Do you enjoy it when blogs feature over-sharing posts about unusual and embarrassing experiences? Well then you’re in luck today, my friends. Because I’ve got one for you.
So the first time I breastfed Tessa outside of my own house she was only a couple of weeks old and I still had no clue what I was doing. I had to take Eric to a dentist appointment and then take him home again, so while waiting on him I had to take my tiny tiny baby into the bathroom in the lobby of the dentist’s office. It was the only bathroom there and since my feedings were clumsy and long even with a vast supply of pillows and positioning devices, I just had to hope no one had an urgent need to pee while I fumbled with the baby and sat on the lid of the toilet for what felt like hours.
It’s been a long time since then. Tessa is 7 months old. I no longer use my nursing cover. Not even in public. Not even when a teenage boy is in close proximity. (It was the pediatrician’s waiting room. Give me a break.) I can even snap a non-revealing self-pic from my phone as I do it.
But this weekend I crossed a new frontier when it comes to all this boob-milk-stuff.
This weekend I went to the super-fabulous Springboard Conference here in Boston. We had a Friday night harbor cruise and sessions all day Saturday. On Friday night I said goodbye to the baby shortly after 5pm and headed out in the only dress that fits right now–a black number with a very low v-neck. I’m pretty sure my cleavage got bigger and bigger as the night went on and more hours passed without getting a chance to feed the baby.
Still, it wasn’t so bad. Even though Tessa rarely lets me go more than 3 hours without a feeding, even at night, I was a little engorged but not in serious pain when I got home. I fed the baby as usual during the night, which helped. But she’s more of a snacker at night so I knew when I got up in the morning that I’d be throwing my manual pump in my bag for my day of learning.
My manual pump (a hand pump) is the only one I use anymore. It’s relatively small, can be tucked in my bag and pulled out quickly in the restroom without anyone being the wiser.
This was the plan.
But as I got ready to leave for my bus, I went downstairs to the drying rack where the flange for the pump was and realized… this is not the flange for my manual. This is the flange for my double electric, which is a totally different brand. And that I couldn’t find any piece of the manual except the handle.
I had no time to make a Plan B. I had to leave. So I did the unthinkable.
I left the house. Baby-less. Pump-less. Not to return for nearly 14 hours.
This left me with a couple of options for the day.
Option 1: Pull a Salma Hayek and act as wetnurse for someone else’s baby. There were 2 tiny babies there. But they were quite tiny. And I wasn’t about to ask either of their mothers to loan me their baby so I could empty my boobs. I value their friendship and I wanted to keep it that way.
Option 2: Self-Expression. (And no, not the creative kind.)
When I mentioned this possibility I was asked, Is that possible?? Of course it is. There were women and boobs and babies for centuries before the invention of the breast pump.
But it still left a few things open. How? Where? When? And, most importantly, would I have any dignity left when it was over?
The when was pretty easy. The where was better than I could’ve hoped. There were family restrooms. You know, the good ones. With their own door, sink, changing table, etc. My favorite. Bless you, Boston Conference and Event Center.
The how… concerned me. I won’t lie. I might have done some googling during one of my sessions about manual expression. The first site had detailed instructions. I went to another. It also had detailed instructions, but they were totally different than the other ones. There were videos (there are ALWAYS videos) but it’s one thing to surreptitiously google during a session and it’s another to watch a video of a woman manipulating her breast to squirt out milk while someone is talking to you and the people behind you have full view of your monitor.
I decided I would just head to the family bathroom, lock the door and… well… make it work.
Which is exactly what I did.
And it worked.
Sure, it took some… well… experimenting. But a boob full of milk isn’t going to put up too much of a fight.
Major downside to manual expression: it hurts like a mother. I didn’t leave bruises or anything, it was just having to smush my full ducts over and over again was not super pleasant.
On the plus side, having to aim my spray into the sink was a lot easier with the extra-big handicapped sinks in the family restroom. Though it meant I had an excellent view of myself during this process, which I really could’ve done without.
I was incredibly proud of myself, though. I did it! I figured it out! I felt better and I didn’t even have to do it in front of other people! I also felt relatively certain I was doing something in that bathroom that had never been done before, and what pioneer doesn’t feel a bit of pride in that accomplishment?
All was well.
Until dinner. My left boob was not happy. It needed help. And I no longer had the comfort of the big, empty, solitary family restroom. We were in a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night.
Once again, I had two options.
Option 1: Whip it out in the sink.
Option 2: Whip it out in a stall.
The sink had one major con: privacy, or the lack thereof.
The stall also had one major con: no sink.
But modesty triumphed and I found myself in a stall, thankfully one with a door that went nearly all the way to the floor.
I stood, looking at the toilet, wondering how I would best be able to do this.
At least, I thought to myself as I got started, if someone nosy looks under the door they’ll just think I’m puking. Although if I was puking, the aiming thing would be a lot easier. This is probably the only time in my life I’ve sympathized with men who can’t aim.
You guys, it was HARD.
In addition to the ow-ow-ow pain of it, I had to balance myself on a public restroom floor on my knees, manage to point myself in such a position that I did not actually have to touch the toilet and yet still get IN the toilet. It was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. And I don’t know if you’ve ever, well, been in a situation to pay attention to where your milk goes when it comes out, but it goes EVERY DIRECTION.
You know how your spray cleaners can be set to “STREAM” and “SPRAY”? Well, your boob doesn’t have that. Sometimes it streams. Sometimes it sprays. It just does whatever it feels like doing and your baby’s mouth or your pump is usually cool with that. The bathroom stall isn’t so much.
Despite the difficulties, I’m pleased to announce that I left everything in good shape so that my fellow diners and the custodial staff wouldn’t have anything horrific to deal with upon entering.
I didn’t feel quite so triumphant this time around. And I’m not really sure my dignity is quite as squeaky and shiny as it was on Friday.
Still, if anyone wants to play “I never” with me, I am pretty sure milking myself in a public restroom will take everyone down.
I know it’s cliche to end your blog post with a question, but I am anxious to know: TELL ME I AM NOT ALONE. Surely I can’t be the only person who’s stooped to such lows for the sake of their boobs and their baby?