I have always dreamed of and put a lot of importance in being able to breastfeed. Even though Colette was born prematurely and lived only nine days, I was still able to produce milk for her and was saddened that I finally began to really produce just a day before she died. When we were contemplating this journey of surrogacy, I remember thinking what a loss it would be to not breastfeed this child.
As I researched more, I found out about induced lactation, where moms who were not pregnant themselves, could breastfeed. Immediately, I felt relieved and excited.
My OB was on board, I consulted with a lactation expert, and several weeks ago, started on a birth control pill designed to mimic the rise of hormones and then the stopping of the pill would mimic the effects of the hormone drop after birth in order to aid in producing milk. So, now as we approach the final weeks of this pregnancy, I am pumping several times a day to also help my body notify my brain to create more of the hormones that produce milk.
It is very slow going and often completely irritating to be constantly pumping, to uproot your schedule so often just to produce nothing. At this point, I do not know if I will be able to breastfeed LL at all. I will keep at it of course, but it feels like yet another reminder of how my body is failing me by not doing what I so desperately want it to do.
It first started with trying to conceive. Everything seemed so simple, Mark and I decided we were ready, or as ready as anyone can be, I go off the pill, we start trying and boom, pregnant. Yet when month after month, pregnancy didn’t happen, when negative pregnancy tests were sent flying across the room out of frustration and anger, it felt like my body was not doing what it was supposed to. I’m a woman—biologically, my body is set up to get pregnant and have a baby. So why was this so hard for me? I spent so much time thinking about how I could do better, how I could “try harder,” how I could wish it or pray it to happen.
Then, we finally got pregnant!
It felt like my body, although it needed a little bit of help from science, was doing what it was supposed to do. But, that feeling did not last long before I miscarried our dear Sweet Pea. Again, my body was failing me by not being able to stay pregnant. All of the worries and the examinations of what I was clearly doing wrong came up yet again. I had caffeine the day before the miscarriage and so I blamed myself. I had been stressed at work—it must be my fault. And on and on.
When it came to getting pregnant with Colette, I did everything by the book. I followed the diet that was shown to produce the best eggs, I drank a powder in water that tasted awful, but which my acupuncturist told me would help, I took supplements, I tried to relax. And it worked! We got pregnant, then we got past the first trimester, and felt like it had taken a lot longer than we had originally anticipated, but we had been successful. This feeling of elation lasted all the way until the rug was pulled out from underneath us and was replaced by worry, confusion, grief, anxiety, tears, despair, and more as we tried desperately for my body to hang on as long as possible. Then, after losing Colette, we lived in a state of anguish for a while, different people by the circumstances of losing a child, always grieving and always missing a part of our family.
I cannot tell you how many nights (and days) after losing Colette that I have gone over the multitude of reasons why her death was my fault. I think about how I had grown to hate my job and joked about just quitting and wonder what if I did, would that have improved the pregnancy. If I had eaten better, would things have been different? And so on and so on.
So, now I sit here, just a few weeks away from welcoming our second baby into the world, and pumping every couple of hours, but with no results so far, and I keep thinking of how once again I may be in a situation where my body will not do what I want it to do.
I know that breastfeeding LL or using my own breast milk is not necessary for LL’s health or life, but it is important to me personally. Losing the chance to breastfeed like I want is yet another loss in the journey of parenthood. I know I am supposed to be relaxed and that will help production, but it is hard after loss to just “think positively.” It is hard to have faith in my body when I feel it has always failed me in the conception, pregnancy milieu. It is also hard to rearrange my schedule so that every couple of hours I jump up to pump and see no results—just empty bottles and tubes. Seeing them empty reminds me of how it has felt to have an empty uterus, empty arms, empty nurseries.
In the meantime, as I have always done, I will take a deep breath and keep trying. My mind has always been way too stubborn to just give up so I will continue on and hope my body keeps up.