the journey continues
last night we attended our first essential adoption preparation (EAP) training at our adoption agency's offices in madison heights. the night before we had our last step of our home study: individual interviews also at the agency's offices. i feel like we've spent our week driving to and from madison heights at rush hour (45-60 minute drive). super fun!
on monday i began my regimen to increase my milk supply in anticipation of tandem nursing an adopted babe along with bina as early as late august. i was so pleased to produce a few ounces of milk each day. the lactation consultant i visited two weeks ago communicated that the goal of expressing at this point is just to tell my body to start making more milk, "put in the order," if you will. so any milk i am able to produce and store is a bonus. today i have five ounces in the freezer and two in the fridge from this morning.
on tuesday i started experiencing the same kind of discomfort i had when i first began nursing bina, which i have had off and on throughout my nursing experience. apparently bina sucks at latching (no pun intended) and periodically beats up my boobs. i have to do better at catching this and fixing the latch instead of tolerating discomfort. i became very discouraged thinking i'm only adding in two expressions a day at this point and i'm already pretty uncomfortable. it's going to be so much worse to have a newborn at the breast constantly, in addition to my toddler. i became fearful thinking about how awful it might be, how painful. my first eight weeks of breastfeeding bina were not enjoyable. i remember many times crying that i didn't want to feed her because of the pain. but i did it anyways. it gives me anxiety to think about tandem nursing while experiencing the same severity of discomfort i experienced when i first started nursing.
i consulted my lactation consultant and she gave me some tips. i decided to stop attempting to pump and only hand express. i adjusted the position i was using to nurse bina to side lying. that position more easily got her chin up so she wasn't sinking her teeth into my areola while nursing. these two adjustments have made such a difference in the last day. today i am feeling much more confident about this working out just fine. i know there will be hard days (weeks, months) ahead, but the hard days don't last forever. keep on keepin' on. and don't make any major decisions on the days that just totally suck.
last night our class was taught by two pregnancy counselors. we learned more about the perspective of prospective birth mamas and how they make the decision to place their babe with an adoptive family, or not. in february when we attended the domestic infant adoption orientation we were told that last year about 50% of babies placed were "gift babies," meaning the birth mama chose an adoptive family after baby was born at the hospital. this year so far 2/3 of babies that have been placed are gift babies. david asked why this was the case, and the pregnancy counselor stated that often women don't know that they have the option to reach out to an adoption agency before baby is born. for this reason the agency does what it can to increase awareness of the options available to expectant mothers in the case of an unwanted pregnancy so they can seek help and support for their pregnancy before the birth of the baby. we learned that often the birth mamas are within the ages of 25-35 and have multiple children already. they feel that they are not able to add another child to their family and care for that child and their other children properly, financially or otherwise. that was a surprise to me. i think i assumed the average birth mama was a younger woman who found herself in a situation she just wasn't ready for yet. it hadn't occurred to me that birth mamas may already have four or more children and don't feel they can take on another. that broke my heart. it also broke my heart to think of a mama carrying a baby and birthing that baby without knowing that there is support available during pregnancy, that adoption isn't a decision she has to wait until birth to pursue.
we learned about birth fathers and legal vs. punitive fathers. the other couples in our group started asking about potential scenarios. at one point i asked "but does that ever happen?" because i'm sure we were all thinking of worst case possible scenarios that maybe happen in one in a million cases that result in a placed baby being removed from the adoptive family and returned to the birth family. but we have to know what might possibly happen in every scenario, right?! thankfully the pregnancy counselors confirmed that the scenarios we were all thinking of were very unlikely, and even that they had never experienced them in their careers as pregnancy counselors.
i was glad that the birth mamas have their own advocate, a pregnancy counselor, separate from the adoptive family's advocate, their adoption specialist. i noticed that in this class, every couple was white. there was one multi-racial couple where the woman was asian. presumably if we're at this class, we have the financial means to pay for an adoption. the birth parents are not in a financial situation that they feel would allow them to raise another child. the majority of the babies that are placed for adoption are african american or biracial. the majority of families waiting to adopt are white. with the concerns raised about a birth father coming out of the woodworks to contest an adoption, i had this thought that it almost sounds as if adoptive families are concerned about their interests in adopting a child over the interests of the birth parents and their child by birth. and if that's the case, then wealthier and higher educated white couples would be benefiting from the lower income and less educated state of more often african american or biracial birth families. it made me think of a transracial adoptee calling the adoption system another form of institutional racism. the pregnancy counselor at one point asserted that if the prospective birth parent(s) is/are capable of parenting, they are not in the business of taking that right away from them. if a mama decides in pregnancy counseling that she is able to care for her child, then the pregnancy counselor assists her in making a parenting plan and not an adoption plan. this is why it's so important that each side of this equation has their own advocate working on their behalf. and ultimately, both sides working for the best interests of the child. this process doesn't exist to meet the emotional needs of an adoptive family, it exists to meet the needs of a child and a birth family that feels unable to care for the child in the way they want to. one of the videos we watched i think captured this beautifully. the birth mama took a video of her talking to her newborn son, telling him that she was doing this for him and not for her. to give him the life she was unable to give him. and it killed her that this was the case. love for her son is what motivated her to place him with a family for adoption.
towards the end of the class i asked about adoptive breastfeeding and how the agency felt about it, and also how birth mothers tended to feel about it. the pregnancy counselor who answered assured me that it IS done, though not often. and that the agency is supportive of the idea. i had mixed reviews in my own reading and research. several things mentioned it being important to keep the desire to breastfeed under wraps. the sources were somewhat outdated so i didn't think that they necessarily applied to today. breastfeeding is becoming more and more prominent, and it such a beautiful experience when pleasurable for both mama and baby. adoptive breastfeeding isn't only about providing nutrition for baby (same as breastfeeding a baby by birth). but especially in the case of adoptive breastfeeding where most of the time the adoptive mama isn't currently lactating and may have never lactated, the bonding experience is the focus and if nutritional value comes as well, then that's great too. i was so glad i asked because after the class two women came up to me and shared that they were wondering the same and hoped to breastfeed their adopted babe as well. one of the two lives in the town just west of us and is also currently nursing a babe by birth. i had heard this couple mention the town they lived in to the couple behind them at the beginning of the class and noted it was right next to ours. how amazing that the one couple nearest where we live was the only one currently nursing and planning to nurse their adopted babe as well! it was almost like... god knew i needed a friend who was in the same stage as us with the same motivation. how thankful i am for that connection.
and so our journey continues. our next class is in august. my interview on wednesday was supposed to go only two hours but was still going strong at three hours and i had to cut it short to relieve our sitter. i ended up emailing information to our adoption specialist to finish answering the questions we did not get to. of course david completed all of his in the two hour time frame. he is much more succinct than i am. we look forward to the completion of our home study report, and hopefully subsequent approval and license to adopt! in the meantime, we wait patiently. or, not so patiently. because god is still working on that virtue in me. at any rate, bina and i are enjoying summer together and for now i am thankful to just have one munchkin to keep me up for hours in the night! darn that toddler bed transition.