Sunday, November 28, 2010

musings on motherhood... a post about pumping.

I am finally starting to feel a bit more like my old self- my pre-Gemma self. When I had Gemma, I had a CRAZY hormonal trip for a good two weeks. I was miserable. I was anxious and crying at the drop of a hat, I felt out of control of my emotions, and totally helpless to make decisions about what was best for my daughter. All this was hitting me while we were in and out of hospitals, clinics, specialists etc seeking answers as to why Gemma wasn't nursing. All of a sudden, I had a baby who had special feeding needs and concerns and I had to wrap my anxious, hormonal, crazy self around managing her needs. I swear Abe looked at me like I had grown another head every time I freaked out.

Once I got all the thickening stuff under control, I felt better. Gemma was gaining weight and I was spending all my time taking care of her or pumping. (Sorry if this is too much information- I'm just being honest.) So, pumping occupied a TON of time especially when each feeding takes almost an hour and she has to be held upright for another 30-45 minutes post feeding, and then I would have to pump. Also, Abe was at work so I was all by myself all day trying to manage that schedule and the dogs! Phew! Then to top it all off, pumping made me feel AWFUL. I don't know if anyone else has had this experience but whenever I pumped, I felt horrifically nauseous and depressed. It absolutely made me feel like someone I loved just died. It was bad. I began to dread it and when the doctor told me that all I had to do was what would keep me sane and happy, I decided to taper back on pumping.

So, about that... unfortunately, I'm done pumping today. I was really hoping that I could breastfeed Gemma eventually- the speech clinician at Children's thought this might be a possibility. Unfortunately, I have not been pumping enough to make that a reality. It makes me really sad, actually. NOT sad enough, however, to feel nauseous, moody and awful 8-10 times a day. I have enough breast milk saved to give Gemma supplemental bottles for another two weeks so she's getting antibodies from me for a bit longer. She's doing wonderfully well on formula so I should feel good about that transition but... I still grieve the loss of the breast feeding experience.

A lot of people give their very kind opinion that breast feeding is the ONLY way to go and that if you don't breast feed, you are not a good mom. They would never say that in those exact words but the phrase, "it'll get better, keep trying," or "it was never that difficult for me, you must just be doing it wrong" and "you know, breastfeeding is the best for baby and I know you want to do what's best for your baby." I get it. Breast milk is best for babies but for me, it's NOT an option. My daughter choked when I tried to feed her. She got red in the face, struggled to breathe, looked terrified and choked. So, No. I could NOT breast feed my girl. Now unfortunately, pumping has not made it a possibility ever. I tried, I did. But I am not going to feel awful about making the choice to be the best mom I can.

Since I decided to cut back on pumping, I've felt so much better. I have more time to spend with Gemma and I'm not feeling awful while I pump. After a few weeks of cutting back, I'm all done now. So all this to say... and I'm certain that my mother and grandmothers would be mortified at a post about gasp! pumping!... I'm making this choice for us, me and my daughter. The choice to be happy and have more time in my daily schedule has helped me enjoy this holiday season a bit more like I used to. The time leading up to Christmas is my favorite time of year... and I'm starting to feel a bit more like myself.

I think pumping is really not the big point of this post, but more an example of motherhood. The decision to stop pumping has been torturous to my heart. I have never battled guilt or shame like I have contemplating quitting breastfeeding. Ultimately, I have to overcome that guilt and shame, because neither of those emotions are how God wants me to mother Gemma. I'll choose to do what's best for us, and as I get back to being myself- happy, spontaneous, freakishly excited about Christmas etc., I become a better mama to my precious Gem.

I am still not 100% there- I think it has to do a lot with lack of sleep and lack of time for Abe and I to spend time together. But it also has to do with this whole new phase of life. I feel like I'm living with one part of my heart on the outside of my body- Gemma is like a part of my heart, my soul. She's so precious to me, it's unexplainable. Because of how important she is, I am that much more vulnerable to hurt. When she's hurt, it's like I feel physical pain. So, this is what motherhood is all about. It's learning to live life with a part of your heart wandering around outside your body; it's being vulnerable beyond belief because you have no control. It's terrifying and exhilarating, sobering and silly, painful and joyful, mundane and breathtaking... do all mothers feel this way?


  1. "Gemma is like a part of my heart, my soul": Reason #1 (and 2-1,000 as far as I'm concerned) that you've made the right decision. When your heart/soul is happy, so is hers. I stopped breastfeeding at 2 months 3 weeks and 4 days...I so badly wanted to make it to the 3 month mark but it just wasn't possible. The guilt was extraordinary. But, it was best for us - me and her. And we're a very happy mommy/baby combo today! Good luck with the coming weeks, she's such a doll!

  2. Sarah,
    I read this blog post when you wrote it, and now I just reread it with an entirely new perspective. I am pumping CONSTANTLY trying to get enough milk to feed 2 babies. We are not feeding on the breast, but rather bottling them (to save Mommy time, mostly - they CAN do it, but it takes forever!). I had to start supplementing with formula because I'm not making enough and it broke my heart. I cried and cried and cried the first few days - and they only get 2 or 3 bottles of formula a day. So, I totally understand where you are coming from. Please email me if you need to chat! Being a mommy is hard, but important, work!