We made it. We survived my first few days back at work and our first real time apart. Well, I survived (barely), Blake hardly even noticed I was gone.
Actually, it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. I honestly thought I would be in floods of tears within half an hour of being back, but I dealt with it far better than I thought I would. If anything, it felt a bit like the last six months had been nothing but a dream and the baby was just a figment of my imagination, which was rather disconcerting. You know that feeling when you get back from a holiday and wonder if the whole thing actually happened? It was like a really extreme version of that. Thankfully, I had regular updates and facebook photos from my sister and from Mr Meaney, which was like a little pinch to remind me that it wasn't a dream at all, but a bloody beautiful reality.
As I say, Blake breezed it, barely a whimper, but we did discover that he eats far more when feeding from the bottle and, despite the fact that I'd thawed out more than enough milk plus a little bit extra for luck, he soon ran out. As a result, I was greeted on both days by a hungry and grumpy baby rather than the excited face I had hoped for.
The real difficulty came in the form of expressing at work. It really brought home to me that breastfeeding and work don't really mix very well, or at least not in my circumstances. My work were actually very accommodating, and allowed me to disappear off to pump whenever I needed to, but each session was carried out with me feeling guilty that I'd left the shop floor for an unofficial 'break'. Over the two days I must have spent an hour an a half in the kitchen on top of my scheduled breaks. It was necessary of course, and far from relaxing, but that did nothing to alleviate my feeling like a pain in the arse. Particularly yesterday when it was just my boss and myself in; I felt like I was abandoning him.
The kitchen itself is quite a chilly room, a factor that made the entire process uncomfortable and quite depressing really. I was plugged into the wall, with a blanket wrapped around me in case the delivery boys or fitters came in for their lunches, shivering as a cold rubber plunger sucked at my nipple. I was self conscious about the noise of the motor should any customers venture up to that end of the shop, and the pump picked those two days to keep separating and losing suction. During one session, I had to hand express from my very full right breast as the pump simply wasn't getting anything and I needed relief urgently. Picture the scene: I was leaning forward over a little plastic cup, milking myself like a cow, blanket off to allow me to see what I'm doing, more milk running down my arm than going into the cup. It was at this exact moment that the carpet fitters walked in for their coffee break: poor boys nearly cried.
The pump itself needed washing and sterilising after every pumping session, meaning that I spent yet more time in the kitchen rather than actually working, and the whole thing actually made me wish that I just had normal, non-udder breasts for a few days. It seemed foolish though to wean him off of the breast just for the sake of a few days so I carried on, alternating between shop assistant and dairy cow. Whether or not I can continue to breastfeed once I return full time will depend entirely on Blake. If he still wants milk during the day once he's weaning, I'm going to have to switch to formula and let my boobs retire until the next time that they're required. I'm not going back full time until September and he'll be coming up for nine months old then, so I hope I won't feel too sad about the whole thing.
It's funny really: my breastfeeding goal post was three months, now here I am lamenting the fact that I may have to stop at nine. It sure does suck you in...