With my first baby, there was no "mother’s room" at my office for me to use for pumping. That was before they passed a law in New York requiring employers to provide space for nursing mothers (and only if the companies were of a certain size). So I was used to hunting around for a private space to pump. I was not, however, prepared for the first time I had to pump in my car.
It was when my daughter was around 5-months-old, so she wasn’t on solids yet. Breast milk was all she consumed. But we were at a wedding that day, and it was too hard to bring her because the ceremony was in the early afternoon and the reception was in the evening. Between the church service and the party, my husband drove me (in the car we borrowed from my parents, since we don’t own one) to Starbucks, parked, and I started to pump.
Now, I won't lie: it was weird. Not only did I have to figure out how to finagle my boobs out of my formal attire, but I had to be really careful not to get any milk on my "dry clean only" dress. It took more effort than tucking myself into a voice-over booth, as I had done recently while working on a commercial and needing to pump. At least I could drape something over the booth window, but in the car I was exposed from all sides. And small talk with my partner? Yeah, that was really forced.
If you haven’t had to pump in a car, consider yourself lucky, but also prepare yourself for some of the following things:
The Lack Of Space
I was in an SUV and I still didn’t feel I had an adequate amount of room to stay hooked up to the pump. I mean, I guess I never noticed how low the ceiling was. Though I’m just five feet tall, I suddenly felt like I had no leg room. Without a surface on which my pump could rest, it was jammed against the dashboard and my knees. One sneeze and it was all going to hell.
That I’d Be So Uncomfortable
I would sit in this car for hours at a time, on the occasional road trip, yet staying still for 20 minutes while I pumped was torturous. I couldn’t shift position for fear of the flanges detaching from my boobs, and I couldn’t totally relax, either, because you just can’t pump laying down (at least I don’t think you can, and I certainly don’t want to find that out the hard way).
How Exposed I’d Feel
My parents are careful with money, and thus did not spring for the tinted windows. That never bothered me until I was sitting in this parking lot off an exit in broad daylight with my boobs uncovered. I tried draping a jacket over the tangled mess of breasts and tubing, but it kept sliding off. Finally, I said “f*ck it” and if people were horrified (or titillated) by the sight of me pumping in a car, that was for them to deal with.
How Worried I’d Be About Spilling Milk
With the pump balanced at this weird angle, and me not being able to move, I was paranoid that the slightest shift would set the machine tumbling to the floor, and the contents of my milk ducts with it. The only thing worse than having your milk slowly drip out of you when you are tight on time is if you accidentally dump all the fruits of your labor on the floor.
That My Husband Thought We Could Actually Drive While I Pumped
My partner hates to be idle. He likes to get stuff done (and that’s a reason I love him). So he thought we could maybe run an errand while I pumped, and drive to Home Depot to pick up some light bulbs. I know some women can pull off pumping in motion, but it doesn’t take much to make me carsick and I just didn’t want to risk adding insult to injury by vomiting in the car while expressing milk.
That I’d Be So Cold
Since we were parked, it was useless to keep the car on. It was early spring, so how cold could it be in that Starbucks parking lot? Very.
That I’d Regret Not Having A Hand Pump
My Medela was the gold standard of breast pumps at the time. Since I was a working mom, and I’d need to pump as efficiently as possible twice a day at the office, I made sure I got the model with the powerful engine. I had no use for the slow workings of a hand pump, or so I assumed, until I realized that in cramped spaces (such as the interior of our borrowed car) a breast pump takes up a stupid amount of space when in use.
That It Would Make Me Consider Quitting Pumping
I found pumping in the car to be the worst (and I have pumped in some terrible places), and even though it was just that one incident, it made me seriously think about stopping. It was difficult, and annoying, and yet another example of how we first build things for the men in the world, and then have to figure out a way to accommodate women. I was sick of jumping through hoops just to do a basic human thing, like extract food out of my body for my baby.
But then I wanted to extract that food out of my body for my baby. As much as I wanted to quit, I wanted to give all that I could for my kid even more, so as long as I was still making that milk, I would be pumping it. In cars, in airport bathrooms, in recording studios, and anywhere else I needed to.
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