As I pull in, my eyes sweep the tiny, congested parking lot, searching for an empty place to park. Preferably a quiet spot with no vehicles in the immediate vicinity. I find it on the far side of the coffee shop and slowly roll into it. Park. Check around in a way that I hope comes across as discreet and not like I’m waiting for my dealer. And then, cautiously, I begin to unpack my bag of supplies.
Breast pump. Check.
Bottles and suction cups with all parts accounted for. Check.
Car adapter. Check.
With quick fingers, I plug everything in. And taking one last glance around—a car has pulled in just two spaces over, but I think my windows are tinted enough to protect my modesty—I carefully lift my shirt, unhook my bra, and settle in for twenty to thirty minutes of suction against my breasts.
And as I carefully plan out the next four precious hours wherein I need to get caught up on work, grocery shop (because I totally forgot to order online last night, damn it), pump at least twice more, and hopefully shovel a meal into my mouth before returning home and taking over baby duty which includes splitting duties with my husband we never imagined splitting like making bottles, cleaning supplies, entertainment, diaper changes, an ever present pile of poopy laundry, and pumping, I find myself thinking: How in $^@($)% do moms manage it all? Never mind the three dogs that need a walk, the marriage that could use a little TLC, the pile of dust bunnies in the corner that need to be swept, the fact that I haven't worked out in...who knows?...and on it goes.
Now I am a firm believer in fed being best. Who on earth cares if it’s breast or formula, just feed your child and stop hating on women for the choices they make for themselves and their child. Personally, because I can pump and because it doesn’t bother me much to do it and because of a whole slew of other reasons, I go the tried and true breast milk route. Which comes with its fair share of complications, but for reasons I won’t go into (because they’re personal) the complications are worth it for my personal situation.
That being said, breastfeeding, while a truly rewarding experience, can also be a huge pain in the ass. And don’t even get me started on when your child pushes through her chompers. Holy. Razorblades on my nipples, Batman. Too much? But that’s not even taking into consideration when I leave the house for more than two hours. A freedom which I was so advantageous of only a year ago. A time when I had no baby and no engorged breasts and no cares in the world other than surviving what by all accounts was a beautiful pregnancy.
That freedom no longer exists. I am a slave to my pump. Every two (occasionally three if the girls can hold on) hours I must either breastfeed or pump. And if I’m trying to get some things done outside the house for a few hours so I can concentrate, then I’m pumping on the go. And sometimes I have the luxury of privacy like in the room at the store reserved for families. But those are few and far between. Plus it means I have to drag all of my supplies inside with me. More often than not, I’m pumping like today: in my car as discreetly as possible praying no one calls local security because I’ve offended their delicate senses.
Listen. This isn’t a walk in the park for me either. But I’m a mom and I’m breastfeeding and I do what I have to do to survive.
Let’s also take into consideration the fact that I’m a working mom. I’m fortunate to freelance which means I work from home. Or coffee shops or small eateries—wherever I can get the time. Because I also watch my daughter full-time—I am the daycare. Again, a personal choice for reasons that don’t have any effect on this story.
And as a working mom who also happens to be a stay-at-home mom, I have a lot on my plate. My days begins somewhere in the haze of 5:00 A.M. when most of the city is still dark and asleep. And it ends...well...it doesn’t really end, does it? She naps for two hours here. She sleeps for a pocket of time there. But when she wakes hungry, that’s on me. When she wakes with a fever or gas in the middle of the night, she will not cease her cries unless mommy is there (despite daddy’s best efforts). And because I don’t believe in letting her cry it out...there are days that never seem to end. But I don’t mind. I love her more than I thought I could ever love anything. Even at 3:00 A.M.
Now, in the middle of momming, I try to stuff 6 to 8 hours of work into my day on top of managing the household. Because I’m a neat freak to the nth degree.
The fact of the matter is, this is where my life is. And I’m okay with it. I’m MORE than okay with it. I love it. And it’s hard. And it can be frustrating. And it can be messy. But there is beauty in it. There is unsung perfection. There are quiet, sweet moments that will only ever belong to she and I. That no one out there will ever see or understand.
And this is what it means to be a mom who breastfeeds. Even this article can’t explain what it’s like fully if you’ve never been there. It’s either breastfeeding or it’s pumping every two hours for 24 hours a day (sometimes less at night). It’s trying to be the amazing, unstoppable force of nature you were at your job before you had a kid—even though you can’t be. And no, guys. It’s not because we’re suddenly incapable or have gone soft. It’s because once you become a mom you have so many invisible stresses on your shoulders that very few people who are not moms will ever, despite their best efforts, understand. And sometimes those stresses are too much. Sometimes something has to give—and it’s our tear ducts. Okay?
And it’s because you’re trying to schedule pump sessions around meetings and deadlines and brainstorms and (if you’re in an office) chatty co-workers. You’re trying to shove an eight-hour day into six or five or you’re forced to take the work home, steal time away from your partner and precious tiny baby, and stretch it into ten. Which makes you feel terrible about yourself—about not being there for them. But since you already suck, you may as well keep sucking and get in a little laundry and a few dishes while everyone is distracted, amiright?
We’re so not the weaker sex, ladies. We can do anything. And we often do everything.
But occasionally we put away our capes. Steal away a few hours here or there. To work. To play. To be the carefree individuals we were before the weight of someone else’s world fell upon us. To catch up on work. Or go wander the aisles at Target. Or grab a lunch that stays hot (or cold) long enough to eat. Through supportive partners or family, or babysitters or nannies, these things are occasionally possible.
Which is why I sometimes sit in a busy parking lot. Hooked up to a breast pump. Wondering if my windows are tinted darkly enough that—should I accidentally raise my shirt slightly too high while positioning the bottles against my breasts—no one will be offended. The risk and the coordination and the glaring sun through my windshield are worth it for a quiet few hours in a coffee shop where I can write this article as though I was still a singleton free from any and all responsibility—ensuring I’m a better and more focused wife and mom when I’m home.
But if you’ll excuse me, I miss my hubby, my kid, and our three rescue pups who will all light up the moment I walk through the front door. So I’m going to call it a day.
But first, one more pump session in the car. Because it has been two hours and hey—I have the opportunity to do it uninterrupted.
Pending those security officers, of course.