On my birthday this past year, I was ready to blow out 28 candles and was wishing my family would take my second pregnancy as good news after a rather scary delivery with my first. What I should have wished for was a minivan or, the best use of my wish, to be a Holstein in a woman’s body. For 7 months after that I would give birth to a bottomless pit of a little girl, and another 3 months after that I would again be ceasing all efforts to breastfeed much earlier than anticipated.
I had the electric pump, the silicone pump to catch letdown milk, and the manual pump that has seen the inside of a few brewery bathrooms. I smelled like a stack of pancakes from taking Fenugreek to increase my supply. I drank Mother’s Milk tea which made my kitchen stink like fennel and would always cause my husband to ask if I was cooking sausage. If you told me standing on the street corner doing the Cupid Shuffle while wearing nothing but a Nixon mask would have helped with my breast milk supply, this crook would walk it by herself.
Nursing my first child was tricky to say the least. He was born 8 weeks early and spent nearly 3 weeks in the NICU. At first, he was no bigger than the boob he was supposed to latch onto. I was left with pumping around the clock, often in the absence of the child it was supposed to nourish. Even once he was home and big enough to latch, I still pumped so I could fortify my breast milk with formula to give him the additional calories.
That electric pump became the bane of my existence, but I stuck it out and even continued pumping after returning to work 3 months later. I remember sitting in the supply closet thinking I could manage to take a phone call while pumping and nearly dying when the person on the other end asked what that noise was in the background. With some quick thinking, I said it was a copier and silently vowed to never multitask while pumping ever again.
I was more forgiving of myself then when I did not make it to the 6 month mark as originally hoped. I understood my circumstances were not the best and felt I did what I could. With my second child being born VBAC at 39 weeks, I felt unstoppable. All the obstacles I encountered with my first had been removed. I had a healthy, full-term baby that I could actually put to the breast and nurse. I was going to be the Oprah of nursing. YOU GET SOME BREAST MILK. YOU GET SOME BREAST MILK. EVERYBODY GETS SOME BREAST MIIIIIILK.
That was until she was on the breast nearly every moment of every day and still not getting enough. Until the pediatrician told me she lost nearly 10 percent of her birth weight in just 4 days. Until my supply just never really came in.
After 3 months of the “some is better than none” mentality and my daughter’s appetite far surpassing what I produced, I am packing up all my pumping supplies. I will use up what’s left of my freezer stash and bid adieu to the boobie milk once and for all.
I am harder on myself this time around. I feel as though my body failed me and I failed my daughter, but I know I tried. So here’s to the 3 months I gave it my best and the glass of red wine I can now raise to toast those efforts. It’s been a long time, dear friend.