At first, I assumed that the pressure of the plane was having some bizarre effect. Then I tried to remember how many glasses of water I had recently had. When the last time I ate was. What the last thing I ate was. Then I started fumbling around with the pump parts to see if there was an air leak that I couldn’t find. Nothing was uncovering an error however I was pulling out zero ounces of milk: not a few drops, no drops. My pump had been running for a solid ten minutes now, and I was still staring at empty bottles. So I took everything off and put everything back on, precisely the opposite of what I wanted to be doing on a plane. But there I was milk-less with some leak in the system. I took apart the flange assemblies down to the rubber seals and put it all back together. I put it back on, and yet still the pump was pulling nothing.
At this point, I was on the verge of a meltdown. Was I about to pull out my hand pump on the plane? Where was it even stored? I had packed it somewhere in my carry-on, but my memory as to where it was failing. I could feel milk inside so it was without a doubt an issue of the pump. Maybe it needed to be plugged in. I checked for an AC outlet; in luck, I rummaged through my luggage and found my power cord. Re-assembled everything for the third time and hooked up the pump. Now being directly juiced by electricity, my pump still produced nothing. I convinced myself to be patient; sometimes, it can take a full four or five minutes for the milk to let down and start to flow. So I kept pumping and distracted myself by reading. After ten minutes, I realized that the pump was still pulling no milk.
Breakfast was being served, and I had been attempting to pump and/or pumping for the better part of an hour. My mind spun through a battery of personal doubts. You haven’t eaten enough. Your vanity is getting the better of your milk production. You haven’t been drinking enough water. You barely drank what a non-nursing person should, plus which you are on a plane. You haven’t been sleeping. You waited too long to pump, and maybe your body is in the early phases of stopping production. Then I looked down at the pump and realized that the level of suction was set to to the lowest possible setting. Could it be this simple? I upped the suction setting, and like magic, milk started to flow. Ridiculous, the pump screen was already ticking away past twenty minutes, and I had more or less, just now begun my pumping session.
After two full bottles of milk had been collected, and a full thirty-one minutes had passed on the pump timer which had already started and stopped two other times. More than an hour had passed in real time. I laughed at myself. How quickly this had become stressful. How automatically I had jumped to shaming myself. I forgot to double check the settings. One day our pumps might be able to detect flow and notify us. “Hey tired momma, nothing is coming out, but your suction setting is pretty low.” But for now, we still live in the world without IOT where the settings and the parts and the fit are all finicky variables in the equation.