Friday, November 26, 2010

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It's Not You Medela, It's Me

We are through. We are done. We are over and there's no turning back. Our days have always been numbered and your number was finally called. I would say I'm sorry to see things end but that wouldn't be completely true. I'm happy things between us are over. The only thing I'm sorry about is how us being over affects Cati, if it affects her at all.

I stopped pumping. The last day I pumped was Saturday, November 20, 2010. I had been pumping very little in the days leading up to the last pump; not even enough for a fifth of one of Cati's bottles. What she was getting from me was so little that quitting the pump didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. What also helped if the fact that she started sleeping through the night when her bottles went from mostly-fresh to mostly-frozen milk.

My pumping journey was a long, painful, and hard one. Most days I feel like I got thrown into it and some days I feel like I should have tried harder to get the nursing relationship going. My hope is that knowing what I know now will help me avoid getting into a pumping routine next time around. I don't want to pump with the next child. For some, pumping is convenient and easy. For me, it was double the work and triple the pain. While Alex was very supportive of my choice to pump, because of the demands of his residency he couldn't support me in the ways that made pumping easy. I still cringe at the thought of those first few months of pumping every three hours, dealing with an oversupply, clogged ducts, and three bouts of mastitis. I cringe at the thought of having to worry about getting home in time to pump, taking my Medela PISA with me, and having Cati cry out of anger and hunger because I was hooked up to the pump. I cringe at the thought of feeling like a cow and feeling like the most unattractive person on the planet.

My goal was to make it to nine months. There were time when it didn't seem feasible. I would cry and beat myself up. I already felt like a failure because I couldn't nurse; I didn't want to feel like a failure at this either. So I pushed myself and I kept pumping away. The farther I was from nine months the more eager I was about quitting, but the closer I got to nine months the more apprehensive I became. Talk about irony. Pumping eight times a day was hard; pumping two times a day was easy. Once I got down to one pump I really started questioning my choice to stop at nine months. One pumping session was so easy and convenient. Mentally, I wanted to go on. Physically, my body wanted otherwise as my supply kept decreasing.

I wanted to make it to nine months because in the beginning of this journey I came across this one mother who pumped for nine months but built a stash to get to 12 months. I wanted that for myself. For Cati. Breastfeeding wasn't too important to me before Cati was born but after she was born it became extremely important and I wanted to feed her with my milk up until she was a year old. So while my oversupply caused a lot of painful issues, it did enable me to store enough milk to (hopefully) keep Cati on it until she's a year old. I guess you can say all the pain and stress was worth it.

When I stopped I hadn't planned to stop. I still had a couple of weeks on my slow-weaning schedule. On Saturday, I pumped without knowing it was my last session. It was on Sunday when I made the decision to not pump. I didn't want to be hooked up to the pump for 15 minutes for drops of milk. Pumping is uncomfortable but worth it if you are getting what you feel is a good amount. Otherwise, it feels like such a hassle. I think this is the main reason why I have been handling the end of my pumping days so well. I didn't spend my last session thinking about that session being the last one; my mind was clear and focused on the session as it normally was. I didn't mourn the session or add any sentimentality to it. I just pumped and when I finished I continued my routine.

I was afraid of what stopping cold turkey like that would do but so far my body has adjusted well. I can feel that my boobs have milk but I'm hoping that milk will just get reabsorbed or whatever it is that happens to milk at this point. I am enjoying reclaiming my body and not pumping. I'm starting to like my body again, although I do wonder how not pumping anymore will affect me. I think it will take some time to feel comfortable in my skin again because I need to get to know this new body. For the past 18 months my body has lived to grow and sustain Cati's life. Now it's time to embrace the shift from functional back to aesthetic. I look forward to starting this journey and becoming comfortable with feeling fun and sexy again.

So thank you. Thank you boobs for having the supply. Thank you Medela PISA for being an amazing pump. Thank you Cati for liking and eating both frozen and fresh milk. Thank you Alex for supporting me and trying to make me feel beautiful even when I felt the ugliest. Thank you to the friends and family members who encouraged me along the way. Thank you to the lactation consultant who said I would dry up soon if I didn't get Cati on the breast and to the not-so-nice mother who said my baby would not bond with me because she was getting a bottle; comments like that pushed me to prove them wrong. Cati has grown beautifully, is bonded to me in the most breathtaking way, and I didn't dry up before meeting my goal.

I still have issues and am still processing how and why I got into pumping. My only hope is that now I will be able to be more rational when I look back on my pumping experience. My greatest gift to Cati has been to be the best mother I can be to her. For the past nine months being that mother was linked to pumping. Now a certain weight has been lifted and I feel free.
Stephanie

4 comments:

A/K said...

Congrats on reaching (and surpassing) your goal and for doing so much for your little girl. And YAY for having your body back to yourself again!! You did a great job, momma.

breedwoman said...

Congrats! I know how hard it can be. I wanted to make it to 6 months, then i was thinking a year, but Kinsley boycotted the boob at 9m... so it was formula or pump... so i pumped. It's hard... tiring... but like you said worth it! High five!

Mommyhood Mayhem said...

Congrats on having your body back to yourself! It's such a strange irony to want to breastfeed but also feel liberated when you don't. Good for you for making your goal! Not easy when pumping!!

Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

And prove them wrong you did! I am so sorry to hear that despite all your efforts and hard work, some people still chose to be unkind to you.

Stephanie, I am so happy to hear you stuck with it - you did an amazing thing for Cati and went above and beyond. You are an awesome and amazing mama and so inspiring. Thank you for sharing, and I have to add that aren't supportive and loving husbands the best?!? I can't tell you how many breakdowns I've have over these past few months as I feel like I'm walking around in someone else's body, and honestly, I don't like it at all. However, my husband makes me feel like the most beautiful creature on earth and reminds me everyday how proud he is of me. I could not keep pumping without him!

Thanks again for your kindness and support. :)