My pumping days ended not with a bang, a whimper, or even the cheer I'd have expected to give, but with a bewildered feeling of "Wait… was that it?"
As soon as I'd finished my last day of pumping for the milk bank, I dropped Katie's middle-of-the-day breastfeed on my days at home.
(Not before time; she'd clearly been entirely ready to drop it weeks earlier, and the only reason I'd kept coaxing her to take it was because I
knew that without it my supply might drop further and I wanted to pump
as much as possible for my last donation. It was a somewhat ironic
turnaround; after all those months of pumping at work so that I could
keep up my supply to keep feeding Katie on my days at home, I ended up
feeding Katie on my days at home so that I could keep up my supply to
keep pumping at work.) My plan for reducing the pumping was fairly simple; instead of the detailed schedule I'd worked out when I stopped pumping at the end of Jamie's first year (and then almost entirely disregarded when it came to the point, having realised that I'd planned a far slower reduction than I actually needed for winding down the few ounces of milk that were all I was producing each day by then), I realised all I had to do was let my body be the guide. If I waited to pump until I was getting uncomfortable and then pumped the minimum needed to get comfortable, then that would automatically work out at the right rate. Since I'd been down to about five or six ounces a day for months by then, I didn't expect it to take long. However, the speed with which the end came still startled me.
The day I gave Gillian the second and last lot of milk was Thursday November 20th. On Friday 21st, I made it through until 2 p.m. without pumping, pumped for ten minutes, followed it up with a further ten minutes during my afternoon break, and got a grand total of an ounce and a half. It should of course have been obvious from that yield that that would be the last day on which I needed to pump, but I'd spent all year assuming that the wind-down would take at least several days and possibly weeks. Besides, I was still giving Katie a
morning feed as well as an evening feed during the days when I was at
home, and I knew that doing that over the weekend might bring my
production up again by Monday. So, I went into the following week assuming that I'd still need to do some
pumping, even though presumably it would only be a minimal amount, and thus found myself blindsided as hour after hour of Monday rolled by without the ache in my right breast (it was just the right – maybe I was feeding lopsidedly without even realising it) ever becoming bad enough for me to need to do anything about it. I couldn't take in the thought that this might actually be it as far as pumping went.
Like an animal crouching in the opened door of its cage rather than making a break for freedom, I even ended up strapping up to the pump one more time just to be sure, and, well, for old times' sake. (In my defence, I was semi-delirious with exhaustion at the time, having stayed up far too late in order to grab a rare bit of childfree time with my husband and then been woken in the few hours that I did get to sleep by Katie waking up with her cold.) However, all I got on that occasion was a few drops; and I then went through Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday without needing to hook up at all. (A good thing too – I was on call on the Thursday, and it was one of those on-calls from hell. Finding time to pump during that day would have been possible – it's always possible – but, good grief, am I ever glad I didn't have to.) The acid test, as it happened, was coming up the following week, when I had the Monday off to go to the meeting about Jamie; since I normally have Tuesdays off anyway, that meant a four-day stretch of being at home and giving Katie a feed in the morning. Despite that potential supply boost, I still made it through all of that next Wednesday a pump-free zone and without any more than minor and bearable discomfort.
There is, of course, still the Christmas break, when I'll be off for six days… but the hell with it. For day-to-day purposes, it seems fair to say that I'm off the pump. No more lugging the extra bag into work with me each morning and home each evening. No more facing the choice, in every minute free from actually seeing patients, between strapping myself up to that sucker or feeling guilty that I'm not. No more trying to concentrate on paperwork over the distraction of its monotonous two-note drone. No more restricting my caffeine intake for fear that an extra cup of coffee would put me over the limit that the premature babies possibly getting my milk could tolerate. No more finding space for the milk bags in the freezer each evening. No more having to wash the pump parts out each evening after work, that one extra annoying job each evening when I'm tired. No more having to turn down courses I'd like to go on because it would mean spending the breaks stuck in whatever spare corner I could find for pumping. I am, in Internet parlance, hanging up the horns.
Two children. Close on two years of pumping. And now… I'm… done.