I was reading an article about motherhood that really struck home. It feels like whenever someone announces the news that they’re pregnant, you hear the same sorts of advice: sleep when the baby sleeps; enjoy every second of your maternity leave because your life will never ever be the same, again; sleep in as much as possible because you’ll soon be waking up for middle of the night feedings; watch all your favorite shows while you can because once the baby arrives, then good luck trying to sit uninterrupted for more than a few seconds, and the list goes on. You also hear these idealized stories about breastfeeding, how it’s supposed to be such a beautiful, seamless experience, and how much more you’ll be bonding with your baby because of it. But, no one tells you about the real nitty-gritty stuff that seems to be taboo.
My baby was born full-term but was almost 2 weeks early, so he weighed a mere 5 pounds 6 oz. Due to his size, he wasn’t able to latch on. The hospital made me feel like getting him to latch was achievable if I kept trying. But, continuing to do so only led to more disappointment and failure. I met with lactation consultants, Googled like a madwoman, used the Nipple Shield and various other gadgets, but got no closer to where I started. That’s where the pump came in and was my savior because I learned that there was a such thing as being an Exclusive Pumper. I was talking to a lactation consultant on the Kaiser Breastfeeding Hotline when she recommended I check out an EP group on Facebook called Exclusively Pumping Moms. The name is pretty self-explanatory: you’re still breastfeeding but it’s like drinking beer from a can, instead of straight from the tap.
And, so, my journey into the elusive exclusively pumping world began. During my time at home, I would pump 7-8 times a day, every 3 hours, and force myself to stay awake long enough to do my dreaded middle of the night pumps. Let me tell you what no one tells you: it was brutal! Let me tell you what else no one else tells you: there were so many times I wanted to give up, to throw in the towel, to put my baby on formula and call it a day, but my will to keep going was stronger than my sleep-deprived nights that were filled with watching pre-recorded shows on TV to help keep me awake, as the sound of the pump robotically played in the background. I read a quote once that has really stuck with me: the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. And, that part of my life that would have been able to sleep peacefully at 9 p.m. when the rest of the family went down, that part of my life when I could go out freely, instead of living my life in 3 hour increments to come home and pump, that part of my life that would have been able to eat lunch with friends and have a social life once I went back to work, was exchanged for the gift of breast milk I was able to give and that I’m still able to give to my baby. Seeing him thrive and knowing that it’s because of the nutrition I’m providing him is an invaluable gift.
No one tells you that there will be some days when you break down and cry because you’re a new mom and have no idea why your baby is crying. No one tells you that no matter how much you love your baby that there will be moments you feel like walking away, locking yourself in a room, and screaming at the top of your lungs. And, please know that doing so doesn’t make you a bad mom; rather, it makes you normal.
But, let me tell you something very important: no matter what you go through for your children, please know that every bit of it, when all is said and done, is worth it (and, if you happen to have to throw in the towel, at times, for your sanity’s sake, please also know that that’s okay. We’re only human, despite the rest of the world thinking we are actually Superwoman.) You will be rewarded tenfold with smiles, hugs, and kisses galore. You will be rewarded with the intangible, which is more valuable than any material possession that you can ever receive. Motherhood is the hardest, yet the most selfless, rewarding journey you will ever embark on.
Buckle up and enjoy the bumpy ride.