Mom Jaque Hines is basically a superhero.
She recently shared stunning photographs, shot by photographer Charity Williams, where she looks like a goddess and she's pumping breast milk. For those who've ever pumped, you'll know that feeling like a goddess (never mind looking like one) while pumping is basically impossible. Hines, though, is sprinkling some fairy-dust magic on the whole thing in an ode to exclusively pumping moms everywhere.
In a post that's since been shared several thousand times on Facebook, she writes:
"This is for the mom who always dreamed of nursing but couldn’t ... This is for the mom who’s feeling like 10 [minutes] connected to the pump is an eternity ... This is for the mom who didn’t know she had a blister on her nipple, now frantically googling if she can give her baby milk that has blood in it ... This is for the mom struggling with the pain of mastitis ... This is for the mom who is in the spare room during the holidays: pumping and listening to everyone else making memories ... This is for the mom trying not to yell at her partner for letting the milk sit out too long and now it’s spoiled ... This is for the mom who HATES pumping until its time to wean, struggling to give up her superpower."
Where was Hines when I needed her nine years ago? I'd read some books prior to giving birth to my older daughter and took a breastfeeding class when she was still cooking in my uterus. I thought, how hard can this be? Just look at all the babies born to moms who didn't have formula or breast pumps.
And then, after 72 hours in the hospital, we took our baby home and she wouldn't nurse for more than 12 hours.
"What?" my sister screeched at me over the phone. "She needs to EAT! Give her formula. Pump. Do something. You're starving her."
So, with trembling hands and a screaming baby, I dusted off the hand-me-down breast pump from my sister and did little else for the next four months. Determined not to give my daughter formula, I parked myself on my bed and pumped for what felt like approximately 143 hours each day. The breast pump would whisper sinisterly to me as only a few ounces dribbled out per sitting. The pump was like a spiked ball and chain that gave me little freedom and even less relief (physically, emotionally, psychologically). It also mocked me incessantly. It really did.
So, it seems, did everyone else. Once, I walked downstairs to put the liquid gold I'd managed to coax out of my ducts into the refrigerator, my visiting mother-in-law remarked on how little I'd produced. I'd see moms out in public with their babies to their breasts and figured I wasn't meant to be part of the club. Or any club. Or anything. I sucked because I couldn't get my baby to do it.
Who knew breast milk would be my kryptonite?
Because all kinds of moms exist, not just the moms smiling effortlessly as their cherubs suckle blissfully on the front of brochures in OB-GYN offices.
Between the latching issues, mastitis (are you kidding me with that?!) and my modesty concerns—all in the first 96 hours, mind you—I was ready to return the baby. I hung in there with the pump for four long months and then waved the white flag with the purchase of the first can of formula. I cringed and cried a little each time I'd put a bottle to her mouth with the store-bought stuff. Clearly, I wasn't cut out for motherhood.
Thankfully, the advent of the internet in between the birth of my first and second daughters would prove to be a lifesaver. I was ready the second time. Determined. Not just to nurse successfully, but to never, ever pump.
And I never, ever did.
I nursed her exclusively for 15 months—until she decided she was done.
It helped that I work from home. It helped that I discovered breastfeeding covers and My Brest Friend. It helped that I knew what I didn't know, and that more conversations were springing up instead of lying dormant in the minds of women who couldn't nurse, who didn't want to nurse, who couldn't afford formula, who didn't have the time/space/money/bandwidth to see it through.
Because all kinds of moms exist, not just the moms smiling effortlessly as their cherubs suckle blissfully on the front of brochures in OB-GYN offices. It takes all kinds of mothers, babies and ways to feed. And getting that message out there like Hines is doing will help all kinds of mothers know they're not alone—and they're doing just fine.
That may just be Hines' greatest super power of them all—letting other struggling moms know the struggle is real, that it doesn't come naturally to everyone and that, no matter how you're able feed your baby, you're still a badass hero.