Jun 29, 2018
Pumped Up
Cari Wood

For those who don’t know, breast pumping is something that new mothers do when they go back to work and want to continue to feed their newborn babies healthy breast milk. When our breasts become full, and the baby is not around to nurse, we “pump” our breast milk into bottles to send with the baby to daycare for feedings. The process for most people is to use an electric pump that is held up to each breast and literally sucks the milk out. Or the “pure gold” as we moms like to call it, because of the time, effort, and sometimes pain taken to extract it for our lovely babies.

Anyway, during the 1999-2000 season, I had the “pleasure” of traveling with my high school football team during the time when I needed to pump for my daughter, Bradi. My breast pump was a fairly nice one. It looked like a large briefcase, so none of the boys ever asked what it was. I don’t know what I would have done if they ever did ask. Explaining breast pumping to a high school boy would have been traumatizing to him no doubt!

Every time we went on a road trip, I would be away from my daughter for around 12 hours, so I had to pump to relieve the buildup of milk. It was a challenging task being on the team’s schedule and performing this in private while being the only woman traveling with the team.

When the team went out to warm up, I found an outlet in the locker room to pump… So there I was sitting in the locker room with my breasts hooked up to my pump, all the while praying that the team didn’t finish the warm-ups and come back in before I finished!

For my first trip, I was excited to try out my new travel pump. I special ordered the car jack thinking I could plug into the 12-volt outlet on the busses and pump in private while the boys ate lunch. The first thing I realized, however, is that the bus driver was usually a man, and would NEVER leave the bus! Finally, when I got the courage to ask for privacy, I found out that the 12 volt did not generate enough power to “do the job” and it would take WAY too long to pump. So that trip, needless to say, was painful for me and my “girls”.

The next trip, I was prepared with an electrical plug-in. I just needed to use the girls’ bathroom at the school when we arrived. Well, new problem — I forgot that the visiting team uses the girls’ locker room to dress in! UGH. So, I did the pre-game preparations on my players for the game, and when they went out to warm up, I found an outlet in the locker room to pump.

Of course, the outlet wasn’t close enough to a bathroom stall to be in privacy, so I sat on the benches. Pumping generally took me 10 to 12 minutes. Warm-ups usually took about 10 to 15 minutes. So there I was sitting in the locker room with my breasts hooked up to my pump, all the while praying that the team didn’t finish the warm-ups and come back in before I finished! Or worse, an individual player deciding he needed to use the restroom. Luckily I made it through with no incident. I can’t even imagine the horror on a young man’s face if he walked in to see me there.

For the third trip, I decided trying to pump in the locker room was too stressful. This time, we stopped at a mall to eat a pre-game meal. I ate as fast as I could and took off into the mall looking for a public bathroom to pump in. THERE ARE NO OUTLETS in public bathrooms. At least, there wasn’t in this mall! I frantically looked around for another option.

I found a Baby Gap, thinking ‘They sell baby clothes, so surely they will understand my predicament.’ I pleaded to the lady who worked there to use their break room to pump. She was understanding and accommodating — thank goodness! But I didn’t tell the coaches that I was leaving. So, I pumped as fast as I could, and sure enough, the team was on the bus ready to leave waiting for me! The coaches were irritated. They all thought I was busy shopping and lost track of time.

The last and best story was when I couldn’t find anywhere to pump prior to the game. I was so uncomfortable during the whole game and knew I couldn’t possibly last another long trip home without pumping. I really didn’t want to end up explaining why I was leaking milk completely through my shirt to 15- to 17-year-old boys.

So, at the end of the game when the team was showering, I ventured off into the school looking for an outlet. Because it was so late at night, no doors were unlocked. The only outlet I could find was in the gym, on the end wall directly centered under the basket. So there I sat in a dimly lit gym, vulnerable and exposed for anyone to see, sitting on the center of the baseline, with strange tubes coming from my chest while the electric pump made noises in the quiet gym. It was too funny!

I managed to make it through the whole football season without having to explain to any of my players what breast pumping was. I consider that a success! Ladies, please plan your pregnancies around football season! Trust me! I was blessed to have supportive athletic directors, coaches, friends, and family to help me navigate motherhood and find a good work-life balance.

Cari Wood, ATC, has been the Athletic Trainer at Redmond (Ore.) High School for 23 years. She is the proud mom of a 19-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son.

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