Announcement(s)

I did it.  I broke up with my pump.  The reason?  Hiccup is now one year old!  Woohoo!  The Professor and I can hardly believe it.  When our little squish was born, he was so tiny and delicate.  In my new-mama insecurity, it never felt like I was holding him quite right, and I dealt with this fear by looking ahead to the stage in which he would be able to hold his head up on his own.  I told myself that if we could just make it to that point, we’d be okay.  We breastfed like crazy, subjected him to the daily tortures of tummy-time; he grew and became stronger.  We navigated obstacles like tongue-tie, acid reflux, and some well-intentioned but nevertheless bad sleep advice from various friends and family members.  We reached that three month mark and it felt great!  Hiccup could hold his head up by himself, smile, laugh (he has one of those great, belly-jiggling laughs – still kills me), and we were exclusively breastfeeding like a couple of champs.

Then came a new obstacle.  It was around this time that I returned to work with my five bags and a new goal in sight – continue breastfeeding my baby until his first birthday. This meant needing to pump while at work; and if you’ve been following this diary then you know that has not been easy.  My head was not always in the game, and there were times when it seemed like my milk supply was in danger due to my consistent trouble with release at the pump; but I made it!  We made it, and Hiccup could not be healthier!

He is definitely not ready to give up breastfeeding completely and I’m happy to continue for as long as he is interested, but it is with great joy and zero guilt that I am releasing myself from pumping.  No more pump, no more expressed milk.  Hiccup eats a wonderful variety of solid foods now; and while he still enjoys nursing when we’re together, he doesn’t seem to be missing the bottle at all.  He was never a big fan to begin with and would sometimes hold out until I got home anyway (stubborn like his dad!).  Our plan going forward is to continue breastfeeding upon request when I’m around, while weaning him more onto solids and cow’s milk when I’m not. Wish us luck!  So far cow’s milk has failed to impress our little developing foodie.  He will be okay though.  He’s getting older and part of getting older is learning to take one for the team.  Mama needs a break.

It may sound selfish, but I’m excited to have my lunch hour back and to wear some of the prettier dresses that have been going to waste in my closet simply because they lacked easy boob-access.  I wore one today with a pair of celebratory new shoes and it felt really good.  Also, I’m looking forward to developing a relationship with my son that is increasingly less about my ability to feed him.  Right now, if you ask Hiccup to say “Mama” he makes the hand-sign for milk instead!  It’s cute…but also not.

There’s one more thing I hope breaking up with my pump will help facilitate and that… is the return of Aunt Flo (yes ladies, you read that right).  I’m looking forward to my body kicking back into reproductive gear because this working mama and her hubby are ready to start trying for baby number two!

Stay tuned…

Advertisements

La Leche Said There’d Be Days Like This

Happy Pump Day!  Huh?  The other day at work I overheard one woman greet another by saying, “Happy Pump Day!”  Having had a terrible pumping day myself, her words stirred up startled feelings of self-consciousness.  Relief and a bit more self-consciousness set in when I finally realized it was Wednesday and what she had actually said was, “Happy Hump Day!”  I may need therapy.

The La Leche League book on breastfeeding that I read while pregnant said there would be days like this – bad days, when I’m barely able to pump an ounce.  What the book didn’t mention, or what I failed to comprehend in the optimistic glow of prenatal innocence, was that the inability to pump might have nothing to do with my supply.  That there would be days when the milk was there but simply unable to release.  As stated in a previous post, if you know anything about milk production (human or otherwise), you know that’s a problem.  While my body’s ability to produce milk may stretch to meet Hiccup’s demand, its ability to store milk comfortably caps at around six ounces (about four ounces on the right and two on the left – don’t ask).  Pumping’s not as simple as sitting back and pushing a button though.  You have to actually relax while doing it; something we have already established I’m not too good at.

Now that Hiccup is on solid foods, I’ve cut back to two pumping sessions instead of three.  Even so, on a good day, I can still net 10-14 ounces (for those without a point of reference, that’s an enviable take).  A bad day however looks more like four ounces which means dipping into the freezer stash next time I’m away.  On what turned out to be the hump day of pump days, I took home only two ounces – in the cooler that is.  The day began promisingly enough.  Around eleven o’clock, I drew my screen, turned on the wave sound generator, and got pumping.  Normally, 15 minutes later, I’d be bagging 4-6 ounces of milk and getting back to work.  Instead, I sat there for 20 minutes growing increasingly agitated by the fact that, though my girls were full, the milk would not come.  Barely an ounce had leaked out.  At noon, my coworker and I headed outside to play a weekly inter-office game of bocce (I know, I know – what aristocrat died and left me their life?).  Someone on the other team asked me about the baby and BOOM!  Release.  There I was the winner of my own personal wet t-shirt contest.  The same thing has happened in meetings.  Thankfully, I always carry a sweater.  Heading back to my cubicle after the game, I fired up my pump expecting great things only to be disappointed again.

Looking at pictures of Hiccup helps; closing my eyes and visualizing him in my mind is usually more effective; and even more poignantly – picturing him a little bit sad and holding his arms out to me seems to be most successful at stimulating a release.   Some days though the stress that comes from continued sleep deprivation, various work issues, and certain familial pressures just gets to me and focusing on the baby becomes impossible.  The cold, clinical nature of pumping doesn’t help either.  You try relaxing to the mechanical whooshing and whirring of a plastic pump motor which on my darker days sounds like the whispered chanting of redrum, redrum, redrum

That evening, after coming home to my little boy and sitting down for a cuddle, all was well.  I was even able to pump five ounces from one side while Hiccup nursed on the other.  My goal is to continue up to his first birthday and then retire the pump.  Just two and half more months to go.

Lastly, and really as just a side note, I think we should stop saying “Hump Day.”  We could probably remove the word hump entirely from our vocabulary and things would be just fine.

Adventures in Breast Pumping

​After serious contemplation, some testing, and repeated assurances from my immediate neighbors (all blessedly female) that they cannot hear the motor, I’ve settled on a new location in which to pump at work.  My cubicle.  Risky choice, I know.  Other places were of course considered.  For example, the car.  I have used my pump in the car a couple times other places and it wasn’t so bad.  We have several multi-floored parking structures at work, the top floors of which remain relatively unused, so at first this seemed like a great solution.  However, upon closer examination it turns out these structures are all regularly patrolled by security guards, which means that 1) I have to assume the parking lot may not be the safest place in the world to partially disrobe on a regular basis and 2) at some point the woman who sits in her car and partially disrobes on a regular basis might actually fall under some sort of suspicion.  Also, this thing takes like eight batteries when you’re away from an outlet, and I’m cheap.

Due both to a growing sense of desperation as well as to it’s being such a hot button issue these days, the bathroom did unfortunately keep coming to mind as a possible spot.  I am fairly certain that I’ve heard other women with their pumps in there from time to time; but while the restrooms are kept relatively clean, I couldn’t stop imagining all the super gross microscopic pathogens that most certainly hang on every surface and even in the air!  I also couldn’t help but think that if I didn’t want to actually use the bathroom on these trips (which I wouldn’t), I would then have to be making additional trips for more… traditional purposes.  This would most likely add up to at least five, perhaps six or seven, trips to the loo (three of which would last 15-20 minutes) in an eight hour period – a habit which in the long run might actually prove to be more suspicious than hanging out in the parking lot topless.

I also briefly considered running home to simply feed my child au naturel, but that was just ridiculous.

So my cubicle was the clear winner.  I have a privacy screen to pull across the entrance (which I’d already been using for the occasional lunch break nap session) and an ocean wave simulator on my computer for added white noise. At first I tried playing music, but needing to avoid any potentially offensive or irritating musical genres, the more neutral ones weren’t quite cutting it in terms of sound masking, and I quickly tired from listening to the same carefully crafted playlist three times a day.  So there you go.  Now everyday (once in the morning, once on my lunch break, and once in the afternoon) I draw the screen, turn up the waves, bare my breasts and hope there’s not a fire.

The Pump Dump

Does your office have a pump room?  Do you know what I mean by that?  In my state, companies with nursing moms in their employ are required by law to provide a private space (not the bathroom) in which to express milk for their babies.  So the institution I work for has a room designated for pumping.  In theory this is great.  The sign on the door actually says “Nursing Mother’s Lounge” (fancy) and the door locks.  Honestly, that should be enough, but inside there’s also a cushy chair, a sink with soap and paper towels to wash your hands, some Anne Geddes style baby art on the walls (you know, to help with the transformation of what most likely used to be a utility closet), some pens (for writing the date on your collection bags), and a laminated page highlighting tips for successful pumping.  Really, the whole setup is very nice.  I feel respected, protected, and supported by my place of work.  Unfortunately, I just don’t think the room is working for me.

First of all,  the “lounge” (closet) is in another building.  Once inside this other building, in order to get to the room I have to walk through multiple doors, down multiple hallways, up multiple stairs (passing by multiple people, who I am convinced can tell what I’m doing there, three times a day/everyday).  Tack on all that extra travel time to how long it takes me to pump, and I end up being away from my desk for over half an hour (three times a day!).  As an hourly employee, any time spent not working over and above my protected breaks and lunch hour has to be made up somehow.  For me this would mean staying later instead of getting home to Hiccup and the Professor as soon as possible, which as much as I like my job is all I want to do once the clock strikes five.  Furthermore, once you find your way to this magical Room of Requirement (in this blog, Harry Potter references will not be explained, you’re simply expected to know what I’m talking about), you see that it’s wedged in a little corner right next to… a man’s office (if we both came out of our doors at the same time, we’d bump into each other).  While there is a loud fan in the lounge that I’m sure drowns out the sound of everyone’s pump motors, he most likely hears the fan and therefore knows (thanks to the sign) whenever a woman is in there milking herself like a cow (yes, I said that).  You know what? Bless him, because I’m sure no one consulted him before christening the closet next door with its new moniker; and the situation is most likely just as awkward for him as it is for all of us new mamas.  Whatever.

These are not my only issues though.  In addition to the cute pictures of other people’s babies on the wall, there is also a sign-up sheet and a clock.  You have to reserve the “lounge” for half hour time slots.  Apparently, the women here are a pretty fertile bunch, because the pump room is seeing more business these days than a West Coast zen kids’ swim class.  My first time there, I was a bit flustered (naturally) and did not make note of the time or sign-up sheet.  Well, tick tock, halfway through there was a knock at the door.  I panicked, spilled milk everywhere, let out a warbly “One second!,” cleaned up the milk, threw all my stuff in my bag, and then had to actually open the door and face this other mom upon whose own precious time I had infringed.  She was very nice about it.  She asked about my baby, explained a little better how the room worked, and even told me to let her know if I ever needed any hand-me-down baby clothes as her son was just a few sizes bigger than mine.  Really, that last part was downright saintly.  So I signed up for three slots, which I couldn’t help but notice was one more than everyone else had signed up for (am I doing something wrong here?), and got out of there!

It’s been a few weeks.  At first, it was working okay, but sometimes I get held up with a work issue and miss one of my reservations.  Sometimes the woman with the appointment before mine runs late (leaving me standing outside the room with my pump and my cooler hoping the man doesn’t show his face before I have a chance to get in).  Also, the fan in there is so loud, the noise scrambles my brain.  Basically, I’m neurotic and the whole scenario is stressing me out to the point that once I’m in there, I can’t actually express any milk.  It just won’t come.  If you know anything about milk production (human or otherwise), you know that’s a problem.  So I’m just going to have to find somewhere else to do this (not the bathroom).

Twelve Weeks, Five Bags, and a Baby

Not too long ago I returned to work after twelve weeks of maternity leave.  It’s funny, but prior to going on leave, whenever someone asked how much time I had off from work, I would always say “three months” with a big grin.  Three long, luxurious months (a quarter of a year, if you will).  Plenty of time to bond with my little squish and oh the projects that would finally get done! (play laugh track here).  Life seemed rosy with expectancy.  At some point along this crazy mama saga however, my perspective changed and the answer to that question became a still-grateful-but-nevertheless-subdued “twelve weeks.”  You see, twelve weeks turned out to be one week short of three full months.  I know because we’ve been taking those monthly birthday pics of Hiccup every month to the day since he was born (you know the ones with the little stickers that say 1 Month, 2 Months, etc), and we weren’t due to snap the three month pic until the week after I was back in the office.

Twelve weeks is still a lot and it’s more than many women receive so this is not a complaint; but what I would have given to have had just one more week!  One more week of snuggling.  One more week of not caring how many times I had to get up in the night, because we didn’t have to do anything but nap-nurse and watch Netflix the next day.  One more week of friends bringing over their babies (and tacos) and of not having to care that I hadn’t showered in… a while.  One more week of not worrying how my husband, the Professor, who is wonderful but who had zero baby experience going into this (and by experience I mean any exposure whatsoever), was going to do being the primary caregiver for our infant son part of the week.  One more week to bottle train, which I selfishly put off until the last minute causing our last few days at home together to be filled with tears (ours and the baby’s) and some angry yelling (again, both ours and the baby’s).  Hiccup did end up taking the bottle my first day back, by the way (with me out of sight and out of smell).  So scratch that last part (those last few days of hell were a small price to pay for all the awesome bonding time we had leading up to that point). One more week of not having to pump outside of the privacy of my home.  In short, my first day back came way too fast.  I didn’t feel like we were ready.

Feeling ready for something when a baby is involved I’m learning is a luxury though (like taking twelve weeks off from work with pay).  Getting out the door in the morning continues to be really difficult and not just emotionally.  It is physically difficult to get out the door, because being a working mom who’s trying to continue breastfeeding means taking so much stuff with me to the office that it looks like I’m headed to the airport.  Seriously, it takes exactly five bags worth of stuff for me to be away all day. There’s my purse (which these days could double as an overnight bag), work laptop, lunch bag (gotta save money where we can), breast pump (stylishly camouflaged to look like another purse), and a cooler in which to store my expressed milk (it has a bottle key hanging on the outside because it was actually designed to hold a twelve pack of beer – it’s my little private joke with myself).

All this being said, it has been good to be back these last few weeks.  Thankfully, I have coworkers who over the years have become friends (friends who have the good grace not to ask what’s in the cooler and who didn’t underestimate the positive impact of finding flowers and a giant cinnamon roll waiting for me on my desk upon return). I have a job that helps provide for my family, the opportunity to sometimes work from home, and a husband, who despite being blindsided by how much havoc one tiny human can wreak, is still totally willing and even excited to take on this frightening thing called parenthood with me.

I think it’s going to be okay.