From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

The Breast Pump

Divide your movements into easy-to-do sections. If you fail, divide again.

Peter Nivio Zarlenga

When my wife started back to work after the birth of our son, we had agreed that continuing him on breast milk would be the best thing to do.

We went to the store and bought the deluxe breast pump. We purchased insulator bags for the bottles. We cleared out extra space in the refrigerator.

Then six hours into the first day, my wife called me at work.

“Ken, I can’t bear it anymore.”

“Your job?” I asked.

“No, this breast pump,” she complained. “I feel like a cow in the big city.”

“In the city?”

“Well, actually in the toilet stall, where I just sat milking away my entire lunch break while listening to the young secretaries gossip over the noise of the hand blower.”

“You sit on the toilet?”

“Well, where did you think I would do it?” she asked. “In the copier room? What would I say? ‘Come on in, guys, don’t mind me; I’m just sucking nourishment from my breast. Oh, and by the way, the legal size paper’s over there on the table, under my blouse.’”

That night we regrouped. We reminded ourselves of the health benefits of breast milk, and my wife reconfirmed her desire to put her best foot forward.

Noon the next day she called.

“I feel like I’m doing something illegal,” she announced.


“Because I hide out in the bathroom.”

“People don’t care,” I said. “I’m sure everyone supports your decision.”

“What do you suppose people who don’t know what I am doing in there think when they walk into the bathroom and all they hear is the low hum of an electrical device behind a bathroom stall?”

“Maybe your boss should provide a breast pumping room,” I suggested. “Where the new mothers can . . .”

“Sit around watching each other pump their bare breasts?” she interrupted.

“Well . . .”

“Maybe we could also share home remedies for chapped nipples,” she added sarcastically. “We could even take turns bringing snacks.”

On the second night, we held hands and prayed to God. Still, my wife assured me, she was dedicated to breast milk.

Come the third day, she was on the phone by 10 AM.

“There is only one stall close to the outlet to plug in my pump,” she explained.


“So, I had to wait until the stall was free, which wasn’t easy when my breasts were so engorged they began erupting. I had to open my bra and empty out on the floor.”

“That’s embarrassing,” I said.

“Actually, the bad part is when the milk ran down around the feet of whoever was on the inside of the stall I needed. I imagine she’ll throw away her shoes after something like that.”

When I got home, I noticed the deluxe breast pump and insulator bags were stuffed into the trash can.

I never said a word.

Ken Swarner

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