For the uninitiated, pumping is something that breastfeeding moms have to do when their babies aren’t available for things to work as nature intended. You can’t just skip it. Let that sink in for a moment. You. Can’t. Just. Skip. It. Also keep in mind that babies eat all day and sometimes, all night. This means that even if a sweet partner or parent or friend says, hey, let me watch the baby while you finally cash in on that spa day or just get out of the house for a few hours, you’d need to pack a small but not silent machine and a slew of parts with unnecessarily complicated names (shields! valves! membranes!). You’d then need to find a place where you’re comfortable using this machine, and try not to feel like the animal that goes moo as you watch droplets of milk descend into bottles. You might also need to pack a cooler and some ice packs, depending on how long it’ll take you to get that stuff safely to a fridge. Oh, and you’d have to find some time to do all of this beforehand as well, since your baby will need to eat while you’re away.
Long story short: It’s a pain in the butt. A spa day just sounds like a hassle.
I’ve had many humbling moments during early motherhood. There was going to the bathroom for the first time after labor—with a nurse kneeling two inches in front of me. There was passing by a mirror and seeing a body that I used to really like and finding it completely unrecognizable. And when I went back to work, there was the first time that I sat down in a mother’s room (a luxury in and of itself, I know), got undressed from the waist up, and fumbled with a bunch of tubes while down the hall, other employees were changing the world–or at least responding to emails without the need for a special “hands-free” bra.
During that three-day trip, I never slept in. Instead of waking up to a hungry baby in a wet diaper, I woke up to an aching body in a wet t-shirt. I pumped early in the morning and late at night, before photos with the bridal party and after the bride and groom’s first dance. I pumped in a crowded terminal at the airport while trying not to make eye contact with a group of college guys sitting nearby. I pumped somewhere over Missouri in the airplane bathroom. One bottle ended up in my lap. There was turbulence.
The point I’m trying to make is that breastfeeding—whether you stay at home, go back to work, or go out occasionally—is a commitment, and I wish more people talked about it as such, especially to pregnant women. When I was pregnant, all I heard about were the benefits for the baby. That’s important stuff, but I wish someone had also said, heads up, this is going to take a lot of dedication on your part. In addition to ruling your schedule, there will likely be blood (when your baby gets those cute little chompers), sweat (when you’re running to an important meeting from the mother’s room and again, mid-meeting, when you can’t remember if you put your normal bra back on), and tears (when daycare asks you to send more milk, even though you can’t possibly imagine spending another minute attached to that pump). Are you up for it?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I love providing my son’s main source of nourishment. My favorite part of every day is nursing him first thing in the morning. I bring him in bed with me, and he makes contented little noises in the dark while I kiss his head and bury my nose in his sweet-smelling baby hair. But I wish I would’ve been more mentally prepared for what this commitment means. And if you want to put on your non-mom shoes for a weekend, it means you might have to pump in an airplane bathroom when the seatbelt sign is on.