Dear Faithful Medela Pump,
This milk bar is officially closing.
It's bittersweet, really.
Unless there is some large change of plans in our family planning, we are likely at our child stopping point. I was always open to three, but Caysen has been quite the doozy. I won't say that I wouldn't ever want others, but at this point I'm just relishing in Caysen and all that he is. I am slightly mourning the fact that my breastfeeding journeys were never what I had determined they were going to be.
As you may know, my breastfeeding journey with Camden wasn't quite what I had prepared for. He nursed, but wasn't so great at it. His latch was weak, and he was the SLOWEST eater (and still is to this very day), which wasn't kosher for pumping or returning back to work after 11 weeks. Once I did return to work, drinking from the tap eventually ended, and it was a relationship with the pump and I, and I managed to exclusively pump until he was 13 months old. I didn't mind it, doing what is best for my child is of utmost importance, and it was something I wanted to do.
With Caysen, I was even more determined before his birth. I made sure my milk came in as soon as I could get it to, supplementing, pumping in the hospital - despite the fact that my newborn spent the first 12 hours in the newborn nursery. I had read up on breastfeeding, gotten ideas and advice. I made sure to meet with lactation consultants in the hospital after he was born, getting all the assistance I needed from holds, to how he was latching. He was showing more progress than his brother, but I still used a SNS to help encourage him. I was armed and ready and excited for the journey.
Things came crashing down on day three, and I did good to even remember to pump that day and thereafter. I kept going at the prompting and encouragement of some NICU nurses and family members. They made sure I was drinking my water, friends brought me lactation cookies, and I trudged along.
I kept having horrible thoughts cross my mind, "if he dies and I'm still pumping milk, will I be able to handle that?", "why pump if he can't even be fed?". I wasn't sure what I was doing, I just knew that I had nothing else to do while sitting in that NICU room the first few weeks and crying. Might as well make the best of it, right?
As my hormones leveled and I became clearer headed, I began to have a sense of determination. There lay my baby, covered in wires and tubes and unable to be held, but there is ONE thing I can control, and it's what he eats, when he gets to eat. And I can give him what I feel is best. I timed things like clockwork, pumping every three hours, setting an alarm to wake up at home because I didn't have a baby to wake me. I was going to do this, and it was going to be what he needed.
Come January, at 6 months old and after lots of extremely bloody stools, multiple inpatient hospitalizations and one GI scope, we had the diagnosis of milk protein allergy. This meant formula. All that hard work, and they wanted me to do formula?
Nope. I allowed it for two weeks while I went dairy and soy free to accommodate him. I didn't make it that far, throw out that much stored dairy filled breast milk to just stop now. I remained diary and soy free for 4 months, and have been dairy free for almost nine. It is one of the single most hardest diets I have ever done, having to read ALL the labels, not eat at certain restaurants while the rest of the family chows down. It has taken more self control that I ever realized possible, but you know what?
I wasn't going to quit. I wasn't going to stop, not because of some dietary restriction. I was determined to give him what was best, he already had so much difficulty with GI and digestion issues, I wasn't going to change my mind. I was one determined Mommy. Every three hours, hooking myself up to that darned pump, forgoing sleep for the last almost 14 months to do what I felt was the best for him. He's a little fighter and deserved as much help as I could give him.
It's come to a time where he can tolerate soy formula, and after almost 14 months, it's time to put the pump down. Caysen is growing beautifully, and his diet is consisting more of foods and not just milk.
Throughout this terrifying and scary journey I would hear things like, "how do you do it?" and "You are so strong". The truth is, I'm not that strong. You just do what you do, when you feel like there is no other choice. I took it day by day, hour by hour. I had no control in most anything, but that. THAT was something I could control, and once I decided to, you couldn't stop me. It was a first big step in continuing to move forward. I could pump for him. I could wake up each day with my baby in a hospital. I could make it another day, another week, another month. It was the first step in the journey to realizing what I CAN do.
I hate you Medela pump. And yet, I love you Medela pump. So much of my time and family is tangled up in the tubing of that pump, but it's what made feeding my son's possible. You got me through NICU and PICU stays, two open heart surgeries, and countless nights alone without a baby at home. In those moments that I would wake up in the middle of the night to pump, I would use it to pray for my baby still in the hospital, in the care of nurses, before calling for a middle of the night update if I could possibly stay awake. You got me through physical and emotional pain, and to no longer have regularly scheduled meetings is, like I said, bittersweet.
Thank you pump, for allowing me to do what I felt convicted in my heart was best for my boys and family. Thank you for allowing me to still feed my babies breastmilk. Thank you for always being there, accountable, steady. Thank you for starting me on the journey of realizing what decisions I can control, and helping me through the difficult times. Without you, this journey would have been completely different.
One determined pumping Mom