In not-breaking news that you've heard a million times before: being a pumping, working mom is not easy.
Exhibit A: The bag that follows me around everywhere I go. (LL Bean, natch.)
Exhibit B: What I look like from afar - a bag lady. A bag lady in J.Crew, but still.
Exhibit C: The mess I haul across our office and into the "pump room" twice a day, every day (this photo taken while attached to the pump, of course).
Exhibit D: The amount of water I need to drink daily in order to pump effectively. (My pump room is also the water room, conveniently.)
And then there's the noise. This article puts it perfectly: Shouldn't the breast pump be as elegant as an iPhone and as quiet as a Prius by now? Why, yes it should. I feel like I will hear this thing echoing in my brain for the rest of my days. So, perhaps, will my coworkers.
I continue to feel grateful that I'm even able to pump at all, I do - breastfeeding has been fairly simple for me and I have a supportive office. I know that many women would love the chance to do what I am currently complaining about. The crux is that as a career woman, I've fought for the chance to be at important meetings, to be on-call, to be a decision-maker. And I am... except for when I can't be due to pumping. And that conflict is difficult for me.
Some days, I literally have to schedule my entire workday around being able to pump. Today I was supposed to have three off-site meetings, scattered throughout the day. At first glance, there was no time to go back to my office at all in between meetings. Could I pump on-site? Drive and park somewhere, then try to pump in the car? I'd have to carry my pump bag to a fairly important local government building - how annoying and weird would that be in the meeting? Not to mention, I can't drink my 50-gallon water requirement on the go like that. I ended up doing something I don't like to do, but will when I have to: I rearranged my schedule, moving my first two meetings to alternate days. I also made transportation decisions based solely on not having to carry the pump bug to the afternoon biggie with the suits. And so it goes. This isn't just me, either - every pumping working mom makes these decisions every single day.
On the home front, Hazel's eating more food every day and has lessened up ever so slightly, occasionally, on the milk she needs while I'm gone. Not enough to really change my pump schedule, but it makes me wonder where we might be headed. Some days my pumping goal is nine months - nine months in, nine months out, nice and clean. Most other days it's a year. Some days I think I can go longer. Bag lady or bust.
The bottom line here, for all of us juggling work responsibilities and hungry breastfed babies, is that there's no single right answer. We're all doing our best and making the choices that are right for us. My battle isn't really between the reality of my days and a common consensus, it's between the reality of my days and what my heart wants. I don't know what my end date will be - I think I'll know when I'm ready, though, and I've promised myself to be kind to my heart no matter how long I last.