When my school year ended, I told myself that was my last day of pumping. Period. My daughter was 18 months old and while she was still breastfeeding, she was eating less often and would also be at daycare less often so I could just start using my freezer stash for those days and voilá! Done with bottles, washing pump parts, hauling the pump bag in—you know, the whole thing.
But I didn't stop.
I couldn't stop.
I pumped the days I took her into daycare to try and get some writing done. I pumped when I was away from her for a week on a business trip. I navigated the complicated—and frankly often ignorant—TSA approach to traveling with breastmilk. I pumped when I started going back into my classroom mid-summer to start the next year of planning.
I simply do not know how to stop.
I've tried going longer and longer through the day, but I still get engorged. And I did the math and calculated that if I did keep pumping when she's away at daycare and I'm at work until at least our first day of school, I would have enough milk to last for daycare bottles until her second birthday. So, there's that. That's sort of addicting in and of itself.
My breastfeeding goal was one year, now it's two and at that point, I will begin the weaning process (so I tell myself) if she doesn't do it first.
So I sit here at work taking two pump breaks a day in between my meetings and planning sessions. I realize this is so inconvenient and I should just stop, but I have come to realize that pumping is as much a labor of love as breastfeeding is.
Maybe it's because for a long part of my life I never saw myself as a mother. Then, when I decided I wanted to be, I was "of advanced maternal age" and it was both physically and mentally difficult for us to conceive. Then, we did and I was elated but also worried about being "old" and wondering if my body was going to cooperate.
And then, after an emergency C-section and a very rocky start to our breastfeeding journey, saved by my miraculous lactation-consultant-turned-dear friend, I was able to not only breastfeed but also pump. I sort of just couldn't imagine stopping for fear that it would all go poof!
Plus, knowing that this is our only child (our little miracle kiddo), stopping the pumping sessions is as challenging as the end of my breastfeeding journey will be because I know this will be the last time I experience this. Any of this.
Don't get me wrong. I hate pumping. It's uncomfortable. It's not really "hands-free" since I have to massage and maneuver and manipulate to get the most out of each session. It takes way more time than anyone who hasn't done it will ever understand. It's messy. There are leaks—from boobs, and bottles, and coolers. Your breasts change size throughout the day and sometimes your breasts and nipples are so sore that even a soft breeze makes you cringe.
While I'm obviously pumping for my daughter, a part of me is also pumping for myself. In those moments when I'm hooked to the pump, and away from my daughter, it makes me feel closer to her. Connected in a way.
I stare at her picture, watch little videos of her, look through old snapshots on my phone. Of course, I would much rather be there with her, but I can't. So pumping, for me, has also been that connection to her in the middle of my workday.
Pumping has become part of my journey of motherhood. Like motherhood itself, it's nothing like I expected. It's harder. More painful. But also rewarding. Calming and even peaceful sometimes.
Truth be told, while a part of me is excited about a future that has no pump parts needing to be washed, another piece of me does not want to let this go. Because it's the beginning of letting go that so many parents have to do as their kids get older. And that's just so hard.