Tonight, I pumped for the first time since Zara’s birth. I sat on my bedroom floor, answering question after question from my curious preschooler as I followed a ritual at once both familiar and foreign. Unzip the black bag that was once my daily companion: in the office, on the train, through airports, and across the country. Remove the motor. Unwrap tubing and wiring; twist plastic flanges onto glass bottles; dig through pockets for thin silicone gaskets key to making the whole thing work. Snap tubes on top of the flanges and plug it in. After doing so three or four times a day, five days a week, for seven months, I could assemble this machine in my sleep.
The last time I pumped, was 2.5 years ago. Nora was 15 months old and though she was still a very enthusiastic nurser, the mid-day pumping sessions during lunch breaks from my CLC class were more to keep myself comfortable than to provider her with milk. At that age, she refused anything other than water out of a cup so every ounce I pumped, unfortunately, went straight down the drain. It felt shocking not to care about the waste after months spent hoarding each drop out of fear she’d starve at the babysitter’s house.
I didn’t loathe my pump as many mothers do, though I did very much regret having to have to pump — but at least it made it possible for me to continue to mother Nora as I desired despite the necessity of working far away. After Zara’s birth, I rejoiced at the fact that I might never pump for her. That I would never have to leave her in the arms of a stranger for hours on end and that if I chose to feed her for an entire year exclusively from my breasts, I could. I am grateful every day that I have that possibility, especially because it was one I wanted so very much with Nora, but did not have.
As I turned the switch, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, willing myself to relax, visualizing a flow of milk. The rhythmic, mechanical voice of the pump brought me back to days of pumping for Nora, a sort of mini-meditation on motherhood, and in an instant I heard the soft ping of the first drops filling empty glass with love.
I didn’t know when I woke up this morning that today would be the day I would pump or that tomorrow would be the day I might consider leaving Zara for more than 15 minutes at a time. Next week will be one year from when we got pregnant; the sixth will mark three months since her beautiful birthday. I’ve carried this little girl near to my heart for almost a year now, and considering being separate, if only for an hour’s yoga class, feels like a very big deal. Even after taking the big step of pumping, I’m not certain I’ll walk out the door tomorrow carrying a yoga mat in place of a carseat. The pump makes it possible, but it doesn’t make it easy.