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I Hated Pumping, But I'll Never Be Able to Toss My Breast Pump

Photograph by Getty Images

I haven’t used my breast pump since 2014, yet it’s still in my closet, collecting dust beneath the formal dresses I haven’t worn since 2003. Unlike the dresses, which I could conceivably wear again if I lost 15 pounds and suddenly lived a life of black-tie affairs, I am never using the pump again. I’m 100% done having babies, and if an accident were to bring a third child into the mix, I’d buy a new one. A three-year-old pump just seems gross when it’s part of the food supply chain for an infant.

Still, I can’t get rid of it.

Nearly every piece of baby equipment I owned has been passed on to friends and family or donated. Just after I stopped breastfeeding my youngest, I learned that Medela has a pump recycling program, yet I still couldn’t let go of that black bag.

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I confess to being sentimental. OK, really sentimental. But sentimental or not, it makes zero sense that I would cling to a piece of equipment I loathe.

To this day, a glimpse of Medela yellow (you pumping moms know what I'm talking about) makes my nipples hurt. Members of my extended family are dairy farmers, so every time I placed those plastic shields on my breasts, I felt positively bovine. I hated every minute I pumped.

Yet somehow, like the framed diplomas that line my office wall, my pump bag has become a badge of freaking honor. I keep it as an accolade for what is, to me, a shining example of personal perseverance: Being a working, nursing mother twice over.

I despised pumping three times a days for a year.

Screw the multiple master’s degrees and job title with “Manager” in it. Screw the publication credits. I enjoyed the work it took to get me those. I despised pumping three times a days for a year.

Yet, I did it.

Then I did it again three years later. That bag and I were constant companions at work and whenever I travelled. It sat beside me while I pulled my breasts out in odd places, because, let’s be real, everyone has that pumping story.

So no, I cannot throw away my pump. At least not yet.

Perhaps if I had saved an ounce or two of liquid gold to turn into jewelry, I could let it go. I’d been long “dry” by the time I heard of luminescent breast milk beads, which are both a little weird and sheer marketing brilliance.

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When I saw them, I first thought of Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton walking around Hollywood with vials of each other’s blood. But there’s something so beautiful, and—dare I admit it—painful, about producing breastmilk that makes the creep factor disappear. Plus, I’m a woman who hangs onto three-year-old milk extracting equipment for sentimental reasons. Who am I to judge?

My body has only produced two things more precious than breast milk. I have the privilege to watch them explore this great big world every day and collect their own little treasures—maps from the zoo, flowers, rocks and so many crayon drawings. And since they both seem to be as sentimental as their mother, my house is very full.

So go ahead, keep that last bag of pumped milk or turn it into jewelry. Relish your accomplishment long after your little ones have moved on to Cheerios and Go-Gurt.

I guarantee you’ve earned it.

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