Three weeks – that was my goal.
I work in health care, and you can’t fart around a hospital when you’re pregnant without someone gushing over the benefits of breastfeeding. To get more information, I took a breastfeeding class. After releasing the rainbows and butterflies, the instructor (who was very helpful) told us the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding. In addition to better immunity for your baby, losing pregnancy pounds faster, and solving world peace, breastfeeding was a bonding experience for you and your newborn.
I’m realistic and pragmatic. While the instructor assured me that breastfeeding would reduce the impacts of climate change, my female friends had different experiences. One friend had a surplus of milk, and built a stockpile in her freezer. However, another had to pump for an hour to squeeze out a few mere ounces. Some women I knew LOVED breastfeeding, and successfully fed their child for over a year! Others, flat out hated it. Sore nipples, biting, latch issues, clogged ducts, mastitis, no support at work, the time commitment, and mastitis.
I told myself I would try breastfeeding for three weeks. I would give it my all, and if I hated it we’d switch to formula (thank God for formula!). When Carly did not latch the first five days, I almost quit. My life was: try to latch for an hour, then manually express for thirty minutes, then formula, and then repeat. Day four I had a mental breakdown and was googling “Am I insane?” Thankfully on day six, my milk came in, and Carly decided to latch. Then, I spent the next eight weeks teaching her how to eat. Wake up, hit the boob, eat a little – repeat. Wake up, hit the boob, eat a bit more – repeat. Breastfeeding became my full time job, and mostly, I loved it.
There were not butterflies or rainbows, but the pride I felt at feeding our daughter from my body was like nothing else. When Del went back to work after week two I sent him pictures of Carly eating. My child latched to my body was beautiful. My body kept, and has been keeping, her alive.
Then, I went back to work. I am grateful for the time I had at home, but I have always known I was going to be a working mother. My work days have been without a break and without end. Get to work, pump and email, work, pump, work, email, pump. I hook up, eat lunch, and check emails. I bought a $70 pump/laptop bag to haul all of my stuff around. My entire work calendar is blocked off for pumping time, and my team knows when I need to take thirty minutes to pump.
Breastfeeding takes a village. For me to have the time to feed Carly, Del took over most of the housework for a few weeks. And after giving birth my back went out, so my mom stayed for five weeks to hand me Carly between feedings. Without Del or my mom, I would have failed. At work, my co-workers are incredibly supportive. They move meetings around my schedule, and help me find a space to pump if I need it.
With a lot of support, I’ve made it nine months. Nine wonderful, glorious, difficult, beautiful, exhausting, thrilling, calorie burning, I eat so much food, and drink so much water, months. Breastfeeding and pumping is not as hard as people said it would be – it’s harder. The sacrifice of time, energy, and your body is exhausting. Yet, I made it this far off of…. I don’t even know how. I think I am just too tired to think of something else.
When I think of how long I did it, it’s one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud. I did it! I feel like I deserve a little party or something. I kept Carly alive off breast milk for nine months. Although she has had a cold since August (daycare – le sigh) she is healthy and chunky. Although I have days where I want to just quit and throw my pump – I don’t (yet).
This morning Carly and I had our little time together. I hold her close to my body, she latches on, and we sit there in beautiful peace. I feel her snugly body, and the Oxytocin rushes from head to toe. I look down at her, and she looks up at me. Sometimes she giggles, sometimes she bites, but mostly – she just eats.
We did it, Carly, Del, the village, and I. Nine whole months. We did it.