For world breastfeeding week I have tallied up the total months (and counting) that I have breastfed.
11 months plus 11.5 months plus 12 months plus 10 months plus 3.5 months equals a total of 48 months. I have enjoyed feeding all my babes but never tallied it up before. That's 4 years of breastfeeding (and counting).
When Eva was in PICU I pumped and pumped and pumped. Took domperidone, blessed thistle and fenugreek to keep my milk up. She was fed nothing for days and then started on fortified breastmilk through a tube in her nose. Our milk took up an entire shelf of the breastmilk freezer in PICU. When we left PICU there was a whole boxful moving with us. When we were discharged from the hospital and heading to RMH and then home we took loads of milk with us. There was so much it felt like an easy commodity to get. But I knew it wasn't. I spent time without Eva to get that milk out. I woke up in the night to pump. My breasts hurt from pumping and I am totally counting those weeks as breastfeeding weeks even though they were really breast pumping weeks. It was harder to pump than it ever had been to breastfeed.
It took several days to get Eva back on the breast after she was allowed to try again. I was so sad to hold her close and give her a bottle of pumped milk when I longed to breastfeed her again. She was going to be our last child and I was sad at the thought that she would never breastfeed again. But she did! Oh what a little trooper!
When my little girl died so suddenly and the bottom dropped out of our world she was due for a feed. It had been several hours since the very last time I had nursed her (on the side of the road as we drove to Edmonton around 3:30 pm August 15th 2011). My breasts were engorged and painful. I woke up in the morning with milk leaking from my breasts and no baby to drink it. I pumped. But I hated it. I hated seeing Eva's milk flowing from me as if she was still there. It felt like it should have instantly disappeared since the little drinker was gone from me.
I spent two weeks at home drying up my milk supply. I wore breast pads to my daughter's funeral. The milk leaking from my breasts and the painful engorgement was salt in the fresh gaping wound of Eva's death.
World breastfeeding week is here and I am so glad it's so much easier to be a breastfeeding mama these days but my heart goes out more and more these days to the mamas who wish beyond anything their babies were in their arms to breastfeed. Those mamas who are drying up milk meant for a much desired baby. Those mamas who are pumping and donating in their child's honour to a milk bank.
And what did we do with the supply of Eva's milk in our freezer? Well, first I wanted to donate and even tried but at the last minute I backed out. I just.could.not part with Eva's milk because, while it originated from me, it was most definitely hers. Ultimately we donated the milk to a friend of a friend with an infant who needed human milk but could not get any.
Secretly, however, I still have a couple of vials of Eva's milk in our freezer. It sits next to the bags of Nathan's milk. It's beyond expired but feels like a physical rememinder of my girl. So I glance at it now and then and remember the only daughter I ever had the privilege to breastfeed.
So my heart this week is with those mamas who wish they were breastfeeding, but who aren't. The women who are uncelebrated. The women who are quietly avoiding another week celebrating 'the mother'.