My Days are Measured in Ounces

Erin Britt essays

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“Bon appetit, my baby,” I say, bringing a full bottle to her anxious mouth, “Mama’s recipe, just for you.”

She smacks her little lips in anticipation, relaxes into a rhythmic suck, and eases into my arms. I’ve never been much of a cook but she sure thinks what I make is delicious. She savors the homemade taste. Five ounces of mama’s milk down and she’s dreaming dreams of the well fed.

The things you learn as a new mom. Less than four months ago I couldn’t tell you what an ounce looked like. Sure, I’d used water bottles with ounce-marked lines, but I never had a reason to be so intimately familiar with units of liquid volume. That was before her seven pounds, eight ounces entered the world.

Now, for my growing little lady, my days are measured in ounces. Pick up a bottle of milk and I can accurately guess the exact amount it contains. I find myself asking ounce-related questions every day: How many ounces did she eat this morning? Is there enough in the fridge to last until I get home from work? How much did she throw up?

She threw up a lot in her first six weeks. Projectile had whole new meaning as her acid reflux rejected the nourishment I’d worked so hard to make for her. She didn’t know my newly emptied uterus contracted painfully each time I fed her or the ache of nipples bitten and pulled. I was so high on mama’s love that those discomforts were willing sacrifices. Each time she’d throw up, the old adage that “it’s no use crying over spilt milk” came to mind. Tears came anyway, with my sense of helplessness in keeping up with her around-the-clock needs. I felt I’d failed her every time we had to supplement with formula. But she didn’t mind. Babies come hard-wired for survival. Little by little, she got better at keeping milk down.

And I get better at making it for her.

A dash of fenugreek and determination, and I have pulled ahead, making more ounces than she eats. Our freezer is now a treasure trove—our cache of liquid gold, saved for later.

While there are moments I feel like a machine, needing to “plug in” every four hours, I accept that pumping is how I continue to nourish the tiny body that once shared mine. Everywhere I go my breast friend, the pump, comes with me. We’ve found quiet spots in loud, public places—the airport, the university, my work. Although I literally schedule two daily “Meetings with Medela” in my office calendar, I often find myself missing my own meetings, chasing some corporate America deadline. Then I start feeling dizzy full, my body’s way of reminding me a baby at home needs my milk. Even when we’re apart we’re still connected.

The ounces I make, collect, and feed her come back ten-fold in joy. There’s no sweeter feeling than loving my growing girl. With the chub chubs growing on her thighs, rolls rounding on her belly, and the yummy double chin developing under her happy grin, it’s no wonder I tell her so often, “Oh, I could just eat you.”

She sprouts a smile, saying in her baby way, “Funny, Mama. Same back atcha!”

Read more by Crystalee Beck! 


About the Author

Erin Britt

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