Every time I open the freezer drawer, I see a bag of frozen breastmilk staring at me. It has been waiting patiently for me to acknowledge it for months now. But I don’t. I usually just push it deeper into the drawer as I dig around for popsicles or pizza for the kids. Day after day, I see it there, and yet I cannot do the simple thing I know I need to do: throw it away.
I’ve been thinking about exactly why I can’t do it. There’s a few reasons, I think.
I think part of it is that I’m still surprised that we’re permanently moving out of the baby years. After 8+ years of being pregnant and nursing babies, I can’t believe that we’re actuallymoving on to another phase. I’m not really sad per se, it’s more just the change, you know?
Some people like to close doors quickly, while others, like me, like to close doors so slowly and infinitesimally that we never noticed they’ve closed. In this case, that milk, and throwing it away, is a glaring reminder that I’m closing the door to the baby years. Being reminded that I will not have another newborn makes me a little sad, even if I don't actually want another baby (definitely no to that). In addition, I am a little unsettled knowing that we’re moving on to bigger kids with bigger problems. Will I look back and laugh at the time when my biggest worries were washing bottles and curing diaper rash? Time will tell.
I think the other reason I haven’t tossed it is that I worked really hard to pump milk for the triplets, and it seems sacrilegious to throw it away. I nursed my older three girls, but I went into my triplet pregnancy with no expectations about nursing. I thought, well, if it worked, great, but if it didn’t, no sweat (side note: I wish all mothers received that same grace in deciding whether to nurse). But after my delivery, when I couldn’t hold my babies and was sitting in my post partum room, I decided to start pumping milk for them. For the next month, I would visit the babies in the NICU and sit next to the isolettes, pumping milk while looking at them and listening to the dings and beeps of the monitors.
I also pumped at home, on Bobby Carlos, my trusty hospital grade home pump. I decided that if my pump and I would be spending hours together each day, he needed a name and Bobby Carlos just seemed to fit. Bobby Carlos and I would wake up all hours of the night to pump milk, which I would then label carefully for each baby (did it really matter which baby got what milk?) and transport to the hospital in giant Ziploc bags. I'd watch as their nurses loaded syringes full of breastmilk onto a machine that would slowly push the milk through feeding tubes in their tiny noses. Slowly the babies began to take more bottles and every once in a while I tried nursing them. However, their feeding sessions could not take longer than about 45 minutes because at that point, they would be expending more calories than they were taking in. Feeding sessions required a delicate balance of getting calories in without exerting so much energy that their little bodies would be worn out.
After the babies came home from the NICU, I didn’t have the time or energy to work on getting each one to nurse, so I continued to pump with Bobby Carlos. For the better part of nine months, I was tethered to Bobby Carlos up to eight times a day. For the first few months, it was a grueling schedule of pumping and feeding them, where I did both things every three hours around the clock. Sometimes I’d fall asleep to the mechanical shu-shhhh shu-shhhhh of the pump, only to wake up an hour later and find it still going. Other times I’d fall asleep and wake up with my flanges still attached, not knowing whether I turned it off in my sleep or if it somehow shut itself off. Seth joked that Bobby Carlos saw me more than he did, and he was probably right. Bobby Carlos and I were tight; he came with me to the beach, to Rhode Island for my grandmother’s funeral, and various other places in between.
I averaged about half a gallon of milk a day (80+ ounces), which left me depleted in more ways than one. Still, I wanted to do it because it made me feel…normal. It made me feel like these babies had something in common with my other babies, who would sit snuggled on my lap for long periods each day while they nursed. I couldn’t hold all three of the triplets all day long, but I could pump for them, so I did. I guess my rationale was just—this, this I CAN do for them, so I will. I know I was lucky to have an abundant supply. So every day I’d pump, fill bottles, wash bottles, wash pump parts, and do it again the next day. Some days I made more than they drank (about 90 ounces or so), and on those days, I froze milk in little freezer bags, labeling each bag with the date and the amount.
When the babies were about 9 months old, they were moving around a lot and it made sense for me to stop pumping. The babies had also surpassed how much I could pump, and we gradually transitioned to formula. It was bittersweet to stop pumping. I was attached to my pump more than I expected (this sounds crazy, I know), and I had mixed emotions about turning it in. However, I was also happy to be free from it and to be able to run around and chase the babies and spend time with the big girls. On a sunny August day, when the babies were about ten months old, Bobby Carlos and I finally went our separate ways. I took selfies with it in the car since we’d spent so much time together. Then, I bid it adieu.
In the following months, I slowly went through the freezer stash of breastmilk until it was all gone, or so I thought, until I found that lone freezer bag a few months ago. I smiled to myself when I found it, thinking about how all those hours of pumping and milk had dwindled down to one little bag of four ounces of frozen milk. Expired liquid gold.
Months have passed, but I cannot bring myself to toss it. I know it’s only one little bag, but it represents so much more to me: all the sleepless nights nursing my older girls, the time and effort I poured into pumping with Bobby Carlos, and the journey of watching all six of my babies become toddlers and big girls over the last eight years.
Tossing that little bag forces me to acknowledge what I already know to be true—we’re closing the door on the baby years and moving on. For me, saying goodbye to phases, ages, seasons of life, can be surprisingly hard. So for now, that little bag will have to sit tight in the freezer a little longer.
P.S. did you know I'm on Facebook? Roussel Six Pack. Let's be friends!
P.P.S. if you're nursing multiples and want links some helpful sites or info, please message me. There are some great Facebook support groups.