Growing up, I imagined when I had children I would spend quiet, reflective hours nursing them in a rocking chair. I wasn’t breastfed as an infant, but my sisters both started their families when I was young and I saw the sweet moments that breastfeeding could bring to a mother and child.
I also saw the same bonding and moments with my nieces and nephews who were formula-fed, but I was determined to breastfeed if my body would let me. Neither was better, but I figured if that was what my body was physiologically supposed to do, then I would.
When I was pregnant, single and making an adoption plan, my heart began to let go of the hope of breastfeeding my first. “There will be others,” I told myself, “I will have children that I can have that experience with.” Imagine my surprise and excitement when I met a birth mother who had breastfed her daughter in the hospital, before placement! A glimmer of hope started, but I tried to push it aside . . . after all, wouldn’t that be creepy or weird for his adoptive parents?
I found my couple and was in contact with them for 4 months before I announced I was placing with them. In that time, I had shared funny stories from my childhood so that they could know my background. I had a great childhood, and I wanted them to have stories to tell their son about his birth mother. At one point, I told them about some kittens that were abandoned under our porch, and since our dog had just had puppies I did only what made sense to a 5-year-old—I milked the dog and fed the kittens with the dog’s milk. Fortunately, that story was a precursor to one of the best experiences of my life.
Seven weeks before I was due, I woke up to an email from my son’s mom-to-be. She had sent it at 2:00 AM . . . and I began to panic. What on earth would necessitate an email at 2 in the morning?! As it turns out, she had similar hopes. She brought up the dog-milking story, and asked if I would consider breastfeeding in the hospital . . . she was on medications to help induce lactation (essentially experiencing a “chemical pregnancy”), but she knew her best chance was if I nursed him from the beginning. I bawled as I read the email. It was so raw, and I could feel her longing.
She was nervous I would back out of placement based on her desire to breastfeed. What a blessing it was that she was brave enough to ask! I knew 100% that they were meant to be my little boy’s parents.
Seven weeks later, I gave birth to a beautiful little boy. With the help of my mother (a seasoned Labor and Delivery nurse) and a hilarious lactation consultant, I was able to nurse my sweet little boy for two days. Just before placement, I asked if I could go nurse him in private and say goodbye. It was a closeness that I had never known, and it was worth every awkward minute. His mother was able to nurse for six weeks.
I am so glad to know they had that special time, something that has been so important to me as I have nursed my own two children. It is an experience that his mother and I were able to share with each other, and only each other. We each had to trust each other completely.
Adoption may be scary, but being open and real on both sides can ease some of the fear and open the doors to an incredible bonding experience.