Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I Hate About Pumping

People keep saying pumping is hard work. I've heard some women decide to wean, partly or completely, their babies from breastfeeding when they go back to work, because they don't know they could pump, or because their bodies don't respond to a pump with a let down / milk ejection, or because their workplace isn't, for any number of reasons, a conducive environment for pumping.

I definitely acknowledge I am coming to this from a place of privilege. Other than my usual white, North American, educated, able bodied, heterosexual, cisgendered, anglo privilege, I should also acknowledge that:
  1. I had loads of support in getting started breastfeeding. Sometimes maybe even a touch of peer pressure, but I could have resisted had I needed to, I think.
  2. I have an awesome job with a great employer and the most understanding supervisor you could ask for.
  3. I have an office with a door. I had to cover over a little clerestory window for privacy (irony of this you'll see later).
  4. I live in Washington DC where, if I didn't have my own office, my employer would need to provide me a clean private space in which to pump.
There are probably a half dozen other privileges I forgot about, but that's a good start.

So, as I think I've already covered, getting started breastfeeding was a bit bumpy. I had to pump from day four because the Baby Piranha had a tongue tie, which wasn't correctly identified as the cause of her latch problem until she was seven weeks old, despite several visits to an (expensive) IBCLC.

That, Dear Reader, was seven weeks of almost full time pumping. Almost no nursing in public for me, other than some comfort nursing, which was pretty much non-nutritive.

Then, in the same week, I went back to work and got BP's tongue clipped. And started just pumping while at work.

Up until then, I was using a fancy hospital grade pump which was almost silent and very effective. I hated pumping because I had to do it. I wanted to be breastfeeding without all this plastic in the way. While pumping at home, I pretty much always did the deed on the sofa in our apartment. Usually only the DH and BP were around, other than visiting grandpas. Of course I managed to figure the not latching was my fault, and when we got past that, I was delighted.

For work, I got myself a middle of the road good pump. It talks. It's hilarious. And it speaks both English and Spanish. That is, it makes sounds that almost sound like words. Quite often it sounds like it's saying por ahi, which more or less means over here.

I also bought a little electric single pump, the cheapest, and loudest of the lot. In breastpump noise, you get less if you pay more, it appears. I bought it for home use after returning the really nice hospital grade one. As the BP and I get the supply and demand in better sync, I'm using it less and less.

So three times a day, five-ish days a week, I close my door to my office, pull my gear out of the little fridge I bought to store my stuff in, and strap on the gear, and pump. I can't talk on the phone because it's such a chatty pump. I've read some pumping mamas will stick the noisy end of the pump in a drawer to muffle the noise and talk on the phone while pumping. Unfortunately my office furniture arrangement doesn't allow for that. While pumping, I'm entirely available by instant message, which my coworkers and I use heavily anyway.

A couple of times, people have knocked on the door. I feel like saying "unless the building's burning down, please go away!" but what I've said is "please come back later!"

So, aside from the whole I have to pump because I can't be with my baby full time like I'd like to be, I hate pumping because... I have to close the door to do it! It's such a weird feeling. The only time I ever close my door with my inside my office is to pump, feed the baby if she's visiting, or change my clothes. Oh, of course, also for private meetings that I don't want overheard. But that's pretty infrequent, to be honest.

When I'm closing the door, I feel like I'm doing something naughty or shameful. I wish I didn't feel that way. I'm not sure I want to be pumping in public - it's a visually weird thing and guaranteed to make folks uncomfortable (especially since breastfeeding itself seems to make people so uncomfortable). But it'd be nice if I could maybe get over the naughty feeling myself. I think part of my mind is wondering what my coworkers are thinking about all this closing of my door (we tend to be a very open door office... people keep saying they thought I wasn't in the office when I had my door closed).

I have a cutesy doorknob sign that says something like "Do Not Disturb, Mom Working" and a cartoon picture of a pumping mama talking on the phone. Maybe I should start using it to lighten the goofy feeling I have about it?

I really don't hate pumping. I'm glad I can do it. I'm lucky I can do it. How about you?

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