To the mom using a breast pump in the bathroom stall at work,
I’ll just wait out here until you are finished. Don’t want to disrupt.
All done? Look, I don’t want to bother you, I just need to tell you that you are amazing.
Every day, multiple times a day, I see you try to walk as inconspicuously as possible with that contraption into the ladies room. And I know what you are doing in there, and I know the bathroom is the last place you want to do it. I mean, who wants to prepare food next to a toilet?
But you do it because you know how important it is to do.
See, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding moms get a lot of support, at least in comparison to the support you get. People often leave pumping moms out of the equation, or assume that “breastfeeding” covers both bases.
I know there are moms who can’t physically nurse their babies, so they spend hours pumping.
I know there are moms with preemies who literally rely on the life-saving powers of breast milk.
I know there are moms who are so engorged all day long that if they don’t pump, their shirts will let the whole world know that they should have.
And I know what it’s like to be attached to that device.
I spent months behind a locked office door pumping. Twice – TWICE – I had coworkers walk in on me. My office had a small closet that was used to store items that everyone needed, so if my door was locked, people could just whip out a key and barge in, assuming that I was out for the day.
I wasn’t. I was shouting for them to “wait a minute!” and trying to cover up. On both occasions, I spilled the milk in my haste.
(And yes, you can cry over spilled breast milk, because that stuff is like liquid gold.)
I have since filed the experiences under “Things men will never have to experience and therefore will never understand.”
But, back to you, mom pumping in the bathroom.
You are a warrior.
… And you’re a bit of a dairy cow, if we are really being honest. There is nothing glamorous about using a breast pump. It can be painful, messy and even a bit of a workout for mommies with manual pumps.
… And you’re a little … well, I don’t want to say creepy, because it’s not that. But if you’re like me, you had to look at a picture of your kid while pumping to keep the milk flowing. I remember thinking at the time that it was a little like … Well, it’s interesting how the body works. We’ll leave it at that.
… And perhaps you’re even a little misunderstood, right? Because, yeah, it would be easier to just give the baby formula and not have to schedule meetings around pumping and not have to leave in the middle of a seminar to alleviate some pressure. And sure, you would love to not have to worry about toting YET ANOTHER bag to work.
But you do it because you are doing what you think is best, and I hope you know that I salute you for it.
I will also completely understand on the day you decide you have had enough. I know you might simultaneously feel relief and guilt. You, your boobs and your schedule might just reach its breaking point one day, and I hope you know that it’s OK for that day to come.
If you want to cry a little and then grab a celebratory drink, you will have a friend in me.
Mom who has pumped in a bathroom stall (and an office, and a garage, and a basement …)
(Originally published on Modern Parent)