The Big Gun is apparently doing its job. Or maybe it’s the thrice-daily dosage of goat’s rue and More Milk Plus recommended by the lactation consultant. Or constantly noshing on lactation cookies. Or finally attaining the golden mean of water consumption (between four and five liters a day — no joke). At any rate, this morning I pumped a whopping FIFTY MILLILITERS in a single session (~2 ounces, but the precision and larger numbers of the metric system are more encouraging). I’ve now traded up from the tiny colostrum-collector cups to the graduated cylinders, and am giddily heartened by the appearance of progress. I think this is working.

Granted, my output decreases over the course of the day. And, full disclosure, I have been cheating on the round-the-clock obligation: I hadn’t pumped since about 11:30 last night. (I’ve delegated nighttime drainage duty to Natalie. She nurses several times at night, always with more focus and alacrity than during the day. And since she’s figured out how to nurse while we’re both lying down, nighttime feedings are double-plus-efficient. It’s the next best thing to us both sleeping through the night.)

(In my defense, if Natalie fusses, needs a diaper change, or otherwise gets us up in the middle of the night, I do pump. I’m not that bad of a cheater; I’d just rather avoid the trek to the milking machine during the wee hours if I’m not already vertical.)

Still, this feels like progress, even with my nighttime slacking. The lactation consultant at the hospital, lo those eight weeks ago, prescribed a hundred daily minutes at the pump (10 minutes 10 times a day, or 15 minutes 7 times, etc.), and I’ve been coming pretty close to that. Tuesday’s lactation consultant recommended that Natalie get twenty-five ounces of milk a day, and I think we may be coming pretty close to that too: she gets everything I pump between feedings, and continues to nurse fairly well even when she’s not at her most efficient. And the quantity of expressed milk accumulating in the graduated cylinders during those pumping sessions is, slowly but surely, increasing.

So that’s encouraging. But in true one-step-forward, two-steps-back fashion, all the progress I’d been making on pulling myself together and getting out more has gone the way of the dodo.

There’s a pile of brand-new nursing tops on my dining room table, still in their plastic shipping wrap. I’m back in my pajamas. Specifically, I’m back in a pair of pajamas that I put on three days ago. Since my pumping regalia basically requires that its wearer strip to the waist at every session, there’s not much point in getting dressed. (Warning: clicking that link is not for the faint of heart, but then again, neither is being a Dairy Queen.)

So I sit here, I listen to the tick-tock of Natalie’s swing and the windshield-wiper noise of the Big Gun, and I wonder how long it’s going to take before my mammaries “woman up” and produce a full milk supply. I wonder how long it’ll take Natalie to realize that she can latch on with purpose and fall right into that wonderful rhythmic pulse (suck-swallow, suck-swallow, suck-swallow, alla marcia) just as easily during the day as she does at night. And I wonder when we’ll actually attain my dream scenario, when both of us, bathed and dressed and bound together by a baby carrier, will sally forth from our burrow and return among the living for good.

Ah well. This is why I’m taking an extended maternity leave.