When it came to recognizing the hard work I did as a new mom, my partner was pretty on top of things. He knew being up all night with a newborn, and healing from a c-section, was extremely rough on my body. Breastfeeding came easily to me, but still, he let me know I was awesome for doing it. Pumping was one thing he rarely commented on, cheered me on about, or knew how to help with, though. As a result, and looking back, there are some things I wish my partner said to me when I pumped that would have been really nice to hear, especially when I was feeling overextended, exhausted, and in need of extra TLC.
In his defense, I did not complain about pumping and I did not ask for much help. Then again, I don't always think you need to present something as a problem in order for your partner (or someone who loves you and supports you) to want to help be part of a solution. If my partner had said just a few of these encouraging things to me about my pumping, or done these small gestures to help, it would have made me feel so cared for, and given me even more confidence that I was doing the right thing for our family.
"Wow, That Looks Really Demanding"
What a beautiful thing that would have been to hear (only if said in a real, non-condescending way). Pumping can be really, really challenging. It can also be extremely boring. There is so much else you could be doing, like enjoying a meal without tubes getting in your stir-fry, or watching a show without a motorized whirring sound playing over the dialogue.
I lost so much sleep waiting for my pump sessions to end, while my husband was already on his way to dreamland because all he had to do before bed was take care of his own damn self. Plus, you can't just stop a pumping session, because there's always the chance that your boobs are going to get their "second wind," like, right at the end when you thought you were done. This happened to me all the time, because I think it took me at least 25 minutes to relax enough to get any milk out. So my evening pump sessions were anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour long.
"If I Could Do That For You, I Would"
Sure, the words might be hollow lies, but I would happily suspend disbelief for the brief pleasure of imagining my partner sitting at the kitchen counter with tubes strapped to his nipples as he waited for bottles to fill up with something that came out of his body.
"Could I Help You With [Insert Chore Here]?
For those of us who embrace the art of multitasking, pumping is just something we do while engaged in household activities, like putting away all that crap on the floor, folding large bedsheets, and organizing a crawl-space.
Every now and then I would have given my right arm to have heard my partner offer to do just one of my "chores" when he saw me sloshing milk all over the floor as I bent down to pick up yet another egg shaker to put away. Or maybe he thought I enjoyed this daily game of "Don't Spill The Milk," because he knows how much I love a good challenge?
"Leave The Pump Parts Washing To Me"
There is nothing sexier than a grown man preparing a nice, soapy, bubblebath for your pump parts (OK, maybe that's just one step underneath him preparing a bath for you). If my partner had offered to suds up my pump parts when I was done pumping, I would have felt all kinds of romantic feelings for him afterward, if you know what I mean.
"You're Doing Such An Amazing Job"
My pumping was so ubiquitous around the house (I probably averaged about three times a day) that it probably lost its wonder somewhere around week two of mom life. Still, it would have been nice to receive a little "atta girl" every once in a while, to let me know that my partner recognized the sacrifice of my time, my body, and my energy that pumping required. I know that he felt like what I was doing was a big deal, and that he appreciated the work I was doing for our baby, but I would have loved to hear it said out loud.
"I've Chilled A Bottle Of Wine For You For When You're Ready"
I know, I know, most people don't associate pumping with vino but, in my house, that is how we do. Note: I enjoyed the bottle to be chilled, but I limited myself to one to two glasses when I was breastfeeding. The act of pumping is such a generous one. You're strapped to a cumbersome device that is making all kinds of insulting noises at you while it sucks away at your body. The least you can do is reward yourself with something that feels indulgent and, for me, that was a nice glass of chilled Pinot Grigio. I would have loved for my partner to have been on Pinot duty on the regular when I was pumping.
"Does The Baby Need Changing?"
Changing a baby's diaper is one of those things that parents tend to treat with the utmost passivity. At least that's how it went with me and my partner. We would both wait until it became painfully obvious that the baby needed a fresh diaper, but we kind of wanted the other person to make the final call because "he who smelt it must change it" (remember that rule?).
My favorite way of getting out of a toxic diaper situation was to strap myself to the pump right before the room began to smell really ripe. Then, just as the let-down began and the milk started flowing, I'd wait for those magical words to leave my husband's mouth. "Does the baby need changing?" Yes, darling. Yes! A thousand times yes.
"How About A Neck Massage?"
If there's anything I would have killed to hear during a pumping session, it would have been an offer for a neck massage by my husband with his strong, manly hands. It would have been a win-win too, because massage helps you feel more relaxed, and the more relaxed you are, the more milk you produce. So there you go. Boom.