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.

 

Slave to the pump

Let me tell you a little something about breast pumping… it sucks. (That’s a little pumping pun for you)

Imagine having a full-time job, requiring you to work 40 hours a week. It doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, take that 40 hour work week, and add 30 hours. It sounds hard, but still manageable. And even profitable.

But take that manageable 70 hour work week, and add a few other variables: Little to no sleep, recuperation from a major surgery, ala c-section, unpredictable hormones, and the ever-present fear that your newborn twins are going to starve if you don’t continue to live like this. But make sure don’t get stressed out by all of this, because 15 different doctors just finished telling you that stress and lack of sleep will drastically affect your supply.

And that was my life for my first two weeks at home after leaving the hospital.

It began on that fateful day, our second day in the hospital, when the lactation consultant informed us that our daughter had tongue tie. For the past nine months, I had every intention of exclusively breastfeeding both of our babies. I had perfect visions of feeding them both at the same time, or as some called it, “tandem feeding” (“tandem torture” is more accurate). I was so determined in fact, that I invested in a special pillow made just for the job- My Brest Friend, but the double version, of course.

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Thanks for being discreet, Amazon.

I must admit. I was far too ambitious. I can be very determined, and at times, downright stubborn, which my husband will attest to all too quickly. But I quickly came to the conclusion that there was no way I could pump for one baby, while breastfeeding the other, and still maintain a shred of my sanity. It was then that I decided exclusive pumping was the route I would have to take.

After one week of pumping, my fears of starving babies reappeared. I picked up the phone and spoke to, and cried with, the lactation consultant from the hospital I realized it wasn’t possible for my little b’s to produce enough milk to feed two babies. After agreeing with me that I wasn’t exactly well-endowed, we came up with a plan. For the next two weeks, I would pump every two hours, yes, through the night too, in order to build up a solid supply of breast milk.

Great. I have a plan. I can do this. And I did.

After two weeks, I called my favorite lactation consultant, proud to tell her that I followed her orders exactly. And I was fully expecting her to say, “Great job, Mom! Now you can cut back to pumping four times a day.”

Ha! No such luck. You see, this was my new life. If I wanted to make the milk, I was going to have to really work for it. My pumping schedule was whittled down from twelve pumps each day, to ten pumps a day.

I became pretty resourceful when it came to my pumping.  Sitting for 30 minutes to an hour pumping every 3 hours quickly became the biggest waste of time ever, not to mention the two newborns that still needed caring for.  I got a hands free pumping bra and an extension cord for my pump, and began multitasking like no ones business.  I could now vacuum, fold laundry, cook dinner, feed and play with both babies and dogs, and pretty much any other task that could be done within the 15 foot confines of my trusty extension cord.

I never leave the house without my pump. I have a car charger for my pump, and a car ride without pumping is a waste of a car ride. If my pump was another human being, she would be my best friend and my worst enemy.

But, I’m doing it. I’m doing it well. I have a freezer full of milk, and neither of my babies have come close to starving yet.  I’m hoping to make it to one year, but only time will tell.

By the way: It’s 1:00am and I’m currently pumping. If anyone knows someone looking for a double my Brest friend, let me know!