I was originally going to wait until I had more blanks filled in around here, before starting up a regular schedule of current posts and themed posts like “Flashback Friday” ones. I was originally going to make my first Flashback Friday post the one with Ash’s birth story. Begin at the beginning, and all that. But then today, on Twitter, I found myself reflecting on nursing, and saying that I remembered feeling like a dairy farm. A dairy farm packing semi-automatic weapons.
Long story short(er), this nostalgic bit of TMI is for you, @Kellyschaos.
If any of you think that you can predict your capacity for producing breast-milk by the original size of your breasts, I can summarize my response to that with, “Whoa! What the MOO?!” Let me tell you, ladies, we’re part fatty tissue and part milk tissue in there, and while we can dread or anticipate the side effects on the former as we go through personal patterns of weight gain and loss, you might want to be prepared to be surprised, when it comes to the latter. You just don’t know what might prove to be the case (in any given pregnancy), in either direction.
For my own part, the small chest that had been such a source of insecurity about my womanhood tripled in size once I got my motherhood on, and my hormones said, “Oh just shut up, you have a job to do.” Possibly, they more than tripled in size. I don’t really know, as bras were a moot point. I lived in whatever size nursing camisole let me quick-change enough layers of nursing pads to not have to change my clothes every ten minutes, and those aren’t really cup-sized the same way that bras are. I was not just a dairy cow, I was a whole friggin’ dairy farm. Because Ash was born so prematurely that he didn’t have a suck reflex yet & had to be trained on a pacifier while tube-fed, the NICU had wanted me to pump for 20 minutes on each side, every two hours, in the effort of maaaaaayyyybe ending up with enough milk to be safe. I had to cut back, because I was engorging — we’re talking rock-hard, over-sized bowling balls — every 45 minutes. In the name of not drowning in my own milk, I could never STOP pumping (except for when I got to hold Ash, at which time I needed a triple layer of absorbent pads to keep from soaking him through in the few minutes I got to hold him)….which made me produce even more….which made me pump even more….it was an endless, soggy cycle. It was like inter-dimensional portals had opened up behind my nipples, through which, at warp-speed, were flying the contents of the universe LactadiaExtrema.
The scary thing is, I’m really not exaggerating. I didn’t even HAVE to pump, using one just gave the milk a place to go. In fact, generally the containers attached to the pump-cups had to be quick-changed about three times WHILE I was still free-flowing into them, and that was after expressing into some wide receptacle for a minute or two. If I didn’t, the sheer force of my initial stream was enough to dislodge the inner pieces of the pump. Yes, that happened, and multiple times. Even pumping wasn’t enough, though. No matter how many storage containers we bought, the fact was that eventually, we ran out of places to put them. We filled our fridge, we filled our freezer, we filled the NICU freezer (they had to tell us to stop bringing more milk). The hospital we were dealing with didn’t have a program to donate breast-milk (which really, really bothered me), and considering the entirety of each day was caught up in the struggle to keep Ash alive, I didn’t get as far as tracking down regional or national programs for such. I would have made one hell of a nurse-maid, for charity or (undeniably useful) profit, but instead, gallons and gallons of precious milk ended up wasted, chucked from overflowing frozen stores, lugged to the curb in garbage bags full of over-saturated breast pads, and shot directly down the sink.
Let-down wasn’t a challenge, either. My baby did not have to be involved….heck, not even so much as a passing thought about ANY baby, had to be involved. Neither did warmth, moisture, pressure, or sexual stimulation, although all of the above could be counted on to trigger it. My level of engorgement wasn’t a key factor either — that only affected how much milk was going to come out regardless of what I did, after let-down was triggered. No, let-down just happened, and when it happened, it happened on both sides at once. When Ash finally did nurse, I had to hold a pump to whatever side he wasn’t on, because the untended breast had every intention of at least half-draining itself, whether or not it was draining into anything. Even after Ash had been nursing for some time and the over-enthusiasm of my breasts had calmed down a little (if only a little), let-down when needed was as reliable as the enough-milk-to-feed-a-small-army-of-babies quantities of milk which were most definitely NOT needed. Actualy, my overzealous chest could be counted on to get that first tell-tale tingling, almost exactly 10 minutes before Ash was going to show signs of hunger. I have to say, it was very convenient and considerate of it. It generally gave me a chance to settle whatever I was attempting to do and/or pull myself together, and get somewhere comfortable and at least semi-private, to feed him.
Got milk? Moo, baby. Moooooooooooooooooooooo.