Well, I’ve done it. I’ve survived my first pregnancy. I survived giving birth to my baby girl three weeks before she was due. I’ve survived my first year of parenthood. And I’ve survived being milked by a pump for an entire year. The latter usually shocks people when I tell them. I went into this fuzzy world of rainbow-tinted unicorns where I thought breastfeeding would be easy. Why read about it? Wasn’t knowing that I was committed to it enough? Go to a class? For what? I’ve got a bosom of triple-letter awesomeness. Surely a baby will latch on with ease and I will nurse in a field of daffodils while birds tweet melodic tunes from their nests. Or so I thought.
Not one bit of that happened.
Instead, I was an emotional postpartum mess and had a small weight baby who had a weak jaw and just couldn’t suck properly. But we tried. Oh, we tried. We tried for three grueling months. Just about every attempt ended in an eruption of tears from both baby and me. She just wanted to eat and I just wanted her to eat…on me. And without pain. Every time she cried from frustration, I cried from frustration. I slowly began to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to be a nursing mother. It broke my heart and I mourned the loss of our breastfeeding relationship. I swallowed tears every time I’d watch a friend nurse her baby. I felt bitter every time I’d read a story, post or see anything that mentioned how glorious breastfeeding was. “Whatever.” I’d think. Breastfeeding wasn’t THAT great.
But then something happened.
My milk supply was plentiful. In between trying to breastfeed, I also pumped. For the first 12 weeks of my baby’s life I pumped every 2.5-3 hours. It was exhausting and painful and miserable. But I kept pumping. I not only pumped enough for my baby but I pumped enough milk to donate to a first time mom of an adopted baby. I donated 400 ounces to a mom whose baby had a heart condition. I became a long-time donor to a mom of a foster baby. I donated to close friends. I donated to nine babies total and my daughter still had enough of her momma’s milk.
As I begin to wean, I can’t help but be grateful for that dreaded breast pump. As crazy as it sounds, maybe I wasn’t meant to breastfeed my first child. Maybe I was meant to donate milk to babies. It’s not a situation that I would have ever picked for myself but I can’t help but feel some kind of pride for what I’ve done. Is breastfeeding important? Absolutely. But are there other ways to provide your baby with breast milk? Definitely.
As I begin to wean, I can’t say I’ll miss the Adventures of Pumping. I won’t miss pumping in airports, hotels, conference rooms, my car and at theme parks. I won’t miss toting the pump around or having to rush home because I forgot the dumb pump. I won’t miss having to wake up early to pump before work or leaving a room full of guests to go pump. I won’t miss the wheezing cow sound that my pump makes. At the same time, I want to hug my pump. I want to thank it for working hard each time I needed it to. I used that pump for more than 365 consecutive days. That pump saw more of my boobs than my husband did. So while I won’t be smashing it with a bat, I will take a picture of that pump and put it in my baby’s book. You know, for memory’s sake…
For more information about exclusively pumping, check out the book Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: A Guide to Providing Expressed Breast Milk for Your Baby by Stephanie Casemore.