Whoever said "There's no use crying over spilled milk" probably didn't own a breast pump, and definitely didn't knock it and its hard-earned contents onto the living room carpet while attempting to sidestep an errant toy train at 6am. There may not be any "use" for my tears, as they will certainly not replace a single drop of that milk, but it's my dairy party, I'll cry if I want to, and you'd better believe I want to.
I'm now on my second little nursling baby, my second go around with the adventure that is breastfeeding, pumping, and all things milky white. This time I'm a little bit older and a teeny bit wiser, and I'm not afraid to make a true confession: I don't love it.
It sure feels good to get that off my chest, because trust me when say I am currently carrying more than enough in that region. Enough to require a custom-made bra, because apparently 30DD is too big of a secret for even Victoria (or anyone outside of the greater LA area) to keep in stock.
Of course, I love the benefits of nursing. I want my kids to have every advantage in life, from the physical to the emotional and intellectual. Losing basically all the baby weight in 3 months time isn't too shabby, either. And let's face it, breastfeeding sure is cheap. For all those reasons and more, I nursed my son right up until his first birthday. (Can I get a round of applause from the American Academy of Pediatrics?)
While home on maternity leave this was not a major challenge. Nourishing that sweet child was really my only responsibility, and I did find it somewhat relaxing to sit, tune out the world, and gaze at my sweet baby boy. Or watch all the episodes of Top Chef that had accumulated on my DVR.
Once back at work, the nursing life was not nearly so idyllic. Contrary to what the manufacturers of the breast pump had led me to believe, making milk and making a living do not seamlessly mesh. I dragged that unattractive accessory to press conferences, crime scenes, courthouses and the Capitol. I even tried this ridiculous hands-free pumping get-up. But the more difficult pumping became, the more determined I became to do it. It was the only way I knew how to atone for what often felt like a sin: being a working mom. It was my way of saying yes, dear child I've been away from you all day, but look what I've brought you: an unpasteurized piece of my heart! 32 ounces of freshly squeezed Guilt Juice.
Family pressures didn't make matters any easier. My parents, being both Old World immigrants and medical professionals would no sooner give an infant food out of a can than they would rat poison. "Nurse, nurse, nurse!" they seemed to scream. Then there's my mother-in-law, a product of the formula era. "We'll just come back when he's taking bottles," she announced shortly after my son was born and I took him upstairs for a feeding.
Let's not forget the "joy" of nursing in public. Don't get me wrong, I am all for a woman's right to feed her baby whenever and wherever necessary. And to those women who will effortlessly whip open their shirts in the middle of the mall, a family function or a miniature golf course, I say hats (or perhaps blouses) off. I salute you, but I will never be you. I'll be the first to admit- I'm shy. If I'm going to be feeding someone off any body part, be it my breast, my belly button or my big toe, I'd like to do it in private, but that's just me.
Nursing Baby #2 comes with its own set of challenges, namely what to do with a very active Child #1 while a very hungry Baby #2 demands to be fed, and fed, and fed. We tried reading stories until my voice was hoarse, we played with toy trains until the Boppy pillow and the baby's head became an extension of the railroad tracks. Now we've come to settle on watching recorded episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine so Mom can have an approximation of a peaceful moment. I wonder if this is the origin of the phrase "boob tube?"
I see women who look so content nursing their babies and it makes me wonder, am I doing something wrong, or are they still in some sort of hormonal fog? Because for me, it's more than a little uncomfortable (and no, it's not a latch issue) and more than a little draining. I don't feel like some tranquil Madonna with a child suckling gently at my breast. It may be natural, but it certainly isn't easy. I don't want to stop yet, I don't plan to stop yet, but I do need to stop thinking I'm a horrible mother if at some point I do. In the big picture, my kids will have my milk for a short time, but they'll have my heart forever and I know that's more than enough.
Mona Shand is a TV and radio news reporter and the author of the blog And Baby Makes Pee.