Day Twenty | Samantha's Journey | A Surrogate Breastfeeding Story
As corny as it sounds I feel like Jasmyn called me to grow her in my womb, I knew Jade was her mama long before we moved forward with the surrogacy - even before we ever discussed it. I knew she was coming. I took the time to really make sure that my body and mind were ready for this decision before we truly discussed the possibility of being a surrogate. Now, I am so happy that I did. Our families will always be connected now and that brings so much joy to my heart.
Through my pregnancy with Jasmyn, I continued to nurse my own daughter. It was hard to nurse through everything. Nursing during pregnancy is always uncomfortable for me. Once we got to the second trimester I had lost all my milk and nursing was dreadful. I had to night wean and majorly cut back our day nursing. She still needed it for connection and comfort so we continued on. It become comfortable again when I started expressing milk again around 33 weeks, but I still limited it. Having a pregnant belly in the way meant we did a lot of side-laying nursing – it was the most comfortable way to latch for us both.
After Jasmyn was born, I attempted to pump milk for her as well, but that has been a huge struggle. My body doesn't respond to a pump the way it responds to a baby, and even with prolonged pumping sessions, different pumps, new pump supplies, I can't fully empty my breasts for the pump.
Instead, I do get the chance to nurse Jasmyn every time I see her and she has done amazing with it. It's been a gift to have such a close relationship with Jade that she not only trusted me to grow her baby and but still trusts me to nurse her baby when we're together.
I've focused energy too on gathering milk from the amazing pumpers in the Denver area, and even farther for baby Jasmyn. I won't hesitate to pick up milk if it helps Jade reach their breastmilk goals. I was lucky enough to get Jasmyn several hundred ounces of my own milk, and lots of colostrum. When I do get to nurse her, I make what she needs and she's content until her belly empties. Nursing is a beautiful dance of demand and supply.
Thankfully, nursing has been very easy for me, I am very thankful. Donating has been harder, but I have nursed babies for several friends over my breastfeeding journey. I've had five of my own babies, plus carrying Jasmyn.
When I was pregnant with my second I just kept nursing my first through the pregnancy and then suddenly I was a tandem nurser! Eventually my oldest weaned. We had another baby and I tandem nursed again, and the older would wean, and on it has went. I haven't had a break with breastfeeding since I began in 2005.
I've only had minor hiccups through my five kiddos, we dealt with thrush once, and a milk blister, and in 2015 I had mastitis for the first time after a decade of nursing - hopefully the last time as well. I even had surgery shortly after the birth of my oldest and we nursed through that challenge.
I think the hardest thing about nursing is learning how, and learning how to teach that to a whole new person. For me, I've never had supply issues, we never had tongue tie issues, we've really be incredibly lucky. The hardest part has truly been just learning how, learning the sensations of breastfeeding, handling the moments of being touched out, allowing grace and patience to myself during the hard moments, and like mentioned above teaching a new baby how to nurse.
It was hardest the first time because we both had no idea what we were doing, but the next time it was a little easier because one of us had an idea of how it would go. My first ended up nursing to 2 years and 4 months, my second nursed for 3 years, my third nursed for 2 years 6 months, my fourth nursed for 3 years, and my fifth is still nursing at 2 years and 10 months.
As a tangent, my third died not long after our nursing relationship ended, he was hit by a distracted driver. We said yes to organ and tissue donation. What people don't realize is the last 12 months of life is evaluated to make sure the person donating is a viable candidate for donation and has consumed or participated in activities that may be a risk for recipients, that means that I had to answer the questions for him and for myself since he had been consuming my breastmilk. It was such a difficult experience for our family.
Coming back on topic, I haven’t needed to do anything super special to keep my supply up when I am nursing two of my own or even now on the rare occasion I get to nurse Jasmyn - my body does an awesome job at meeting the demand.
I feel so honored to have been able to grow Jasmyn, to be able to nurse her, to grow so close to Jade and be there for her and see her family in their joy. We're all bonded for life, their family is now my family, and my family is theirs. It doesn't feel like I'm doing anything special, it just feels like I'm living life boldly and loving fearlessly as my son taught me to do in his short life.
I love the snuggles associated with breastfeeding, the sweetness of baby, their little noises and gulps. It's just such a peaceful serene thing, at least until the nurscrobatics (acrobatic nursing) begins when they’re mobile. Even then there’s those special moments of calm and quite when it's just you and them and all the outside world just seems to fall away. Of course, the ease of having on the go containers that keep milk at the perfect temp and allow you to feed anywhere and any time is pretty awesome!
My advice is to take care of yourself. You can't meet baby's needs if you aren't meeting your own needs. *You* are important too, you deserve to be supported. Connect with other nursing parents, connect with le leche league meetings. Be patient with you and with baby, nursing is hard, and learning how is hard, don't beat yourself up. Also offer to nurse sooner than you think is necessary, and you can't really nurse too much, you can't spoil your baby.
Nursing is not all or nothing, you can nurse and do bottles of pumped milk/donated milk/formula, you have to do what feels true for you. Set goals, short term ones, they make the journey much easier. When you make it to your goals, make a new one. I often hear the advice to give it 6 weeks, but I know with my first even at 6 weeks we were still learning, we had not found our groove, so I tell new parents, give it 8 weeks. At 8 weeks we found our groove, and it was smooth sailing. And toot that horn, pat yourself on the back, give yourself a round of applause, you're doing hard work taking care of a little one.
Find Jade's side of the story here. Have you been a surrogate or donated milk to another little one? We'd love to hear about your experience below. If you would like to share your nourishment journey please contact me so we can start to plan the perfect session to tell your story.