My husband and I recently flew fromChicago,IL to Fresno,CA for a wedding in Yosemite National Park. This meant leaving our 2-year-old and our 4 month old with their grandparents. It was the first vacation we had taken since our first son was born and it was the first time leaving both boys for an entire weekend.
Even though I knew I would miss the kids like crazy, I was somewhat elated to fly without a baby or toddler – no bottles, strollers, DVDs, or diapers. Getting through security was a breeze. This time, I had ONE carry-on, a small bag that contained my wallet, book, and snacks… But, like most outings you partake in during parenthood, you quickly realize you can never really go back to being that person you were before having kids. At dinner, you’re checking in with the babysitter. At a movie, you insist on leaving your phone on vibrate in case of an emergency. For me, this moment of not truly being unattached became apparent when I had to throw one more item in my carry-on – my breastpump. The oddly shaped grey mass was squashed right between People magazine and my Canon camera.
I have a love/hate relationship with my breastpump – I love that it allows me some freedom from the baby (and some major relief when I’m oh-so-full) but I hate sitting there and physically pumping. That soft squishing sound of the motor makes me cringe. I watch as my nipple stretches through the suction cup, and back again, and out again, and back again, and out again, all the while wondering if my boobs will ever recover (no, so far they have not). But for the sake of my friend who was getting married, and for the sake of my husband who I hadn’t spent much alone time with in 2 years, and finally for the sake of my 4 month old who I wasn’t ready to wean, I packed the pump and planned on using it regularly.
We had to leave the house at 4am in order to get to the airport on time. I nursed Andrew before we left, so by the time 9am rolled around, we were on the plane and I felt like I had two boulders in my bra. So here’s how it went – we were seated in a row of 3, my husband on the aisle, me in the middle, and a female stranger by the window. Thank God she was a woman! Although, sometimes I feel like men are more understanding of breastfeeding anyway. I slipped on my nursing poncho, pulled down my tank and bra, situated my pump, and pushed the button. Luckily, the pump’s motor was undetectable due to the airplane engine. Still, I felt like some kind of obscene flasher in public – any minute I expected a flight attendant to come by and scold me. God knows why – the girl sitting behind me was wearing such a low cut top I could just about glimpse her nipples. Her 20-something, pre-baby boobs spilled out of it like a swimsuit model. And here I am, cowering under 3 layers of clothing so as not to draw any attention to what I’m doing. As moms, why do we hide under tents and in bathrooms in order to feed our babies while other women get to flaunt their boobs around for any man’s visual display? Why does cleavage draw positive attention when bouncing up and down on a 20 year old, but negative attention when nursing a newborn?
Obviously, the answer is sex: boobs = sex. Let me re-phrase, round, bouncy boobs squeezed into low cut tops = sex. Milking boobs, via breastpump or baby = farm animal.
Despite my own self-consciousness, I found pumping on the plane to not be all that inconvenient. When I finished, I rinsed everything in the bathroom and no one was probably the wiser. My husband and I turned the whole experience into one big, weekend-long drinking game – anytime someone said the word “pump”, we drank. “I just have to run back to the room and pump.” “Yes, we can meet you for breakfast right after I finish pumping.” “Molly, we’re going on a 5 mile hike – don’t forget to pump.”
We returned home from the weekend grateful to see our children and looking forward to getting back into our daily routines. My husband was thankful to be able to watch Chicago sports on TV again. I was thankful to boil all my pump parts, and shove it to the back of the closet where it belongs.