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Milking It

Well it's been almost a week since the little Sweety arrived, and it's been the quickest week ever!

To update on Peanut, she is doing so fabulous. Her family is over the moon in love, and she got to meet one set of grandparents. Baby Mama has been sending me pics and updates, and I absolutely love the turn our friendship has taken. I feel like we're just mom friends now, and it's so freaking great. We've been commiserating together in the wee morning hours via text when she's up feeding and I'm up pumping.

Which leads me to my next topic: Pumping.Oh boy.

As I've said before I'm a little bit of a lactivist. I'm working on courses to become a lactation consultant for crying out loud. I nursed both my babies until they were "old enough to ask for it," and I kept nursing them well past the age that was socially acceptable. So yeah...I believe in the magic of breastmilk. No doubt.


I started pumping a few hours after Peanut was born, and I was pretty darn proud of the amount of liquid gold I was getting. 

I didn't get on a strict pumping schedule like a lot of surrogates do who are trying to bring in a full supply, but I was pumping a few times a day and getting up once a night to pump.

And all was well for a little while. Then on day 4 my boobies really hurt. My milk was in full force and my chest weighed about a thousand pounds. I was getting weary from my 3 a.m. milk call, and I just couldn't shake this weird feeling starting to creep over me. I shrugged it off and continued pumping, but OW it was starting to hurt worse each time.

Then day 5, I started really noticing that I wasn't feeling so great. I was EXTREMELY tired and I dreaded each pumping session. But I really wanted to reap the benefits of the extra 500 calories a day and the whole uterine toning perks. So I kept it up every few hours.

But each time my breasts would fill up I would start to get this exhausted sinking feeling. And each time I felt the pins and needles of my let down I would start to feel...sad? I got to the point that I couldn't even physically keep my eyes open. And I didn't want to go outside or do anything.

Finally one night my milk started to let down and I just burst into tears for no reason. I wasn't sad about anything at all. In fact I'd just been watching the Office and cracking up. But when my milk started let down I completely tanked. I was having a panic attack complete with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, racing heart, tight chest. I couldn't understand it. The only other time I've ever felt like that in my life was when Sunshine was born.

I've made no secrets about me not being a huge fan of the newborn phase. I don't personally have anything against newborns, but I do have a little PTSD from that phase of my children's lives. And now I'm starting to realize that it wasn't my newborns. It was my breastmilk!

This is incredibly hard for me to come to terms with because I'm such a big proponent of breastfeeding. After our initial struggle with nursing, my breastfeeding experience with my children was wonderful. But during those first few weeks I was filled with feelings of sadness and dread each time my babies latched. I always just thought it was typical post partum hormones. But after a little research I'm fairly certain I have a condition called D-MER, Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.

The way breastfeeding works is that your body produces certain chemicals and hormones that bring milk in, store milk, and let your milk down. In a nutshell most of the time women have a milk "letdown" they get flooded with happy oxytocin hormones. But in order for the prolactin (the milky hormone) to also release, they have to have a drop in dopamine. In most, the oxytocin spike and dopamine drop are coordinated just fine so there's not a major reaction. But in D-MER the levels seem to be off. It's thought to possibly be too much of a drop in dopamine that triggers the feelings of anxiety, anger or sadness.

I tried to power through the next day, but every time I just felt so awful. And it was getting worse.

I texted my doula to talk it through because I just felt so confused. I was so excited to pump for Peanut and a slew of other babies. I'd been offered compensation for my milk, and I'd also looked into donating to local moms through Eats on Feets. But I just had this overwhelming feeling that the breastmilk might be triggering some sort of PPD. If I wanted to feel all the crazy feelings of having a newborn I would've just had another keeper.

Jessica talked it through with me and reminded me to eat enough protein and drink enough water while I'm pumping to try and help. But she also gave me something else I needed. She gave me permission to quit.

Breastmilk is such a huge part of my life, and it's seriously a passion of mine. But as excited as I was to pump this milk, it wasn't worth my mental health. I was more excited to feel normal again.

I decided to really reevaluate what my pumping goals were. Did I want to power through these feelings and bring in enough of a supply for the moms wanting to compensate me? Or for the babies who needed it on the donation page? Or was I happy just getting the physical benefits of expressing milk and giving a small milky gift to my former belly bud?

I knew right away what the answer was.

So last night I made a tough choice not to bring in my full supply. I'm still pumping a few times a day, but those few times are just enough to drain my breasts and get a nice small supply of milk to bring to Peanut next month when we visit. And since I made that decision I have felt WORLDS better. I don't feel tied down to the pump, which has alleviated some anxiety. And the brief dips when my milk lets down have gotten easier simply because there aren't as many of them.

I pumped late last night before bed, and then I slept until 9 a.m. And when I woke up I felt amazing. I pumped when I woke up, but the letdown blues only lasted a split second. Whereas before they were much stronger and lasted at least a few minutes. I felt like a brand new woman today.

The silver lining in all of this is that I've learned something! First of all I learned that I actually loved my newborns very very much. I just had a physical reason for feeling so sad and anxious. The second is that I learned first hand how other mothers who go through this feel, which I feel will be helpful as an IBCLC.

If this was for my own baby I would probably just power through again knowing that it's only a temporary thing. It lasted a few months with my own babies, but after it stopped I loved nursing. However, since I'm just pumping some extra goodies for little Peanut I don't feel like I have to bear through it. Her mama was successful inducing lactation, so she's getting plenty of good stuff. My milk will just be a nice little treat for her parents to have on hand.

So once again I'm feeling great! I put on real clothes today and my brother and AMAZING sister-in-law are here. We're about to take the kids out for some fun, and I'm going to turn in Girl Scout paperwork. I'm having a completely normal day, and I've never been so grateful!

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