Our family was fortunate to be able to adopt four beautiful children at different times, including two who were born at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph. While their birth stories are a bit different, one thing remained consistent: The care and love our family was shown during the labor and postpartum stays.
Our first experience at the NewLife Center at St Joseph was with our daughter, Presli, who was born on Jan. 15, 2016. During her adoption, we were allowed to be in our birth mother's room during labor and delivery. We stood by her and cared for her during her delivery. We were involved in every part of our new baby's care. We were encouraged to hold and feed, change diapers and participate in every aspect of Presli's care. These hours gave us a great desire to love and protect our new baby as well as encourage, support and care for our birth mother.
Twelve hours after Presli's delivery, the adoption consent was signed and we moved to the postpartum area, where we were given our own room. It was just as if I had birthed her myself. The staff was so incredible and made sure that all my needs and my baby's were met. Little Presli roomed in with us from that point on. Every staff member and doctor went above and beyond to encourage us and support us as a new adoptive family. We had conversations with staff about attachment parenting and how to be intentional about bonding with our newly adopted baby. We met many amazing nurses and doctors, some of whom we still have relationships with today.
In 2019, we were once again contacted by Circle of Love Maternity home. Presli's birth mother was expecting again and approached us about adopting this baby when she was just four weeks into her pregnancy. It was her desire that the girls be raised together. By this time our family had grown from a family of six to a family of eight when we added two more children through foster care adoptions. Although our family had grown rather quickly, this was a no-brainer for us. Of course we would adopt a sibling. What a blessing that would be for our children to have that biological connection!
Throughout our foster care and adoption journey, I met other adoptive mothers who were nursing their babies. But up until this point, I did not realize that was even an option for me. Since we found out about this adoption so early, I began to do my research on how to induce lactation. At this point, it had been seven years since I had nursed a baby. I reached out to a few lactation consultants, including one I had worked with while nursing my biological children. I also was connected with Meghan Bayer, a lactation consultant who had nursed her adopted daughters.
During the months prior to delivery, I began to prepare my body to breastfeed our baby. I followed the Newman Goldfarb protocol and stayed in close contact with my lactation consultants. I also scheduled an appointment with my OB and my primary care physician. I had researched the protocol and felt confident that this was the route I wanted to go, but I needed the support and a prescription for the medication I would need from my doctor. I printed out the protocol to show my doctors what I had hoped to do. Both were supportive and encouraged me to go for it.
As we prepared to meet our new baby, I prepared my body to be able to provide milk for her. This was a labor of love that included hormone and medication therapy and pumping. Inducing lactation is much different than when your body naturally produces milk following delivery as the milk comes in very slowly. Initially, it took me three days of pumping every three hours around the clock to get a total of a half an ounce. With much persistence, dedication, drinking a whole lot of water and eating a bowl of oatmeal every day for breakfast, my milk supply continued to grow. It was amazing to see the progress. I began to build a stash of breastmilk for our baby.
On Oct 31, 2019, our sweet Maliyah was born and we were at the hospital for her delivery. Although the circumstances were different from our previous experience, it was absolutely more than we could ever have hoped for. With this delivery, came an emergency C-section. We were not allowed to be with our birth mother for this procedure, but were thankful Julie Saminiego from Circle of Love Ministries was. As soon as Maliyah was born, we were called to her side.
Our birth mother was still out from the procedure so we were immediately with our new baby. We were taken to a labor/delivery room where we were able to hold Maliyah and help with her bath. Just minutes after her birth I was able to snuggle her in my arms and bring her to my breast to nurse. It was magical and so very special. I had milk for my adopted baby and it was just what she needed.
Because of our adoption plan, the staff understood that I would be breastfeeding. They were so supportive of this decision. They made it a point not to offer bottles or pacifiers. They also encouraged as much skin-to-skin as possible to help with the bonding and attachment. What happened the next few days was beautiful. Twelve hours after delivery, our birth mother signed her consent, making us the legal guardians of our new baby. We had a few days at the hospital and the staff was phenomenal in encouraging and supporting our family. Maliyah was with us most of the time. We were breastfeeding every 2 1/2 - 3 hours. I was in a nursing cami and my bathrobe for basically our entire hospital stay. This allowed for easy access for nursing and lots of skin-to-skin time.
Throughout our hospital stay, we allowed little Maliyah to be brought to her birth mother any time she asked for her. We knew we would have a lifetime with this precious baby; this was a way we could encourage and support them both. After all, Maliyah had spent the previous nine months growing in her birth mother's womb, hearing her voice, and bonding with her.
Nursing Maliyah will always be one of my greatest joys and something I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to do. It was absolutely an amazing blessing. However, it did not come easy. In fact, it was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. Initially, I had more than enough milk to satisfy her but it wasn't long before my baby needed more than I could produce. Yes, my supply was still growing but at a much slower pace than in a typical breastfeeding relationship. In the hospital, Elizabeth Harrington and the other nurses worked with us on spoon-feeding. There were times when my sleepy little 37-week newborn just couldn't pull off nursing. We knew we didn't want to resort to bottles so we worked together to get Maliyah the proper amount of breastmilk, through spoon-feeding. Although I'm a mom to seven, this is something I had never experienced.
After being discharged, we ran into a few more nursing struggles. Mainly Maliyah would just not stay awake or show any interest in eating. Her weight gain was slow and lower than what we had hoped for so we needed extra support. Deb Swift, the lactation consultant who leads Ascension Via Christi's Breastfeeding Clinic, was a constant help and source of encouragement. We frequented the breastfeeding clinic a few times and she was so helpful. Again, I found myself in a place where I needed more education and support. This was just the place for me to receive that added support. We worked together to come up with a plan that would help Maliyah gain weight. We did weight checks before, during and after breastfeeding. I also learned how to use a supplemental nursing system. This was again, something I was not familiar with. I did zoom visits with Deb and other new moms. This was a fun and helpful way to connect with others in the hospital's breastfeeding support group.
Maliyah and I went on to have a successful nursing relationship. We nursed exclusively for the first 10 months of her life, supplementing my milk supply with donor milk and using the supplemental nursing system to keep her at breast and avoid bottles altogether. Once Maliyah was 10 months old, she started to self-wean. She weaned directly from breast to cup and was still able to get my milk in her cup through her first year. What an amazing and incredible journey it was! Our attachment and bond are so fierce. I attribute this to intentional work on bonding and parenting with a purpose. I also firmly believe that our attachment has benefited greatly from our time spent together breastfeeding.
It was so important for me to be able to have this nursing relationship with my daughter, but more challenging than I could have imagined. I know I would not have been able to nurse successfully without the support and encouragement from the nurses, doctors, lactation consultants and staff at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph. I will forever be thankful!
To learn more about maternity care at Ascension Via Christi, go to viachristibaby.com.