The Nerdy Cow

Months ago, when my dear friend, dietician and breastfeeding/formula feeding/mom extrordinaire, Kelly recommended that I purchase a breast-pump bustier I had laughed at the thought. We had been commiserating over various mom-related topics over a rare glass of wine in Revelstoke while the men looked after the boys. At the time, a common topic of commiseration was pumping.  I had been frantically trying to build up a supply of extra milk for Henry to prepare for my scheduled knee surgery and pumping had definitely become a chore. Nonetheless, Kelly swore that a bustier would improve my pumping life and so shortly after, I found myself on amazon.ca ordering a ‘Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra’.

The advertisement for this garment flaunted a young women happily pumping away while putting on her make-up, lounging on the couch watching TV, multi-tasking in her kitchen and working away at her office. Simple Wishes ladies – all you need to improve your life is to be able to pump hands-free!

And yes, pumping IS as sexy as this woman makes it out to be! Ha!

I remember distinctly chuckling at the photos, thinking I would never look like the woman in the ad. How ridiculous!

Fast forward to the 26th day of Henry’s nursing strike. It is 7am. I am standing in the kitchen wearing dress pants and my blush-pink breastpump bra. With my left hand, I feed Henry from a bottle while he sits in his Bumbo chair and with my right hand, I scarf down my granola, looking longingly at my untouched, cold coffee. My breastpump drones on in the background, securely fastened on it’s unfashionable beltclip.

Next, I scurry into the bathroom as the pump continues on to hastily do my hair, slap on a bit of make-up before I run out the door to my fully-booked clinic. Later that afternoon, when I get home from work, I sit at my desk with my laptop writing consults and finishing up my clinic notes. Close by, the pump drones on. Finally, after Henry has gone to bed, I jump into bed to watch a show with Blake on the computer. I try to stifle my constant companion with my pillow, but despite my efforts, the pumps drones on.

I have become the woman in the ad.

Anxious to give Henry the best nutrition possible despite his continous refusal to breastfeed, the pump and I have become quite intimate. Hitching myself up to this crazy contraption of tubes, bottles and straps multiple times a day has been challenging on many levels.

Aside from the physical dislike of pumping, it has been interesting to observe my own reactions to Henry’s nursing strike. My emotions have ranged from sorrow and loss, to frustration and raw anger. In the beginning, I had thought that Henry’s out-of-the-blue shift from breast to bottle would be a short-lived ‘phase’. I happily pumped away, anxious to keep up my supply. I also kept attempting to nurse Henry at every feed. But as the days turned into weeks, my poor heart couldn’t take his utter refusal to breastfeed. Being rejected multiple times a day truly broke my heart. Logically, I understood this change not to be personal, but after struggling to get a good latch and enduring excruciating pain during Henry’s first weeks of life to establish breastfeeding, I felt betrayed and hurt. I tried and tried to persevere, but trust me, you cannot force a baby to nurse.

Henry and his barnyard of friends (minus the little duck that Ada has claimed for her own!)

And so by week 3, I had abandoned any attempts to breastfeed altogether. At about this time, another big leap occured. My return to work.

With Henry at four and a half months, I started back at my job as a family doc in Sioux Lookout working ‘part-time’.  I was incredibly anxious about this shift in my role as a primary caregiver, to the role of primary breadwinner. Leaving Henry with Blake wasn’t the difficult part – I knew they would get along fantastically without me, but it was my own sadness over the realization that I was no more essential to Henry’s existence. It was a great mental and emotional shift.

Happily though, I do love my job. On my first day, my clinic manager welcomed me back with an adorable pair of mukluks for Henry, and multiple patients remembered me and asked about my baby. Despite, the medical and social complexity of our patient population, I felt fortunate and honoured to have my stethoscope around my neck once more.

Now, after over a month back at work, Henry’s nursing strike has stretched into a permanent shift. In the first few weeks back in Sioux Lookout, Henry would still nurse only in the early mornings. These feeds, despite their pre-dawn hours, were a sacred to me. It was so lovely to have Henry cuddled up in bed with Blake and I. These moments are now gone too, as Henry is far to alert to bother with the breast. And so, I pump on.

Many happy expressions!

In the two months that I have been exclusively pumping, I have come to terms with having the crazy pump attached to me for 2-3 hours of my day. I have pumped while doing laundry, making dinner, cleaning, visiting with friends, driving in the car, and at work.

Blake, of course, hasn’t missed an opportunity to try to add humor to the situation (which often isn’t well received by me!). The other day, he informed that I looked like a “nerdy cow”, referring to my very attractive belt strap that allows me to be mobile while pumping!

All joking aside, in many ways, I feel extremely fortunate to still be able to provide Henry with breastmilk, but not a day goes by where I think to myself, just what if this pump just happened to break down… 🙂

A bare bum basking in the sunlight 🙂

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