The following is an adaptation from a few posts on my Instagram feed. You can view the original posts there. Trigger warning: Mention of infant death.
I haven’t shared much about what lactation has been like as a surrogate because I’m still going through the motions and emotions of the experience, but I’ll take you, dear reader, with me on my journey for a moment.
After Martina was born the plan after birth (regardless of where the birth happened) was for me, Martina’s parents, Martina, Corrie, and my mom to stay at a hotel together. The idea was that we would take a few days to transition and to allow me to breastfeed directly at the breast rather than pump.
I breastfed her a few hours after she was born, and once again after that in the early hours of the morning at which point I was riding the waves of my birth high so I was enthusiastic to do so. Giving Martina human milk was something I was particularly passionate about for her own wellbeing and for mine as well, and her parents were all for it, understanding the many health and immunity benefits for both of us.
The morning after she was born, a pediatrician came in to assess her and had trouble finding her heartbeat. She was taken in for more testing and was eventually diagnosed with pneumothorax; a hole in the lung(s) where air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall, causing the lung to collapse. It is a rare but often treatable condition in newborns. Needless to say, Martina was taken to the NICU and observed there for 4 days before she was released.
I offered to breastfeed her while she was in NICU as the parents were adamant about only giving her human milk but the hospital staff wouldn’t let me. We talked to everyone we could to see if an exception could be made due to our unique situation, but the answer was no. I had been hand expressing small amounts of colostrum, so I sent those down to the NICU with the parent
On Day 3 postpartum my milk started to flow! I was pumping both breasts every 3 hours for 20 mins around the clock. I was so happy that my body was providing milk even though our after-birth plan was derailed.
Martina’s dad would stop by every day for colostrum or milk until the day she was discharged from the hospital. The day that she was discharged was super special because Corrie got to meet her from the car. 💗
At that point all of us felt like we could finally celebrate this little one’s birth. I continued to pump everyday and the dad would come pick up milk every other day. This worked well for us for a good 2 weeks. At week 3 postpartum, I noticed that my milk supply was starting to decrease significantly every day.
This was to be expected. This is why I made such an effort to assemble a postpartum care team for myself because I anticipated that at some point in my journey, my body would catch on to the fact that there was no baby to drink the milk it was making milk for. On a physiological level, I knew this time would eventually come, but it came sooner than I hoped it would if I’m being honest.
My body was reacting just like it would if I had birthed a baby and that baby had died. Even though I took all the supplements, ate all the milk-inducing foods, did skin-to-skin with CR, used warm compresses, hand expressed, and pumped religiously around the clock, nothing could mimic the vital oxytocin that my brain was not producing. How could it? The attachment and bond that a new mother shares with her new baby is unlike anything I could produce artificially.
Knowing and trusting this helped me find comfort in knowing that I did the best I could to send her as much human milk as possible and for that, I am extremely proud! In fact, I feel that the support I’ve had PP has contributed to my ability to lactate as long as I did. 💦
Professional photography by Karissa M. Raya