Today, I packed away my breast pump.
I haven’t been expressing milk for a couple of weeks now. Paolo and I agreed to wean her off the breast when Meia hit a year old for a variety of reasons.
It took a few weeks, but we finally got there. We were lucky – since I work full-time, Meia’s used to drinking milk from the bottle (a far cry from the bottle wars). I would only feed her direct when she’d wake up in the middle of the night or during weekends when the yaya is on leave and I was too lazy to pump. A few days after her first birthday, I noticed that she drank less and less at night. Sometimes, she would only suck for less than a minute, for comfort it seems, then would fall asleep right away. Eventually, my supply dried up and I no longer needed to pump milk.
I feel so liberated and at the same time, completely and utterly useless. I now have a little bit more time in my hands, so I have rediscovered my passion for reading. I have started exercising which I couldn’t do before since it adversely affected my supply. I could go out for more than 3 hours at a time without lugging around my gear and worrying about where I could pump. At the same time, whenever Meia makes the milk sign, I can no longer do anything to help except look for the yaya or my husband to give her what she wants. Whenever I buy formula, I can feel my inner lactivist shaking her head disapprovingly. (While we still have over a month’s supply of breast milk, we’ve started mixed feeding to help Meia with the transition.)
A part of me still can’t believe that I am actually looking back at my breastfeeding year fondly. I remember the first few days when I wasn’t sure if milk was coming out. I remember coming home from the hospital and Meia crying because she was hungry and at the same time rejecting my breast. Back then, we had to run to the drugstore to buy her sterilized water to dissolve sugar in then. I still get stressed thinking about that god awful hour. I remember the plugged ducts and nipple blisters. I remember being too tired and falling asleep while nursing her (I never nursed in the sleep lying position, so falling asleep while breastfeeding was not okay). I remember not being able to go out because I had to be on standby in case she got hungry even before her schedule. I remember the cluster feeding and our marathon 1 to 2 hour nursing sessions. I remember feeling insecure whenever I looked at other breastfed babies – they looked so big compared to Meia. I remember going to starbucks and not being able to buy anything because they were all caffeinated.
Breastfeeding is easily one of the most difficult things I’ve done but I’m happy that I decided to persevere despite the many hardships that came with it.
Aside from, of course, being able to give Meia the best nutrition available, breastfeeding made a huge impact in my life. I learned to be more selfless and more giving. My body, my time, my life were no longer mine – I had a little one who was completely dependent on me and I was more than happy to share everything I had with her. For me, this is different from pregnancy because breastfeeding is a choice – I chose to share these things with my daughter even though technically, I could have given her formula and she would still grow up okay. When you’re pregnant on the other hand, you have no choice since everything you eat, everything you do to your body, automatically affects the baby. (And no, abortion is never an option.)
Breastfeeding also gave me the opportunity to have quiet time with my daughter. While nursing, I am able to enjoy her company away from the prying eyes of well-meaning friends and relatives. Breastfeeding allowed me to foster deeper relationships with friends who are also breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding has also allowed me to meet and help other struggling moms in their journey.
As I pack away my pump, I feel extremely grateful for the year that was and for everyone who has helped and supported me in my journey. Special shout out goes to the hubby, for always cheering me on. For mommy friends such as Nats and April and the rest of the Tazian moms for their kind words of support. For Didi and Jean who helped me when my shields broke. For Concep, who let me use her sterilizer and bother her at work when the dreaded ants infiltrated my pump parts. For my relatives who, while unfamiliar with breastfeeding, eventually learned to stop asking if Meia was having enough to eat and who understood why I was a no show to most family events during the first few months of her life. For my other friends who I don’t see anymore because my life was overtaken by boobs, milk, and nappies. For RPJ and the rest of my former bosses and officemates, for lining the glass walls of my room with manila paper and scheduling meetings around my pumping schedule. For my current bosses and officemates, for not asking any questions whenever I disappeared for 20-30 minutes inside the conference room. For Joyce (of The Marshmallow Mama) and Paola (of Mommy Treats), for making yummy lactation goodies. For the internets for websites such as Kellymom and Chronicles of a Nursing Mom, which were my go to resources when it came to breastfeeding concerns. And most especially for Meia, for bearing with me and patiently drinking her milk from me even when my supply was low, I was smelly (I was probably smelly back then, I would only had a few minutes to shower before I’d hear her stir and look for me), cranky, awkward, and obviously a mommy and breastfeeding neophyte.