She brings home the bacon.... err, breastmilk
Breastfeeding and working outside the home full-time all too often are two concepts that don’t go together. In fact, only 10% of full-time working mothers breastfeed their 6-month-olds It hasn’t necessarily been difficult to continue to provide my breastmilk to the Goose while working full time but it has been an experience and commitment like no other. I went back to work when the Goose was two months and one day old and I have been pumping three times a day, five days a week for the past five and a half months. I have committed myself to pumping until she is a year old and then breastfeeding when we are together until she self weans. Having said that, I don’t see myself nursing a seven year old. If she doesn’t wean by two or three I can see myself forcing the issue but we have got to make it to a year first.
Pumping at work certainly takes “working mom” to a totally different level. Not only do I have to worry about getting up and dressed at the crack of dawn after 10 hour long nightly nursing sessions and being nice and professional to people all day, I have to pump. My day revolves around trying to find the time to stick my boobs in plastic and stretch my nipples two to three inches to the nauseating rhythm of the Medela Pump in Style. When I first started pumping, I was very anxious about the amount I was able to pump and even now, I’m still all too obsessed with it. Yes, the Goose has always nursed all freakin’ night but for some reason, it is like my worth of a mother is going to be measured by the ticks on the Medela bottles showing the amount of breastmilk pumped. What kind of day I have can be translated into ounces. If I’m smiling and laughing, it was a six ounce a session day. In a crappy mood? Must be a two to three ounce a session day. I’m happy to work in the kind of environment where I can pump but I long for the day my happiness is not dependent on the amount of milk I bring home daily.
My first pumping session is at 10:00 am and since I share an office part time, this pumping session is done in what is essentially a closet. I hunker down in a chair with the bottles resting on my thighs and flip through a magazine or a book for 20 minutes or so. I try not to watch how much milk is collecting in the bottle because trying to experience a letdown while keeping track of ounces is like trying to pee while someone is banging on the bathroom stall. You know, performance anxiety and all that. Anything to take my mind off the task at hand is beneficial. At 1:00 and 4:00 I can pump in my office and get some work done or surf the internet. I usually take the time to complete monthly reports and return phone calls. I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to colleagues, clients, and coworkers in my hunched over, hands-free pumping position trying to stifle the urge to blurt out “do you know what I’m doing right now? Do you? Do you? I’m milking myself!! That’s right! I’m pumping! Bwahahahahahah!”.
I don’t make my pumping at work a secret. In fact, I’m pretty vocal about it. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is because I knew I would be doing this for almost a year and I didn’t want to hide and sneak and make excuses for having my blinds closed and door locked for 20-30 minutes at a time. Of course, it could very well have to do with the fact I am totally uninhibited and I like to talk about myself. Or perhaps I am just trying to normalize pumping at work. Maybe it’s the old lactivist in me clawing to get out but in all honesty, I think my attempts to normalize pumping is more for my benefit than the benefit of my coworkers. Several pregnant coworkers have toyed with the notion of breastfeeding/pumping when they come back to work after maternity leave thanks in part to my speaking out about pumping in the workplace which is fantastic but I don’t care how you slice it, putting your nipples into plastic horns three times a day to extract milk from your breasts for your child to ingest the next day is odd. Taking your boob juice and storing it in the refrigerator next to your coworkers’ turkey sandwiches and coffee creamer is weird. Explaining to a coworker you were locked in a closet for 20 minutes because your were pumping only to have them stare at your chest then and every time they see you thereafter is odd, weird, and everything in between. I actually work with a woman who whispers the word “pumping” like it is a dirty word. She told me someone was looking for me and she told them that she didn’t know where I was because she didn’t want to tell them I was (insert whisper) “pumping”.
Every day, I take my pump and my daily milk collection home. Lloyd is sweet enough to be on daily pump parts washing duty. Thank heavens for these Medela steam bags because they do make daily sterilization a snap. I only sterilize nightly. During the day I rinse my pump parts off with cool water after pumping and store in the refrigerator in a freezer bag to prevent possible bacterial growth. Three times a day, every day of the work week I tote my little plastic baggies with bottles of milk and pump parts to and from my lactation stations. I never imagined before I did it that I would find the time and I would be successful at exclusively breastfeeding my daughter 6 months and providing breastmilk for this long after going back to work at only 9 weeks. The maternity leaves here in the US don’t exactly make it easy on moms but I'm glad I have made it work. Even mroeso since I was unable to make it work with the Gavinator. Now whether it can be enjoyed is up to the person. I know very few women who enjoy the act of pumping. I have been told to use my pumping time to sit back and relax and enjoy a few moments of peace. Rrrriiiiggggggghhhht. Because having your boobies stretched every which way but up (who am I kidding, sometimes they're even stretched up) is oh so relaxing. The Pump in Style is the Cadillac of breast pumps and there is no relaxation to be had while the horns are on the breast. While I’m in no hurry to see my little Goose grow up, I wouldn’t mind never seeing the old black case or these bottles again.