So you read the title, that’s what this blog is about. Breast milk. I gave birth to my daughter three months ago and like a lot of mothers I chose to breastfeed. There were complications with my first kiddo, so I was unable to breastfeed him, so I feel lucky to be able to do this for her. But I had to come back to work at eight weeks, so of course, out came the breast pump.
Now all the websites give you ‘helpful’ information on how to pump milk at work. But they seem to neglect the fact that pumping can take on average twenty minutes. My baby girl takes about three bottles while I am away from her, so that means I have to pump three bottles worth at work. That is a solid twenty minutes, three times a day. So what, I don’t get a lunch break? No way, I am salary, so I just take ‘long’ bathroom breaks. I am fairly certain that everyone I work with thinks I have some sort of bladder issue.
My mother keeps telling me to tell my boss. Bless her. She has worked many jobs for many kinds of bosses, but she has never worked in a male dominated industry. There is one other woman in my office. No one else has children, just me. So it is a safe bet that discussing my mammaries was not going to bode well for me. Then I really would lose my lunch break. So I pump in secret.
I am really bad at keeping secrets, though. So I have my breast pump bag and two other zebra striped insulated lunch bags for all the parts and bottles. They sit on my desk. It is basically become the zebra in the room. The poor new guy asked me as I am putting my bag of bottles in the fridge if that was my lunch. “no, it’s my daughter’s lunch”, to which he naively replies, “yeah, I like to do some grocery shopping on my lunch break sometimes.” That is why I cannot discuss breast milk in the office, ya’ll.
I do wish I did have a better environment for it, though. The only bathroom with a fan to drown out the sound of the pump is upstairs, and there is no sink. I have to walk out to the little open kitchenette area to wash the parts. That is fun, when you are trying to keep a secret. Sometimes when someone goes to the copier I will busy myself filling a water bottle, or washing someone’s dirty dishes left in the community sink. If they take a really long time, I go over to the supply closet and pretend I am looking for some elusive supply that seemingly hidden. When they leave, I hurriedly wash all the parts and retreat silently to my desk. I even step lightly as if they can’t see me if they look out their office doors. It is ridiculous.
But standing inside the dirty bathroom, just pumping, for twenty minutes is the worst part. I have constant anxiety about someone banging on the door and demanding to know why I have been in there so long. Stress is bad for milk production, so I probably stand there even longer trying to get a bottle full. I can hear their footsteps outside too, going to the microwave and coffee maker, and I hear them talking about other things, but I imagine they are all nodding towards the bathroom door, mouthing things about me pumping milk in the bathroom and how gross it is and how I should quit because the engineering profession is not conducive for employees with children.
But even as I sweat anxiously in the bathroom I have never been more determined to see something through. I am terrible at follow through. But this is for my baby. It is the ONLY thing she has to eat. So I push through and as small and basic a thing as it is, it makes me feel accomplished for the day. So that’s that, now I am off to, er, ‘use’ the bathroom.