If you’re a breastfeeding mum like I am, you’ve probably had your share of mortifying moments. Mine include being felt up by a lactation consultant just hours after giving birth while a group of residents looked on, getting stared at by an as*hole in the airport while I attempted to breastfeed my cranky, cover-adverse daughter, and hearing my 4-year-old tell a server in a restaurant that his sister drinks MILK FROM MY MOMMY’S BOOBIES!!! But the worst horror I’ve suffered through is pumping in the bathroom of a doctor’s office — a cramped space that was most definitely crawling with e coli.
It happened a few months after my daughter was born. I was in the corner of the waiting room bathroom, trying not to touch anything. The receptionist who sent me there didn’t care that I was still new to this pumping thing and could have used a seat (I stood). She didn’t care that I was worried that the doctor would find another mass (I had a serious breast cancer scare at the age of 34, the same age my mum was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer; this time I was fine). And she definitely didn’t care that by denying me a clean, private space (say, an exam room?) she was forcing me to serve up my daughter’s dinner next to a toilet. That I was at a medical establishment devoted to women’s breast health, in a city where mums have been practically bullied into breastfeeding, made the whole incident even more ludicrous.
Since sharing my awful experience with other mums, I’ve learned that many of us have pumping war stories. In fact, other mums have told me about the times they’ve had to pump in outrageously awful places…like these:
The back of a taxi
Yes, another mum I know actually had to pump in a cab on date night. It was shortly after her son was born, and she and her husband were out longer than planned. So she had to buy a manual pump at a Rite Aid — and use it in the back of a taxi. And yes, it took her husband about five minutes before he even realised what was going on.
A supply closet in an primary school
When she was a second grade teacher, Lori W. had to pump in a supply closet without a lock. (Um, isn’t that illegal?!) “I did my best to turn away from the door in case someone opened it, but you can only do so much to hide a breast pump attached to you, making that awful whirring/suction sound,” she says. “When a coworker opened the door on me once, I think she was more mortified than I was!”
The highway during the busiest travel day of the year
Sarah P.’s son was having issues latching on, so she decided to pump while her husband drove from Ohio to North Carolina for Thanksgiving. “The thought of putting my pump on any surface in a public bathroom [at a rest stop] made me gag!” she says. “I used a pillow to cover up.”
A jam-packed tunnel
My ballsy friend Jeanne actually pumped in New York City’s Lincoln Tunnel. She had been driving for hours, got stuck in a traffic jam, and realized she wasn’t going to be able to wait until she got to my place. “I put the drape around my neck, hooked myself up to a double-barreled pump, gave the trucker looking down at me the stink eye, and flipped the switch,” she says.
A small boat at sea
Jessie F. had to pump in an outhouse-sized bathroom on a snorkeling catamaran in Hawaii. There was the funk (like, when was the last time that thing had been cleaned?!), she says, as well as the challenge of trying not to fall over while standing and pumping on a swaying boat.
I have about six more months of breastfeeding left, and I’m hoping I don’t ever get stuck pumping in one of these places, or in another public bathroom. Of course, I will if I absolutely have to (you’re welcome, baby girl) but OMG!
What horrifying place have you had to pump?