When my school year ended (I’m a teacher) in June, I told myself that was my last day of pumping. Period. My daughter would be 18 months old and while we were still breastfeeding, she was eating less often that way and would also be at daycare less often, so I could just start using my freezer stash for those days and viola! Done with the bottles, the washing, the pump parts, the hauling the bag in, etc.
But I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. I pumped the days I took her to daycare to try and get some writing done. I pumped when I was away from her for a week on a business trip. I navigated the complicated — and frankly often ignorant — approach to traveling with breastmilk. I pumped when I started going back into my classroom mid-summer to start the next year of planning.
I simply do not know how to stop. I’ve tried going longer and longer through the day, but I do still get a bit engorged. And, I did the math and calculated that if I did keep pumping when she’s away at daycare and I’m at work until at least our first day of school, I would have enough milk to last for daycare bottles until her second birthday. So, there’s that. That’s sort of addicting in and of itself. My breastfeeding goal was one year, now it’s two and at that point I will begin the weaning process (so I tell myself) if she doesn’t do it first.
So, I sit here at work taking two pump breaks a day in between my meetings and planning sessions. I realize this is bonkers and I should just stop, but I have come to realize that pumping is as much a labor of love as breastfeeding is.
Maybe it’s because for a long part of my life I never saw myself as a mother. Then, when I decided I wanted to be, I was “of advanced maternal age” and it was both physical and mentally difficult for us to conceive. Then, we did and I was elated, but also worried about being “old” and not knowing if my body was going to cooperate. And then, after an emergency C-section and a very rocky start to our breastfeeding journey, saved by my miraculous lactation-consultant-turned-dear friend, I was able to not only breastfeed but also pump, I sort of just couldn’t imagine stopping for fear that it would all go “poof!”
And, knowing that this is our only child, our little miracle kiddo, stopping the pumping sessions, for me anyway, is as challenging as the end of my breastfeeding journey will be because I know this will be the last time I experience this. Any of this.
Don’t get me wrong. I HATE pumping. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not really “hands free” since I have to massage and maneuver and manipulate to get the most out of each session. It takes way more time than anyone who hasn’t done it really understands. It’s messy. There are leaks — with boobs, and bottles, and coolers. Your breasts change size throughout the day and sometimes your breasts and nipples are so sore that it’s so unthinkable that even a soft breeze makes you cringe.
While I’m pumping for my daughter, a part of me is also pumping for me. In the moments I’m pumping, and away from my daughter, it makes me feel closer to her. Connected to her. I stare at her picture, watch little videos of her, look through old snapshots on my phone. Of course, I would much rather be there with her, but I’m not. So pumping, for me, has also been that connection to her in the middle of my work day.
Pumping has become part of my journey of motherhood. Like motherhood itself, it’s nothing like I expected. It’s harder. More painful. But it is also rewarding. Calming and even peaceful (those quiet moments in the pumping room — aka, closet — with nothing but the whir of the pump).
Truth be told, while a part of me relishes the fact that there is a future that is void of washing pumping flanges and tubes, another piece of me, a bigger piece perhaps, does not want to let this go. Perhaps because I’m afraid that it’s the beginning of letting so many other things go as she grows older.