Felling Vulnerable While Pumping

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 haveĀ neverĀ 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?

4 comments to Felling Vulnerable While Pumping

  • kris

    I feel lucky that I haven’t really been placed in a position to feel awkward pumpng and/or nursing. Sure, the early days nursing my first baby were a little hectic because we were still learning the nursing tango, and because I hadn’t built up my confidence yet. Now that I’m on nursling #4 (and #2 and #3 as well lol) it barely registers to me that someone might find it shocking. I’ve pumped in my vehicle before as well, and while I do feel like I’m doing something wrong…what if someone sees?, I’m able to get past it pretty quickly. I guess part of that comes from working in the firehouse. It’s normal to have someone on the other side of the bunkroom door talking to me while I try to pump…now THAT used to be a huge hangup! What got me the other morning, was talking to the granddaughter of a patient prior to leaving the scene, and suddenly realizing that she was pumping. I made a bit of a stumbling apology for interrupting her and then later felt like an idiot. I think I was partly surprised to realize she was pumping because her pump was so quiet and mine isn’t, and I also felt very intrusive even though if you weren’t a pumping mama yourself you probably wouldn’t have had any idea because nothing was showing. Jus hope she realized that I wasn’t apologizing because I thought it was gross or anything, but rather because I felt like I was interrupting a private moment.

  • I hate…hate…hate pumping. When my 3rd was little, we was born tongue tied. I got it clipped on the second day of life, and on the 4th day he stopped latching. It was a nightmare weekend trying to get him to latch and pumping. I didn’t understand it. I breastfed two others past 2 years old – why wasn’t this working? Then when I finally got him to latch, he wasn’t transferring milk properly. Again with the pump. But it was hands free pumping – all the time. It was exhausting and I felt like a cow. It was like I was either feeding or pumping. It was awful. Awful…awful. I hated it. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

    We got through it and he’s been exclusively breastfed for 5 months.

    Just yesterday my hubby said – the freezer stash is getting low. I said, I don’t want to pump ever again.

    Oh, I have pumped in the car. When I had my biz, I would pump during the wedding reception in the parking lot. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t like doing it, but my kids needed the milk.

  • Rory

    I have exclusively nursed 5 babies brazenly! #6 has a congenital heart defect with a feeding tube til surgery, so pumping is now a full-time job. I usually park in the empty section of a Kohl’s parking lot and haven’t had any starers yet.

  • [...] other day, I had a string of meetings an appointments away from home. The last time this happened, I tried pumping in my car since I couldn’t think of another solution. This time, the [...]

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