The Sharing of a Dream: A Reflection Eleven Years after Exclusively Pumping

My son turned eleven years old on December 16th, and when I look back on the last eleven years of my life I am truly amazed at where I am today. Those many years ago, as a first-time mother admitted to the hospital thirty weeks into my pregnancy for severe preeclampsia, I was lost and alone. The breastfeeding challenges we then faced trumped the challenges of having a preemie. Who knew it could all be so difficult? Who knew something like exclusively pumping could make you feel so isolated? And then I found a group on iVillage that changed my life. I’ve lost touch with those ladies now, but at the time they were the life raft that allowed me to weather the stormy sea of my son’s first year and allowed my son to have breast milk for his first year of life. To them I am ever grateful.

But surprisingly, my gratitude for the support and strength of women who were pumping for their babies didn’t end when I weaned. Instead, after publishing the first edition of Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk I became connected to an even larger and further reaching community of women, all who were trying to make it work and choosing to exclusively pump in order to provide their babies with breast milk, sometimes in the face of extreme difficulty; sometimes situations that were so incredibly challenging you really couldn’t fathom how truly difficult their experience was.

While I hope that my writing and my work over the past ten years supporting and advocating for exclusively pumping moms has been beneficial to other women, ultimately I get even more in return. Through my experience with women over this time I have begun to see a way forward, where support for breastfeeding is broadened into simply support for moms. We all journey through motherhood on different paths, but our journey is fueled by the same thing: our undying love for our children and our desire to give them the best we can.

I believe that through inclusion we can be stronger. We have the ability to change the way women are supported. However, I can’t do that alone. I dream of a world where women aren’t excluded because of how they feed their children and aren’t judged as a result of their choices, but instead supported with information and love, even if their experience doesn’t completely match with ours. This type of support would, I believe, help more women to breastfeed by acknowledging the emotional challenges of new motherhood and encouraging effort, rather than only acknowledging “success”.

Exclusively pumping moms have the ability to bring all mothers together and create support that is inclusive and understanding of the vast array of situations that exist for mothers, and the wide number of choices mothers make every day to care for their children with love. Some days we do better than others, and sometimes our choices aren’t the ones we’d make again, but every day mothers are doing the best they can with the knowledge and support they have at the time.

My dream is that no woman would ever need to exclusively pump, but at the same time that every woman would know that exclusively pumping is an option and a viable alternative to feeding formula. As I move into 2014 my mind is whirling with ideas and ways that I can continue to support exclusively pumping women, but more importantly simply to support women.

No resolutions being made this year; instead I am focusing my intentions on continuing the communities for Exclusively Pumping and Breastfeeding, Take Two on Facebook, continuing to advocate for exclusively pumping moms, continuing to expand my own education and training, and continuing to develop new means of supporting and educating women.

Will you dream with me? How can you be better supported? What would you like to see developed to support new moms? What services do you need to make your life easier? What information is lacking? Whatever your ideas are, I’d love to hear them. Dreaming big is the only way we will make real change happen.

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