For the past 11 months, I have been breastfeeding my son. For the past 8 months or so, I’ve spent a lot of quality time with my breast pump. In the earlier months, I pumped up to 3x a day — once at 5:30am, again at 10:15am, and then again at 2:15pm. It was built into my schedule. Pumping became such a routine that I was even able to type emails, make phone calls, and some how be incredibly productive during my work day. Pumping allowed me to provide breast milk to my son when I wasn’t with him. When I was with him, my son was nourished directly from my breasts.
My freezer eventually became stocked with breast milk. At one point, I counted no fewer than 30 bottles in my freezer. Instead of ice cubes in our bin, I had frozen milk bottles. It was always a funny surprise when an unsuspecting guest went into our freezer to look for ice cream or frozen treats!
In October and November, I needed to have MRIs of my brain and my kidneys in order to conduct a baseline for VHL (both my older daughter and I were diagnosed with the genetic marker for Von Hippel Lindau syndrome). I was unable to breastfeed for a total of 6 days. With nearly 5 bottles a day, I went through the entire supply of frozen breastmilk quickly. It’s quite difficult to build up that supply again, and I never quite caught up after that.
Now that I’ve made a commitment to have the mastectomy, it is time for me to stop breastfeeding. I’ve stopped pumping, which means whatever is left in the freezer is all that I have available. By the time my first mammogram comes around, I need to be completely empty of breast milk. That first mammogram will be the first real step in preparing for the mastectomy.
The mastectomy has always been a reality for me. Once I made that appointment to meet with my breast surgeon, I knew it was happening. But, looking in my freezer and seeing an empty bin is a major emotional wake up call to the reality of my surgery.
I’ll still be breastfeeding directly from the breast for a while now. But, I have officially stopped pumping. My son will have his very first taste of formula during the day as we transition to whole milk. I know that I have breast fed my son much longer than most women in the U.S. society, and yet I am still feeling such guilt at giving him formula for the next few weeks. My older daughter was breast fed (no formula) for 14 months; my second child was breast fed (no formula) for 18 months. I believe in all the benefits of breastfeeding. All of them. Social. Emotional. Physical. Mental. I believe that breastfeeding my older child helped to protect her in her cancer treatment. I believe that breastfeeding fostered a connection with my second child that is so deep. And, I must embrace that breastfeeding my son for nearly a year has given him a solid foundation of health.
My heart feels like the inside of my freezer bin. Empty. Cold. In need of something to replace it.
I’m holding on to each breast feeding session with my son, knowing that, too, will end before I want. My empty freezer brings me one step closer to a reality of cancer and cancer reduction. Glass 1/2 full? My empty freezer now leaves room for my favorite treat — ice cream. Cookies n’ cream, here I come….
Peace, love, and one step closer,
PS: thanks to Donna and Christina who came out for a 2 mile power walk with me today – starting slowly once again.