For National Breastfeeding Month, I’ve invited Kelly of Cloudy Day Gray to share her unique experience of having to pump to save her milk supply while her daughter was in intensive care for months.
I wanted to write something for National Breastfeeding Month, not to say that my experience was right or wrong, but simply to write and share what I went through as a mother.
I struggled with breastfeeding my son Parker. I used a shield for nearly a year, and when he stopped nursing on his own, I nearly threw a party to celebrate. It was not my favorite thing, but I did it because I felt that I should.
About a week after my daughter Matilda was born, she became very ill and was hospitalized for 72 days. On the day that I took her to the hospital — thinking that we might need to stay for a night — I threw a hand pump in my diaper bag on the way out the door. We were transferred from our local hospital to a regional hospital and then on to NYC. All the while, I found myself pumping every few hours.
At first I was focused on the idea that Matilda would need to nurse soon, and I wanted my supply to be ready. But as the days turned into weeks, it became clear that Matilda would not be having my milk any time soon. Yet I still pumped every few hours.
The nurses would give me a hard time for dumping it down the drain. “You’re throwing away liquid gold,” everyone would tell me. But I had nowhere to clean my pump, I had nowhere to store my milk, not to mention I was drinking enough coffee to keep a truck driver awake. I didn’t care about the gold, I just wanted to keep my mind open and operational.
All the pumping gave me something to do. It gave me a focus and a chance to hope and dream about the possibility that one day I would be back home nursing my baby on the couch with my two-year-old snuggled up right beside us.
And in all honesty, I thought I might as well burn some calories while I sat, ate, and waited by my daughter’s side for a miracle. Which we got when she was 6 weeks old. She had a liver transplant and everything went well. Except that during the surgery they nicked a lymphatic vessel, so she was unable to process fat for another month. She was on a special formula and given lipids through an IV.
Now the race was almost over, and I had to pump just to see if we could make it to the finish line. The occupational therapist would come to the hospital room and work with Matilda so that she might be able to remember all the baby things she once knew. Teaching a three-month-old to suck, swallow, and be coordinated isn’t an easy task. But soon enough, she mastered the bottle with ease.
And believe it or not, at four months old, I put her on the breast and she latched on. We made it. Matilda is now 10 months old and continues to nurse like a champ.
It wasn’t about what society thought, or conquering something that I hated the first time around. It was about survival. It was about being a mother when I was not allowed to care for my newborn. It was about hope. And triumph.
Read more from Kelly on Cloudy Day Gray