Clearly breastfeeding is working. But it’s not without some struggle, and last week, I called the hospital lactation consultant for advice about my bad boob — the right one, which is increasingly painful and less and less popular with Ezra.
One of the things she suggested was to pump for a while to get some of the backed up milk supply out of there. While I wanted to follow her advice, I had a moment of panic as I attempted to confront the breast pump.
Months ago, a friend had passed on her industrial strength Medela, and I had hidden it away in a drawer. I didn’t pump at all in the first three weeks, and I’d like to say it was based on some purity of breastfeeding principle, but it was equally based on my sleep-deprived inability to open up the manual and figure out how to use the thing. I had a vague memory my friend had said we needed to buy some new parts, but had no idea what they could be.
I was desperate for some relief, so I hauled the pump out and started leafing through the booklet. Turned out we had all the parts. I’m sure there was some important hygienic reason to replace them, but I made the executive decision that since I wasn’t going to try to feed this milk to Ezra later (I have nothing to store it in anyway), I just wasn’t going to worry about it.
A few minutes later, I was pumping. It was weird. A motor hummed as light suction pulled my nipple and milk dribbled down into one of our motley assortment of garage-sale-bought bottles. When I got to a whole ounce of milk, I was amazed. At almost two ounces, I was kind of giddy with my own power. I made that. That’s how I feed our baby.
As I swooned at my milk-producing prowess, Ezra woke up and wanted to nurse. I keep thinking I’m way better at this breastfeeding thing than I actually am, so I tried valiantly to nurse him with one hand and pump with the other. It didn’t work out. He started screaming.
In the midst of this minor chaos, I was also trying to peck out instant messages to Sandy to finalize some evening plans. That was the final straw. What had been a stressful, but manageable adventure in learning how to pump was turning into crazy town and I was about to burst into tears. And suddenly, what had seemed like a great plan to pack Ezra up and head to an outdoor movie in the evening began to seem like the hardest thing I was ever going to have to do.
That’s how things go sometimes these days. A crying baby makes everything seem a little more difficult. Being alone with a crying baby makes things seem impossible.
But Sandy was already out there waiting for me, so I put away the pump, nursed the baby, packed the bags, and got in the car. It was hard and a little overwhelming, but it was not impossible. We’ve pushed ourselves to do stuff in these first few weeks: the 4th of July parade, lakeside barbecues, the Folk & Roots Festival, Ferris Bueller, and a Shel Silverstein tribute at Millennium Park. Each one has taught me a little more about how much I can handle and how to make it work a little better. I’ve learned to always bring the Moby and to make a point of bringing a pillow if I’m going to have to breastfeed while sitting on the ground. I’ve changed his diaper in his stroller while standing on the sidewalk. This weekend, visiting with lots of friends in Indiana, I’m openly stuffing cabbage in my bra and handing the baby around like candy so I can rest and play games (and write blog posts). We’re getting the hang of this.