This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.
Before my husband and I embarked on our gestational surrogacy path, I had read about ‘adoptive breastfeeding’. I was amazed and excited that it was even possible! That women, who hadn’t birthed their child, could still feed them from their own breasts. What an amazing thing the body can be!
Deep in my heart, I knew that I would do whatever it took to try and breastfeed. I knew that this could be a way for me to heal some of the loss I felt in not having the ability to carry a child. The loss I still feel even now when my sister-in-law is carrying a baby girl who is genetically my own daughter.
I started doing my research long before our first embryo transfer and found the site, Ask Lenore. This was my first resource and I eagerly devoured all the information she had on her site. I also bought books on ‘breastfeeding without birthing’ and read any articles or blogs I could find on the subject. Having lost the experience of pregnancy, I was so excited to think that there was a chance that I might regain one of the more ‘usual’ experiences of motherhood.
Once we were finally successful with our second embryo transfer and my sister-in-law was pregnant with my baby, I started the process of talking to doctors and trying to get the drugs to start the process. The protocol called for a minimum of 5 months on the medications prior to starting the pumping regime at 6 weeks before the due date.
I was timid at first. I didn’t want to start too early in case we lost the baby. We had a terrifying first trimester, with a sub-chorionic haematoma that kept returning us all to a near-permanent state of fear as my sister-in-law bled yet again.When we were finally given the all-clear and released from the clinic to the midwife-led care, we were almost 11 weeks in. Then began my battle to get my GP to support my plans.
It took calls, letters, emails, print outs of studies, face to face begging and finally a letter from our RE to my GP stating that the protocol is safe and if he didn’t prescribe the medications for me she would be more than happy to do so, to finally gain his support.
At just shy of 14 weeks, I was able to take my very first birth control pill.
The protocol is as follows. Firstly you need to trick your body into believing it is a little bit pregnant.
You do this by taking the active birth control combination pill (BCP), thus increasing your estrogen and progesterone levels, in conjunction with a high dose (80-100mg per day) of Domperidone, a drug originally designed for gastro-intestinal issues but with the handy side-effect of significantly increasing prolactin levels. This combination of medications increases three of some of the hormones associated with pregnancy, thus tricking your body.
Six weeks before the baby is due to arrive you stop the BCP to mimic ‘birth’ and you start pumping around the clock, preferably every 2-3 hours.
I have yet to reach the hard part—pumping.
I am just over ten weeks into the medications and I have noticed a lot of changes in my body. Most noticeably my breasts have increased in size from a 34D (pre-transfer) to a 36E. They are different in texture and composition too. I have joked to my husband that they now look like ‘mum boobs’, saggier, more spread out, spongier. But I delight in every change, even though they are no longer the pert little things they used to be. Now (I hope) they are maturing, changing, preparing to feed my daughter who will soon be in my arms.
There are other changes too.
These could be due to the medication, they could be due to my being ‘psychologically pregnant’—a term I coined for my experience so far! My whole body has changed, most noticeably in weight-gain as I have a Domperidone belly that mimics a small baby-bump. My feet have grown. My hormones are elevated and noticeable. I cry at ridiculous things. It is somewhat miraculous that I haven’t killed anybody.
I am 8 weeks away from starting what I know will be an incredibly grueling pumping regime. I am a little daunted and a little scared.
Mostly, I am excited and hopeful!
When I underwent my IVF retrievals, I discovered a resilience I wasn’t aware I had, an excitement for every injection, every bruise as they were my own personal version of the physical experiences of conceiving and early pregnancy.
So this, too, will be my version of later pregnancy; my baby-weight, my sickness, my stretch marks, my ‘birth’.
Perhaps it will work, perhaps it won’t. I have been told by other inducing mothers to keep my expectations low, that this is the key to success. I do not expect to be able to exclusively breastfeed. My first goal is to manage a couple of feeds purely at the breast.
If I manage that, I will be overjoyed and perhaps I will then extend my goals. Until then that is all I hope for.
It will be one small, but incredibly significant victory.
We are sharing stories this week about our triumphs and travails with breastfeeding in honor of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2015, coordinated by WABA).*
“This World Breastfeeding Week, WABA calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.”
For more information please visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/.
*Disclaimer: Rainbows & Unicorns does not discriminate against how any parent chooses to feed their child. We honor that families always choose the best thing that works for them, whether that is formula feeding, breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or a mixture of any of these.