” I would say that when I get pictures of him with his two babies, it is heart melting, my hearts just melts and I feel so full. And seeing him, see his babies for the first time and how instant connection it is just unexplainable, the feeling in my heart, that I get.”
Sarah Fletcher is a twenty six year old mom she is a two time surrogate. She is from Oklahoma City she has breastfed two babies these two babies and she has breast fed her own nine year old daughter.
Background history: Sarah tells us that grew up everywhere. Her dad is a power line . She traveled all over. She was born in Texas and lived in Oklahoma for a little bit, but really grew up in Orlando and then ended up back in Oklahoma so. She is the baby of six kids. She has a full blood brother and sister, two half brothers and a step sister. Her mom breastfed her 3 children. She was thirteen when her sister had her son.
First breastfeeding experience: She was definitely hard to breastfeed, but she had a support. She could get her to nurse on the left side but my right side she went The nurses In the hospital helped her. She pretty much had to hold her in a football on the first side to get her to latch for the first two weeks. The first like two weeks were just awful. But after that it was a piece of cake. She finally did eventually learn to like and enjoy and feed from the right side fairly easy. The first week and a half she did experience sore nipples.
The nurses in the hospital were awesome and definitely very willing. Once home, her support system was her mother. who was very helpful, as her sister moved back to Texas.
So what are some of the things that your mom did in the very early four to six weeks that you felt were really helpful for you with: Her just being and telling me you know it’s going to be OK. You know she’s getting enough to eat don’t stress. Letting me know all the usual and normal first time Mom worries. She was there just to support and tell me I’m going to make it through and she says she’s never seen by that you know my big worries are not really worries. She helped me make sure I would eat and had enough to drink and I had water or juice at my bedside for the middle of the night. Sarah breastfed her for 11 months and everything was fairly smooth with no problems. She weaned herself and I went straight to milk. I could only get her to drink regular milk by adding flavoring to it.
Story of becoming a surrogate: This was something that Sarah and her mom had kind of played back and forth with as perhaps this is something she might like to do. Sarah was eighteen when she got pregnant with her son and I was not in a place to take care of him. Her aunt to adopted him at birth. He is seven now. Watching the happiness this brought to my aunt and uncle and seeing their family is complete. Seeing this really touched her heart. Knowing that that was the best decision that I could have made, not only for me and my both my kids but for them too. That’s what gave me the ultimate decision. This is what I wanted to do. This was my calling. Sarah was living in Kansas at the time and her Aunt was in Virginia.
Sarah signed up with an agency in New Jersey. They check medical records and go through background to make sure that I would be a good candidate. At that point, they give my profile to intended parents. They also do a psych evalutation which you have to pass. They obviously want to make sure you’re stable. Sarah was single at the time and her daughter was six years old. I don’t think she quite understood everything but she went through my pregnancy with my son and so it’s kind of like normal for her. She knows mommy’s pregnant and then the baby goes to the other family so it’s normal for her.
The next step: After passing all of their exams, your profile is sent out. Sarah was open to who her profile was sent out to. If the intended parents are interested in you, you’ll receive their profile. If you think it’s a good match, a phone conference or a Skype is set up. It definitely needs to be mutual. If you don’t feel like that’s your match then that’s OK. You are under no pressure. They will give you another profile. You also can decide if I only wanted to carry in my state or locally then it’s very possible to do. You’re going to be obviously harder to match and you might be waiting a year or more before you’re matched.
The next thing that happens once the profiles are approved and both sides want to move forward, the paperwork is all put together. The medical exams and evaluations and everything else is done, the next thing that happens is the legal parts of the agreement. They call it “going to legal.” I will have my lawyer and they will have their lawyer and we come up with a contract. Once the contract is agreed upon and we sign it. At that point, you go forward with transfer.
The contract: Covers all aspects of agreement as far as money and when they get the baby. Pumping and compensation for this is also covered. If you are going to donate your milk, that would be in the contract. If they want you to breastfeed that would be in the contract but that’s not common. With surrogacy, it’s not recommended at all to breastfeed your surrogate. Information about any kind of relationship that you might have afterwards or no relationship that that you might have afterwards that’s all part of the contract that it’s all part of the contract also.
Are you willing to share what your wishes were as far as having any kind of relationship with the intended parents or the baby afterwards or were: For me personally I was OK with whatever the parents were OK. I felt as if this was not my baby this is their baby and I’m comfortable with whatever they were comfortable with. Yes I would like to have a relationship if that’s what they wanted. If they didn’t want to I was OK with this too.
What was your relationship/communication throughout the pregnancy like with the intended parents: The first pregnancy we were in touch once a week maybe twice a week. I wouldn’t say that we were very close at that point but we stayed in contact more than some of the other surrogates
What was that like emotionally for you. Did any of that change emotionally as you got closer towards the birth: No I don’t I don’t believe so. As a surrogate, that’s a decision you make. You know what the outcome is going to be you. You know you’re not coming home with this baby. You know this isn’t your baby and you learn to disconnect yourself. Not that I didn’t care for the baby or my pregnancy or that I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy. The best way I can describe it is that was my neice. Somebody that I care about that I love but that’s not my baby.
The people that I was close with I would explain the surrogacy to them if I felt that they deserved to know. People in passing, when they would congratulate me on my pregnancy, I would just say: Oh thank you. I don’t explain it everybody. I kept it personal enough that I didn’t have to explain it to every passing person in the grocery store. I didn’t want to hear any of the negative comments as people don’t always agree with what you are doing.
Share with us is your experience with your first surrogate baby: In our contract it stated that I would pump for them. But I wound up having an emergency c section for high blood pressure so she was born at 38 weeks and 3 days. She was full term but I knew I would have a C. section from my previous birth. Since he was out of the country, he missed the birth. In the state of Oklahoma, we do post birth orders and so therefore I was still legally her parent. I was on her birth certificate. The plan was for the intended parents to have enough time to be able to travel to get here for the birth and that didn’t happen.
He didn’t get here until three days after so I was taking care of the baby. He was comfortable with me nursing her so I went ahead and nursed her while I was in the hospital to give her so that she would get all of the colostrum to avoid formula. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t in the contract or anything/ It was just kind of last minute and it would help my milk come and it was best for her.
I have thousands of listeners and sometimes I like to ask the questions that I know is on everyone’s mind. The question is about that emotional attachment that you have as breastfeeding a baby may be more like than thinking she is just your niece. This is a deeper level of connection so tell me if that’s what happened with you and or if you were just able to adjust to this change and just breastfeed and have it be for what it was at the moment in time and not really have any kind of deeper emotional attachment.
I just tried to keep it right in my head. I’m not going to say that it didn’t make it harder, you know the connection was with more than if I didn’t have. I will agree to that but like I said it’s not normal to be breastfeeding the baby to begin with. I just knew that this is what’s best for the baby and this isn’t my baby. It was it was fun/enjoyable. She breastfed easily. After the C. section, they put her first skin to skin and she latched on right away. I didn’t even have to show her. It was like night and day
Tell us what it’s like when your milk is now in and your breasts are filling with milk:
Up until the time he came, the plan was to pump. I tried to pump between feedings so he could have some milk when he got there. But, I had a problem letting down the pump. When he came, he saw how well she was breastfeeding. We had a house rented for him that was in my neighborhood. He asked me if I would live with him in the house and help him orientate to having a new baby. He was very hands on and wanted to learn everything. He was here for 2 weeks until all the legal paperwork was completed. He then asked me to go back to Russia with him. He was nervous about switching to formula. He trusted me and did not have the help he needed at home yet and was anxious about that.
So tell me on a logistical and emotional way how you came to make the decision to travel to Russia:
I was still nervous. I still sometimes can’t believe I did this. It was summer time and I ended up pulling my daughter out of school the last two school and went to Russia for the summer. I was there until she was four months old. We stayed in his house. My daughter had her room and I stayed with the baby.
I can only imagine that you’re really now forming a bond with this baby. Is there every a time in the middle of the night that you thought about how hard it would be to leave the baby: Like I said before I just really to keep it straight in my head. I think it was more that came about thinking about leaving and thinking about having to say goodbye to her and her father. I think that was like the most emotional part was just thinking about leaving. Once I actually went home, I had my one good cry when we left and then I was fine. I know he is great about sending me updates. He did bring in a nanny about a month before I left just to kind of get her use to the baby. We transitioned her to formula before I left and she decided she did not want to nurse during the day. I was able to step back and let the nanny feed her formula during the day. At night, she decided she wanted to nurse. Since she was still nursing only at night, I only needed to get into the shower to hand express s ome milk as the supply was low at that time. Weaning was not difficult. This baby will be 2 years old at the end of March.
Tell us about your second surrogacy:
While I was in the hospital with this first baby, he asked me to carry for him again. So it’s actually a a sibling journey though I had the second surrogacy journey it was baby brother to my first. Sarah gave her body some time to recover. We didn’t transfer until fourteen months postpartum. At this point the father is still in Russia. He compensated me for my lost wages. The second pregnancy everything went fine. She had developed a close relationship with the father. Everything in the pregnancy went fine up until thirty six weeks. I started having blood pressure issues again. I was on bed rest for a couple days and then I went in on New Year’s for an N.S.T. and we had a New Year’s baby. This is just about 2 months ago. Everything was fine with this birth. Because he was out of the country and the baby came early, he did not make that birth either.
Postpartum with new baby: I was willing to breastfeed the baby, but circumstances in my life precluded me from going back to Russia this time, as he would have liked. He stayed in the US for about a month. I had pumped some milk for him for the plane ride home, but other than that he transitioned to formula. I pumped about maybe three times a day for a couple days and then I went down to two times. Then I pumped just only when I felt engorged. The process was really easy. I had planned on pumping until I returned to work and donating but life kind of got crazy and that’s a lot of work so it didn’t work out as planned.
Tell me what you got out of this experience I’m curious to know if the reasons that you went into surrogacy, are they still the same reason and stay this way the whole time you’ve been a surrogate twice now and or did they change:
I would say that when I get pictures of him with his two babies, my heart just melts and I feel so full. It is definitely been the same that and seeing him see his babies for the first time and how instant the connection is, it’s just unexplainable. I’m very grateful. I’m thankful for the memories and the connection because I think it’s made me and him closer as a friendship as.
This has also left a very positive impression on your daughter as she has seen the positive effects of going through a surrogacy and breastfeeding and giving up the baby to a father to raise. Sarah agrees. She says: I think it’s funny because when I pick her up from school all the teachers you know they see that I’m pregnant and they know I am a surrogate and they tell me how cool is that. She talks about it she tells she tells people that’s very cool.
What is in your future. Do you feel that you might be a surrogate again? In my heart, I don’t think I will be. I’m done having babies. I have a feeling that he will want another one. I think for my safety and the safety of the baby I don’t think it’s best because of my blood pressure issues and I’ve had them both a little early. This is my 4th c/sec and the medical issues do begin to add up. I actually had to go back to the ER and I was sent home on blood pressure medication. I’m off of them now thankfully because some people don’t get off them. I think for my health and the health of the baby, I think that my uterus is retired.
Do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share with my listeners. Surrogacy does not have a good reputation and I really wish that there was better stories out there and that the good stories are shared more than the bad. I think that with breastfeeding is not usual, but there is no reason to not breastfeed if the relationship is there. I think education is the biggest thing.
I think that you’re really a wonderful example a very positive story. This is why I am thrilled that you were willing to share something so incredibly personal. I am glad you were able to share about the surrogacy. Not only about carrying the baby, but taking it a few steps further and talking to us about providing milk and breastfeeding the baby. I think that it’s just very positive and an interesting story for people to hear. One thing that the mainstream public nowadays just doesn’t know or really think too much about is that years ago there were lots of moms who breast fed other babies. We used to say that they were wet nurses and or cross nursing. Wet nurses were typically paid so when anybody’s who is listening to this show and thinking my goodness she was paid to breastfeed, I want them to know that for thousands of years wet nursing was a highly paid profession. This became a legitimate business. I’m really thrilled that you were able to do this show so we could bring it OUT IN THE OPEN talk about it. This gives me the opportunity to say that wet nursing is probably one of the oldest professions for women. Sarah shares that yes, and this is still quite common in other countries.
Contact info: You can find her on Facebook. – Sarah Fletcher
Lori J. Isenstadt, IBCLC
Lori Jill Isenstadt, IBCLC is a huge breastfeeding supporter. She has spent much of her adult life working in the maternal health field. Once she became turned on to birth and became a childbirth educator, there was no stopping her love of working with families during their childbearing years. Lori became a Birth doula and a Postpartum doula and soon became a lactation consultant. She has been helping moms and babies with breastfeeding for over 25 years. Lori founded her private practice, All About Breastfeeding where she meets with moms one on one to help solve their breastfeeding challenges. She is an international speaker, book author and the host of the popular itunes podcast, All About Breastfeeding, the place where the girls hang out. You can reach Lori by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her via her website: allaboutbreastfeeding.biz/contact
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