Without a doubt, the hardest part of both my breastfeeding journeys has not been what you might expect. It has not been those initial weeks where you and baby are still figuring each other out. It has not been managing the hunger that comes with nursing. It has not been cracked nipples, mastitis, or engorgement.
It wasn’t even going back to work.
It’s knowing when to stop pumping. It’s knowing the moment that it isn’t worth it anymore, and grappling with the crushing disappointment of not hitting your goal. It’s struggling to explain the despair you feel knowing you can’t reach it, knowing that there is no way you can beat the mountain of a challenge ahead of you, knowing that you’ve tried everything you can think of, everything you’ve researched. You’ve tried eating more, sleeping more, drinking more water. Knowing you’ve even tried random old wives’ tales, countless supplements, power pumping and more. Knowing that the odds of getting to your goal are just so stacked against you there is no feasible way to get there. It’s being two months short of hitting your goal of one year.
It’s heartbreaking in a way you can’t easily explain. It’s feeling like you’ve failed at the most basic part of being a mom. In the moment, none of the accomplishments so far matter. In the moment, all you can think about is when is the breaking point. When to finally throw in the towel, when to give up.
I’ve been living those moments for the past few weeks, as I watched my daily pump sessions at work produce less and less milk. I’ve been living in a constant state of battling with myself, of wishing I had done more. I’ve been thinking how I should have kept pumping at night and on weekends. I should have been more consistent on supplements. I shouldn’t have been away from Ella when it wasn’t for work. Thinking that maybe I can still do it – but then knowing there is just no way. I’ve been looking at what I’m pumping each day, at my dwindling freezer stash, and I know. I know without a doubt there is absolutely no way I can make it to my goal of a year of exclusive breast milk.
I know, logically, things will be okay. I went through the same thing with Abbie, just months earlier – and she was supplemented from the start. Just one glance at her reassures me that Ella is going to be just fine. I am thankful for formula, thankful for the miracle that it is, and for how many babies it has helped. But right now, I’m not ready for logic. Right now, I want to grieve. I am grieving the loss of a goal I really wanted to hit, something that was so important to me. This is the beginning of the end, and I know it.
So I don’t want to hear “she’ll be fine.” I don’t want to hear “look how well you did.” I am not ready for that. I know in the future, I will be so proud of these past ten months. I know, in the future I will give praise to fellow moms for how hard they worked, and that however they choose to feed their babies is okay. I know in the future, I will be fine, Ella will be fine, and that our family will be happier for this – that my sanity and well-being are arguably more important than this goal. That pumping for nearly 2 hours a day for 4 ounces – it just isn’t worth it anymore.
But right now? I’m not ready. Right now, all I want to hear is support and acknowledgment. I want to hear “I’m sorry, that sucks. I know that was really important to you and you wanted to make it to a year.”
Because Ella had formula for the first time today, and right now – this just sucks.