Yesterday I found myself in a unique predicament. I was out and about while my son was home with a sitter. My errands and appointments kept me away for 4 hours, and I wanted, needed to pump. But where? I wasn’t at work, so I didn’t have an office or lactation room. I refused to go pump in a bathroom, particularly one at a coffee shop. I was near a friend’s house, but she just moved to New Zealand, so that was off the table.
I decided to pump in my car, which I’d never done before.
Following some others’ suggestions, I pulled into a residential neighborhood. My hope was that during the day, most people would be out and not coming to their cars. This proved a wrong assumption, since lots of people popped out to the street to clear ice and snow from their cars! And there I sat in the driver seat, breasts bared, while my double electric pump worked its magic.
And you know what? I felt like a pervert. I hate to use that word in association with breastfeeding, but that’s how I felt. Or was made to feel by passersby.
I felt vulnerable, exposed.
I have never felt this way breastfeeding my children, but pumping there where all could see? I was truly uncomfortable. And then I got all up in my head and stopped letting down for the pump.
I switched to try some hand expression to relieve engorgement, but too late. I was a nervous wreck and no milk was coming out.
In retrospect, there are things I could have done. I could have sat in the back seat, used a blanket or cover, put a sun shade over my windshield. But I am so struck by how exposed I was and how small and, not to be repetitive, vulnerable I felt.
It’s so weird for me because I am a brazen breastfeeder. I nurse my kids everywhere, whenever they are hungry, and I staunchly support other women’s rights to feel comfortable and have access to this right. I nurse in restaurants and look my server in the eye while I place my order. I nurse during my son’s occupational therapy sessions and discuss treatment plans with the therapist while my younger son is latched on. And I don’t think twice about these things because I’m just doing something biological and normal.
But pumping? There in a car, mid-day, in someone’s neighborhood? It really threw me through a loop. And I’m glad! I need experiences like those to remind me of how other women feel in nursing or pumping situations, to give me perspective and allow me to be more supportive in the future.
While I failed to replace the 4 ounces my son drank from my freezer stash yesterday, I am still happy I encountered this brief moment of discomfort because it reminds me that women go through a lot to nourish their babies. Things that feel totally comfortable and normal for me might make other nursing moms desperately uncomfortable. This perspective is important if we want to support each other and help give families positive nursing experiences.
When have you felt vulnerable while nursing? What could you suggest to other women to help make this experience more comfortable in the future?