Back when I was pregnant with Littlest, my colleague told me he was planning a trip to Ireland this year, including Northern Ireland and its Giant’s Causeway. I love Ireland, as I may have mentioned, and have been dying to go to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway for a few years. There were also some students I really love going on this trip. When I told J it was basically the trip of my dreams, he told me to go.
Of course when I said yes back in September to going, I hadn’t really thought out a couple of things. Number one: breastfeeding. Number two: How hard it would be to leave Littlest behind after carrying him in my tummy for nine months and then leaving his side only for work and the occasional coffee or rehearsal for five months.
1 As for breastfeeding, I tried to build up a stock of frozen breastmilk once I went back to work, by giving the nanny one less bag per day than I could have, and replacing that with formula. By the time I left, I had about thirty bags of milk in our downstairs freezer. Now, thirty bags of milk did not mean thirty full bottles, especially since he had upped his intake to about 200 ml/bottle the week I left. So he was drinking half and half. But J and I were both surprised that there was still milk left when I got home.
Unfortunately, some of it suffered from this weird lipase souring effect from the freezing, and Littlest (understandably) didn’t like the taste. So some of it went down the drain.
The other concern was keeping up my supply while traveling. I took my little handheld pump with me and pumped mostly in the bus toilets. It was NOT glamourous and often stank really bad. The good news is that your nose adjusts to bad smells pretty quickly. The other problem was being jerked around every time we went around a roundabout. All in all it will not have been my best pumping situation, and the hand pump took a long time. I also had to get up at 6:30 every morning to spend a half hour pumping. I’m still not sure my supply is as high as it was when I left, since pumping isn’t giving much this week—but I hope the coming weekend and vacation will set things right.
2 As for leaving Littlest, it was really hard. I wasn’t sad about it until the day before, which was my weekly day off with him. I took him on a new walk down by the village hall (where J and I got married), cuddled him lots, and sang him a new song about how he was sweet and giggly, which cracked him up. I got sadder and sadder as the evening went on. The following morning I had meant to keep him with me until I had to go to school at 9:30, but I ended up dropping him off at 9 because I realized I was just going to spend the whole time crying. I started to wonder if I was making the right choice, and had to remind myself that it was good for me to spend time without him, that J was a great dad, and that they would have a good time together bonding without me.
They did indeed have a good time bonding together without me, though I think J is happy I’m home, especially since Littlest has gone back to waking once most nights and the boob is way faster than the bottle. J said he spent a lot more time communicating and playing with Littlest than he does when all three of us are at home.
I got over the intense sadness within a day, though I continued to miss him all week and got really excited whenever J sent me a photo (at least twice a day). I bought Littlest some Ireland-themed onesies and a stuffed sheep (see photo). I pumped six times a day watching videos of him and dumped my hard-earned milk down the drain.
And then I came home. I’m not gonna lie, I was driving over the speed limit on my way home where I scooped him up in my arms and shed a few tears. He, on the other hand, was definitely mad and wouldn’t even look me in the eyes. I nursed him and put him to bed without getting a single smile!
The next morning things seemed slightly better, and by the time I picked him up to spend the afternoon with him, he was definitely thawing. By the end of the day I felt like I’d gotten my boy back, and I even feel a little reassured by his reaction, as though I know he felt my absence, the way I felt his.
I’ve noticed changes for him and J, as well, as though they’re closer now, and J likes to do things he didn’t usually insist on doing, like put him down for naps, and play with him while watching TV. So overall, I think it was good for us… and I’ll keep thinking that as long as my milk supply goes back up!