If you didn't mind pumping, this article is not for you. In fact, if you actually enjoyed that devilish task, well, get behind me, Satan. (I'm kidding: you're not the Devil, but I am tremendously and irrevocably confused.) But if you, like me, despise using a breast pump with ever ounce of energy buzzing through your body and spirit, come sit next to me so we can talk about what breast pumping actually feels like.
Because my child nursed so frequently, I didn't really have much opportunity to get into a pumping routine until just before I went back to work from maternity leave. By then, I had a handle on the initial difficulties I faced while breastfeeding and had a good thing going. Unfortunately, it became clear very early on that I would not have such luck when it came to pumping.
For starters, despite nursing a prodigiously and delightful fat baby who gained weight at a rate doctors and nurses described as "kind of freaky" (so I knew he was getting lots of milk) I found myself pumping a pittance of what he would need to sustain him while I wasn't around. Connecting myself to a pump for 20 minutes would sometimes only yield an ounce or two of that sweet liquid gold. The emotional reaction to this truth was intense and multifaceted. This is to say nothing, of course, of the not pleasant physical sensation of pumping, nor the practical inconveniences of having to pump. But hey, why speak in generalities? Instead, let me tell you, precisely, what this experience felt like:
Like A Bad High School Make Out Session
We've all been there, right? When you're first starting out in the world of making out, no one knows what they're doing so everyone overcompensates. Before you know it, you get the feeling your high school boyfriend/girlfriend has turned into a vacuum cleaner with lips. It's like, "OMG, sweetie. I like you and all but you've got no chill whatsoever. Calm down."
A breast pump is like a zealous, over-eager, horrifically unskilled partner you willingly attach to your nipples. There's nothing remotely enjoyable in it for you, but they will not be deterred from their sacred mission. At first it's kind of cute in a funny way, but it gets old fast.
Like The Sanderson Sisters Devouring Your Soul
Remember in Hocus Pocus when the witches put a spell on Thackery Binx's little sister, Emily, and physically slurped up her life force as it glowed around her like an aura? Yeah, it's kind of like that.
The pump is an evil witch that needs to drain you in order to sustain the youth and beauty of another living creature. Sure, we willingly do it because (for any number of reasons) we feel it's the best decision for our family. Still, there are a lot of things we think are best that we don't necessarily like doing. Paying taxes, going to the gym, eating celery; we do all kinds of "good" things that feel anything but.
Like The Depths Of Human Misery
As depicted in that magnificent 1986 classic The Princess Bride. Am I being dramatic? Girl, always. But seriously, remember when Westley is in the Pit of Despair, and he's hooked up to "the machine" that saps him of 51 years of life? I will bet my bottom dollar that screenwriter William Goldman was inspired by a breast pump. They even put weird little flanges on the hero's nipples!
See? He was obviously giving a subtle shoutout to breast pumping moms the world over. He was like "I see you ladies. I know it sucks both figuratively and literally. Here's a scene that will externalize your inner turmoil."
Like Winnie The Pooh Stuck In Rabbit's Hole
If you've ever seen a nipple in a flange, you'll know what I mean. It looks (and feels) like the pump is trying to tug your nipples away from your breast, and it might actually succeed if the opening were just a little bit bigger. So many times I would look down and think of that scene in Winnie the Pooh, when that honey-loving bear ended up stuck in the entrance of Rabbit's burrow. No matter how Christopher Robin tugged, he wouldn't budge, leading to an uncomfortable impasse.
Welcome to pumping.
Just pure, concentrated resentment that this is how you have to spend your time. In my case, it was also the resentment of not being able to physically be with my baby, too, because even a generous maternity leave is too damn short. At times I was convinced it wasn't milk but warm, frothy resentment dripping into those bottles.
Like The Feeling A Champagne Cork Must Feel Right Before It Pops
It's just a lot of concentrated suction pressure on one small area and sometimes (read: often) it felt like something was going to pop. Terrifying as that would be, it would also kind of be a neat parlor trick, no? "Behold! My champagne cork nipples! When they finally pop I can spray you in a fountain of milk!"
Like How Miss Havisham Must Have Felt Waiting Around In That Wedding Gown For The Rest Of Her Life
Because there's so much waiting and waiting and waiting and, eventually, all that waiting makes you wane and bitter and completely insane. There was also a feeling, having been impregnated by a man and having had a son, that men were to blame because they were the ones "forcing" me to do this, thus honing my man-hating fervor.
I kid, of course, but these are the kind of crazy thoughts and musings I would sometimes have hooked up to a pump for a collective hour a day for months and months.
Like Being A Cow
To this day I only drink cow's milk very rarely because, after having been hooking up to a milking machine for so long, I feel their pain and don't want to contribute to it. I personally found pumping discouragingly dehumanizing, so I have to believe that cow's find it to be much of the same, right? At least when you're feeding a baby you have the instant gratification of seeing your baby enjoy it. When your pumping it's like, "Why am I giving my precious bodily fluids to this damn dirty machine that doesn't care about me at all? It only wants my milk!"
May as well be a cow, yo.
Like Wasted "Me Time"
If I had to carve out time to do something beneficial by myself 20 minutes at a time three times a day, there are so many other things I would rather be doing than pumping. Yoga, running, reading, writing, and messing around on social media (which I couldn't really do because those hand-free pumping bras were useless and I had to hold the bottles in place and therefore didn't have the hand or coordination to look at my phone).
Again, I know I was choosing to do this. I get it. I know that was literally productive time, too, but when you long for some free time to yourself and then you have to go and just sit by yourself it's frustrating. I need ME TIME.
Either Proud & Accomplished Or Discouraged AF
You'll either surprise yourself with five ounces of milk when you normally get three, or one ounce when you need to produce four. There's rarely a way to know how things are going to go, so it's an emotional crapshoot.
What? Me? Dramatic? Stop before I set myself on fire.
Like The Opposite Of Feeding Your Baby
I know this isn't a universal, so I'm only speaking for me here, but I loved nursing my child. It was the nicest, coziest feeling that produced (along with way more milk than I could get from a pump) a satisfied sense of accomplishment. It was convenient and gave me time to center myself and bond with my baby. Pumping, on the other hand was uncomfortable, discouraging, inconvenient, and impersonal. I sometimes found myself literally hissing at my pump, "My baby is so much better at this than you," to which my pump would respond, "Woo hoo!" (Because, as any pumping mother can tell you, your pump talks to you after a while.) Even the physical sensation of pumping was worlds apart from nursing.
So if I had to say pumping felt like one thing, it would be this. The opposite of a comparable but enjoyable experience.