I started this whole pumping journey 8 years ago when my first son was born. Let me start out by saying that each time I pumped for my kids, I had a slightly different experience, but reflecting back on all three times I am here to say…it sucks.
Literally and figuratively.
Like a lot of moms out there, I had to pump during the workday in order to keep my supply up for my baby that was either at daycare or with a caretaker while I was at work.
The first time around, I was a young mom working in a restaurant as a manager. This meant 10 hours (at least) away from my newborn baby. Wrapping my brain around how many times and how many ounces I would actually have to pump during each shift was enough to drive me insane, but let’s talk about the pumping conditions that I had to deal with.
These were before the days of employers paying attention to breastfeeding mothers and mothers in general in the workplace. Laws were not in place to protect moms that needed privacy and frankly, I was too young and naive to know that I should have stood up for myself. This led me to pump my precious liquid gold inside a public restroom stall. Yep. I said it. How gross. How violating. How invasive. I can vividly remember the feeling, the tears, and the embarrassment. I would sanitize things the best I could, but it never felt clean.
Let me paint the picture for you really quick. A 23-year old woman, awkwardly sitting on the toilet, fumbling with pump parts, sanitizing the area, and trying to balance the pump while trying to remain quiet. You see, there were many times during a busy shift that guests would come in, giggle and say things like, “What’s that noise?” The now strong and independent woman that I am would have proudly shouted, “Just me, in here pumping milk for my baby!” but instead, I was left to sit alone in my own shame and tears trying to navigate this unfamiliar territory. Alone. Gosh, how sad did I sound? After all, I was surrounded by male co-workers and never felt quite comfortable enough to speak up.
I learned a lot in motherhood over the next few years. After my pumping journey was over with my first, I vowed never to do that again. Not the pumping part, but the hiding part. I was never again going to hide the fact that I had to pump milk for my baby. I learned about what I could have and should have done. For example, that taking a required break every hour to pump for my baby was my legal right. And having to do so in public restroom was unacceptable. I should have stood my ground and demanded a private area, like a locked door in the office or even gone out to my car for my privacy.
Fast forward to baby #2. Different company, different role, different mindset. I went back to work after 8 weeks again, so I found myself with the same “load” of pumping to be done during the day. Shifts weren’t as long, and I wasn’t required to pump in a public bathroom. I had an office and often went out to my car while visiting sites. But there were some reasons that still led me to the conclusion that PUMPING SUCKS.
My office had windows, which meant sometimes male coworkers and bosses walking by, or even in on me, while pumping. This was awkward and uncomfortable, no matter how confident I was this time around. Pumping in my car was better than the restroom, but often, the summer would get hot and stuffy no matter how high the AC was cranked. I had to take so many frequent breaks that would sometimes interrupt meetings or things that I just could not pull away from. This left me either engorged or frustrated, and most of time… it was both.
By the time I had my third kid, my pumping went from necessary to just for date nights and random time away. Since I was no longer a mom that worked outside of the house, the stress and pressure came off of me, but the feeling of how much it sucks did not. Getting up in the middle of the night for extra pumping sessions to build a supply up was enough to send a sleep-deprived mama over the edge. I chilled out on this a little, and decided to take the pressure off of myself the third time around.
Throughout my pumping journey, I will never forget the trials, the hard work, and the things that I learned. I will always have a special place in my heart for working and pumping mamas across the world. It’s not always easy and it may SUCK, but you can do it!! Don’t forget to speak up and advocate for yourself and your fellow mamas out there.