No one ever said on her deathbed, "I wish I'd spent more time with my tit in a plastic cone."
This is not my last pump, but it's close.
Over the last couple of weeks I've dropped the domperidone and have gradually increased the time between sessions, thereby reducing the number of pumps in a day little by little. I'm down to two.
It's almost the end of the line. My supply has been dwindling noticeably and drastically. It's never been plentiful; I topped out at around 24 ounces a day. After fourteen hours without pumping, last night I pulled an ounce and a half. I'm not sure I need to today, but I will because it feels too strange not to. If the yield's like last night's, the milk will be thin, mostly just water and useless.
I am deeply ambivalent about stopping, as much as I was about continuing. I can accept the various risks associated with discontinuing breast milk, mostly. The single place I get stuck? Antibodies. Before Charlie's six months adjusted, he's not making many of his own. Now, I can tell myself that we'll limit his exposure by keeping him away from crowds and sick people, something easily done where we live. I can pretend that because he wasn't especially sick in the NICU, he won't be in the same kind of jeopardy that other preemies might if he were to come down with an illness. I can give him bottle after bottle of the milk I've frozen, knowing that although it's not as rich in infection-fighting properties as fresh, it's better than nothing.
But it's all just rationalization, and not especially effective at that. The bottom line is that I'm willingly giving up, intentionally cutting Charlie off from something he probably needs.
For me, pumping is an inconvenience and not an impossibility: because Paul works at home and happily takes on child care, I'm able to find time to do it. My desire to stop is simple selfishness not because it's been a rough eighteen weeks, although it has, but because I'm eager to be more present. I've spent hours a day at a remove from the life of this little family we worked so hard to build, and that more than anything else is making me crazy.
Now, we can argue until the cows come home and who doesn't like a good dairy metaphor in a post about pumping? Am I right or am I right? Hah? Hah? Know what I'm sayin'? A'ight. Yahtzee! Also, boo-ya and other inarticulate interjections about whether that's true selfishness. But I know it for what it is; now that he's becoming more aware, more interactive, more fun, I want to spend time with Charlie for my sake.
That's why I had a baby, after all.
I believe I'm doing the right thing for our family. I want to invest in the now, in the daily enjoyment of my only baby's only babyhood, rather than in the future, continuing to pump as a hedge against the lurking possibility of illness.
Have I made the right decision? I don't know. I don't know that there is a right decision versus a wrong one, when both have significant benefits and disadvantages. I might as well flip a coin. If Charlie gets sick, I'll feel I've made the wrong decision. But if I'd kept pumping, I know I'd regret that, too. I already do, knowing I've missed a lot in these first few months of his life. That felt right then; this feels right now.
So I have the convictions. The real test will be whether I have the courage of them. I feel vulnerable. I'm worried, probably unrealistically, that I'll be called upon to justify myself, by his pediatrician, by his neonatologist, by outraged strangers who see me giving a bottle. While I was still pumping, I felt safe from the criticism I imagined might come my way, even planning snappy retorts in my head should someone be rude enough to question me, something biting and witty like, "Mind your own goddamned business."
At times I am downright Algonquin.
Now I'm not so confident. In my mind I see myself stammering, rushing to explain, to people who are, after all, in no position to understand and have no right to any answer. But then if my composure is the only casualty, I'll be comfortable letting it go. I think I can take the heat in exchange for familial warmth.