I long ago became comfortable with breastfeeding in public. Now, with my fourth child, I’m completely unabashed about breastfeeding anywhere the hunger strikes, any time my baby needs to be soothed, any who may be nearby.
But now I find myself faced with a new scenario. For the first time, I’m back at work while still breastfeeding—which means I’m pumping. I’ve pumped before when I’ve been away from my babies for one reason or another, but never with this much regularity. And never with such poor accommodation.
Today, for example, I’m at a conference in a hotel. Because I’m a local commuter and not a business traveler, I don’t have a room in the hotel. This means, also, that I don’t have my own quiet space here in the hotel.
One of my colleagues very kindly offered me to use his room. And I accepted reluctantly, more out of desperation and disorientation than proper planning and consideration. Though he gave me my privacy and couldn’t have been sweeter about it, I admit I felt somewhat like a call girl, standing with my breasts exposed among a strange man’s dirty clothes and used toiletries.
So, with that option out, the only place I have is the public bathroom… where the only outlet to plug in my pump is right next to the door. This means that I am on semi-public display while pumping. I’ve grown comfortable breastfeeding in public because I can do it discreetly.
But there is nothing discreet about pumping. Never mind the sound of the pump. Here I am, with my breasts in shiny plastic flanges and milk audibly draining into large plastic receptacles. It’s just after 4:00 pm, and I think just about every woman in my department has now seen my tits at one point or another over the course of this day.
But, to my extraordinary surprise, the response is not at all what I had expected. Here are just a few of the comments I’ve heard today:
“Good for you!”
“You’re making baby food!”
“Keep it up!”
“Can I bring you a snack?”
This is the mother community at its best. Thank you, ladies, for supporting me in my awkward moment of adjustment. Thank you for giving me the space to grow, as a fourth-time mom but first-time public pumper.
I’m going to pump in public again, and I’m going to do it without shame. Maybe someone who sees will someday be emboldened to do so herself. And maybe someday I’ll have the chance to say to another pumping woman, “Good for you! You’re making baby food! Keep it up! Can I bring you a snack?”