I also worked with a LC, rented the hospital-grade pumping machine and I also pumped exclusively for six weeks (and I agree, that was HARD--and I don't think I could have done that without the hospital pump). And yes....DD would never
take a bottle once we were off and flying (I always likened it to riding a bike without training wheels, but I like your imagery of 'lift-off' much better!).
The silver lining to this was that DH got a chance to feed DD during the night shifts, and he loved it (he still misses those days). Otherwise he wouldn't have had that time with her, so it all worked out well.
So glad to hear Miss A is soaring on her own (well, attached to mamma)! We BF'd until DD was slightly over a year old. I had visions of BFing longer, but...she had gradually been weaning herself, and one day -- with no real warning, sniff
-- she just stopped.
~Kat. & DD, age 9 (edited to add that I see above that Miss A is a Cooper success story...my DD is a Cooper baby, too)