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?