Thursday, January 16, 2014

// A D V E N T U R E S I N B R E A S T F E E D I N G - J A C K I E ' S S T O R Y //

I am so amazed by Jackie's story!  I am in awe of her determination and her story is truly a sweet miracle.  I hardly have words except to say, "Great job, Mama!  You are a great mother and so inspiring!"  The possibilities our bodies allow us as mothers are endless.  Jackie blogs at Hoping in God.  <3  oh and I have to admit: I teared up a little.  This story is truly lovely and full of light, despite the difficulties.  

My whole life I wanted to be a mama. I knew before I was in high school that my dream was to get married, have lots of babies and stay home with them. It was a part of me long before life even happened.
I married an amazing man right after college and a year and a half later we started trying to have a baby. And kept trying. And kept trying. A year later we went to see an infertility specialist. After four and a half total years, a dozen failed treatments and ultimately two miscarriages, we walked away without a baby in our arms. At that point the road to parenthood had only brought pain and heartbreak.
After lots of healing and prayer we decided we still wanted a baby. We decided to pursue adoption to finally make us a family. I had really wanted the whole mama experience- pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding.... And now I couldn't have any of it. Or could I?
I was trained as a Certified Lacation Counselor and in our training they talked very briefly about adoptive moms inducing lactation. Throughout our adoption process, it always stayed at the back of my mind, but honestly I was scared to death. Trying to get pregnant for years and failing was so demoralizing. It felt like my body had betrayed me- parts that had only one purpose couldn't come through. What I tried to breastfeed and couldn't produce a single drop? I didn't know if I could handle that failure too.
After processing through my infertility and those emotions, I decided I had to try. I knew after we got our baby, I would regret it if I never attempted something so important to me. My hurt pride was worth the tiny chance that I could actually succeed. However, I was 99% sure it wouldn't work, so I didn't have the highest hopes.
First step? Research. I met with doctors, lactation consultants and honestly- out of everyone I met with only one person had a clue how to make this happen or had helped someone before. I felt out on my own. I followed a protocol on a website called Ask Lenore. It took me so long to figure out what to do and get the medication that I only had 6-8 weeks of "prep" time of active birth control pills and domperidone. Typically, the longer this prep time is, the more milk you make since the hormones are designed to mimic pregnancy. So I knew this may not be the way that would produce the most milk. However, I had a feeling our adoption would be quick and I wanted to be ready.
By the grace of God, my timing was perfect. I stopped the birth control and started pumping 8-10 times a day. All day. Twice at work. Waking up three times a night. The night before I started pumping, we received a call a birth mom wanted to meet us! We met with her 3 days later and we were matched!! Our baby boy was due in 8 weeks. Not only that, but at 6 am the morning after our match I produced my first drops of breastmilk!! With only four days of pumping! I was elated- I cried tears of joy every time I thought about it. It was emotionally harder than I thought it would be to pump and get absolutely nothing so I was thrilled when I got drops. It made me even more motivated-- this might actually be possible!!
The first couple weeks I barely produced. Drops here, a little in the bottle there. But slowly and surely I started making more. By the end of the month I was making about 1/4 of an ounce total in 2 days (all pumps combined.) Not much, but enough to freeze for my baby to be!!
Then, we got the call the birthmom had changed her mind. Our match fell through.
I was devastated. We got the call on Thursday at about 6pm. I didn't pump all that evening and couldn't bring myself to get up to pump that night. "What for?" I thought.
But Friday morning, I got out my pump. It was a huge act of faith for me to continue... to trust even though this match didn't work out we would actually get a baby sometime- and sometime soon! And I didn't want to throw away all my hard work just because I was so disappointed. Good thing I didn't! Our miracle baby was born on Easter Sunday- just three days after our match fell through- and we found out about him on Monday!
He was in the NICU for some minor issues for a month so I pumped in the hospital even though it was hard to tear myself away from him. The crazy thing is- my pumping almost quadrupled once he was here! I was only pumping about 3-4 ml per day before. The first time I held him and pumped I got 10 ml! In one time! Breast feeding is so amazing. You make more milk once your body knows there is a real life baby you need to feed. Incredible.
Since he wasn't "officially ours" for the first 3 days in the hospital we had to formula feed him with bottles. He wanted to suck constantly so the pacifier was his best friend. After his birthparents signed the papers, we got to feed him the first bottle of my pumped milk!! It was an incredible experience. Here I was with the baby I've desired for almost half a decade, sustaining him with the perfect milk my body made. All the hard work of pumping through the night was all for him. It was a beautiful moment.
At 3 days old he began getting my milk - usually only 5-10 ml at a time. The lactation counselor at the hospital also pulled some strings for us and we were able to feed him donor milk the rest of the time. I was so thrilled for him to have only breastmilk for a month!
I tried to latch him multiple times but after just a few days he was already such a bottle baby. I tried the supplemental nursing system, the SNS with a nipple shield, just me - - but my supply was so crazy low (5-10 ml in 20 minutes of pumping) he wasn’t having it.
My original dreams were to feed him at breast then give him a bottle to finish eating. But with such low supply it didn’t look like it would happen. I changed my goals and said if he is ever at breast- amazing- but I aim to pump for 6 months so he can keep getting fresh breastmilk.  
Once we got home it became SO much harder to find time to pump and my supply decreased. I had worked so hard for this and wasn't ready to give up yet! I began working hard on my supply (upped my meds a bit and power pumped) and by about 5 months I was making 4 ounces a day!! Every single day I got to feed him a bottle of my milk.
I passed my 6 month goal because I just wasn’t ready to quit yet. This was the month where he legally always and forever became ours. It just felt right to keep going. I decided 9 months was my new mark. At 8 months I began to wean off the domperidone but once I started, my supply went down quick. However emotionally I felt ready to be done and I was so thrilled for the privilege to feed my sweet boy my breastmilk for a little over 8 months.
It's not the exclusive breastfeeding relationship I had once hoped for. It's not the beautiful at breast feedings I had dreamed of. But to me? It's a miracle that my body made milk to feed my miracle baby. I praise God and will be forever be grateful for that.
Our dreams don't always work out the way we hope to. But it's okay. Let's forgive ourselves, mamas. And no matter how we feed our babies or sleep or birth or become mamas, it's a beautiful thing. We're all doing the absolute best we can.
Jill, thank you so much for starting this series and Danielle for continuing it on! It was such an honor to share my story!

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