Thursday, April 30, 2015

She moves!!!

I'm sick today, and I'm taking the opportunity to lounge around drinking tea and reading my book. Once July comes, I'm thinking sick days will be a thing of the past...

On Tuesday, we went to the Dr. with our birth mom. The previous week, she failed the glucose test, so they wanted to do a more comprehensive test to see if she has gestational diabetes. Basically, she fasted from midnight until the end of her appt. When we got there, she drank a high glucose drink, then they took her blood every hour for three hours to see how her body metabolizes the sugar.  End result -- no gestational diabetes! Sweet!

BUT -- because we took her to this appt, we got to spend about 6 hours together between the car, the appt, and lunch after. It was really great to get to spend so much time with her just getting to know each other more.

We first met our birth mom in late March (I can't believe it's been that long!), and her baby bump (and our girl) has grown significantly since then.  Even on our first meeting she mentioned that our girl moved around a lot. Pretty much every time she touches her belly, I want to be like, "Is she moving?!?!?!"  Of course, both Anna and I really want to touch her belly all the time, but we are reasonable, respectful people, so it hasn't happened....until Tuesday!

We were in the waiting room just talking, and I kept noticing that her belly was moving. I was trying to be discreet in my staring at her belly, and I think I managed, but maybe she'll tell me otherwise after reading this. ;)

Anyway, our conversation shifted towards our girl and how she moves around a lot. I asked her what it felt like -- meaning, what does it feel like to have a baby moving inside of you?  She took it as, what does it feel like from the outside, and I couldn't be happier that she did!  She, without hesitation, told us we could feel and then lifted up her shirt.

I gingerly placed my hand on her belly, and she immediately took my hand and said, "no, no -- you have to poke her a little." She pushed my hand into her belly and.....our girl kicked back! It was so amazing. Anna and I were like kids in a candy store -- I couldn't believe how cool it was to feel our girl moving around in there. I could actually picture her tiny body moving and rolling. I could have kept feeling it all day.

We are continually amazed at how lucky we've gotten with our birth mom. She is so excited about us being a part of her life and we are equally excited about having her in ours.

We simply can't wait to meet this baby girl. Thirty weeks tomorrow!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Adoption Part 3 -- The waiting game....and breastfeeding our adoptive baby

This is a combination adoption process and inducing lactation post -- warning, it may get epic.

Once we had finished the home study, we knew it was time to actively look into ways to breastfeed our baby. We know that breast milk is best for our baby, and we also know that it's so much more than just nutrition. Nursing provides comfort, bonding, and many more things for both baby and mom.

We knew that a vast network of milk sharing existed, but we wondered if there was something more. One of Anna’s cousins came to visit and talked to us about how she had induced lactation. We wondered if this was possible, and after talking to her some more, we decided to look into it seriously. 

There are many ways to induce lactation: hormone therapy, natural supplements, or even just frequent nipple stimulation. We decided that because neither of us had previously been pregnant, we would go for the most aggressive method – hormone therapy. While this goes against all of our normal natural way of life, we wanted the greatest possibility of success. We decided if we were going to do this, we were going to commit 110% and really do it. That being said, it totally freaked me out to be taking pills when there was nothing 'wrong' with me. 

The protocol we used is called the Newman-Goldfarb Protocol – as in Jack Newman and Lenore Goldfarb. Knowing that success rates for inducing lactation are highly variable, we decided to both do the protocol with one singular goal – feed our baby. 

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the protocol, I want to mention that it is absolutely imperative that you work with a health professional if you’re going to go this route. S/he needs to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. We worked with a midwife throughout the entire process, and she prescribed all our medications.

Here’s a quick-ish rundown of how the protocol we used works along with some of our experiences:

First, you have to trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant. To do this, we took a high dose birth control without taking the placebo pill.  In theory, we were never going to get a period during this time. This is how it worked for Anna, but I bled on and off for 3 months…great.

At the same time, we started taking a drug called Domperidone. Domperidone is not approved by the FDA in the US, though they are running trials on it now.  It is approved in Canada and other countries, and it is prescribed for nausea and/or other gastrointestinal problems.  One of the side effects listed on the bottle is “milk may drip out of your nipples.” Domperidone raises your prolactin levels.
So, a quick recap – the birth control raises your progesterone and estrogen levels and the domperidone raises your prolactin levels. All of these combine to “trick” your body into thinking you’re pregnant.
In an ideal situation, we were going to take the birth control for about 6 months, then proceed with the actual milk production part (that’s next). BUT – the trick with adopting is that in most cases, we weren’t going to know exactly when the baby was going to arrive.  

Two days before Thanksgiving, I went to the store to buy all the things we needed for our feast. 

I should mention that since we entered the waiting phase of the adoption process, I never, I mean NEVER, went anywhere without my phone. It was my cell phone that they were going to call when we got matched, and that is NOT a call I wanted to miss.

OK -- back to the grocery. As I was walking into the store, I dropped my phone and the battery fell out. I put it back in and shoved it in my pocket.....but I forgot to turn it back on. In the 30 minutes I was in the store, we got the call. Luckily, she called Anna after I didn't answer. Unluckily, my phone was still off and poor Anna couldn't get a hold of me. The adoption agency still needed to get some more info from the birth mom but promised to call us right after Thanksgiving. Well, Thanksgiving came and went, and we still hadn't heard anything - we were beginning to get nervous. Finally, over a week later (seemed like forever!), they got in touch with us and told us that the birth mom had decided to parent her baby. We were so sad, and we found ourselves back in the waiting game.
On Sunday, January 4, 2015, we got a phone call from the adoption agency at 5:30 pm. When I saw that the adoption agency was calling us on a Sunday evening, I knew it was going to be exciting news. A little boy had been born that morning, and were we interested. 
Are we interested!?!?!?!?!?!  YES!
After some adoption paperwork and red tape, we were finally able to go to the hospital to meet our boy on Tuesday morning. The time in between was torturous. We knew our boy was lying swaddled in a crib in the nursery being taken care of by the nurses. We know they do a wonderful job, but it’s different than the skin to skin we had planned for him, not to mention the breast milk he wasn’t getting.

Back to lactation induction...

Once we got to the hospital, we immediately stopped the birth control but continued the Domperidone. This mimics birth (hormonally, clearly I’m aware there is MUCH more to birth!) -- a sudden drop in your progesterone/estrogen levels with steady and increasing prolactin levels.

Once stopping the birth control the next step is – PUMP PUMP PUMP PUMP PUMP PUMP PUMP. We were so fortunate to meet with some amazing lactation consultants at the Maine Medical Center, and they were more than supportive and helpful. The first time one came to meet with us, I was holding Birch skin to skin, and he was starting to get fussy since he was hungry. Every fiber of my being wanted to put him to my breast but I didn’t know if it was ok since I knew that almost nothing would come out. I didn’t want him getting frustrated at the breast. The lactation consultant encouraged me to do so, and thus began our breast feeding journey.
The first time I pumped, I pumped less than 1 mL of milk, and it was pretty watery. The lactation consultants were so excited about the few drops Anna and I were producing, and they showed us to put those precious drops on our boy's lips so he could lick them. We were breastfeeding our adopted baby!

Here's our sweet boy, Birch, at the hospital. We did skin to skin 24/7. It was winter, so we made a blanket cocoon.

They hooked us up with a hospital grade breast pump, and after one night in the hospital, we brought our boy home. We continued pumping every 3-ish hours, and we always fed him at the breast with the help of a supplemental nursing system (SNS). We sourced donor breast milk from local moms, and we were amazed at people's generosity. While the SNS was critical to getting him to latch, it was a serious pain in the ass. Trying to get a hungry baby to latch to a breast that might not be producing all that much milk while trying to make sure the tube is correctly positioned in his mouth so he can get more milk than we're get the idea. Throw in some flailing baby hands, and it'a miracle we ever got him to latch and eat that way.

Maybe his best latch with the SNS. Notice the tape holding the tube onto my skin -- we found tape everywhere in the house. It was all over the place!

By the end of the first week, I was getting close to an ounce (total) with each pump, and when I fed Birch at the breast, he was taking less and less from the SNS. This meant he was getting more and more straight from the tap! Baby's are much more efficient that the pump, so if I was getting an ounce after feeding him, imagine what he was getting on his own!

It was at this point that the unimaginable happened. I was sitting on the couch, nursing our boy when the adoption agency called. The birth mother had changed her mind. We were (are) beyond devastated. We'd had this boy home with us for a week, and he was always in arms, and almost always skin to skin. He taught us about love for a child, and that is a feeling we will never forget.

In Maine, the birth mother can change her mind any time until 3 days after she signs over her parental rights. Our birth mom signed over her parental rights on a Monday -- we had to make it to Thursday. She changed her mind on Wednesday. We find some solace in the fact that we know he was placed with her cousin who was actively involved in the adoption process. They wanted another child, and they had gone through all the same scrutiny we did to adopt. We still miss our boy every day.

The day we dropped him off at the agency, I pumped 3 ounces at once. It was the most I had ever pumped, but it felt like a slap in the face.  Given the nature of the lactation induction protocol, we were at the point of no return. We could either stop pumping and give up the idea of breastfeeding our baby, or we could continue pumping and storing the milk in anticipation of our next match.

At this point, Anna was still producing about 2 mL each pumping session, so after much thinking and debating, she decided to stop the protocol. We started with one goal -- feed our baby. It seemed that I was headed in the direction of being able to produce enough to do that.

So, I continued pumping every 4 hours, and I'm still doing that today. After 3 months of pumping, I produce about 16-20 oz. a day -- about a gallon a week. I've started donating to a local mom in need since we don't have the freezer space to store everything, and we don't have a baby yet. It is worth mentioning again that I am not the norm for lactation induction. Success rates are highly variable -- I'm just a cow, apparently.

On March 18th, the adoption agency called again. A birth mom chose us! She's due July 10th, and she's having a baby girl. This is a completely different situation than before. We get to have a relationship with the birth mom, and we get to know her before the baby is born. She's going to have a relationship with our baby, and she'll be a part of our lives forever.

We've met her a couple times already, and she is simply great. She knows what happened to us, and she goes out of her way to make us feel comfortable and safe in this process. She's excited about us parenting her child, and we're all looking forward to building a relationship over time.

There are days when the pumping starts to wear me down -- especially in the middle of the night. I keep doing it, though, because I know that moment when our girl latches on, it will all be worth it.

I have been able to completely wean myself off the Domperidone with only a small drop in my supply. I know that when we get a baby, her presence will bring it back up. I cannot wait for that day -- July cannot come fast enough.

Here are some resources that we’ve found helpful: – this is Lenore Goldfarb’s website, and it is full of good information – this is Jack Newman’s website. He has tons of great info on breastfeeding in general in addition to helpful stuff on inducing lactation. He also has great videos that show good/bad latches (guaranteed to cause a letdown)
Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding – this book has become our bible. It is so full of good info, and it is great to have a hard copy resource to look through. The revised edition (at the time of writing this) is only available on Canadian Amazon (

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Adoption process: part 2 - home study

So, we left it last time with the social worker calling us and scheduling our first round of interviews for the next day! We scoured the house, put on our best casual looking clothes (the cleanest ones), and anxiously awaited her arrival. She called us that morning to tell us she was running about 20 minutes late. When she arrived, we knew we had scored when she explained that she was late because she was submitting her homemade relish to the local fair for judging (she ended up getting best in show!!!). She's our people.

There are two aspects to this phase of things.  The home study and the home certification. The home study is about us as people -- making sure we're "fit" to be parents. The home certification is about our physical home -- making sure it's fit to house a child.  The home certification is necessary since we'll be bringing our baby home from the hospital before the adoption is finalized. Having this home certification allows us to basically be her foster parents until the adoption is finalized. Without it, we wouldn't be able to bring her home before finalization.

We were so nervous about this aspect of the adoption process because, really, we had no idea what to expect. The Adoption for Dummies book told us to not worry about the cleanliness of the house but to make sure that the house was fit for raising a child. 

  1. OK, we have 3 fireplaces and 2 wood stoves. This is really common in Maine, but are we going to have to put gates around all of them now, or can we wait until our child is semi-mobile? 
  2. If she tried, our child could probably fit her head through the banister upstairs as well as on the deck -- are we going to have to replace those?
  3. We have 3 dogs, and one of them doesn't get along with strangers -- will they tell us we have to get rid of her?
  4. We had a broken window at the time that the home study began (long story involving faulty panes) -- will we fail the home study because the customer service from our window company sucks and takes over a year to replace our windows?
  5. A few weeks before she came over for the first interview, bees swarmed into our walls -- will we fail because we have huge holes in the ceilings with exposed insulation and wiring?
  6. We don't own guns, but Anna's dad had a few in a locked closet in our basement -- is that a problem?

This is a very short list of some of the things we were worried about. We had no idea how much benefit of the doubt we'd get from our social worker, and we didn't want to hold up the whole process on some silly technicality.

When she arrived, we had Olive, our shy girl, on leash. We wanted to make sure the social worker met her right away so we could be up front about her behavior. Olive was a perfect little lady, and Baxter jumped on our social worker in the driveway. Luckily, she has a dog, so she's cool with it.

Oliver -- he's our 14-yr old farm manager. Mostly, he takes on a supervisory role.

Olive -- she's our sweet, shy girl. She doesn't trust most people, but once she trusts you, she's the sweetest, most gentle girl ever.

Baxter -- the newest addition to our family. He's crazy, energetic, and most definitely cannot be trusted unsupervised most of the time. He's going to be the best big brother ever.

We come inside, make some tea and get settled for the interview. Things seem to be going quite smoothly when suddenly it hits us. It's a mixture of rotten egg and low tide funk mixed together -- again, Baxter doing his best to win her over. He got moved outside for the remainder of the process...

Once we got started, we knew we had been worried for nothing. Our social worker is amazing. We will definitely be friends with her long after this process is over. The "interview" was really just talking with us about our lives, our childhood, our relationship, our hopes and dreams for our child, etc. It was totally relaxed and not stressful. 

We toured the house, and everything was up to par. She didn't even notice the holes in the ceiling -- we asked her about it later, though. :)  The only thing we had to do was move our medicines to the top shelf. Simple. We did learn, however, that if the room the baby is going to eventually sleep in doesn't have a window big enough for a firefighter to fit through fully suited up with a tank on his back -- you have to get a new window. In addition to all the adoption hoops, now you have to get new windows. Luckily, ours are all fine. Phew.

We did two more interviews after that first one (one each, individually), then our social worker talked to one of our references, and we're done! She wrote up a long report about us, and once that was approved, we were officially in the waiting phase. For us, we started the entire adoption process in mid-June, and we entered the waiting phase in mid-September. The home study aspect of it took about 6 weeks. 

The waiting phase and catching up to where we are now is what's on deck for next time. Stay tuned...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Adoption process: part 1

Several people have told us we should start a blog to chronicle our adoption process, and I figured the internet really needed another mommy-esque blog, so here goes. ;)

Here’s how we got to where we are now – this is going to be in a couple parts because otherwise it would be ridiculously long.

When Anna and I talked about having kids, we always agreed that adoption would be our first choice. We recognize that we have two uteruses from which to choose, but neither of us felt an overwhelming urge to carry a child. Also, we have always been pretty heavy environmentalists, and the best thing you can do for the environment is not bring another human into this already overpopulated world. I pass no judgment on people who choose to have children; this was just our decision for our family.

To be perfectly honest, we came to the decision to seriously start looking into adoption over text message because I was out of town -- how modern of us. The first thing we did was check out "Adoption for Dummies" from the library....seriously. It is actually pretty good, and it's easy to read. It was WAY better than "The Idiot's Guide to Adoption." That one lost us when it suggested getting rid of your pit bull because, "how badly do you really want a baby?" Pit bulls as nanny dogs is another post for another blog, so I won't even get started here.

Then, we started looking for an adoption agency. We knew we wanted a newborn, and going through the state makes that a potentially VERY long process. Most of the kids that need homes through the state are a bit older. Another thing about the adoption process that I'll talk more about later is the way it makes you really think about your life and how you envision a child being a part of that. I'll get back to that later.

At the time of our searching, there were 8 accredited private agencies in the state of Maine. We picked one that was relatively close to us that we felt good about after talking to them on the phone and meeting them in person.  Because we're a same-sex couple, international adoption isn't an option for us. A lot of other countries allow single parent adoption, so we could:

  1. pretend to not be a couple
  2. one of us could adopt a child from another country
  3. upon finalization of that adoption, the other one of us could then do second parent adoption (only because Maine allows same-sex second parent adoption)

Basically, we'd have to go through the entire process twice, and we'd be working the system. That seemed a bit dramatic for us, plus we know there are lots of kids who need good homes right here.

So, it's early June 2014, and we were off and running up the mountain of paperwork required for adoption. This includes, but is not limited to...

  1. Application Form -- name, address, etc.
  2. Various contracts and agreements -- for different phases of the process
  3. At least 3 reference letters from non family members
  4. Health Insurance forms
  5. A Physical
  6. Assignment of Guardianship -- if something happened to us, we have to name who would be responsible for our baby
  7. DHHS clearance
  8. Marriage license -- you don't have to be married, but if you are, they want your license
  9. Driving records
  10. Criminal background check
  11. Tax returns
  12. Background questions (everything from describe your appearance to what are your three best qualities to what is one thing you'd like to change about your spouse!)
  13. FBI fingerprint clearance -- more on this one later
  14. Birth certificate -- an official one, a copy is not enough!
  15. Various other forms releasing info about us to other people

The agency told us that it typically takes about 3 months to get all this paperwork done. We did ours in 2 months. Once we decided we were going to do this, we were ready to do this!  After our first meeting with the agency, we left as much of the paperwork with them that day that we could. Then, we stopped at the Sheriff's office to be fingerprinted on the way home.

Even though we got all our paperwork in rapidly, we still had to wait for the fingerprints to come back from the FBI.  This typically takes at least 12 weeks. Lucky for us, they sent ours back after about 6 weeks. Not lucky for us, Anna failed. That's not to say she's a criminal (I hope!), it was actually that the quality of her fingerprints weren't up to par. Back to the Sheriff. When she went back, he was shocked and proceeded to make like 10 copies of her fingerprints. He said, "if they don't accept these, then they'll have to come show me how to do it because it doesn't get any better than this!"

The result? Fail. ARGH!

At this point, the adoption agency said it was ok, and they wouldn't hold up our progress based on the fingerprints. We have to get fingerprinted again once we have a baby and the court is finalizing everything, so they can take care of that hoop at that point. Phew.

So, our paperwork is in, and we're ready to begin our home study. There are two things we have to get done -- home study and home certification. They are both overseen by our social worker. So, we got assigned a social worker on a Wednesday, and she called us on Friday. On the phone, she said, "I'm headed your way tomorrow, can I stop by for the first round of interviews then?"


Me: "Sure, that sounds great."
SW: "Don't clean. Seriously."
Me: "OK."

We abandoned all plans for the day, and scoured the house. It had never looked finer. There was not a thing on our massive dining room table (normally, the catch all for random crap).

I think I'll leave it there for now, and I'll pick up with the home study process in Part 2.