What the Pump Gave Back

Michele Vaughn

WaterAid America - our December sponsorI unplugged my breast pump for the last time at work. I retired the trusty Medela bottle cooler that has gone back and forth with me to work every day for eight months. I washed the flanges and the connectors and the membranes – those damn white membranes, so prone to tearing at just the wrong time – and packed them away in a Ziploc bag, just in case I need them again for a spot pump in the next few months. I threw away my well-worn “DO NOT ENTER” door sign and deleted my recurring “private” appointments from my Outlook calendar.

My days as a pumping working mom are over.

As much as I’d relish the idea of taking my pump out into a field and beating it to a pulp, Office Space-style, it’s a rental. It’s time to send it on to the next mom who will develop her love-hate relationship with an electric machine that sucks the life out of her.

A love-hate relationship, it was. For all the times pumping was inconvenient, and frustrating, and time-consuming, it was also a tangible connection to my babies while we were apart during the day. As I unplugged the pump, unhooked my hands-free bra, and checked my pants for stray drops of milk for the last time, I thought “I’m actually going to miss this.”

I can count the many ways in which the pump took from me. But if I’m honest, my standing date with the milk machine gave back to me, too. Here are five things I’ll miss about it:

  • It gave me a chance to close my door and have a little down time, three times a day. I had to work while I pumped, but I took a minute or two at the start to listen to a good podcast or read a non-work-related blog post to ease into pumping. Once or twice in the early, totally sleep-deprived days of being back at work, I may have closed my eyes for a few minutes.
  • It gave me the okay to indulge my vending machine and coffee habits. I had to drink less-than-tasty mother’s milk tea and eat gobs of flax-laced oatmeal to keep my supply up. But the calories I was burning meant I could spring for the peanut M&Ms (my vice while pumping for baby #1) and pop-tarts (baby #2). And every once in a while, I rewarded myself with an overpriced latte, too.
  • It gave structure to my day. At nine a.m.? Time for tea and an oatmeal muffin (also known as “second breakfast”) and reading news clips while I pumped. Noon? Lunch and a podcast. At three p.m.? Coffee from the kitchen and the vending machine snack of the day. I’m a creature of habit, and pumping kept me faithful to a routine.
  • It gave me a community of other working moms. I’d often use a few pumping minutes to read the email digests I receive from two breastfeeding groups I’m a member of, and it was reassuring to read stories from other moms facing the same challenges I was – along with their successes when they prepared to pack their pumps away. It felt good, too, when I was able to respond to one of their requests for help on a day when they’d forgotten a crucial pump part or needed to know that they weren’t alone in struggling with supply.
  • It gave me a biological reason to look at pictures and videos of my kids. Seeing their smiles and hearing their giggles — and even their cries — helped with milk production! Most of the time I looked at the most recent stuff on my phone, but every once in a while I’d scroll way back in time and think back to those hazy newborn days. I’d glance, too, at the back of my office door, wallpapered in pictures of my kids, all the way back to my son’s first months.

My door will be open a lot more frequently now, but I’ll still close it every once in a while and gaze at my happy babies while snacking on some peanut M&Ms for old times’ sake.

I look forward to doing it while fully clothed and standing nowhere near an electrical outlet.



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I can count the many ways in which the pump took from me. But if I’m being honest, my standing date with the milk machine gave back to me, too.

This post was written by Michele Mariani Vaughn exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.

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Michele Mariani Vaughn is a wife, mom of two, cancer survivor, and writer living in Washington, D.C. She blogs at A Storybook Life.