We met Vanessa’s birth mother and hit it off pretty well. Surprisingly, we needed the social worker to tell us that we all liked each other. It felt kind of like Junior High – “Did she like us OK?” I let the birth mother know that I wanted to nurse and the next time we met she told me she thought it was pretty cool.
I didn’t do anything to prepare physically for nursing Vanessa. I had spent time “preparing” for a prior adoption that fell through during the hospital stage. It made the loss more difficult for me and I did not want to go through that again. Despite what had happened, I became the new birth mother’s birthing partner. We went to classes together and practiced relaxation and breathing techniques.
Watching Vanessa come into the world was the most incredible experience I will ever know. We were a circle of women; the doctor, social worker, step mother and I. We surrounded and held the birth mother. I counted to ten during her biggest contractions, at the end, but was crying so hard when I saw Vanessa’s head crown that the others joined in when my voice failed.
Vanessa was so alert. That was a big surprise for me. No big tears, no protests. She just looked at everything around her. My husband joined us shortly after delivery and we have pictures of each other holding her within minutes of her birth.
I was able to nurse her twice that first day. There was a wonderful lactation consultant at the hospital who assisted with my Lact-aid and helped Vanessa to latch on. What a powerful feeling that first time she latched! I was astounded by the strength and urgency of it. The second day the birth mother roomed in with Vanessa. That was the longest day of my life. I just kept telling myself she needed that time, as it was the only time she would ever have alone with Vanessa.
We brought Vanessa home on the third day. I had a lactation consultant visit our home that day to help me get the latch right. It was a struggle filled with frustration; I felt so inadequate that I couldn’t just put her to my breast and get it right on my own. It took a while, several days I think, before I could reliably get her latched well.
My milk supply was very small throughout my nursing experience. We really went through the Lact-aid bags! Vanessa was a very healthy eater, always over the 95th percentile on the weight and length charts for her age. After several weeks I began taking Domperidone to try to build my milk supply. It seemed she was getting very little from me since she always drained the Lact-aid bags but I was consoled that her diapers often indicated she was getting some breastmilk.
I didn’t pump at all for the first couple of months and when I finally did, I didn’t get a drop. I was pumping after nursing which may be why there was no evidence of milk. I added Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek at about 2 months because I thought I should be producing a large percentage of Vanessa’s nourishment and was not satisfied with my milk supply. At about the 3-month mark I tried the “Accelerated Protocol,” taking birth control pills for a month and a half. It didn’t make a difference except that I lost all milk when I was on the birth control pills. Vanessa got RSV during that time which caused me major guilt! After another month of frequent pumping, Domperidone and herbs, I still felt like I had too little milk. So I tried the “Accelerated Protocol” again. I experienced the same results (lost all my milk while on the birth control pills and didn’t have anything to show for it when I started pumping again).
I finally hit four ounces a day, pumping, when Vanessa was about 9 months old. I was nursing 3 or 4 times a day and pumping every 2 hours when I was at work. That was the maximum amount of breastmilk I was ever able to get into the bottles. However, she did receive breastmilk while nursing too.
Looking back I think I had at least as much milk when Vanessa was 2 months old as when she was 9 months old. If I could do it over again I would have started the “Regular Protocol” when I met the birth mother and stopped the birth control pills when Vanessa was born. I still would not pump in advance but that’s just my personal preference. I would not recommend the “Accelerated Protocol” to anyone because I lost so much precious time with my milk supply. Vanessa weaned at 13 months. I think I wasted between 2 to 4 of those months on the birth control pills or pumping to try to get milk after stopping the birth control pills.
The other thing I have learned is that obsession with your milk supply can rob you of the best parts of your nursing experience. I’m so glad that I nursed Vanessa the entire time I was on parental leave and visited her daycare as often as I did (usually twice a day) to nurse her. My nursing experience with Vanessa feels like the most important thing I’ve done in my life so far. I can’t express how important it’s been to me. I nearly lost perspective on that when I was working so hard to make more breastmilk for her.
Now Vanessa is 20 months old (as of late May 2003) and she is so smart, so secure, so happy and so very healthy. I am forever grateful to Naomi and the ABRW family (Darilyn, Ann and many others were all so encouraging to me). In addition, I’d like to thank Lenore as well as all the wonderful lactation consultants who helped me in my town. I attended a local support group for adoptive nursing moms and it was fun for all of us to follow each other and our babies through our nursing experience.
I’m proud of nursing my daughter. I think we all should be proud of our efforts to nurse our children. Our society doesn’t make it easy. Despite this, we persevere in the midst of all that resistance. But just look at what it does for our children! I hope it becomes the norm, rather than the exception!