The time had come. I pulled all the little white bags out of the freezer and lined them up. I don’t know why I felt compelled to count them, but I did. I even totted up the total in ounces: 316. That’s two and a half gallons. Of breast milk.
I had been pumping for my daughter for nearly a year. My life was measured in twice-daily trips to a spare office at work, countless boxes of clear plastic bags, and an endless mental struggle to remember all the little pieces of the whole process: pack the bottles for daycare, pack the pump horns and bags for work, bring it all back home at the end of the day, wash it all out, and start over again.
And you know what my daughter thought about all this? “Phhhhhbbbttt.” I believe that’s a direct quotation. My world-class refusenik ingested maybe — maybe — four ounces of anything out of a bottle during her entire life. Food came from me, and only me, for seven and a half months.
So, when there was no more room for frozen peas and ice cream in the freezer, I finally had to admit that all that “white gold” in there was useless. Not an easy thing to say about breast milk: producing it takes a lot out of you — physically, mentally — and a nursing mom can sometimes see a good deal of her identity tied to her breasts and the food her baby gets from them.
If I could have packed those bags in dry ice and sent them to Africa, like Jill Youse, on page 12, I think I might have done that. But I didn’t know about milk banks at the time, and I hadn’t been tested or certified. Mine went in the trash. The bottles went to Goodwill.
All gone: 316 ounces — on top of the bottles I packed for her every day and then dumped. That’s a couple of weeks of food for a tiny baby who needs it.