I really had the best intentions to keep this updated weekly and then monthly. Well, that’s turned comical, but let’s be honest me trying to juggle all things working mom out there is kind of comical, too. You can say I’m an overachiever. I even overachieve at failing spectacularly sometimes,too. Case in point with the upkeep here.
Similarly, you can say I’ve always had the best intentions with breastfeeding and being a pumping-working mom. On the outside it looks easy. In the trenches, yeah, that’s a whole other story.
I share a lot of pictures on social media, and if you know me I’m really not afraid to be an open book. What you see is what you get. I’ve been pretty open about breastfeeding and my support of it since having Viv. I have a love-hate relationship with it. To be honest, I probably just hate the pump part of it, but our maternity leave system is backwards. If it wasn’t, maybe I wouldn’t have such mixed feelings.
To give you a better understanding of why it’s so mixed, I guess I should explain my working relationship with my pump. We’ve started to see more pictures of moms and babes as they nurse. It’s a beautiful bonding moment. Milk drunk baby cheeks may be one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed. I was lucky enough to have 12 weeks of those milk drunk moments at home before returning to work.
Well, pumping can’t be that bad, you say? Have you ever watched a cow get milked? Do you think it’s the highlight of their day? Yeah, not mine either.
Okay, that may sound extreme. And you may be thinking, but the US has made it so much more friendly for working moms (Workplace Rights) Correct. Kind of. You see, if you work in a new office building then by law if there are a certain number of employees they have to build out a lactation room. Woohoo! This is amazing, right? Raise your hand if you work in a new building right now. Yeah, my hand isn’t raised. One of the other great things the US has done is required that employers provide adequate break time and a place that isn’t a bathroom to pump. This also sounds amazing, right? Raise your hand if you don’t actually have an office or a traditional 9-5 job. Oh yeah, that’s me. This also leaves all kinds of women to pump in broom closets (hey, it’s not a bathroom!) and unlocked offices praying no one walks in on them. So much for great rules.
So where does that leave me to pump? Well, on office days I’m lucky enough to pump at home. (Wait, you said you don’t have an office? Correct, I don’t have a traditional office. I work based from home in outside sales. Which means, I try to take at least one office day a week at home.) There I have my pump all set up and my supplies ready to go. I can easily wash them or store them for the next use.
Are you wondering why I hate pumping yet? Just wait.
My office days are what the US government pictures for everyone. They think this is why everyone can continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Hospitals are busting their butts to be designated nursing friendly. Moms are killing themselves to nurse their kids, because there is this insane picture that it’s just as easy to do as formula by providing a pump. By providing a pump, instead of extending maternity leave, the government can slap themselves on the back and say job well done.
So on those non-office days, I’m customer facing. Soon after I returned to work with Viv, I found these amazing bras that allowed me to pump and nurse. I also found collection cups for my pump that fit in my bra. This allowed me to pump and drive. It freed up a ridiculous amount of my day if I could do this. So whenever possible I hop in the car, connect up to my pump and drive to where I’m going. This allows me to fit it in during “windshield time”. This also means I don’t have a sink or a fridge to store milk or parts. I’ve been creative there. I always have wipes, a cooler bag, and ice packs. In a pinch, I’ve run through drive-thrus while pumping and ordered an extra cup of ice to keep my milk cool. It’s not typical, but I’ve made it work.
On days I work with my manager, I’ve literally driven him to Starbucks and kicked him out of my car so I could whip out the boobs and pump. When you take away my alone windshield time, I can’t be as productive as a mom and an employee. About to explode boobs win.
I’ve watched a skilled surgeon open a chest cavity, while the anesthesiologist trialed a product of mine. This should’ve been one of the coolest moments of my career. Nope, it wasn’t. Why? I had scrubbed into the CVOR at 8AM. Due to an emergency my surgery got pushed back. So I hand expressed into a toilet and hoped I didn’t leak all over the anesthesiologists work area. Pretty sure they would’ve banned me for life.
My favorite, may have been a few weeks ago where I worked with a manufacturer partner, and was traveling in their car. I got to our destination hospital to realize some of my pump parts were at home. So I sat in the back of their car,threw my coat over me,and started hand expressing into a bottle, while they drove us back to our next meeting.
I’ve pumped in hospital parking lots, grocery store parking lots, and public parks. It’s been another job in itself.
Occasionally, I’ve gotten lucky and been inservicing at a hospital that happens to have a lactation room. That’s actually like I’ve died and gone to heaven.
You see, I’ve busted my butt to get breastmilk to my kid. And it’s really come to my detriment. I’m usually the first to tell my friends that as long as your feeding your kids it doesn’t actually matter if it’s breastmilk or formula. If we’re honest, they’re all going to be licking the floor and eating boogers in a few years anyway. Formula, for real, isn’t the devil. I’m pretty sure it’s more nutritious than the stick my 10 month old tried to eat at the park last Saturday. Somehow, I’m really good at giving the advice, but taking it for myself has been harder.
With Viv, I had no issues keeping up with her. Sure, the mom-work balance took some getting used to, but it all worked out. E, is a beast. A BEAST. He’s a bottomless pit. He screams to eat All Day Long. I spent 8 months trying to pump three times a day at work to keep up with his demand. Everyone says a breastfed baby needs 1-1.5oz an hour. Yeah, that wasn’t enough for him. Pace feeding? Yep. Did that, too. I even co-slept (gasp, I KNOW!!!) so he could nurse all night. You name it I did it.
And I still had a very demanding job.
I was lucky enough to go on vacation a few weeks ago minus my babies. E’s super demand meant I wasn’t going to have enough frozen milk stash while I was gone. So I prepared. I ordered a travel kit from Milkstork. It’s this amazing company that can overnight your milk or help prepare it to go through TSA. I’m fortunate that it was in our budget.
I knew it probably wasn’t going to be enough. So I also bought the dreaded formula.
I cried a little when our nanny gave it to him.
Turns out he was just fine.
The day before vacation, I also went to see my primary care doctor. You see I’ve had migraines for close to thirty years. Knock you out, lose your words type migraines. The cocktail I take to fix them while pregnant and nursing is no longer cutting it. Yay me! Hormones are probably to blame. Maybe stress? But a girl can only take 4 day long migraines so often before she taps out. I’m tapping out. My doc also says this means breastfeeding has to go to.
So we’re slowly getting there. I’ve only cried a few times. E has cried exactly zero. Unless, you count him screaming at me because I was too slow on the food delivery.
I also forgot how freeing it was to not be tied to the pump. My work has suffered. My life has suffered. I get back time now to refocus on both.
Truth is I had the best intentions to be the best breastfeeding working mom out there. Truth is it didn’t happen the way I pictured. And that’s ok.