It was 70 degrees in Virginia this weekend; such a great day to grill out. Saturday morning I went to our deep freezer in the garage only to realize upon opening it that it had gone out. It had been out for a while. At least several days because everything was completely thawed including my whole breastmilk freezer stash. Somewhere between 800-850 oz. Completely thawed; not a single ice crystal to be seen.
I immediately felt my eyes fill up with tears and my chest tighten. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I went inside and I was crying so hard I could barely catch my breath. Cary was so confused what was happening and it took 5 minutes for me to get words out to tell him what happened. How did this happen? How did it take me so long to realize? I went up to my bathroom and sobbed. For a really long time.
My mind was racing, thinking about all of the early mornings and late nights I spent building that stash for Teagan. All the nights I was up at 3am while my whole house slept just to keep my supply up. I thought about every great conversation with family and friends I had to excuse myself from to go pump. Each time I had to stop what I was working on to sit in a tiny little mother’s room at work. All the times I’ve had to hook up and pump in the car. Every time I had to leave an event before I was ready because the pump was calling. 8 months of putting my life on hold to make sure my supply stayed up and my freezer stash stayed plentiful.
When I was still working the goal was to keep breastfeeding and building that stash until I factored that I could wean and still give her breastmilk until a year. The breastfeeding journey is much more convenient when I’m staying home with her but it doesn’t make it easier.
Breastfeeding has never been this amazing thing for me, but for our family it is the only option. If I am producing milk, that’s what Teagan is getting and I feel very strongly about that. There is no denying that it is by far the best nourishment I can give her so I’ve pushed along. After all, it is formulated especially for her and her needs which to me makes it worth it to push along.
Losing that stash feels so personal. I genuinely feel like I lost a loved one in that moment. The devastation I feel is beyond words. I’ve done everything I could possibly do to make sure I never dried up; Fenugeek pills, lacatation smoothies/ cookies, gallons of water, oatmeal every day, prenatal vitamins. I’ve pushed through terrible latches to the point of being an exclusive pumper the first two months, a round of mastitis, thrush, and more clogged ducts than I can count; not to mention that I’ve spent almost 30 days of the last 8 months attached to that pump. Put that in perspective for a second, almost 30 days out of the last 8 months. If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is. But it was all in the hopes of ensuring that I was keeping my supply up to build that stash. The wrinkles that I’ve acquired over these months from lack of sleep and pure exhaustion are certainly another sign of what I’ve given to try to ensure the best for Teagan.
That freezer stash wasn’t just frozen milk. It was symbolic of so much more. Of my daughter’s health, about the connection we have built through it, it was symbolic of my love for her and our family. It was symbolic of my will and strength and a trophy of sorts that proved just how strong I am, even in moments where I felt defeated. Breastfeeding is really hard and every day I think about quitting but I don’t. It was more to me than just breastmilk.
You don’t realize how attached to each ounce of milk you produce until it’s sat out too long and you have to throw it away or it spills because you are rushing making bottles. It’s in those moments where you want to cry because it’s not just milk. It’s liquid gold. It’s your time, your body, your pain, your labor of love for this child you love so much. Throwing out one ounce hurts my heart, seeing 800 ounces that need to be thrown out crushes my soul. It’s so personal.
I don’t think it is something you can fully understand unless you’ve been on this journey as a breastfeeding mama. My husband has been there every step of the way, he knows how much I’ve gone through and how much I’ve put into this journey but I still don’t think he can 100% understand how shattering this is for me. I feel like I’ve failed Teagan. I tried so hard and it still feels like I’ve failed her. I was so proud of that stash. I was so proud to think that at a year when we wean that I could continue giving her this amazing source of nourishment while getting my life back at the same time. Now I feel this overwhelming sense of guilt that I can’t give her what I could with that milk that will now be in the trash.
This is nothing I can do to change reality right now; so I just need to focus on feeding my sweet girl and pray I don’t dry up before she’s a year old.