I have done it. First goal: complete. I have pumped Lucy through her first surgery. Lucy has grown entirely on breast milk. I am more proud of this than I am of completing my degree, birthing my children and probably anything else I have done in my life. This has been hard.
I did it because it eased my grief of not being able to breastfeed her. I did it because every doctor we saw emphasized how medically important breast milk was for her. I did it because she had enough challenges, she needed the best food I could provide. I did it because I was blessed with a milk supply that made it possible. I did it because it helped me bond with her when I felt constantly interrupted. I did it because I could never do enough for her. I am still doing it.
My whole family has pumped for Lucy. Soleil has had to wait. Lucy has had to wait. Both have had to be out of arms when they would rather not. My husband has washed a lot of pumping equipment, organized and stored a lot of breast milk. We have lost a lot of sleep in this effort... and a little bit of sanity. I have TWO MONTHS worth of breast milk stored for her in our freezer. The new freezer we bought to store milk in. The freezer that is now full.
The highs and lows of four months of pumping:
The Saddest Pump
My first-ever pump... in a hospital room. Without my baby. Being attached to a plastic vacuum and being startled by the pain. Listening to the whir of the machine, that I would grow to hate, instead of my baby's eager efforts. The smell of sterile bedding and antiseptic instead of my baby's sweet perfume. The hormone high of giving birth seeping away with the tiny amounts of colostrum being pulled out of me. The distance between us, and the effort to not wish it were different, giving me a splitting headache. This is what a hole feels like, I thought, a hole in my heart that will never close. I sat and listened to the wind whistle through it.
The Most Hopeful Pump
My first pump at home. Lucy snuggled with her Dad, and Soleil and I went upstairs to pump together. She fetched me little items and I got attached. She brought books into the bed and snuggled up to me. I thought about how much I had missed her for the past week as I read her stories... And then I thought - we are doing it! We are totally doing this. It is happening. We are home, we are together, and I am managing to pump. We can do this.
The Frantic Pumps
The out of the house pumps. The diaper bag over one shoulder, pump over the other, baby in the carseat in one arm and Soleil holding the other hand kind of outings. Watching the clock and the minutes tick by as my breasts fill up and I know my pump schedule for the day has been ruined... My precious evening nap will be shortened. Whipping out my boobs in somebody's living room, and excuse me while I lubricate my nipples - hope you're cool with that! and pump and pump and pump for an eternal twenty minutes.
The Most Wretched Pump
In the hospital with a sick Lucy. Pumping in a crowded hospital hallway beside a large groaning man laying on a stretcher. Blood seeping through the bandage on his head. I didn't hear the nurse call to tell me Lucy was going for her X-ray, I would have stopped pumping and gone with her and her Dad. Suddenly, over all of the noise, hearing Lucy's panicked cry turn to screaming. Tearing off my pump attachments to bang on the door they wouldn't open until it was finished. Agony.
The Most Difficult Pump
I have written about here. Alone with both kids. A screaming, inconsolable Lucy. Pumping on my hands and knees while she rocks in her swing. My arm burning and knotting up as it swings back and forth, holding the soother she can not suck in her mouth. There have been a few of those.
The Funniest Pump
Only in hindsight. In the hospital with a sick Lucy, I needed to pump. I was shown a room with an entire wall made of glass that I could occupy for a short time. "No one on the outside can see through that glass." I was assured by the nurse as she closed the door. I sat in front of the glass wall and watched the pedestrians stroll by. I whipped off my top and went about the tedious routine. Plug in pump, attach pieces, whip out freaky looking but essential pumping bra. Lubricate the nipples. (Wow that sentence). Sigh and turn it on and wait. I was amused by all of the people looking at themselves in the "reflective glass". I didn't realize until a day later when I walked by that window that those people must have been really amused too... I think by "no one can see in" she meant, "that glass is totally just glass... transparent by nature."
The Loneliest Pump
They are all lonely. Pumping is lonely. I use the computer for distraction, but there is never a pump that I am not aware that the hideous, blessed, painful, essential, awful, wonderful, stupid fucking machine is not my baby. And I miss her. Every time.
The Most Frustrating Pumps
Every time I pump and I am aware that I could be sleeping instead... or playing with my daughters, or the ones where my pumping equipment doesn't work properly. If it were an option, pump equipment failures would result in a full blown adult tantrum.
The Most Enraging Pumps
Spilled milk. Enough said. It still happens from time to time. One time over four ounces directly into the bed I was about to fall into...
The Most Pleasant Pumps
It isn't pleasant. And I know I complain an awful lot about something no one is forcing me to do. But it doesn't feel like much of a choice. And despite my incessant complaining, the benefit (for both me and her) still outweighs the draw backs. HOWEVER, lots of things help make it more bearable: internet! phone calls! wonderful emails and messages to read! good books! yummy snacks! massive glasses of water! her smile!
Four months down... I don't know how many to go... every day I tell myself, just one more. Lets just pump for her one more time.