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Surpassing My Goals

Heather Eckstein
Seaside CA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No 4, July-August 2006, pp. 160-162.

When my first son, Matthew, was born in October 2002, I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding. Initially, my goal was to nurse him for the first six weeks and although I never purchased any formula, I don't think I had ruled out that option. My own mother had breastfed me for a few weeks and I knew that my aunt had nursed her two sons successfully. All of the other mothers that I knew had used formula.

I remember those first few weeks of my son's life when the days and nights blurred together and I was overwhelmed by my lack of sleep. Our nursing relationship got off to a rocky start when my son and I contracted thrush only two weeks after his birth. We nursed through the cracked nipples and lack of sleep and I decided that this wasn't so bad after all.

When my milk came in, my breasts became extremely engorged. This was when I first began to use my small manual pump to relieve some of the pain and pressure. I would pump before nursing Matthew so that it was easier for him to latch onto my breast. There were a few times that I pumped enough milk for an entire feeding while he slept so that my aching breasts could be emptied. This was when I started to build up my "milk stash" in the freezer.

At the time when Matthew was born, I was an area sales manager in a large department store. I had worked with the company for almost four years and I liked my job even though it was stressful. When I became pregnant, my husband, Jason, and I agreed that I would stay at home to raise our child. This was always our plan. Throughout my pregnancy I anticipated the day of Matthew's birth and looked forward to being at home with him each day.

Following Matthew's birth and my seven weeks of maternity leave, I was faced with a tough decision. Would I leave my job as we had planned and let my husband work to support our new family? There had never been any question to me that this was what we would do, but Jason's salary was less than mine. Money was tight and we finally came to the conclusion that I would need to return to work.

After two weeks of both of us working full-time, Jason quit his job to care for our son. He became a stay-at-home dad. Now, the little manual pump that had only been used briefly during those first weeks became my constant companion. The store where I worked was almost an hour from our home and the drive involved the Washington DC metropolitan area traffic.

On the first day that I returned to work, I carried my pump in a black zippered bag instead of a purse. As the morning wore on, I knew that I needed to express some milk when I started to leak through my dress! My office did not have a door that locked, so I retreated to one of the larger fitting rooms where I ended up pumping several times a day for the next six months. After I finished pumping, I took the bottles of milk to the refrigerator in the employee lounge and washed my pump. At the end of the day, I would gather my bottles and head home to my husband and son. During this time, Jason fed Matthew bottles of expressed milk several times a day, five days a week.

Three months passed, then four, and five. I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime while I was working I decided that I would continue to nurse Matthew for the first year. I took my hospital formula samples to a local homeless shelter and cleared room in the freezer. Jason became an expert at warming up my milk quickly! My coworkers thought that I was crazy and couldn't believe that I wasn't using any formula to feed my growing boy. I have to admit, I was very proud.

There were difficult times when I was so busy with work that I put off pumping until I had soaked through my suit, or customers were using all of the fitting rooms and I had to anxiously wait for my turn. Once I actually lost a part to my pump and my husband had to drive up to the store with Matthew so that I could nurse him. After one particularly long day, I had to pull over at a gas station to express some milk after I was delayed in rush hour traffic.

In June 2003, after six months of pumping and working full-time, I resigned from my position. Jason returned to work at a temporary job until he left for Army Basic Training later that year. I was now able to nurse Matthew on demand and my trusty manual pump was retired to the top of Matthew's closet. I was amazed that I had been able to pump so much "liquid gold" for Matthew while using that hand pump and not a double electric pump.

Our family relocated to Monterey, California, USA early in 2004 as Jason attended the Defense Language Institute to become a Persian-Farsi linguist. In June our second son, Joshua, was born weighing just over 11 pounds. Matthew stopped needing to nurse near the end of my pregnancy. I immediately found my old pump and started filling my freezer again. Since I wasn't employed anymore, I didn't know what to do with all of the milk that soon began piling up, so I decided to donate it so that another mother can give her baby the best.

Working outside of the home for more than nine hours and commuting almost two hours each day was difficult, and I'll be the first to admit that. However, the gift that I have given to my son was well worth it, without a doubt. My goal of nursing for six weeks was far surpassed and now I am a firm believer in child-led weaning. I plan to nurse each of my children until they are ready to stop. It's the best that I can do for them.

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