A Love Letter to my Breast Pump*
When we accidentally met many years ago, I had no idea how our relationship would become such a central part of my life. As a naïve and very poor medical student expecting our first baby, I scoured Craigslist every few days looking for free baby gear. I remember the brisk foggy morning when I saw the ad for you, the cozy pink oversize shirt I was wearing, how I was rubbing my mini-belly in the breakfast nook in our San Diego cottage. “Near-brand new Medela Freestyle breast pump, accessories, extra bottles, drying rack, etc. FREE to a family in need.” I had no idea what you were, but I knew a breast pump sounded like something I could need. I googled the price. WOW. This was being given away for free??! I quickly responded with my plight- a poor medical student married to a poor postdoctoral fellow (sounds like we shouldn’t be having a baby haha). The poster responded a few days later saying that she chose ME- what luck!- and before I knew it I was driving 45 minutes north to pick up the gear.
She showed you to me- you were surprisingly small and pleasantly yellow. You sat in a shopping bag with a ton of other accessories I had no idea about. With her infant in tow, she patiently explained to me how the pump worked and how she had to switch to renting a hospital-grade pump due to a dwindling supply. I nodded sympathetically and smiled, having absolutely no clue what she was talking about. I felt like I had somehow won the jackpot. We returned home and you sat in that plastic bag in a closet for the next 6 months.
A few weeks after baby’s absolutely chaotic arrival, near-delusional with sleep deprivation/exhaustion and with Step 2 CS around the corner, I remembered you and decided to take you out. What in the world? These funnels go over my tits?!? I googled videos. Ouch! I realized new tubing needed to be purchased. I searched “Medela replacement tubing” on Amazon and a day later new tubing arrived. It most definitely was not the right kind. I started crying and delegated the task of getting the pump sanitized, functional, and figuring out how the *&!@ it worked to my poor husband.
I remember the pride and wonder I felt when I finally tried you and could actually see the milk coming out- it had been such a mystery how much volume was actually being consumed by my little girl. All this fluid is being produced by my boobs?!? Wow! Step 2 CS came and went, with my first taste of what it’s like to pump in a bathroom. I went back to MS4 rotations, and quickly grew to appreciate your portability- your ever-lasting charge was a dream. I could pump in any old closet, exam room, or even in my car in the parking lot, at a moment’s notice. You even fit into my white coat pocket! The real fun began when I started interviewing for residency. I pumped on a crowded Amtrak, on the metro under a coat on the way to an airport, in random chief resident’s offices, and more. We got through it though. You never ever failed me, not once.
When my daughter turned one, you stopped holding a charge. I was sad, because I wasn’t ready to quit you. I had a backup pump through insurance, but when using it, all I wanted was you. With nothing to lose, I called Medela, and a very sweet woman listened to my plight (I left out the second-hand part, haha). Is there any way you could be replaced although I obviously have no proof of purchase?? A week later, a brand-new you showed up on my doorstep, which I packed away for my future baby.
Three years later as a pathology resident, you are still loyally by my side, helping me feed a new chunker. I have the luxury of more day-to-day consistency now, with a wonderful comfortable pumping room at my disposal. But I remember with fondness the crazy times we had. I can never express to you the invaluable gift you have given me, a precious breastfeeding relationship with my babies while continuing my life as a medical trainee. I have you to thank for the memories I will remember forever… ending long nights as an intern while sitting with my daughter quietly in the dark, silently reconnecting with her warmth and memorizing her changing face… being comfort for them when they are sick and need simply to nurse… the little starfish of a chubby hand reaching up for my necklace and resting lazily on my chest. My children have you to thank for all the immunity, comfort, and nourishment you have enabled. And my husband thanks you too for all the extra sleep he’s gotten due to continued nursing, haha. (But he doesn’t thank you for all the bottle and pump parts washing, especially living without a dishwasher.)
So thank you for everything, beloved breast pump. You have your imperfections, but so do I. To many more months of love to come.
*I have no relationship with Medela besides the one described here!!!
**It is NOT recommended to acquire breast pumps second-hand (although I will say that I purchased all new tubing, sanitized everything, and this one was only used a handful of times anyway. Still not recommended, I know!). Pumps are meant to be used for one year and not for multiple babies.