is directly linked to the number of EFFECTIVE breastfeeds per day in the first few days of the baby’s life.

Some mothers are informed by their health care provider that they need to stop breastfeeding and start feeding their little one formula in order to lower the bilirubin levels in the blood but options are available to treat jaundice without interrupting breastfeeding. For the healthy, full term baby, breastfeeding should continue so it does not become more of a challenge for mother and baby. The solution is not to stop breastfeeding but to resolve the breastfeeding issue so the baby gets the breast milk needed to have regular bowel movements.

Colostrum, the first milk available to the newborn, is actually a laxative which causes bilirubin to pass into the meconium stools. However, when a newborn does not receive enough colostrum as a result of inadequate feeding; either too few feedings, ineffective feedings, or both during the first few days, the bilirubin levels are exaggerated by day three. All mothers and babies should be assessed for effective breastfeeding while in the hospital by the nursing staff every shift and by a Lactation Consultant if a problem has already been identified. A newborn can be at the breast frequently but not breastfeeding. They do not become jaundiced from the breast milk but from a lack of breast milk. That is why it is necessary to have the nursing staff and/or a lactation specialist evaluate baby for effective latch and nutritive breastfeeding. Milk transfer is critical. Mothers may need to be taught how to latch their baby correctly to the breast and to recognize effective breastfeeding. This action assures mothers of comfortable, efficient breastfeeding and prevention of newborn jaundice.

As the liver is responsible for converting fat soluble bilirubin to water soluble bilirubin problems can arise because a newborn’s liver is relatively immature and may be unable to convert all the bilirubin in the first few days. Premature newborns’ livers are even less mature so therefore have higher levels of bilirubin than full term babies.

There are other reasons for excessive red blood cell breakdown resulting in high bilirubin levels and jaundice. ABO blood type incompatibility can result when mother has type O blood and her baby is one of the other blood types, A, B or AB. During pregnancy, red blood cells can leak across the placenta from the baby to the mother. The mother’s immune system reacts to the baby’s cells by forming antibodies against the baby’s blood resulting in increased red blood cell breakdown after birth and jaundice. With appropriate treatment, jaundice resolves. If a baby has a difficult birth and this results in bruising or a hematoma, there will be more red cells broken down resulting in higher bilirubin levels and jaundice. These are all normal causes of newborn or physiological jaundice with some babies requiring treatment and others not. But all these babies have one thing in common; they can and should continue to breastfed a minimum of 10 times or more per day every 24 hours for the baby’s first 2 days of life. Frequent nursing should be considered the norm; rooming-in with your baby promotes more breastfeeding than if baby were kept in a separate nursery.

Some babies are often sleepy as the bilirubin levels increase, sometimes resulting in baby falling asleep soon after feeding begins or he/she won’t even wake up to feed at the breast. Try skin to skin, holding you baby between your breasts, keep baby in close proximity to enable you to observe feeding or waking cues and never watch the clock for when you should nurse next. Remember a minimum of 10 or more feeds in 24 hours is norm. If baby does not respond to various stimuli to breastfeed more effectively, then an alternative method should be used to supplement baby with expressed colostrum/breast milk, if necessary. Hand expression of the breast is a very effective means of collecting colostrum. It can be expressed into very small cups or spoons for feeding. Mom should receive instructions for using a Hospital Grade breast pump for milk expression and to breast stimulation for adequate milk production. Breast milk can be given by cup, syringe, eyedropper or small spoon. Formula supplementation, on a short term basis, may be needed if fewer effective breastfeeds in the first days has contributed to a lower milk supply. Mother can continue pumping and nursing during treatment.

guest post, jaundice article

Most cases of jaundice require no treatment or little more than exposure to direct sunlight each day, but if the bilirubin levels continue to rise, more action is needed. The child’s physicians will observe and monitor the baby’s jaundice and bilirubin levels which are obtained through a simple blood draw from the baby’s heel. Phototherapy is a common treatment for all types of exaggerated jaundice. Phototherapy uses fluorescent light to break down bilirubin through the skin. The bilirubin absorbs the light, changing the bilirubin to the water soluble form, which then is eliminated through the baby’s stools. The baby is placed in an Isolette or self-contained incubator unit that provides for controlled heat and humidity. The light source, called bili-lights, is placed over and/or on the side of the Isolette. The baby is naked but for his diaper. His eyes will be covered to protect his retinas and corneas from damage.

If breastfeeding is a priority talk to your doctor and nurses about options. Often, babies are taken to the nursery for this treatment but most hospitals give mothers the option of treatment in their room. Baby’s eye patches should be removed during feeding to make eye contact with his parents. The Wallaby phototherapy unit is a fiber optic blanket that is wrapped around the baby’s trunk and provides continuous treatment that does not require eye patching or separation. The blanket can be used both in the hospital and in the home after hospital discharge.

If your baby has jaundice, it doesn’t have to interrupt breastfeeding. You are your child’s number one advocate and if breastfeeding is important to you, communicating that with your child’s care providers is an important part of your child’s care. Breastmilk may be exactly what is required to help your new baby get well. 

More information:

AAP Management of Hyperbilirubinemia in the Newborn Infant 35 weeks or More

AAP Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hyperbilirubinemia in the 35 week or more newborn infant

Bilirubin Screening and Management of Hyperbilirubinemia, Stanford Medicine

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocol for management of jaundice in the breastfed newborn of 35 weeks or more

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Did your baby have jaundice as a newborn? How were they treated? Were you supported in continuing to breastfeed?

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Linda, IBCLC2 smaller
Linda Zager, RN, IBCLC
I’ve been an RN for 37 years, working in various hospital positions from Intensive Care to Hemodialysis/Plasmapheresis, Maternal Child Care and finally Lactation Consulting, my true calling in life. I have been an IBCLC for 23 years working with moms/babies in their homes and in the hospital. I left hospital work and now work as Ameda, Inc.’s Nurse Clinician/Lactation Consultant in the ParentCare division. I speak with mothers all over the country when they require resolution to breastfeeding/pumping issues.
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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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