The Last Pump

IMG_9028 After eighteen longgggg months, I’m hanging up the flanges.

Actually, I’m putting all fourteen of my flanges (that’s seven sets, assuring that there was always at least a few clean sets), two medela double electric pumps (one for the car and one for home), my pump car charger (life line),  leftover freezer bags (I went through over 200 bags, and only have a few left :)), medela lanolin cream (another tool for survival) and about 30 dr. brown’s bottles (all four thousand pieces that go along with each bottle) away in storage in the basement for baby numero tres.

I had a good run.  I originally started exclusively pumping because Scout had severe tongue and lip tie that was not correctable, thus making her unable to latch correctly without causing awful pain and constant bleeding.  After about a week of trying, meeting with lactation consultants, and pediatric surgeons, I accepted the fact that the best bet for me and the babes was to pump for everyone.  EVERYONE.  So began my “pumping journey” as they say in the ep”ing world.

And what a journey it was.

When I did make the decision to pump for both babies, I was told by every doctor, pediatrician, and lactation consultant that I met with, that it would be virtually impossible to establish a supply that would feed both babies for any length of time. While I do enjoy a nice challenge, I was already starting to feel defeated.

After speaking (and by speaking, I mean leaving a sobbing message on her voicemal) with my favorite LC at the hospital where I delivered, we came up with a plan.  For the next two weeks (babies were about a week old at this point), I was to pump every 2-3 hours, through the night, log every single ml I had pumped, and call her with my numbers at the end of the 14 day pump trial.  Fortunately for me, both Scout and Griffin were tiny and didn’t eat a whole lot, so i could definitely keep up with their appetites over the next few weeks.  After hanging up with Diane, I felt relieved and although the pumping sounded dreadful, it seemed I was on the right path for the future.

So I pumped.  And I pumped.  And I pumped.  Then I pumped some more.  More often than not, my pump schedule through the night was complete opposite of S&G’s feeding schedule, which meant I was up allllllll day and allllllll night.  We turned down plans, so that I could pump.  We left places early, so that I could pump.  We scheduled everything around my pump schedule.  After the fourteen days was over, I picked up the phone, and called Diane.  I was so proud of myself. Over the course of two weeks, I hadn’t skipped one pump.  Not one. I was prepared for her to do some calculations and tell me that I could drop to four pumps a day.  I could handle four pumps.  Keith was going back to work that Monday, so I’d have the babies all day, as well as night feedings so he could get a good night’s sleep for work each day.  Four pumps was completely do-able.

Ha.  Diane told me that I had done a great job, and it looked like I would be able to feed both babies breast milk exclusively, IF i maintained the pumping schedule that I had been for the previous two weeks.  I was completely crushed.  I cried. A lot.  I like to blame the lack of sleep and hormones, but in reality, I think the crying was mostly because I knew that pumping this way and caring for two newborns at the same time, was not something I was capable of.  I had high hopes of a (baby filled) social life, and getting out with S&G everyday, but between pumping, feedings, and naps (theirs, not mine), there was no way.

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Here I am, eighteen months later.  It was brutal (throw in a case of mastitis and few thrush infections), but I’ve never been so proud of anything in my entire life.  I learned to pump while feeding two babies at once among other things. I used a fifteen foot extension cord for my pump, and was basically able to do anything while pumping.  Side note: because of a lack of oxytocin, one of the hormones that causes milk let downs, pumping took me one hour each time I pumped. That’s fun, right? That’s eight hours of pumping a day.  Eight hours.

Early on, we knew the babies would max out at 30 ounces each per day, when they were at the peak of intake, making 60 ounces a day my magic number.  Your supply generally is established by six weeks postpartum, so I needed to hit that mark.  I made 60 ounces each day for months, even though the babies were eating well under that for quite some time.  When I realized that I was able to freeze a decent amount because of this, I had decided that I’d create enough of a freezer stash to be able to stop pumping by eight months, yet keep feeding them breast milk until one year.

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Only I never stopped.  At eight months, I realized that I was planning to hit that year mark, so I started donating.  I joined a group on facebook that allowed mothers in need of breastmilk to get in touch with mothers with milk to donate.  I met a wonderful woman, who was unable to breastfeed her son and was in need of milk, so we set up to meet.  I donated almost half of my stash.  It was several coolers full. I felt amazing.  I then donated a huge chunk of milk to another friend who was also struggling with breastfeeding.  This continued for the next few months.

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When the babies turned a year old, I realized that I wasn’t quite ready to stop.  It was crazy how something that had been so horribly time consuming, could now be something that I was having such a hard time letting go of.  I totally understand how women aren’t ready to stop breastfeeding at a year, but pumping?  It’s a freaking machine.  But that machine had been such a huge part of who I had been for the past year.  That pump was my life, and the lifeline of both of my super healthy babies.  So, a year came, and went.  Then fifteen months.  Then seventeen months.  Around this time, the babies had self weened themselves from the bottle completely, and I knew it was time.

Here I am.  A free woman.  I now have extra time each day to breathe/sleep/bake/clean/do laundry.  Do whatever the hell I want to do.  I leave the house each day, feeling slightly naked, without packing bottles and flanges, and my homemade pumping bra and  cape (which both have been used and washed so many times that they’re starting to fray).  No more milk spills in my car.  No more crazy bottle drying apparatus taking up my entire counter.   When I think too much about it, I get a little sad, but I don’t have much time to think anymore because I’m busy doing things that I actually want to do.