The decision to wean

The decision to wean off nursing and pumping didn't come easily for me.  As a new mom, I've always enjoyed breastfeeding and the closeness I feel to him when I nursed. I personally felt it was important for me to try to last at least one year because of all the benefits but at this point, I've come to accept the fact that it may be time to wean off from pumping entirely at 9 months. Not because I wanted to, but more because my body is incapable of doing so. 

Doing so didn't come with relief but rather some guilt and dissappointment. I would have thought, I would have felt more relieved with a new sense of freedom to not have to worry about having one too many drinks in case it affected my milk. I wouldn't need to plan out my outfits for easy access to the boob for pumping. I wouldn't need to set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to pump anymore. Instead, a part of me feels guilty because I had “choosen” work over pumping. Dissappointment because I didn't try harder to do everything I can to make enough. I'm just physically exhausted and the daily struggles of fitting in time at work has been getting harder and harder. I feel guilty everytime I miss a pump session because I'm unable to walk away from the bench. One more waiter, I say. After this next flu shot. Then more waiters and more flu shots and doctors calls and training new staff - the list goes on and an hour goes by then two. Putting work first is not what I had intended to do but I felt like I had no choice because of the responsibility I have to my patients. Even though I'm “allowed” to go pump, realistically no more than 15 min max at a time, can I truly let the pharmacy run by itself? The answer is NO. Operations literally stop when I'm not there. Prescriptions can't be verified, doctors have to wait on hold to call in prescriptions, and when you come back to a 15 min backlog of prescriptions, it's time to play catchup. Do I resent working as a pharmacist? Lately the answer has been yes. Resentment starts to settle in as you push yourself to your limits by putting work first and yourself last.  Only every other weekend off, some but not all holidays off and working in blizzard conditions in the winter.  If you work as a retail pharmacist (nevermind a nursing mom) I'm sure you would agree about the daily struggles of juggling workflow on top of flu season, working extremely understaffed, and pushing corporate initiatives all while maintaining wait times of less than 15 mins. Is it doable? Sure, sometimes when things run flawlessly. But sometimes patient consultations may take longer than usual, holding for insurances for 20 mins for billing issues, all while being the sole pharmacist on duty. There is only 1 of me for every single patient that walks into my pharmacy. It’s not like I can hookup and pump hands-free at the bench, because that too will be seen as unprofessional but waiting more than 15 min would be unacceptable. You just can't win.

There’s never a long wait when the guy pharmacst is on, is what I hear from some snickering patients in the waiting room. I’m sorry but men don't carry a baby in their womb for 9 months then nurse/pump for several months after the baby is born.   I hate having to go back and apologize for a “longer” wait time (usually no more than 30 min total) because I was pumping for those 15 min. I shouldn't feel like I need to justify my longer wait times because all I was trying to do was provide for my son. Is that too much to ask for? I sometimes feel patients forget we are human too who need to eat and take bathroom breaks (although that rarely ever happens). I like to call it the ‘pharmacy diet’; lose 5-10 lbs because you're too busy to eat type of diet. Some of my regular patients are super sweet and would wait as long as it takes but the general expectation is that of course, our patients come first, but at what expense? In this case, my milk supply. I'm somewhat grateful I lasted this long but my body became even more accustomed to the missed sessions and is self weaning and producing less and less each day. I generally enjoy what I do and I'm pretty good at it too. I just didn't think I’d have such a hard time finding the time to pump at work even though I kind of knew, in the end this would eventually happen. The easier solution would be just to transition fully to formula.  Even though we have been supplementing for months now, every time I try to quit pumping entirely, I feel guilty that I should be trying harder to make at least something. 

Sometimes I wish circumstances could have been different and it was easier for me to be able to focus on the needs of my baby especially after starting a family.  Maybe if I was in a different field, it would have been easier.  I feel like women are already at a disadvantage and society doesn't particularly help by allowing us the realistic time to recover post-partum with (un)paid maternity leave or the support we need when we re-enter the workforce as a nursing/pumping mom. Yes, laws have been in place to allow moms a clean place other than the bathroom to pump and the time to do so but realistically, does my particular work environment allow me to pump freely? Not so much. I just didn't think work would consume so much of me especially when I'm already spread so thin.  Moving forward, this is probably for the best as my body adjusts back to it's pre-baby form and I can start focusing on what matters most - a healthy baby boy, a loving and supporting husband, and spending quality time with family & friends.