Sometime after the news that your first child is about to come into your life, it dawns on you that things will never be the same. For me, when the pregnancy test showed the unmistakable second line for the first time, I could sense that I was never going to be completely carefree ever again. I knew that even when my child was not with me, he or she would always be in my heart and on my mind, and even now, four children later, I'm still coming to terms with just how all-encompassing the lack of independence actually is.
It was the holidays, and, after several years of being apart, both my siblings '- my sister living in Australia and my brother in South Africa '- were coming to visit. We felt the occasion warranted a couple days of sibling time sans children, so we planned a short escape. Now, here was the catch: I am still nursing my youngest child, Jonathan, who is nine months old, so it was inevitable that "The Pump" would be our ever-present companion.
For some reason, my trusty hand pump has developed a pronounced squeak. It starts off quiet, but the squeaking gets increasingly louder, bringing to mind the sound of bedsprings beneath a couple in the throes of passion. It's probably also worth pointing out that both of my siblings are childless, and I knew their politically correct facade could hold out only so long against "The Squeak."
At the hotel, my brother and sister chatted happily outside my door, and there I was, cloistered in my bedroom, trying to express milk as quickly as possible between sightseeing jaunts. Suddenly, I heard a lull in the conversation, followed by barely suppressed snorts of laughter. A second later there was a rap on the door, and my brother asking, "Hey, Daisy? You okay in there?" followed by hysterical laughter. The next night, my sister opened the freezer in our suite and mockingly pointed out the stash of frozen "dairy" product. And I thought we had left the teasing days behind when we walked down our respective aisles...
I'll give them credit for being pretty game, though. Everywhere we went, everyone was scoping out suitable pumping stations for me. Imagine waiting in line for an hour to get a table at a hugely popular restaurant in NYC only to have one thing on my mind when we were finally seated: "Is this corner quiet enough and this menu big enough to conceal a clandestine pumping session? Is it noisy enough to drown out The Squeak?" I started fantasizing about inventing a device that would allow me to pump discreetly without breaking stride. A wearable "Walk 'n' Pump" perhaps?
And, of course, in my naiveté I had excitedly prepared for my first full night of sleep in seven years. How foolish was I to think that my body would not remain true to the schedule my sweet baby had created for me with his all-night-milk-bar routine. I was awakened more then once by the distinct feeling that a pair of large and painful torpedoes had appended themselves to my chest. As I sat at dawn, The Pump pitifully squeaking away in the gray light, I thought longingly of my soft warm baby who was so much more efficient and user friendly. It hit me that getting completely away from motherhood '- physically or emotionally '- is impossible. And it also occurred to me that perhaps that ain't such a bad thing after all.