Pumping is the worst. The soul-sucking, mind-torturing, physically-draining worst. When my daughter was born I was unable to breastfeed, so the rational solution was to pump. I was determined to have my child consume breast milk, figuring breast milk from the bottle is better than no breast milk at all. She would still be getting all of the important nutrients and antibodies from my milk, just through a secondary source. So I exclusively pumped for approximately nine months and every day I fantasized doing the things all pumping moms dream about doing. Sometimes I literally dreamed while pumping, all because I would fall asleep and wake up to the sound of an idle pump and milk splashing out of the pump bags. Those days called for an extra cup of coffee.
When I got pregnant with my second child I gave myself an ultimatum: either figure out how to breastfeed or stick to formula. Those were my options, as I was not willing to torture myself for a second time. Luckily, I pushed through the first six weeks of breastfeeding pain, and was able to successfully breastfeed my second child. Listen, I'm sure there are plenty of mothers who will say pumping was "the best thing ever" and that they would "do anything possible to make sure their children are getting the best they can." Yes, I agree to a point: I, too, sacrifice a lot for my children. But, I was not willing to sacrifice my mental health again, especially knowing what I know now.
You see, I didn't realize just how time consuming and draining pumping would be. I didn't realize how inefficient my pump was and I was unaware of the resources that assisted pumping mothers. This was eight years ago. Now my friends who pump have all of these amazing new technologies that did not exist when I was starting out (or I wasn't aware of them). I was the first out of all of my close friends to have children, so I didn't know there were Facebook groups devoted to breastfeeding and pumping, either. I was not privy of exclusive pumping mommy circles, nor could I text another breastfeeding mom friend and ask her what was what. In other words, I was weathering the storm on my own and trying to come out only slightly unscathed.
Each time I pumped — whether it was at home, in the car, at a park, or at work — I would dream of a world without pumping. A world where pumping was just a simple and quick thing one could do. A world of hands-free, pain-free, and attachment-free pumping, like this:
I exclusively pumped for nine months with my first child and I exclusively breastfed for 10 months with my second child. In my opinion, exclusive pumping is so much more difficult than exclusive nursing. So, while breastfeeding didn't work out the first time, I still dreamed of breastfeeding every time I pumped, especially when I saw other moms effortlessly cradle their infants and nurse so peacefully.
Pumping In Your Sleep
Wouldn't it be grand to just have some sort of automatic pump that you can set an alarm to and it would attach itself to your nipples and pump as you sleep. Then, some sort of mechanism would turn it off and retract the milk into some sort of a cooler? Someone needs to invent something like that.
A Lactating Partner
This isn't exactly something I dreamed of "doing," but this was a dream I had. You know how most women's bodies automatically begin producing milk when the baby arrives? Well, I think it's time for biology to step it up a notch (or a few) and have the same chemical reaction happen for men. Then my partner and I can take turns. Wouldn't that be amazing?
A Decent Pump Room At Work
The "pump room" at work was just a small conference room I had to sign up for while no other meetings were happening. It was in the middle of an open space office and everyone heard my pump the entire time. I know that because I constantly heard other women pump in there. There was very little privacy and I could have been potentially kicked out at any time for some emergency meeting. (This never happened, but the threat was still always there.)
I wished I could pump in a comfortable chair, with some decent back support, and in a room that was designed for pumping. Then again, and based on the stories I heard, I guess I had it made. My one friend use to pump in a supply closet at work and my other friend had to go out to her car every time she needed to pump.
Pumping All The Milk In Five Minutes
I still don't understand why pumping quicker isn't possible. Why should it take at least 30 minutes to pump? It's very possible my pump was inefficient and I didn't know any better (I did buy one of the "best" ones on the market at the time, though). I probably should have upgraded to a hospital-grade pump, but I honestly didn't even realize that was an option until years later. With everything technology can do these days, why does it still take forever to pump milk? Why?
Oh how I dreamed to pump enough to freeze. I had very little milk, though, no matter what I did. I tried power pumping and different teas and even drinking beer in an attempt to increase my milk supply, but nothing seemed to work. I always had just enough to feed my child. With my second kid I had a freezer and a deep freezer full of breast milk, but of course he breastfed like a champ. With my first kid, I pumped just enough for each feed.
Owning A Hospital Grade Pump
Back then, I did not realize I could rent a hospital-grade pump from the local baby store. I guarantee if I were to be pumping right now, my dream would be owning one of those fantastic machines. From what I understand, those pumps are way more efficient. Unfortunately, you can rent a pump for only three months at a time and you must drive to the store each time to renew. Seems kind of ridiculous to me.
At around 8 months postpartum, my milk began to slowly disappear. I never had to wean myself off the pump, it just kind of just happened naturally. Let me tell you, I was happy. I had dreamt about drying up for months. I hated pumping, but obviously I wanted the best for my child, so I would have pumped for a decade if I could (just kidding, but definitely for the first year). I knew if my milk just went away on its own, however, then I could switch to formula completely guilt-free.
My dream did, eventually, come true, and I switched to formula and never looked back.
A Quick & Painless Death
I'll be completely honest: pumping made me want to die. This isn't a hyperbole either, you guys. I'm completely serious. As I pumped for — what seemed like — the 50th time that day, I begged the gods to just take me. I did not want to continue living while constantly attached to a machine. I felt like cattle on a production line. I felt gross and sticky and sweaty and tired. I dreamt of running away and not coming back (although I'm sure some of that was postpartum dreaming).
Destroying The Pump A La 'Office Space'
I donated my pump because I figured someone else may be able to use it. What I really wanted to do to it, however, was annihilate it in a symbolic ritual of the end of all of my pain and suffering. If you're as old as I am, you will remember the scene from Office Space where the main characters steal the fax machine from their office and beat it with bats. That's what I dreamed of doing to my pump. Preferably, to some hardcore rock music as my soundtrack.
Pumping was rough, but in retrospect I am glad I gave my child what I believed was the best nutrition I could. I hated pumping, and after I donated my pump I came home and threw all of the pump parts and pads into the trash as a cathartic release (since I couldn't destroy the pump "properly"). It was beautiful and oh-so freeing.