After reading Unbuttoned: Women open up about the Pleasures, Pains and Politics of Breastfeeding my thoughts turned to my primary preoccupation of 2003-2006, lactating.
I don't take the ease with which I was able to breast feed for granted. I had a midwife attended home birth, no immediate plans to return to the work place and a supportive husband who was happy to handle the hum drum details of life while I fed our daughter. I am very aware that I was able to make choices that enabled me to have the breast feeding relationship I desired, not every one is as privileged.
When the time came to separate from my daughter for a few hours (nothing used to come between me and my hair appointments, another benefit of going natural!) I was confident and eager that one of the several pumps that I had at my disposal would do the job.
Two kinds of Medela, the now defunct Whispers hands Free Pump, one way or another I would have a freezer full of milk in no time.
And each one failed me. As did a couple more that I can't even remember the names of over 6 years later.
I was distraught. I wanted bonding, not a siamese twin like relationship with my first born. Desperation set in and formula was not in the house. But I did have a glass, a tea towel and my hand.
For the better part of three years, I manually expressed hundreds of gallons of milk. With ease and absolutely no trauma to my nipple. I couldn't read while I expressed, or do anything that required my hands but it was speedy and efficient. Exchanging my glass to express directly into a plastic baggie meant that I was not bound by electrical outlets, free to pop off into any private space with a minimum of baggage.
Talking to a neo natal nurse about my "revolutionary" collection method, she didn't know of many women who went this simplified route. She pointed out that not everyone is comfortable enough with their bodies to touch their breasts in such an intimate matter. Which didn't surprise me but did make me sad.