Disclaimer: This is a selfish post, but these are my feelings, nonetheless, and people read blogs for the feels, right? Oh, and for super mom brag posts. This isn’t a super mom brag post, this is just about the feels. This post was also written a few months ago, but pumping has finally gotten much easier for me.
This afternoon I sat at my computer, pumping milk while brushing up on some doula business topics before seeing a client. I was crying. The tears were not because the pump hurt, nor were they due to jitters related to my impending visit with a prospective client. I was crying because I felt sorry for myself.
It all started when I grabbed my pump and milk baggies out of the dusty box I had been storing them in. They had been in there for quite some time, back when Little a was still quite small. It’s the same little hand pump I’ve had ever since Big A was placed in the NICU nearly 4 years ago.
That little pump signifies success, but also a great deal of pain.
My little man, my Big A, spent the first 7 days of his life tucked away inside of the hospital’s NICU. I pumped every two hours to ensure that my little guy could get the very best food I was able to get for him. Those nights were spent in tears, being pinched by poorly fitted breast pumps. I couldn’t sleep, especially when I was sent home from the hospital, but my baby wasn’t.
This little person that had been living inside of me for 9 months was suddenly gone, replaced by some machine that attempted to stimulate the milk that was supposed to be for my little babe. It felt as if my baby had died, as if he had been ripped out of me and all I was left with were scars and that bloody milking machine.
When I would go to the NICU during the day, and I went every day and stayed as long as I possibly could. I would try to nurse him from my breasts. He had a lip tie, I was a new and very inexperienced mom, and the hospital staff were not inclined to help me. Big A and I had a very rocky beginning.
Several of the NICU nurses told me that I would have to switch to formula, because my baby would never latch right. One nurse in particular, who was very adamant that I formula feed, would feed him bottles of formula, instead of the breast milk I had worked so hard to pump every night for him. When I found this out, I requested that she not attend to my son any longer – I was livid.
I eventually was fitted with a better pump, the little hand pump I still have. With it, I was able to pump larger quantities of breast milk during the night so that the nurses wouldn’t be tempted to just feed him formula. When Big A finally got to come home, I packed away the pump and read everything I could get my hands on about breastfeeding. Even though his latch was always horrible and often hurt, he and I breastfed for 13 months without any supplementation.
I have no issues whatsoever with bottle feeding or formula feeding, but after Big A’s birth going horribly wrong, I was absolutely determined to have one thing go right for me, and that one thing was breastfeeding.
With Little a, her lips never touched a bottle. I was quite proud of myself for this. My little pump was used a few times during her breastfeeding, but only so I could pump excess milk to donate to local families in need. The aversion to my pump was still there, but it was made easier knowing that I was pumping for a good cause.
Fast forward to today, while I was pumping and crying. It had been two years since I used that breast pump. I had hoped to only ever use it with all of my babies if there was someone in need of breast milk locally. I had hoped that I would be able to stay at home with each and every one of my babies until they were done nursing, so that they could get their milk directly from the breast.
But today, I was pumping so that my 3 month old son would have milk while he was with the sitter. I had that same feeling I had all those years ago, that feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of my womb aching for the baby that had been whisked away from me and placed inside a NICU incubator. It was the same feeling I had felt within my breasts, the longing to have my new baby be the one getting his milk, and not a machine.
So many emotions were running through me as I pumped. At first, I wanted to blame his father for promises not kept. I felt like I shouldn’t have to be working away from home, when I was told I would never have to while the kids were little. I relived the feelings I felt when Big A was in the NICU, those feelings that I now know were signs of Postpartum Depression, which eventually became worse, but healed some after Little a’s home birth.
Having to constantly fight with hospital staff about my choice to breastfeed, all while healing from an episiotomy and bad birth experience had only made the depression worse. THOSE feelings, those horrible feelings, all came creeping back today.
As I left my babies to go see my client, I chanted to myself, “You can do this; You’ve got this”. I catch myself saying that a lot lately. It works. I conjured up what little bit of a smile I could and drove on to my consult.
I love what I do, I really do. I’ve wanted to be a doula for a very long time. It’s doing it alone that I never anticipated. I’m doing everything I always dreamed of doing, only, I had planned to do it with him, my children’s father, by my side. Now I’m doing it alone.
Like I said at the beginning, this is a selfish post. I know there are women who wish they could breastfeed, who wish they could have children, who wish they could work a job that they love. I try to write posts that are not all a pity party for me, but about the happy endings in my life and the joys that life has brought me. But in this situation, I’m still working on building the happy ending and to find the joy. Those things aren’t here yet, but I can see them. I’ve been working my ass off to get them and I finally see them closing in. But sometimes, in order to experience joy and a happy ending, you have to have a good cry over those who are not there with you when you finally taste that sweet achievement.