Saturday, August 27, 2011

Milking Myself: A Surprising Emotional Reaction to Pumping

Sarah started pumping so she could get out of the house, but is struggling with the process because she'd rather nurse Finn.
EnlargeCourtesy of Sarah Crossman
Sarah started pumping so she could get out of the house, but is struggling with the process because she'd rather nurse Finn.
(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
(Disclaimer: I realize that I may sound a bit grumpy in this post, but I am super-grateful that nursing is working for us, and my heart goes out to the women who are having a difficult and/or impossible time breast-feeding.)
So, I've started milking myself.
I'm sorry, but there's really no other way to describe it. There is something just plain wrong about pumping my own breast milk. Logically, it makes complete sense, but in practice, it is completely surreal.
Last week, I wanted to go see the Key of She, an all-female a cappella group from New Jersey. It seemed like the perfect time to see if Finn would take a bottle; I would only be gone for a couple of hours at most, and Chad wanted to stay home with the boy.
Perfect. After reading the instructions carefully and sterilizing all 321 parts to the pumping contraption (OK, it wasn't that many, but it felt like it!), I was ready to go. And to be quite honest, it was easy. Physically, no problem whatsoever, but for some reason, I had a really powerful emotional reaction to it. I tend not to chalk this up to crazy mommy hormones — can anyone else relate?

About Sarah

Sarah Crossman, 32, and her husband, Chad, are first-time parents to Finnley James.
First of all, my breast milk is not something I've actually SEEN before. It goes from my breast into Finn's mouth, apart from the occasional drip (or spray — woah — didn't know those suckers could shoot so far!). And it was kind of nice that way — it's kind of amazing that I can create food in the first place, and the process just seemed sort of magic.
Second, it was kind of nice not obsessing about how much he was eating. I know if he was eating formula, I'd be chronicling what time he feeds and how much, and making up theories about why. However, it's so much easier to nurse. It's clear that he's healthy and gaining weight, so I wasn't concerned. It's nice to let go of control, and a good lesson for this new game called parenthood. But now, I'm all freaked out if I get less than 2 ounces — as if Finn can tell, or that he would somehow be getting more if he was nursing.
Third, and most importantly, I felt like I was losing something. I was quite literally giving away the only thing that I had that no one else did. Yes, it was totally liberating, but I don't think I was necessarily all that excited to be liberated just yet.
If I'm going to be totally honest, I kind of wanted to jealously hold onto the one thing that I could do that no one else could. It's kind of a magical process for me. I am able to produce a life-sustaining substance, and even if Finn isn't hungry, just upset, the smell of my boobs can calm him down. It's kind of intense. I wasn't so sure I wanted to give away my superpower.
Obviously, though, I got over my fit of jealousy and handed over the goods to Chad. This was the moment I was terrified of. I think I was equally as terrified that he would take the bottle and that he would reject it. I have experience with babies who refuse bottles, and it makes life much harder on the mom, not to mention the babysitter who has to deal with a screaming, starving infant who is refusing to eat!
However, I needn't have worried — after an initial confused rejection on Finn's part, he downed the bottle from his daddy and fell asleep. When I called at intermission, I was one part elated and one part melancholy. I know it's ridiculous to think that a bottle has replaced me, but a little part of me feels that way. I expected at least a little struggle from Finn.
(As they say, though, be careful what you wish for! A few days later, my sister was staying with Finn while I was at a doctor's appointment, and he refused to eat for the better part of an hour, even going so far as to nurse on his arm hard enough to give himself a hickey before finally accepting the bottle from her.)
All in all, though, I'm very pleased that Chad and others can have the satisfaction of feeding Finn, and that I can have the freedom to pick up a few shifts at the restaurant I've worked at seasonally for over 10 years. But I'm a little sad, too. Not gonna lie.
In other news, I can't believe Finn is already a month old! I'm starting to realize that "they grow up so fast" is a gross understatement! He's averaging about a 2-ounce-per-day weight gain, and that's when he's NOT going through growth spurts. Weighing in at 6 pounds, 12 ounces when he was born, he's no longer a squirt, as he's pushing 11 pounds now. Luckily, we're taking his newborn photos this weekend, so his comparatively wee size will be commemorated.
Newborn photos. Me. Who would've thunk? I think I'm beginning to resemble "that girl" more and more every day.

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