Guest Blogger: Melissa Harris, Author of "One Pound, Twelve Ounces"
Before getting pregnant with my second child I had to overcome a host of obstacles. There were issues with secondary infertility, surgeries, multiple miscarriages, and working with a fertility specialist. When I finally found out I was pregnant, I made the decision that this would be my last attempt.
Things were going along just fine until I hit 23 weeks and suddenly found myself in the Delivery ward. I spent 6 days hooked up to medications and lying in a bed with the head tilted downward trying to keep my pregnancy going. When it was clear that nothing was going to stop this early delivery, I had my son. All one pound, twelve ounces of him. That is the size of an average cornish game hen or 7 sticks of butter.
Less than six hours after delivery, the hospital lactation consultant walked into my hospital room with a pump, introduced herself and told me it was time to start pumping.
After staring at her in disbelief for a moment, I asked her if she was kidding. Seriously, how could I start pumping when I wasn’t even supposed to give birth for 16 more weeks. Well, it turns out, the human body is more amazing than I thought. Somehow, even though I had given at just 24 weeks pregnant, my body knew it was time to start producing milk.
So began my year-long love/hate relationship with my breast pump. For the first three months of my son’s life, he was too small to latch, so I was exclusively pumping. That meant, every two hours, an alarm on my phone would go off and I would pump - just the same as if I was breastfeeding a hungry newborn baby.
Once my son could breastfeed, he still needed supplemental bottles to get extra calories and vitamins. He was still small and his body was having a hard time making up for all the time he lost in utero.
I pumped for a solid year. The first 3 months, I pumped up to 12 times a day. Over the entire course of my pumping journey, I was probably attached to the breast pump for the equivalent 720 hours or 1 complete month. All of that time gave me some great insight into the process - and all its ups and downs. Here are the main things I learned:
Pumping is a journey. It may be something you do every now and then or something you have to do multiple times a day. I hated how the electronic baby interrupted my sleep and my daily routines, but I knew pumping was the one thing I could still do for my son. I was the best pumper I could be. I made sure that my preemie would never want for breastmilk. In fact, I did such a good job pumping that I had enough extra milk to donate over 27 gallons of milk to the Mothers Milk Bank. Whatever your pumping story might be, just make sure to make it the most enjoyable and productive experience possible.
About the Author: Melissa Harris
Melissa Harris is a single mother of two children living in Oakland, California, where she was raised. She was on the fast track to being a partner in a mid-size ad agency when she gave birth to her second child, Sam, and the trajectory of her life changed.
Melissa is now a work-from-home account director for two virtual creative agencies in the Bay Area. She is also the author of "One Pound, Twelve Ounces", the story of a mother’s love and desperate desire for her baby to have his best chance at life, even when there was only a 20% chance of hope.
In her free time, she drives kids from activities to appointments to playdates, bakes lots of bread, and helps her congresswoman fight for better healthcare for all Americans.