I spent today in a pile of clothes too small for my growing 21 month old. I couldn’t believe that I still had, stuffed in the onesie drawer (and why do I still have onesie’s anyway), a troff of 6-8 month old clothes. The drawers are flooded with things that have long since stopped fitting him, that I’ve been holding onto for sentimental value. It was time to do a big Kondo-esque purge – brutal, swift, strategic. Thus: the pile. Onesies and shorts and swimmie diapers and hats and socks and shoes way too small and toys long outgrown. Receiving blankets never used, small gingham bibs, swaddles. It was then I decided to tackle the shelves in the closet where, over the past almost 2 years, I’ve just thrown things. I pulled out the boppy pillow that lived around my waist in those first few months, milk and spit-up stained. Threw it out. I found the hats that the hospital gave us, little pink and blue striped sock hats that fit his tiny head. I found the long sleeved onesie he came home in, swaddled in fuzzy things against the mid-March chill. I put those in a box labeled “Things to Keep” knowing that I’d be doing a Kondo-esque purge of those in a few years, maybe, unless I found a few things each year to pile up for a trunk somewhere where I’d end up an old woman with my cheek against my now grown-son’s infant blanket, aching for the baby scent long given over to mothballs and time.
Way in the back of the top shelf of the closet, I found a bag that held the breast pump. The double one, the tubes, the extra nipple flanges, the hand-held pump for airport emergencies, the bags, so many flat empty bags. A few sports bras with small holes cut out. That expensive one I bought that zipped up the front and was way easier to deal with than the homemade ones. I pulled all of this out, looked at it and lost it. Just completely lost it right there in the pile of tubing and boob things. Ugly crying, blubbering lip pout snot-dripping crying like my own toddler when I don’t give him more goldfish. I sat in the pile and just sobbed.
Now, I have been done with breastfeeding for over 2 months now. Maybe more. I don’t even know when it stopped. It happened gradually and then one day I came home from a tour and he wasn’t interested. He actually said “no” and slapped my nipple away that morning. But I forgot to make note of the actual date we were done. I should say he was done, because truth be told, I would have kept going. It had been a loooong time since he nursed for nutrition, but still, a few times a day, he’d pat at my boobs, say something that kind of sounded like “mama milk” and I’d drop the tabs of my nursing bra and hoist one breast out of my sweatshirt and he’d latch. For literally less than 30 seconds. And then get distracted, or bite me, or start giggling, or swat at the side of my boob until I realized it was getting slightly uncomfortable. I’d always said I’d stop before he could ask for it in words. I don’t mean to judge anyone who nurses as long as they’d like but I’ve watched Game of Thrones too many times to want to extend too long. Even with the encouragement of the La Leche Leaguers and my hippie friends. I realized I was only part-hippie. So I was ready to be ready when he was ready to stop. But when it happened, I wasn’t. And I got depressed again. And kept trying to stuff my nipple in his little mouth, but it was clear he’d moved on from me.
I’d been weaning for a long time. My milk started weaning back in January 2019 whenI had gone to the UK for a 10 day tour and only hand pumped and really only once or twice a day. H had been on formula or real food or frozen breast milk while I was away. I thought when I came back he’d be done, but he wasn’t and came at me with mouth open and teeth baring at my nipple. I squinted, prepared for pain, but he just sucked and my milk came back easily. And we were back in business. I didn’t pump at all for many many months when I’d leave for a day or two or three, but my milk would always be there when he wanted it.
Then I started experiencing the hormonal swings of weaning, the post-partum depression that threw me for a loop as I didn’t know it could come on that late, and I was just biding my time until I figured I’d be dried up and done. But I never did. In fact, if I squeeze my nipple now 3 little spots of milk appear and it’s been months.
So this whole stage of my mothering is long done and intellectually I was ok with this. Until today when I saw the double pump Medela that for so long was my nemesis, the wheezing pumping/pulling contraption that I’d hook myself up to every few hours while I was healing my scarred nipples from his bad latch; the contraption that I took with me everywhere I went and made note of every airport, every baseball field that had a nursing room with USB plugs and the electrical socket right next to the comfortable rocking chair. I saw that thing I hated and scorned and made room for in my purse or backpack and realized I missed the thing in the corner gathering dust and it broke me wide open.
I miss nursing. I miss my little baby that I’d hold in the nook of my arm. I miss the smacking of his lips against my skin, something nobody else could do for him. I miss being the sole source of his food. I miss being that essential to anyone.
Had I known I would have loved this journey so much, I would have started doing this much earlier. That’s not true. I mean, I can wish upon every star but no wishing will give me Jamey any earlier than he came into my life and no regrets will rush ahead my readiness to put everything else into 2nd place making room for me to be a mother.
Now tonight, he is sleeping with a hacking cough. That closet is clean. The clothes are neatly stacked in boxes for a new mother I know. The breast pump? I haven’t decided. I could clean and sterilize it and donate it somewhere to someone who may not have health insurance that pays for such a thing. Or I could bury it like a treasure of the most precious time in my life.
I’m tempted, before I donate it to make a recording of that sound, though, because I never did write the Double Breast Pump Blues song I threatened to write to the rhythm of it on high. Wheeze wheeze wheeze wheeze, da dum dum dum da….
I will say this: every advertisement I saw for this contraption shows a smiling woman with perfect hair, a strapless bra with holes, the nipples are blurred, already sucked into the long tubing that attaches to a cute little yellow thing that sits encased in a cute zippy black bag, much like a Kate Spade purse. Yellow and curvy and petite like a puppy or a Volkswagen Beetle. I’d like to show you the real scene:
The woman has had no sleep. There are black circles under her eyes. Her hair is matted because she hasn’t taken a shower in a week nor bothered brushing her hair. She’s in sweatpants with an old grey sports bra. She’s leaning over the coffeetable where the pump sits so her stomach folds and spills and she’s way beyond caring. She’s got a large cup of coffee in one hand, probably her 5th of the morning, and a Krispy Kreme donut in the other. She’s watching crap on TV and her baby is on a Boppy pillow next to her with a Paci in their mouth. Her swollen and red nipples get sucked in by the air and it feels only a minuscule amount of sexy. Mostly she just feels like she could use a long bath. It will be a long time before her nipples become erogenous zones again. If ever.
I double dare Medela to use that photo.