I’m not complaining. Really.
But it does suck to be up half the night nursing and then have to rally at seven (fine, maybe 7:30) to stagger into the shower and make tea and rush the baby to the nanny before rushing back home to plan class, pump, wash the pump, pack up the pump, pack up the class notes, head to BART, get to school, photocopy, teach, pump, teach some more, leave, pump again at home, wash the pump, pump, and pump again, and again, and again. My Medela Pump In Style has become a wizened old thing, with a dangerous teaser of mold in the tubing (pipe cleaners, stat!), dried breast milk and dust adorning the stylish black carrier bag, and the bottle labels worn clean from four daily washings (let alone the twice-a-week-which-is-way-less-than-they-recommend sanitizing). My Medela, a gift from a friend, is my constant companion; I perseverate, while I’m teaching, about forgetting it in the classroom or leaving it on BART. I blindly sense its presence, glancing down to make sure it’s right where I left it in the middle of a lecture on “theme” or “sensory details.” If I lost the breast pump, then where would I be?
Turgid. My breasts would be turgid. And the baby might have to drink formula (gasp!).
Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly not above formula. Baby S has consumed some in his day. But since I have these knockers that have been producing pretty well, and a baby with a champion latch (my friend said we should do a breastfeeding video!), and a whole lot of propaganda reminding me that “breast is best,” I might as well use what nature gave me. A woman can only produce so much, however, and it is a little-known phenomenon (someone please tell me this happened to them, too?) that when the baby drinks from a bottle he drinks much more heartily. To wit: In a day and a half, pumping three times a day and at night, glass of wine be damned, I produce three bottles. The next day while I’m at work? He might want four. The math just doesn’t add up. When we’re home together, he’s fine; my boobs satisfy. When I’m not there, he’s like a ravenous little shark, demanding more, more, more (see above, under “the miracles of formula in a pinch”).
And so, readers, I pump. I enter the “Nursing Moms Room” at school, praying a student doesn’t pound on the door after spraining her ankle on the stairs, mistaking the meaning of “nursing” in this context (this happened last week). I hike up my dress. I situate the pump, plug it in. Attach the flange to the yellow doohickey to the white doohickey. Turn it on. Pop ‘er on. Scroll through my phone if I can get a hand free. I have twenty minutes for this adventure, plus any time I might need to, say, pee, or make a photocopy, or eat a bite of lunch. God forbid I need to eat some lunch!
And when I’m done, I pull the dress back down, hopping around on one foot struggling with the zipper on the back (why did I wear this trickily-zippered empire-waist dress that’s tight across the chest? Oh right, because it hides my postpartum belly fat). I pack my breast milk into my handy freezer bag, and head back to the classroom, a tiny bit disheveled and hoping I don’t look like I just had a quickie in the hall with a stranger (I assure you, class, my breasts were engaged in a different pursuit). I teach, perseverating on the breast pump stowed beneath the desk.
Don’t let me forget you, I pray. We need each other now.