August 19, 2013
That night, I set my mind to figuring out the new breast pump. Once the hands-free pumping bustier is attached, I figure out how to position the nipple cups into the holes and attach the 2 ounce vials to the cups. I start the pump.
“Ahhhhhh!” I wince as it starts pulling at my nipples. “Wow… Oh God…” I search around the room for something to fix my eyes on. Then, I look at Doug, who is feeding Felicity. Her face is turned away from me. “This is going to sound strange,” I say, “but can you aim her face at me? I feel like I need to see her.”
As soon as he does this, the pain subsides. I still feel the pulling sensation, but it has dulled. After two minutes, the pump ends the light “stimulation phase” and moves into the serious “expression phase.” Longer, harder pulls start to draw milk from my breasts. I don’t want to see how much is being produced, so I cover my chest with a light swaddling blanket. My eyes follow the clear tubing that peeks out from underneath the cloth and connects to the pump. A digital timer ticks away on the face of the pump.
“How long are you going to pump?” Doug asks.
“Well, I’d like to do a long time to see how much I can get in just one go. So maybe an hour?”
My mother and sister arrive around this time and sit next to Doug on the couch. My mother takes out a blanket that she is crocheting for Felicity. While Holly cradles Felicity, Doug feeds me a sandwich while the pump does its job. I want to be the one holding Felicity, but I know that I have to do this in order to be able to feed her by myself soon. I tap a button to increase the suction from Level 4 to Level 5. I wince and turn it back down.
“How high does it go up?”
“Up to Level 9.”
“What are you on?”
Around the 40 minute mark, I start to feel a little woozy. I ask for more water and I polish off sixteen ounces all at once. How much water have I had today? I can’t even conceptualize this anymore because I can’t see when the day started in my mind.
“How long has she been doing this?” my mom asks Doug as she points at the pump.
I hold up the ticking pump: 43:07, 43:08. She has a concerned look on her face, but she doesn’t say anything.
At 52 minutes, I realize that I might pass out if I continue. The feeling is comparable to how I feel after having done one hour of intense cardio kickboxing. I turn it off and take a minute to catch my breath before looking at my production. I look beneath the blanket and see that the vials are not full. Not even close. I discreetly and carefully remove the left vial from the bustier. I feel some drops of milk land on my leg and I’m angry that I’ve spilled some of it. I realize that I should lean forward first so that any remaining milk can drain into the vials before I remove them.
There is a short layer of milk at the bottom of the vial. I can’t believe how little there is. I don’t even want to look at the measurement. My mom sees me struggling with the vials and she comes over to help. She pours the contents of the right vial into the left one.
“How much is there?” I ask.
She scrutinizes the vial. “Looks like a little over half an ounce.”
“How much does she need at every feeding?” I ask Doug.
Now, I feel the pain in my breasts. It’s not the pain of engorgement, which is what I wish for. It’s a sore, aching, tired pain. I ask Doug for some ice packs and he hands me two Ziploc bags of frozen corn. I place them against my chest and lower my head. I can feel the eyes of my mother and sister on me.
And that is when I completely lose it.