I’m in a love-hate relationship. Why is it that after more than a year of pumping and nursing, I’m sad at the thought of my journey ending? Is it because my daughter is growing up? Or because the one thing only I can provide her will no longer be needed? Or maybe I’m just sad that my hours of time watching reality television while pumping has suddenly ended.
I wasn’t supposed to produce milk. Science was stacked against me. For one, I delivered my triplets more than 17 weeks premature. The milk supply often doesn’t come in as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy. Secondly, I was extremely sick and came closer to death than I ever wish to get. I spent the first few days in the ICU. Those are critical days when you need to be constantly nursing or pumping to establish a supply. Yet here I am, lying in a desolate intensive care unit, barely doing anything. I remember the maternity nurse wheeling a pump into my room. I was still hooked up to several iv’s and hadn’t even been able to get out of bed. Yet, here comes a chipper nurse, ready to hook me up like I’m a cow about to be milked. After about 30 seconds, I screamed out in pain. And that was it. For the next few days, I barely pumped, too weak and uncomfortable to even care.
Yet a week later, the “liquid gold” appeared! Those few drops of milk created cheers in the Nicu and high fives from the nurses. And so began my year-long adventure in pumping. At one pound each, my children were far too young to attempt to nurse, so they began to receive a few milliliters through a feeding tube. And while my son passed away at two months old, I’m proud to say that he received some of my precious liquid gold.
As the weeks stretched into months, my milk stash began to pile up. My surviving triplet, Peyton, couldn’t keep up with the supply. My body apparently thought I was producing for three babies, not one. Within two months, we purchased a deep freezer. Within another two months, we bought a second one. Yes, my chest was out of control–producing enough to feed a small army! I even had enough to donate a three-month supply to a fellow Nicu mom who couldn’t produce for her micro preemie.
It’s easy to get into a routine when you’re an over producer, your boobs dictate your life. Middle of the night insomnia? It wasn’t because of Peyton. My boobs woke me up, silently whispering, “No sleep for you….” Want to go to dinner? Sure, but it can’t be at 3, 6, or 9pm…I’m busy pumping, A long day of shopping? No problem, but I’ll need to hide in the my car and whip out my twins for a pumping session. Even my tiny baby didn’t require that much of a schedule!
So after months of pumping, and constantly complaining, why is it so hard to let go? I used to sit in an empty office, doors locked and crouched in the corner, pumping while coworkers strolled the hall just a few feet from me. I spent hundreds of hours hooked up to a contraption that seemed to mock me with different chants. Some days the machine taunted me with “hurry up, hurry up”; the words racing through my head as I was paralyzed by a nagging suction. Other times it would talk to me like a therapist saying, “let it go, let it go, let it go”. What am I letting go of? Oh how I longed to rip those flanges off and chuck them in the trash! Yet here I am a year later, not sure how to say goodbye.
It’s time to hang up those tubes and tuck the breast pump in the closet. I made it 13+ months of providing milk to my daughter…and I have enough frozen milk to get her to 16 months old. My boobs may look deflated; flat pancakes are all that remain. But for as much as I have complained, I wouldn’t change it for the world. My one pound miracle is healthy and strong today, thanks to my “liquid gold”.