I was never a big believer in the saying “everything happens for a reason”, my philosophy was one of “shit happens, you deal with it and move on”, until of course I became a mom, and a lot of shit happened, and then I saw similar shit happening to other moms and then… well I lost my shit at the unfairness of it all and decided that maybe it happened to me for a reason.
My daughter was born 6 weeks prematurely in January 2011, I had had an anxious pregnancy, and at 34 weeks, due to an infection in my womb, we met our beautiful daughter.
She was quite ill and spent her first 2 weeks in the neonatal ICU, which is where my exclusive pumping journey began.
I had every intention of breastfeeding, this was very apparent in the lack of pumps, bottles and dummy’s in my home, even guests to my baby shower were politely informed that anything silicone was not needed, I knew what I wanted, I knew what was normal, I did my homework, but I was still unprepared, because my baby didn’t feel the same about breastfeeding as I did, in fact, I’m pretty sure she flat out hated it, and this was painfully apparent in her screams and wretching whenever I presented her with my painfully engorged breasts.
While in the NICU I was pumping every 2 hours and attempting breastfeeding whenever she was stable enough to tolerate it, sadly, the hospitals appointed lactation was not a certified lactation consultant and from the detrimental and damaging advice and technique she spewed, you could tell she knew very little and had alterior motives (or should we say “income”), I was completely unsupported and as a first time mom I had no idea how to use the big scary breastpump, so sadly i only knew about pumping one breast at a time, but again, everything happens for a reason….
When we got home I had nothing, I was still dead set on breastfeeding, but that was not going well, so on day two of being home, I took my screaming, boob-hating baby back to the hospital. I was told to relax… if only it were that simple.
My mom bought me a lovely little manual pump and some bottles.
My daughter however was not a fan of bottles either, (which made me feel slightly better, at least it wasn’t me, hey), we tried every single bottle on the market, she wasn’t having any of it, so we stuck with syringe feeding and pumping for 5 long months. (Eventually she took to a bottle brand, but it took a lot of patience and endless bouncing to repeats of Kerri Hillsons “Pretty Girl Rock”).
My husband eventually bought me a small single electric, it was more of an emergency purchase as we were admitted for the umpteenth time for poor feeding and dehydration and I had left my pump at home, the hospital was not so generous and refused me using their hospital pump, needless to say I didn’t respond to the single electric and ended up going back to my trusty little manual pump.
My schedule was hectic, insanely hectic, my supply was low and I was pumping as needed, some times i could pump a full bottle before a feed, but others I would have to feed what I had and pump again before she noticed that that wasn’t a full feed. At six months I eventually dropped to 10 sessions a day, my daughter was still struggling with feeding and I had been placed on a phsychiatric drug (Eglynol) that has a side effect of lactation, this gave me the opportunity to finally pump a feed ahead.
At a year my daughter was down to 5 milk feeds a day, I was pumping 8 times a day and slowly by 22 months I had dropped down to 2 pump sessions a day and my daughter was down to a single bedtime feed, this made freezing and donating a possibility.
My daughter continued to struggle with weight and feeding, and once I reached my original goal of 3 years, I felt it was necessary to continue pumping for the many health benefits we had seen first hand.
I was still happily pumping with my little manual, although we had gone through 2 flanges due to melting during sterilization, but ultimately it was still my trusty little manual, until one fateful day it finally met it’s end after being dropped on the kitchen floor.
I was then given the greatest, most generous gift, a double electric. My very first double electric (and this time I knew how to use it), and it was liberating, it was quick, easy and I loved it so much I even increased my pumps per day to 3.
Sadly, before my daughters 4th birthday, my pcos reared it’s ugly little head, my hormones went crazy, my supply drastically dropped and I got super fat (and pimply), I sobbed more at the possibility of loosing my milk than I had ever before, I increased my sessions back up to 10 times a day but still, my supply seemed to be stuck at a measly 40mls a day.
By her 4th birthday I was an emotional wreck, between the forced weaning and my beautiful little girl growing up, I was a big teary mess, but I persevered, I am still persevering, I still lug out my pump twice a day and sit and pump my 40mls a day which I religiously add to one of the bags from my frozen stash every night, and every night we cuddle up, my big girl curled on my lap while I hold her milk and stroke her hair as she drifts off happily to sleep, with a tummy full of love. My love.
I look back at my slowly ending journey with pride, with inspiration to help other mothers, to make sure they never, ever have to go through the confusion, invalidation and fear I went through, with inspiration to create knowledge, support and a platform for education and awareness of exclusive pumping.
Going from there to here has been emotional, tiring, frustrating, exhausting and scary, but it has also been beautiful, fulfilling, and more than anything, it’s been worth it.