A warm day like today just plain old makes me happy. The sun is in my face. I stroll freely and unhindered by my North Face parka. Life is good. So good in fact that when Haddie asks for popsicles, not only do I say “Sure!”, but I buy a box of 100 assorted ones. The freezer space is not a concern until I actually open the freezers. The one in the kitchen is not even approachable. It is so full that I literally am afraid to begin rifling through for fear of what I may find.
The point is that the only place for a giant box of popsicles is in the garage fridge. As I start to put them away, I am reminded of the happy, sweaty kids that parade through our garage all summer. They all now know they are welcome to anything in that garage freezer. So, on any given day of summer, it is totally feasible that the freezer door would open and shut at least a dozen times. This is bad in general. But it is downright tragic in July. Further, never was the tragedy more epic than it was in that infamous July of 2007– the month my beautiful Hadley Grace was born.
I was never more thankful for Chris’ choice of specialty as I was the nine days our third baby spent in the NICU. His reassurance was exactly what I needed to temper my craziness. Despite his calming nature, he can also (in case you haven’t read any other blog posts) annoy the crud out of me. This was especially true as we welcomed each of our three babies. Despite the well meant intention of his post pregnancy mantra, I found my fuse shortening every time I heard “You, know..breast milk is best….”
So, with all three kids, the question was never “if” I would pump, it was “where/when/and how” would I pump.
At this point I would like to warn my readers that if the thought of my breasts makes you uncomfortable, do not read any further. And, if you have a phobia of dairy cows log out now and let your friends fill you in later.
Still here? Good.
Being the relentless workaholic that I am, I knew that I would need to go back to work full force within weeks of Haddie’s return home. In the course of a work day, every second is full. I would have to be able to multitask. Enter the Medela Double Electric Breast Pump with Accessory Hands Free System. Yes, really.
Every three or so hours, I would go into my office and strap in. Literally, my bra was a veritable scaffolding of hooks and bands. By my second week, I could have my boobs unleashed, strapped in and happily squirting their life juice within minutes. With every milky drop I imagined my daughter’s college degree, Rhodes Scholarship, and first chair cello. As milk spewed I made calls to patients or doctors, answered emails or finished charts. When someone would ask what that systematic whirring noise was, I would blame the phone connection or the weed whackers outside my window. At the end of every day, I carried home 6-8 tiny bottles of pure, nutrient rich, wine poor breast milk. Upon entering the house I would immediately remove the bottles from their temperature controlled cooler bag and transfer them to airtight freezer bags. Carefully marked with date and time, bag after bag slid onto the freezer shelf.
As feeding time approached I would remove one frozen block of milk, recall the agony of its creation, and put it into a lukewarm cup to thaw. When it was perfect, we would position our beautiful baby and with joy put the bottle into her hungry little mouth.
She would take one greedy suck and….. scream. And gag. And vomit. Over and over. Feeding after feeding. Night after night.
It was colic. It was her diaper. She was hot. The milk was cold. We rubbed her belly, changed her diaper, took her clothes off–nothing worked.
One brutal 3 am feeding, Chris and I stared at her helplessly as my liquid gold sputtered from her angry mouth. Then, in a moment of utter defeat, he said “It’s like we’re feeding her poison!”
No, we are feeding her this painstakingly pumped, transported, frozen then carefully thawed mama-loves-you-juice. Not poison.
He stares at me. I stare at him. In seconds, the baby is in her cradle and we are streaking it down the stairs. We open the bottle over the sink. Chris sticks his sleep deprived face deep down in and sniffs. Immediately, he gags.
“THAT IS NASTY!”
Holy cow–literally. My breast milk was rancid. It was nearly 4 am, our hungry baby had screamed herself to sleep and we got to work, Shelf after shelf, bag after bag every single drop of breast milk was spoiled.
Apparently, when 15 kids stand before an open freezer door in the hottest July on record, the contents of that freezer become–shall we say— less than fresh.
So in the end, my strapping in, squirting out, pouring, packing, and labeling, freezing, thawing and pouring for weeks at a time was for nothing. Imagine the disaster on Chris’ hands at that moment. His once fit now fat, usually even, now hysterical, deliriously sleep deprived wife had just dumped no less than 2 gallons of her very own breast milk down the sink.
Boy. If there was a Nobel Peace Prize for husbands…..
“It’s ok babe!” he smiled at me. “Seriously, if the worst thing that Haddie goes through in life is formula–who cares?”
Suddenly a different slogan has emerged at least for Meyer babies: “Breast milk is best…unless its rotten, then pretty much go with the formula. ”