Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ode to My Breastpump

My son is 8 months old. This means that for the past 8 months, if I've gone anywhere without him, my breastpump has tagged along. Maybe there are women who name their breastpumps like they are pets, but I prefer not to get that personal with mine. I'd say our relationship is personal enough already.

I love breastfeeding my son. But I've come to despise my breastpump. Maybe because I have to schlep it back and forth to work. Maybe because it forces me to take time outs in the middle of the day and realize how exhausted I am as I watch the life force literally drain out of me into two 5 ounce bottles. Maybe because it doesn't fit easily under a barstool. Maybe because it's hard to feel sexy or even moderately attractive while lugging around a large black bag full of your own warm sticky breastmilk. Maybe I'm just plain tired of all the pumping. Maybe I'm ready for my boobs to be small and useless again.

Some facts:

1. In Chelsea I carried my breastpump no less than 10 miles every week, which made it the closest thing I had to an exercise partner.

2. In Brooklyn I bicycle commute with my breastpump, which ruins my only chance of being mistaken for a hipster.

3. I spent more money on my new breastpump than I paid the hospital to deliver my baby.

4. It is probable that I spend more time carrying my breastpump than carrying my baby.

People will tell you that breastfeeding is free, and maybe this was true before the invention of things like my breastpump and the $50 nursing bra. Breastfeeding is not free. The number of Medela products that come between your boobs and your baby is just staggering.

I was saving money by using my cousin's old breastpump, and it worked beautifully for the first 5 months. Then, one day at work, I pumped for the usual time, and barely got 1 ounce. Combined. I was like, okay, don't panic, I'll just try again in a hour or so. And I did. And I got another measly ounce. This went on and on and by noon I was panicked. Was I weaning? Is it possible to wean in a single day, by accident? It had to be the motor, right? It sounded wait, it sounded the, did it always sound so Darth Vader? Either the breastpump was broken or I was.

At 2PM my boobs felt heavy with milk and were getting sore. I needed my baby, any baby. There were babies outside, on the street, would their nannies let me breastfeed them? That wasn't so crazy, like a wet nurse situation; people used to breastfeed other people's babies all the time. I practiced my approach in my head:

"Hi there, your baby looks really hungry and I have this milk I need to release like right now and if you'll just let me take your baby into the back corner of this wholesale sock store we can both be satisfied..."

Right around this time my dad called and I told him everything.

Dad: You've probably just got moisture in the motor. Or you need a new seal.

Me: Okay.

Dad: Or the something-something-something needs to be swapped out.

Me: Um...

Dad: You can get one at the hardware store.

I pictured myself at Home Depot and practiced my approach in my head. This scenario was even worse than my Please-May-I-Breastfeed-Your-Baby approach. I don't need a bunch of guys with power tools snickering at my rock boobs.

At 3PM I went to Buy Buy Baby and bought a brand new breastpump. I hustled back to my office to pump before a 4:00 meeting, and it was pure bliss. Best Pump Ever. When it was over I felt so relaxed, and gazed at the newer, sleeker design of my breastpump. It has this special button you can press for let downs, and a netted pouch to store the tubes. It was so clean. I like to remember this moment, because it reminds me of how much I once loved my breastpump.

Oh, Breastpump! At 3:30 on a Monday afternoon you were everything I needed! I'm sorry it couldn't last, but passion like ours never does. After that first heady pump, we settled into the predictable relationship of quiet resentment and finance charges. And now you are just a heavy piece of machinery that weighs me down wherever I go. We all have baggage, mine just happens to be literal.

When I bike to and from work I check out all the other bikes, and what the riders are carrying. I have yet to see another breastpump. I don't know what I'll do if I find one. There's a part of me that likes the idea that I may be the only lactating mom schlepping her breastpump over the Manhattan Bridge. It's not much, but it keeps me going.


  1. well done!

    and i understand you on levels your own husband can't even wrap his head around, my husband can't even comprehend. . .

    that whole "may i nurse your baby?" moment almost happened to me. what an awful, yet impressive and empowering and sticky experience breastfeeding/pumping is.

  2. I love this!!!! For Christmas I want a copy of your blog.
    Can't wait to see you soon.

  3. I love your writing! Sounds like a great new pump/ I will be needing one soon. What brand is it?

  4. Charese: Medela - of course! I don't even know if there *are* any other brands of breastpump. They have cornered the market on all breastfeeding paraphernalia. The one I was using before was also a Medela (Nicole's old pump).

    Grub: Perhaps there is a market for Holiday-themed Breastfeeding Stories? I better have weaned by then...

    Miriam: Amen on the baffled husbands. That should be a post - ridiculous things our husbands have said about breastfeeding. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!