I am sitting here staring at my pumping supplies. Wondering how it all went by so fast. Wondering why I feel this nostalgic. After all, it wasn’t even a month ago I was ever so ready for the finish line. Indeed, between two back-to-back pregnancies, and pumping for both babies for their first year of life, my body has not been exclusively my own for a little over three years. And yet, I am still tearing up. Because I realize, I am letting go. My second baby girl is also my last baby, and yet neither of my baby girls are really babies anymore.
My phone buzzes. It’s my friend, with her newest baby girl. With her first, she had chosen formula—but this go around, she wanted to give breast milk a try. And she is desperate for advice. I let myself smile. Oh, how I remember those early days. I end my reply to her with, “If I could do it, you can. You got this, mama.”
Why would I say that?
Because I know the pain of sore, cracked nipples.
Because I know the desperation of trying to keep up with a tiny human’s hunger and need to grow, especially since she had been born underweight.
Because I remember sinking down onto my kitchen floor, sobbing because I really wanted my baby exclusively on breast milk, but supplementing with formula was a must until I could catch up again. Fed is best.
Because I remember the heart-wrenching moment when four ounces of hard-worked-for breast milk fell to the floor, followed by a never-ending stream of my own tears.
Because I know the exhaustion of waking up for a pumping session even if the baby didn’t wake since a skipped feeding time was an opportunity to get ahead on my milk supply.
Because I know the discomfort of mastitis.
Because I remember making it to my 6-week goal, which turned into my 6-month goal, which turned into my 1-year goal.
Because I know the reason the 6-month goal turned into a 1-year goal with my first was that she reacted poorly to formula, and I simply had no other choice.
Because I know the reason the 6-month goal turned into a 1-year goal with my second was that we were in the middle of a pandemic, and I feared a scarce supply of formula.
Because I remember the utter frustration of thinking, Why is it there is plenty of help for nursing moms, but for exclusively pumping moms like me, I am left with Google and trial and error?!
Because I remember the guilt trips people tried to put on me for choosing not to nurse past four months with either baby and sticking with exclusively pumping. “They get more of the good stuff when they are on the breast.” And yet, both babies were off the growth charts, healthy as can be, complete with chunky rolls, determined to take after their 6-foot, 4-inch daddy’s genes.
And I remember the joy of eventually having 50-60 ounces of stored breast milk in my fridge when my baby averaged 40 ounces a day. Remembering the early struggles of pumping even 2-4 ounces, this was the epitome of truly satisfying, maternal bliss.
I remember. I know.
Three years of two tiny humans relying on me for sustenance.
And to the nursing and pumping mamas reading this—You’ve. Got. This.
Because I know if I can do it, you can too.