22 months cumulatively between the two of them.
Almost 2 years of my life.
Hooked up to that infernal machine 3 or 4 times a day. Listening to that incessant sound that has become so deeply ingrained in my brain, I think I will know it intimately for the rest of my life. Constantly needing to make sure I pack everything I need. Keep another device charged. Planning my days around it.
Pumping. Exclusively. Feeding my girls through that awful, wonderful invention. The breast pump.
I’m weaning off pumping for my second baby as we approach the 11 month mark. Saying goodbye to pumping forever as our family is now complete. I think knowing that this was the last time is what kept me going to just finish it out, just get to the whole milk switch and say goodbye to it all.
I tried breastfeeding. With both. The first time around, Meryl just wouldn’t latch, I mean- she would, but I’d be in near tears and she would be wailing because 1.) that’s all she ever did and 2.) she was starving at that point. Her colic and my complete ineptitude as a first-time mother didn’t help. We could never get into a rhythm. I think back about being nearly naked, sitting in the glider in her room, in the middle of the night, Jon by my side trying to help, but feeling utterly useless while we tried to feed this alien that had invaded our home. This alien that we hoped and prayed for, that we went through infertility treatment to conceive. We should be thankful, we should be loving these moments with her, right? Breastfeeding should bond us and I should spend that time loving that newborn smell and those quiet moments between the two of us should make me love being a mother, right?
I laugh thinking about it now. I was so tapped. The hormones were just raging and I just had no idea what I was doing or where to turn. My mother bottle fed us all. The push to breastfeed back in the 80s just wasn’t what it is today. So it wasn’t like I could go to her and ask questions, she just didn’t have that experience to look back on to give me advice. Though Lord knows she listened to every single complaint and wiped every tear and hugged me through every meltdown, so I’d say she more than made up for her lack of knowledge about breastfeeding. And throughout my entire experience with all of it, I never once came in contact with a lactation consultant that I meshed with. Nope. Not even a little bit.
Just a little story so you understand where I’m coming from here:
After Meryl, I went back to work at the hospital, as a nurse. I was working 12 hour shifts so I kind of trained my body for pumping. I’d pump right before I left the house, once at work (because heaven forbid you find time to pump more than once in a 12 hour shift, or not feel completely guilty for being off the floor for an extended period of time and having other people watch your patients) and then I’d pump as soon as I got home before bed.
Some nurses I worked with would pump on the floor, in a conference room. If that were me, 9 times out of 10 someone would have knocked on the door or just busted in and got themselves an eyeful so I went a different route. I used my pump time to have my lunch, so I would go down to Maternity and pump in the room they have for employees to use. It had a computer so I could get some documentation done, lock the door behind me and not worry about someone interrupting to tell me that a family member needed to talk to me or I had a phone call. It was good to just get away.
Well- you know who else has offices right by the pumping room? The lactation consultants. Are you sensing the dead in the eyes smile permeating my words? Yeah. Awesome. Let’s just say, I had one of them insert themselves into my pumping session (she caught me as I was going in the room) because she was going to “make sure I was pumping effectively” and “wanted to help me maximize my session” and she proceeded to basically milk me like a cow while she told me I really should try to get back into breastfeeding because it’s better for the baby. I CANNOT EVEN. I’m at work, exhausted because, it’s work and I’m on my second of back to back 12s, my 4 month old is still screaming ALL NIGHT LONG, I’m on the brink of tears constantly anyways, wracked with guilt because I couldn’t breastfeed in the first place and this awkward AF woman is milking me when I just want to eat my half cold leftovers and listen to the terrible pumping sound in silence while I check Instagram on the shoddy WiFi. OKAY?
So yeah, Sarah and the lactation ladies? We don’t mesh. Can’t do it.
Now that you understand my plight with LCs, while I was on the hard-core struggle bus with breastfeeding at the beginning, I started pumping and giving Meryl a bottle. I was producing more than enough thankfully, so why not? And thus, the exclusive pumper was born.
Exclusive pumping is a weird thing. I’m not really sure how popular it is because there’s really not a ton of information out there. I’ve gotta think it’s becoming more prevalent because we, as a country, do such an abysmal job of supporting the new mother that how in the world could breastfeeding continue with the lack of a sufficient, if any maternity leave policy that’s in place. I digress. That’s a completely different post for another day.
The second time around, I really gave a better effort at breastfeeding before calling it. I was determined this time around being a seasoned vet. Despite the professionals best efforts at telling me she had a tongue tie and I’d have to get it lasered etc, etc- she was latching. She was gaining weight- and as anyone who has seen her knows…gaining weight has never been an issue for her. However, I just couldn’t get comfortable with it. I wasn’t going to be the person that can just breastfeed anywhere, whip it out and get it done…not me. I wish. Power to those ladies. You are rockstars.
I think the tipping point for me was a cold, rainy October day last fall. We were at Gillette Stadium to visit the Patriots Hall of Fame. (#LFG) Margot needed to eat and they had NO WHERE for me to feed her. A kind man told me I could go feed her in the bathroom. Isn’t that lovely? Feed my child with toilet water swishing around for white noise. Fecal coliform on every surface. Just picturesque. Zoom in on me squeezed in the backseat of my car between 2 car seats feeding a screaming child as more and more people are walking by the car, staring through the windshield. I was done after that, back to good ol’ reliable, my pump.
Anyways, back to the exclusive pumping information dearth. It’s just not something that has garnered much research. You see articles left and right about the benefits of breastfeeding and you click on it and feel good because your baby is getting breast milk so you’re doing the dang thing, but then they specifically say “though little research has been done as to whether this also applies to babies who have received pumped milk.” REALLY? Really. I’m over here attaching a vacuum to my boobs- yeah, it’s that comfortable, and you’re going to tell me you don’t even know if it’s beneficial? Talk about hitting a girl when she’s down.
You go to your pediatrician appointments and the visit always begins with “Is she breast or bottle-fed?”
“Well, she’s bottle-fed, with breastmilk.”
You just don’t fit into a category. I mean, my pedi basically just wants to make sure you’re not filling bottles with soda, but it still irks me.
I’m sure some of you are reading this and saying, “If you hate it so much, why didn’t you just switch to formula? No one is making you pump.” And you’re absolutely right and have a valid point. I think the first time around, I was just stubborn. I wanted to do this for my child, I wanted to provide for her. I felt guilty that I couldn’t figure out breastfeeding. And also, I’m cheap. Breastmilk is free, formula is not…so I sucked it up. This time around? God, I’ve thought about quitting so many times. It’s just not a convenient thing to do with two of them pulling for my attention constantly. However, my pump this time makes it easier since it’s portable. The Freemie Independence (insurance version of the Liberty) has been, for all intents and purposes, great for what it is. I still hate it. Just the way I freaking hated that Medela the first time around, but it has been more effective and allowed me to travel and pump in the car, airport, airplane, Disney World and in public, which I never could the first time around. Do I look a little Dolly Parton-ish while I’m doing it? Sure do. But, as my Babci used to always say, “A dumb person won’t know and a smart person won’t say anything.” And for the most part, that’s true. The only people who have ever said anything about it when I’m out in public are other moms who want to know what kind of pump it is! Solidarity, man. Only another mom would notice and know what was actually going on under my shirt!
But, as I sit back and think about the fact that we’re fast approaching another first birthday party, I’m in awe. Excuse my french, but eff yeah! I did it. I freaking made it. Will it mean that my kids will be much better humans in the long run? No. Will they have a higher GPA than the formula-fed kid next to them? Definitely no. (Um, hello. I’m a formula fed kid so what leg do I have to stand on here? Haaaa!) Did I save money that I likely just reinvested into Target anyways? Muahaha, yes. Did I continue to sacrifice my body for another 11 months after slogging through each of their pregnancies? Mhmm. Ugh. Will I hold that over their head for eternity? You bet I’ll keep it in my back pocket for a rainy day.
Now (and when I say now, I mean in several weeks, when I’m finally dried up and deflated), I can go get a sledgehammer and take care of my pump, burn every milk-stained bra and item of clothing I can find and maybe feel like my body belongs to me again for the first time in a long time. For any men (not my husband, who I expect to read this and praise me) who have actually read up to this point, good for you. You’re certainly not my target audience, but I have to guess you probably share a house with someone who might be feeling or has gone through some of the same things. All of my other moms out there, especially that special subset who has lived in the exclusive pumping hell, this is just a reminder that you are amazing and one day, we will all find ourselves again and thank you for reading my crazy thoughts! In the meantime, we can continue to try to ride the waves that life and our kids throw at us!