My son is turning five years old this month. Hard to believe. Five years ago I started pumping for my 31 week preemie thinking that it would just be for a short time until he was able to breastfeed. Never could I have imagined that it would end up taking me where I am today. After one year of exclusively pumping for my son, I weaned. One month after that, I started writing my book, Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk: A Guide to Providing Expressed Breast Milk for Your Baby. About ten months after that, I had completed the book and begin this website. Now, three years later, there have been over 25,000 visitors to this site from all around the world and the number of daily hits to the website continues to increase.
My year of pumping seems so distant now (oh how I wish I had this understanding of time and perspective while I was going through it all) and yet it encompasses everything I do on a daily basis: my book and publishing company, the fact that I am now nursing my 18 month old daughter. The lessons from that year are still being deciphered and continue to amaze me.
Life is precious. The experiences we have in this life are, each one, an opportunity for growth, for reflection, for celebration, for sharing. The past five years have taught me to enjoy life in the moment, not to wish away the experience regardless of how difficult or trying it may be since it’s these difficult moments that remind us just how sweet life is. As the U2 song states, “The only pain is to feel nothing at all.” To really experience life you need to feel the entire range of emotions, and I guess in some small way I look at difficulties now as a reminder of how good life is.
Dennis Brutus, an anti-apartheid activist, was imprisoned in South Africa at the Robin Island Prison. While there he wrote a poem called Endurance. It begins: Endurance is the ultimate virtue, The essential thread on which existence is strung, When one is stripped to nothing else and not to endure is to end in despair.
Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned from my experience exclusively pumping specifically, and from motherhood in general, is the lesson of endurance. To simply endure and continue, even though it may be difficult, provides such wonderful rewards in the end. And now, five years later, I can look at my wonderful, sensitive, thoughtful son and not have a single moment of regret over the many, many hours I sat expressing my milk for him; the many, many hours of sleep I lost; or the freedom that I may have had if I was not pumping. I don’t think I could say the same thing if I had, as had been suggested to me numerous times, chosen to switch to formula.