Boob Actually Empty
Last day breastfeeding:
That’s it, I’m done. I made it further than I ever thought. I struggled from day one, through blood and pain and low supply. I endured 5 days of being unable to make a drop of milk while my daughter repeatedly cried and hungrily latched. Raw, sore, and exhausted, I was still determined. I had such high expectations for myself, and I was so afraid to mess this whole breastfeeding thing up. Fortunately by day 5, my husband realized that I was no longer operating from a logical place and ran out to get some formula. He mixed up a bottle as I anxiously watched, and my daughter hungrily drank the whole bottle and went down for her first calm 4 hours of sleep since we brought her home from the hospital. I collapsed in exhaustion and slept for the first time in a week. Looking back, I am sure that the rest and relief that my daughter was no longer hungry was what helped my milk come in. That was the beginning of my breastfeeding journey.
As soon as I got the hang of it and even felt bold enough to breastfeed in public, it was time for me to go back to work and learn to pump. I will never forget the rhythmic wheezing of that machine as I sat topless in a windowless room at work, fiercely missing my daughter. Two different pump brands and four different nipple size attachments made no difference, I just didn’t produce as much milk as I needed. Every day I needed 16oz for daycare and I never managed to go home with more than 11oz. Every day was an exercise in disappointment. I considered quitting pumping at 4 months, but my daughter fought every bottle of formula. I decided to keep trying. I got the hang of it and found ways to get ahead, even building up a nice little stash in my freezer. Still, I looked forward to the day when I could stop pumping. It cost so much time, and was physically exhausting. My body was still not fully my own yet.
At 11 months, my daughter decided that she was done with bottles, and I realized that meant I could be free from pumping. I did the math - she was just a month away from cow’s milk and my stash could get her through. I was relieved to be done with that part of my breastfeeding journey, but somehow I still found myself feeling sad.
I made it to 12 months fully expecting to wean… and then I just didn’t. I wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready. I kept going, wondering how long I could make it. I expected my supply to disappear once I dropped the three pumping sessions during work, but to my surprise, it kept up. I nursed my daughter in the mornings and in the evenings, and at night to soothe. I’ll be honest, once I stopped pumping, breastfeeding became a purely positive experience for me. I loved our moments together, in the quiet. Just me, her, and a whole lot of oxytocin coursing through us. It was a special time, and it ended up going until my daughter was 22 months. I had always heard that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2, but I never thought I’d be someone who did that, especially not considering how hard breastfeeding and pumping were for me at first. But, I’m glad I did it. I am relieved to be done, and sad. My only regret is that I wasn’t kinder to myself when I struggled. There is so much pressure, and I consider myself so lucky that I was even able to have this experience. Now, it's over.
There’s a first time you do something, and there’s a last, but rarely are we so aware of the moment something ends. I knew. I nursed my daughter for the last time before I boarded a flight to Sydney for the week. I had already been weaning, but that day, there it was, the last time I would hold her and feed her with my body. It was a strange place in time to find myself. I was ready to stop breastfeeding, but I was sad to say goodbye to these special moments. I now understand a parent’s desire to hold on just a little longer.