so, at long last, i've hit my benchmarks: six weeks and 8 ounces.
they may seem like strange benchmarks, but they are the ones that i set for myself when breastfeeding went all pear-shaped and unexpected. they seemed like pipe dreams, like the kind of deals you make with yourself when you're running a mile and you're dying a slow but excruciatingly oxygen-deprived death. "i'll just run to the next block, and then i'll walk." "i made it that far; i'll go until the next streetlight." "i can make it, it's just around the corner."
i had my breastfeeding psychological boosts and bargains down. i just wanted to get to six weeks pumping--i wanted to provide maggie with some breast milk for that long. and, on some dreaming day, i thought "man, if i can just get my supply up to 8 ounces, then i could give be supplying 25% of what she's eating."
i hit 8 ounces yesterday. wednesday makes six weeks.
for a long time, i held on with a death grip to the breast milk production saga because it was part of The Original Plan, the one that went nothing like i thought it would. i think, in the midst of so many things changing, it was like one thing i felt like i had to hold on to. in a weird way, it gave me stability and a connection to what once was, and that comforted me. this, of course, despite all of the stress and anxiety and logistical challenges of pumping 5 and 6 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes with a newborn and papers to grade and everything else to do.
it wasn't easy. but it was important to me. then we all fell into a bit of a rhythm, and i relaxed about feeling like i needed to pump 8 times a day (which you're supposed to, but which just never happened ever because what am i, superwoman?) and just did what i could. on good days, that meant 6 times. on not so good days, maybe 4. but usually i'd hit 5 and for the past two weeks, i've hit a pretty good rhythm.
and my supply has been inching up, ever so slowly. there's something gratifying about that.
but the reality of musicboy heading back to school in a few short weeks makes this a finite rhythm, one that has a clear ending date. when he goes back to school, and is on some days back to being gone for 8, 9, 10 hours a day, it's nearly impossible for me to pump and take care of our girl. she's just too demanding, little as she is, and i'd much rather be free to take care of her and not feel guilty for not getting those pumps in.
so i've been thinking for a while about when a good time is to stop. i've prayed about it, and saturday night musicboy and i talked about it, making a pro and con list about continuing. let's just say the con list really outweighs the pro, but the pro is big: doing good for Baby Girl. for that, i keep pumping. for that, i stumble down the stairs in the wee hours of the morning, baby monitor in hand, and turn on the netflix to watch some inane sitcom episode while the machine does its best to bleed me dry.
she's worth it, you see.
but over the past few days, since i prayed about it, i have felt increasingly like the time to stop is soon. baby girl is thriving. she's longer than she was before. she's bigger than she was before. she's eating more now, right on the "normal" timetable, and is perhaps even eating more. she's setting her own schedule. she's hitting developmental milestones left and right. she's smiling. she's happy. she is becoming a baby who sleeps better on her own than on her mom's chest or in her mom's arms (astonishing! this from a baby who could sleep for hours on me).
so now it becomes a question of making sure we're both thriving. there are things that can't happen while i'm doing this pumping thing, one of which is doing what i know to do for my body to slingshot back to where it was. this may all seem like vanity to you, and if i thought that baby girl would do worse or be compromised by my choice it wouldn't even be a choice.
but see, i feel like she won't.
and this morning, while musicboy was at work and baby girl simply didn't want to sleep anywhere but in my arms (i know...i should learn not to say things) and would cry when i put her down, it meant that there was no time to pump. right now, she's asleep in her swing because a) she needed to sleep and b) i desperately, desperately needed to pump. about two hours ago, when i desperately wanted her to sleep so that i could pump, i found myself getting frustrated. i wasn't really frustrated at her--she's just having an off day. babies are allowed.--but at the circumstances that didn't allow me to pump. i felt, once again, like some external thing was pulling me away from what i would normally do if those circumstances didn't exist.
for a while there, i just forgot about it. i got frustrated, realized why i got frustrated, and chose again. so baby girl and i laid down on the couch and we fell asleep. she slept for a little while, and so did i, and that's what i would do if pumping weren't an issue.
so i have come to a point where i believe it's beginning to get in the way rather than help.
so i'm going to try to make it to wednesday, and if circumstances allow, perhaps i'll try to make it beyond there. but my mom told me that one day i would just know when the time was to stop.
i think that day was today.
i would rather have a happy, formula-fed baby and a happy, less stressed mommy than a formula-fed baby with some breast milk supplement thrown in there during the day and a stressed out mommy who regrets being frustrated at her baby's normal rhythms because she has stuff to do. it's just not worth it to me.
were circumstances different, i would likely keep going. but circumstances AREN'T different, and if i've learned anything in the last five and a half weeks, it's that you have to roll with what circumstances you are given.
these are mine, and i think i'm done. and though there may be those who disagree with my choice (aren't there always?), i don't think i care.
that's a benchmark too, right there.