Since December, I had an intensely personal and intimate relationship with my Medela Pump in Style double electric breast pump. After fourteen weeks of maternity leave, I returned to my job as an elementary special education teacher. Before returning to work, I promised myself and promised my baby I would try to breastfeed as long as possible. I hoped to nurse Baby C for a year. In order to make good on my promise, I had to pump at work. Every day, I lugged my Medela backpack to school, along with my teacher bag, lunch, and the ever essential travel mug of coffee.
Before I returned from maternity leave, my co-worker and fellow new mama arranged a private, secure place for us to pump during the school day. Our pumping space was not glamorous. We used a forgotten closet that housed a kiln and discarded, dust covered art supplies dating back to the mid-1980's. The floor was covered with dead spiders, dirt, and dust bunnies, but we had a make-shift table (the kiln), a plug, a cracked plastic chair, and a window overlooking the constructon site of our new school. Despite our closet's lack of aesthetic appeal and questionable cleanliness, it offered privacy and security. Access to the closet ensured I could pump each day and spend uninterrupted time focusing upon my baby, or staring out the window hoping the construction workers could not see my breasts.
Each school day, I mysteriously disappeared from my classroom for about fifteen minutes around 10:00. Sometimes I left students unattended, free to draw all over the tables, sniff glue, and search inappropriate websites. Sometimes the students asked, "What do you do on your break?" to which I replied, "I make pottery." I was in the kiln closet, after all. Some days I had to excuse myself mid-meeting for fear that my breasts would explode. I often had to humbly ask the male custodians to unlock my closet, or remove a stack of newly painted canvases from my cracked chair. Despite such embarrassing moments, I pumped twice a day, almost every day. I made good on my promise.
I know that I am lucky. As an elementary school teacher, I work almost exclusively with women, most of whom are mothers and had their own relationships with a breast pump. I have a boss who understands family comes first. Many of my working mama friends are not so lucky. One friend pumped in her office's only bathroom, much to the frustration of impatient co-workers waiting outside. Another friend pumped in her car, even during the winter. A third friend did not have time during her busy day to pump. All eventually gave up breastfeeding before they were ready.
Yesterday was my last day of school, my last visit to my pumping closet. As I closed the door for the last time, I bid goodbye to the dead spiders on the floor and thanked them for allowing me into their space. Last night, I stored my Medela in a closet and thanked her for the memories. I will not miss the daily cleaning of bottles and three thousand pump pieces. I will not miss the stress of making enough milk for baby. I will not miss my dirty closest. Sure, Medela and I will probably have an occasional fling here and there until I wean Baby C in August, but for the most part we are over. I am grateful Medela allowed me to exclusively breastfeed even while working full-time, but I am ready to move on. It is time dump the pump, at least until Baby Number Two comes along.