On Celebrating Small Victories

A few weeks ago, I went to the Medela House to get my pump checked because I felt that my pump was not efficiently draining my breasts. Like most breastfeeding moms, I was uncertain about my breastmilk supply and was determined to squeeze out as much milk for my Little C. (I take the liberty of calling myself a breastfeeding mom, even though I am technically a bottle-feeding-breastmilk mom.) At that time, I was pumping out an average of 2.50 to 2.75 ounces per pumping session, every two hours.

Turns out there was nothing wrong with my pump, and my output was normal for an exclusively pumping mom, according to Medela Moms' Maricel. We had a short chat where I told her about my experience as an exclusively pumping mom and my worries about not producing enough for my son, because Little C was still taking in 2-4 ounces of formula a day to meet his needs. To that, Maricel told me that I was doing pretty well, and being familiar with my previous experience with breastfeeding J, she gently reminded me that this was a vast improvement from where I was two years ago.

I never really thought about it that way. All I focused on was the 2-4 ounces a day that I was unable to provide and I didn't think about the 34 or so ounces of milk that I was able to produce for my son. (That might not seem like a lot to moms who produce milk by the bagful and have a freezer stuffed full of expressed milk just waiting to be consumed or donated, but for a mom like me who was unable to successfully breastfeed one child, to be able to provide for another is a wonderful thing.)

Since then, I have learned to look at my experience as an exclusively pumping mom in a different light. Yes, Little C still gets 4 ounces of formula on bad days, and 2 ounces on good days. But then, there are also those great days, when he gets no formula at all. Those days are the best days for me, and I feel a sense of accomplishment.

That feeling of accomplishment is multiplied by a million times when I pick up my son, who is getting heftier by the day and I marvel at how I was able to do that. J was a big baby too, but I figured that was because of the formula. But now, I look at Little C, and how he has caught up to big brother J's size, and I think to myself, "I did that! That's all me!"

Exclusively pumping is hard. The day passes by so quickly because in between pumping sessions, I only have pockets of time to finish all the things that I need to do, including household chores, errands, and work projects. It cuts into my schedule in a really bad way and I have yet to sleep for 3 hours straight since I gave birth. (It has saved me a bundle though, because I am usually so reluctant to interrupt my pumping schedule for fear of decreasing my milk supply that I only go out when I absolutely have to, which means no more impulsive trips to the mall. And there's the decreased milk expense that comes from not needing to buy formula as much.) At least once a day, usually at 3am when I roll out of bed for another pumping session, I wonder why I put myself through this when there's a more convenient alternative.

My not-so-little C!
And then I pick up my son and see and feel for myself how he's grown so big and strong with just my milk. I look at his pictures from when he was born and think how tiny he was then and how big he is now. Even Big C is amazed by how big he's gotten. I hug him and hold him close and feel all the layers of fat that I put on him and my heart just swells with love and pride. I know that overly large babies are no longer considered healthy, but I can't help it, I love that my baby's so soft and cuddly!

So now, I've learned to celebrate my small victories. On the wonderful days when Little C gets zero formula, I give myself an internal high-five. So far my streak has only been two days straight of no formula, but I'm hoping for better days ahead. On the bad days when he gets more formula than I'd like, I've learned to shrug and say to myself that tomorrow will be a better day.

So what's the lesson for the day? I learned that moms can focus too much on what they are unable to do, and sometimes it takes another mommy to give her a gentle nudge and say, "Hey, you're doing great!" There's already so much negativity around us for moms to criticize and pass judgement on each other. At the end of the day, we're all just doing the same thing, and that is trying to do what is best for our children. We juggle chores, feeding sessions, work and societal pressures and internal doubts and anxieties, and sometimes some things can slip through the cracks. But hey, from one mom to the other? I think we're all doing great.

To end this post, I'd like to encourage other moms to focus on and celebrate our small victories, whether it be one full day of no formula, or one day without the kids getting into a fight, or finishing all your small tasks and chores for the day. We all have bad days and sometimes it can all become too much, but we're still afloat, right? As best expressed from this quote I read on a fellow mommy's FB page,

Happy long weekend to you all!