I pumped milk 4-5 times a day, every day. Or almost every day. It wasn’t easy. Actually, I did it with Annika too in order to give her milk at daycare. But with her, I actually had the reward of being able to nurse her as well. I pumped in the morning, at work, evening and overnight for 11 months before I finally threw in the towel.
But it was way harder in the NICU. I’d pump first thing in the morning – with a busy 3yo demanding my attention at the same time. Then I’d try in the NICU a couple of times. But I had to work it around rounds if I could and around the nurses’ care times (8,11,2,5). You’d think taking 20 minutes out a couple times a day would be manageable, but it was HARD. It was more than 20 min, too. Set up, clean up. And then squeeze in some quality time, holding Lina if possible… Even though I had “nothing to do” but sit around in the NICU all day, it always seemed like I was pressed for time.
Every day I thought about hanging it up. When Cole died, I thought it was over. I was only getting 1/4 oz total for each session. It was like this for almost a week. I thought yes, my milk is best, but formula would be OK too. Maybe a non-stressed mommy would be better. Still, I couldn’t quite bear to give it up. So I didn’t. I pumped right up until the very last day.
I had a freezer FULL of milk. She had come up to full feeds, and I was barely making enough every day to meet her needs by the end, but she started out so slow that I had built up a lot. She started taking only a 1/2 cc (ml) per day and moved up slowly from there. She was stuck at 3 cc’s for the longest time.
When Lina died, I remember one of the first things I thought about was “what am I going to do with all her milk”? For some reason that seemed like a critical question. I started doing research. Can I donate it? Where’s the nearest milk bank? Turns out, I probably couldn’t donate it. I’d taken antibiotics while pumping and I’d also lived in Europe (Turkey) for more than the ‘allowed’ time (a couple of months, I think).
Well, Esref came up with the pefectly logical solution: give it to Annika. I don’t know why that wasn’t obvious to me. So every evening, Annika started getting my milk mixed with a little cow’s milk. She never made a peep if she even noticed. I used the last of it last night. It’s all gone. My freezer is full of frozen veggies and batteries again.
I don’t know why I felt like I wanted to write about this. It feels momentous though, and I wanted to mark it, somehow. I guess making milk was one of the few ways I could really be Cole and Lina’s mommy. Doing a mommy thing. I miss it.