No, not the movie starring Sean Penn. And no, not the milk you put in your cereal. Breast milk. I'm going to let you in on a preemie mom secret. Breast milk is a huge deal for us. Major.
When the babies were taken from my womb (dramatic, I know), I didn't really think about breast feeding at that point. I was far too depressed and a little too drugged up for it to even cross my mind. Before the events of that day turned my world upside down, I fully planned on breast feeding the boys for at least a few months. I even read books with titles such as, "Yes, You Can Breast Feed Twins!" and "The Womanly Art of Breast Feeding." I was slightly obsessed.
So when a lactation consultant showed up in my hospital room to um, 'check' my bewbies for milk, I was shocked to say the least. Apparently, delivering the placenta triggers your body to make milk. It doesn't matter whether or not your baby is full term, your body will do what it needs to do to nourish your baby. Even more interesting, a preemie mom's milk is different than that of a full term mom. Your body knows exactly what your baby needs in terms of nourishment and will produce just that.
Rachel, the LC, talked to me a little bit about what I will be doing over the next few months. She armed me with this huge, hospital grade pump. And told me to...pump. So I did. At first I barely got a few drops, but by the time I was discharged from the hospital, I was bringing full mL's of milk down to the NICU for my babes. This was the beginning of an era. One that I like to call "Attached to the Pump". Ok, I don't really call it that. I just made it up now. But let's pretend.
I went home and I immediately rented one of those hospital grade pumps from a pharmacy near my home. From this day forward (or until I decided to quit), I would be pumping 6 times a day, every day. I collected my milk into these little bottles provided by the NICU, and I brought them to my boys at every visit. I even bought a pretty, colorful lunchbox so I could keep the milk on ice for the trip there.
At first the kids were only eating like 10cc's per feeding. So you can imagine that I quickly built a freezer stash. I felt like a rockstar. At one point I literally had like 300 ounces of breast milk in my freezer. Yummy right? Haha. Eventually though, as the kids got older, they began eating more and I couldn't keep up. Part of it was my fault because I didn't pump as often as I should have. Alas, it's not very glamorous being hooked up to a pump for half an hour, multiple times a day. Though not many things remain glamorous after becoming a mom.
So...I pumped for exactly 5 months. It was something, the only thing, that I could do to take care of my babies that were in the hands of complete strangers. It was 'easy' when the kids were in the hospital, because all I had to do was pump, store, deliver. Once Ryan came home, it got a little tougher because there was the whole taking care of a newborn thing. We had a system though....Seamus would feed Ryan and I would pump. It worked. But then when Aiden came home, our system failed. Now we had two kids to feed and then I had to pump. Factor in the whole eating every three hours thing, and the fact that they took around 1/2 an hour to finish their bottle, it seemed like all I was doing was feeding a kid and pumping. Nursing was out of the question because their bottles had to be fortified with formula to up the calorie count since their little lungs couldn't handle drinking large volumes of milk. So I quit. Just like that. They recommend weaning, but I didn't really. It was such a tough decision to quit, that I couldn't handle doing it slowly. I had to rip it off like a bandaid.
I still had some of my freezer stash, but I couldn't use it anymore because apparently my breast milk has too much lactase in it, and it quickly turns sour. Don't ask me how I figured that one out. Use your imagination.
In an effort to preserve the memory of those early NICU days or in a pitiful attempt to hold on to something that I told myself I was unsuccessful at doing, I kept my freezer stash for months. I couldn't stomach throwing it away. I even added it to the boys' bathwater after reading that it's good for their skin. They'll thank me for that later.
Finally though, I decided it's time to get rid of it. Time to start with a clean slate. Put the NICU days behind us. Not forget them (heck, if I wanted to forget them I wouldn't be blogging), but tuck them away, on the top shelf in a wooden box, only to be opened on days that we need a reminder of how lucky we are. Days that we need to be humbled. But not before taking a final photo.