Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bag lady with a breast pump

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.

23 comments:

  1. You have all my respect, friend. Pumping is HARD WORK. And the noise. Oh the noise. I'd give anything for a quiet pump. I about died the first time I was on a call and someone asked what the noise was. (Space heater is a good excuse, if you need one.) You're doing a great job - keep on keepin' on!

    And I definitely need to replace my ugly Medela pump bag with a cute tote. Great idea!

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    1. Space heater - I like that! Maybe fan now that it's summer?

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  2. Long time follower who wanted to say bravo to you! I went back to work at 6 months and successfully exclusively breastfed for 14 months. I spent A LOT of time in my office's pumping room but I am SO proud of myself and know I did what was best for my family. Like you, I was constantly juggling around the pumping schedule and everyone I work with knew it was the most important aspect of my day. I think making it any amount of time while being a working mom is awesome, so congrats!

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    1. Thanks for saying hi! I agree with you - any amount of time working moms can manage to pump is a victory!

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  3. You're amazing. Question: how much water do you find you need to drink? I'm on the brink of this journey (home with a 6 wk old--pumping didn't go great with my first child) and I'm trying to play with all the factors. Water? Beer? Mothers milk tea? Will my exercise hurt my supply? Ahh the variables. Any tips appreciated!

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    1. Water makes a difference but it's more random than that, unfortunately. I think hormones play into it for sure (out of your control!). I've done lots of tea, fenugreek, and oats and I'm never sure if they make a difference or it's a placebo effect. I haven't noticed anything with exercise. Good luck!

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  4. Reading this while I am pumping at work - pumpers unite! I'm almost to 9 mths and I too am debating the end game. Pretty sure I will go to at least a year, and I never thought I would be saying that! It is such a special time that I know I will never have with him again. I feel it outweighs the sacrifices I have had to make at work. Hopefully my supply/his desire will keep going for the next 3 months.
    Hey, I sent you an email about DC food delivery recs a week or so ago but never heard back. I figure spam captured the email either to you or from you. Any advice on something similar to Eatzi's (fully prepared) in the DC area? It would be much appreciated!

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    1. I never got that email! Eatzi's is the best and my husband frequently laments the fact that there's not one in DC. I think your best bet around here is Whole Foods, sadly :-(

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  5. I'm 5 weeks out from my due date and have been anxiously trying to figure out how I'm going to make this work when I come back. I luckily have an office where I can shut the door and most of my meetings are on-site, but the noise! Those suckers are so loud. I recently heard about the Freemie, which is supposed to be a lot quieter that the Medela my insurance covers and am intrigued (cheapness will probably win). http://www.freemie.com/products.html

    Seeing working Moms like you make it work is so encouraging even if it requires a bit of schedule finagling!

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  6. You are SO right. How do we not have Prius like pumps in 2014?! It's a mystery and makes no sense. My breastfeeding guru source, Nancy Holtzman, shared this a few weeks ago and I found it intriguing. Maybe those smart MIT engineers will be able to develop something quieter and more efficient before the next century?? https://medium.com/@medialab/the-media-lab-make-the-breast-pump-not-suck-hackathon-513fad8bc451

    In all seriousness though, I think it's AWESOME that you're so committed to pumping for Hazel. I hated pumping with a deep and burning passion and I only had to do it once, MAYBE twice a week. My hat goes off to pumping moms. It's not an easy job at all. This is a great post that I'm going to pass on to a few friends who are pregnant and have asked me about pumping at work (something I know NOTHING about!). Keep up the good work, Mama!

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    1. That link is so awesome, Rachel!! Thanks for sharing. I follow NH on Twitter and think she's pretty awesome.

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  7. Ha, I too just read this while on a pump break at work! Six and a half months in, I agree about it being hard but well worth the aggravation and occasional embarrassment. ;-)

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    1. Our little ones are the very same age!

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  8. Do you have two pumps - home & work? I ended up with one spectra pump - it works great & is very quiet.

    Kudos for you for making it work for as long as you have. Pumping is hard work!!

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    1. I haven't heard of the Spectra - interesting. I have one pump. I guess I haven't bothered adding another pump because I'd still be toting the milk around, so I figure I might as well tote everything at once. Hmmm...

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  9. omg. I just caught up! How do you do it all!? This btw, is so everything: "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."
    Yes yes yes. I often missed pumpings b/c of this conflict. Then the guilt and stress. Or the flip side - really good pumping days could sometimes feel more productive than good mtg days. And vice versa. ps I caved and bought 2 pumps. Couldn't handle it anymore.

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    1. You are so right about the validation of a good pump sometimes feeling better than work victories!

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  10. And yes, be kind to your heart no matter where it takes you. I was a hard-core nursing mom, working only part-time until my 2nd was 7, nursed both well into the talking years:). And now, 20+years later, even we hard core sorts know that it is most of all about your heart, and being almost as good to yourself as you are to your baby. <3

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  11. as an expectant ftm, i am loving these posts! i would love to see a post about your pumping schedule and more details about how you manage everything. keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback and good luck! I'll do a daily pumping details post.

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