Eat at Mom’s

When the bad agency found out that I was planning to breastfeed Cricket, they tried to talk me out of it. Agency flack Sarah had apparently heard of (but not completely understood the idea of) nipple confusion, and tried to make me feel guilty about hurting Cricket by breastfeeding. I had figured out already that they weren’t on my side, but I was incredibly angry about this particular tactic—they were worried that I would bond and not place, of course, but if feeding my son made me decide not to place then adoption wasn’t the right decision for me, and since I was choosing adoption for the same reason that I wanted to breastfeed (I wanted to do the best thing for my child), it seemed really unfair that they tried to bully me out of it. So I stopped taking their calls, and almost exclusively just talked directly to Ruth and Nora after that.

Breastfeeding was easy for me on that first day; Cricket was latched on fifteen minutes after his birth. I had no backup plans—no formula, no bottles—maybe I should have, but I was fortunate. And of course I was in an environment conducive to breastfeeding; as soon as my son was born the midwives suctioned him and rubbed him down while he lay on my chest. Then I fed him. I was lucky to have the birth that I wanted: no hospital, no drugs, no IV. Whenever he fussed, my first impulse (unless it seemed like diaper time) was to give him the boob; I have no idea whether that’s a good idea in the long term, but it worked out okay for that day. The morning of day two, all four of us took Cricket to the midwives for a checkup and to get his blood drawn, and the midwife’s assistant had to stick his heel five times. He started to scream, of course, and so the midwife suggested that I nurse him. I was extremely nervous about doing so in front of Ruth and Nora, but that didn’t seem like a good reason to refuse, so I offered him the breast, and he latched on and stopped crying. It felt like magic.

After the relinquishment, we didn’t see Cricket or his parents again for five and a half months. When we were visiting in their hotel room, Cricket dove for my chest several times. I was actually still (barely, barely) lactating—my breasts didn’t give up for months. They had almost dried up after a month (a month that included me hearing babies cry and soaking though shirts, embarrassing my father), but then didn’t completely dry up for something like seven months. But at the time I made a joke about him liking the graphic on my t-shirt…because I was worried that he could smell milk and had an interest. I felt sort of guilty. Cricket had trouble with formula for months, fussing and angry and spitting up; he went through a few different varieties before settling on one brand and a supplement of flax seed oil. At this last visit, when Cricket leaned into my chest in a way that Ruth says he’s never done before, it reawakened my breastfeeding guilt. Is that why? Does he remember?

I can’t say that I really regret breastfeeding; if I never have a child of my own that I can keep, it would be very hard for me to have never breastfed my only son. But I worry that it was the right thing for me and not for him—that it made bottlefeeding harder for him, that it gave him another thing to miss. I have a very hard time acknowledging that there’s any loss for Cricket in his adoption.  This is the only one that I can clearly identify right now, and I’m not sure that it’s real. I have a pretty romantic view of breastfeeding. Is it more of a loss to never breastfeed, or to have that experience only briefly and then never again?

4 thoughts on “Eat at Mom’s

  1. I think it’s WONDERFUL that you breastfed him! The nutritional/immunity benefits are priceless!! But also I think it’s wonderful that you had that together. As far as it giving him something more to miss, well, I guess I feel like if that’s an argument then what’s to stop us from the bad old days when women weren’t even allowed to SEE their kids? Seems to me that mothering him in those first days is a wonderful, wonderful thing for you to have done and honestly I think that’s just better than not. I mean, toddlers that are adopted have less trauma if they’ve been able to bond to their first caregivers, right? So it’s good to have that no matter what happens next. (Am I making sense? I’m hung over on Nyquil again.)

  2. I’m a birthmom who breastfed, as well. It was important to me that I treat my son as much like I would a child I was parenting as long as I was parenting. This, for me, absolutely included nursing. I did some research on what was recommended for women who gave birth and knew their children would not live very long, and everything I saw highly recommended breastfeeding. Ultimately, I wanted him to have access to the colostrum… his own, perfectly formulated, antibody-rich cocktail. He, unfortunately, had some latch issues… so, the LC wheeled in a pump (she knew the situation, so she wasn’t concerned about nipple confusion). I also pumped for him for a few months. I was really grateful for the opportunity to breastfeed and pump… it’s so hard in the beginning to really believe that you have something unique and valuable to give them, and being able to provide breast milk helped that a lot.

    Also, it’s entirely likely that his difficulty with formula had nothing at all to do with being breastfed. And, if that’s the case, it might have ruined YOUR day with him. It’s not at all uncommon these days for women to breastfeed in the hospital and stop shortly after they go home. You just gave Cricket your best while he was with you… and that’s awesome!

  3. Susie, thank you for this beautiful post. I’m so sorry to hear that your agency discouraged you from breastfeeding. I think that breastfeeding Cricket was a loving decision — what a comforting way for him to spend his time with you! I think that breastfeeding is a touchy topic. Put it together with adoption and . . . well, watch out!

    I hope you don’t mind hearing a bit of my story. I am an adoptive mother and I breastfed my child. My agency was also shocked and not particularly supportive of this decision. Like you, I wanted to do the best thing for my child. I knew that I was able to breastfeed and it seemed to me that this would be a healthy and loving way to feed my child. I quickly discovered that many people did not agree. It was hard to deal with others’ judgement and I still don’t share my experience openly because of this. My one big regret is that my child’s birth mother was not willing to meet us or talk to us or even hear about us, so I wasn’t able to find out how she would feel about her child being breastfed. I know that some birth moms don’t approve of adoptive breastfeeding and I would not have wanted to do anything she was uncomfortable with.

    When it comes to parenting, I think we often have to just make the best decisions we can, without knowing for sure if they are the right decisions. I tried to do the best I could for my child and so did you. If Cricket does miss breastfeeding, I guess it seems to me that that experience was one of warmth and happiness and love for him, at that is a wonderful way to start your life.

    P.S. I’m submitting this comment anonymously, as I don’t want to take the chance that someone objects to my decision and feels compelled to my blog and let me know. Probably paranoid . . .

  4. I really appreciate the comments. I didn’t think to mention it, but Ruth talked about trying to breastfeed and I was really enthusiastic about the idea; I don’t get the controversy around adoptive breastfeeding. I grew up with the message that “breast is best”; my mother worked as a lactation consultant for the health department for several years.

    I went and saw the therapist after posting this, and she is very determined that I need to accept that Cricket has experienced loss. If that means missing milk in addition to missing my smell, so be it. I’ve never tasted formula, but I’ve heard from mothers that it is pretty gross—I know what breastmilk tastes like, though, and it’s a good taste. That disparity seems crappy.

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