Or Bottle Wrap (Part 2)
If the accumulation of sterile, empty plastic in our cabinets marked the expansion of a once dominant civilization, then our freezer was littered with a poignant reminder of its passing, embodied in fist-sized chunks of frozen milk.
The whole time that Jenn was pumping and I was managing the milk, there was one issue that we didn’t like to talk about that much. It was a cold, dark secret that guarded against ominous uncertainties. There should always be enough fresh milk in the fridge thanks to Jenn’s dedication. But if something happened that interrupted the milk line, the extra in the freezer was designed to give us a temporary backup supply or even enough to facilitate a gradual transition to formula.
We were lucky and there never was a milk emergency. We kept good track of how much milk we needed, tried to minimize the waste and Jenn was always able to pump enough. We had good reason to try to make it work. Fresh refrigerated milk is nutritionally better than frozen. The freezing process is destructive, and even though the cold slows the decaying process, the milk’s proteins and enzyemes continue to break down as the months go by.
Nonetheless, whenever the milk line was full, but Jenn still needed to pump a little, we added a bag to the freezer just in case. Over the course of the last six months that Jenn pumped, we deposited 17 bags into frozen storage.
I was never attached to these little frozen bags. But for Jenn, I think it was a little different. She obviously didn’t want us to be forced into the emergency supply by unknown circumstances. But she also hated to think about the milk lying dormant in hibernation, eventually reaching its life expectancy and becoming unusable. (Just for the record, she’s more than happy to pitch them now.)
In a standard refrigerator freezer, breast milk doesn’t last more than about four months. It’s just not cold enough. This is where we truly reach the end of the milk cycle. It doesn’t end with a bang, but a cold, silent stillness that steadily envelopes the darkness in a deep frozen catacomb. Now, let’s see if the neighbor’s cat is around.