Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pump Up The Jams-Pump It Up!

Pumping.   I have a very complex, long history with pumping as I am sure every mother that has ever hooked her breasts up to this loathe device probably does.   It all started when the twins were born about nine years ago now.   I did not anticipate the relationship that I would eventually develop with pumping when I was pregnant with them.   Yes, I knew that I would maybe pump here or there, but not like it ended up.  If you have read any of my other blogs, you know that the twins were born premature (32 weeks) and were in the NICU for a month before coming home.   In my dream world of mothering that I had long established during my turbulent pregnancy, I saw visions of plump babies happily nursing away with no thoughts of low milk supply or poor latching.   Instead, what I had were two 3 pound babes in incubators getting my breastmilk through a tube in their nose.  Going from not breast feeding ever to hooking my nipples up to a hospital grade pump while totally stressed out about the viability of my children really took a toll on me emotionally and physically.   I had huge blisters on both nipples that needed ice packs to make it through to the next pumping session where the said huge blisters on both nipples would pop open and hurt like a motherfucker.   The pump itself was an unfinished metal contraption bolted down to a table not unlike something you would see underneath the hood of a car or in some torture chamber somewhere.   The mother sits in a cracked, vinyl chair and hooks up her own sterile supplies.   The decor is sparse with a vase of dusty, fake flowers and perhaps a print on the wall of a baby in a duck costume.   The NICU staff gives you a polaroid picture of your baby(ies) to stare at while pumping so that you may envision yourself with them, wrapped in their smell and warmth to help let your milk down.   My heart was heavy and yet my breasts were not.
Way more flow than I had.

 I felt like I had failed.   I kept at it with them (the babes and the breasts) and did eventually get a working routine down between visits with the lactation consultants and kangaroo care with my twinlettes.   I felt determined to make breastfeeding work.   I can happily say that once the babes were home, I successfully nursed both until close to 18 months of age.  I was a stay-at-home mom with them so the pump rarely, if ever came into play from there on out.

With Indra, it was never a question.   She was a planned homebirth and a whole lot more chill than a high-risk, twin pregnancy.   I nursed her within moments of her arrival and had a sweet breastfeeding relationship.   Going back to work with the pump in tow sucked, to say the least.   I had no experience leaving a baby at three or four months and supplying their food while away.  I did not know what to expect.   The place I worked at the time was a highly corporate structure of a company with policies and procedures for EVERYTHING except breastfeeding mothers.   I needed to obtain a doctors note to use my pump as a fucking prescription and to make the point that pumping was not a "break time" for me.
Your policies can suck it, k?

  So, they gave me a key to a dank and freezing locker room of sorts and any woman with a key could come in any time.   There was one skinny bench placed perpendicular to the wall on which I would sit, a small sink and mirror, a shower (strange), and a few rows of abandoned lockers.   This was before the days of pumping bras (at least that I knew of) so I would hold the breast shields to both breasts with my forearm and eat my lunch with the other hand while balancing my book on my thigh.   It was so freaking freezing in there that I would need to bring a sweater down to the locker room with me even in the dog-days of summer to wrap around me or else my milk would not let down.  I am sure I looked like some sort of Baba-Yaga apparition sitting there with my machine going "er-er, er-er, er-er."  These pumping sessions would last about twenty minutes from set up to clean up and then I would have my actual break.   I want to put in a bit of a plug here for mothers that feel like "well, my employer lets me pump at work so I don't really feel right asking for another break" and on the flip side the employer seeing dollar signs fly out the window when a mother goes to pump or takes a break; those breaks for me were sanity savers and made me a lot more efficient and happy at my job.  I could sit with my co-workers in the break room and chat, I could go for a walk, I could go get something out of the vending machine.... really that time was for me.   Pumping was not for me.  It is for my baby.   Isolating myself in a freezing cold, barren locker room for twenty minutes was not a thrill, believe me.   I pumped for Indra for about a year until she moved on to eating mostly solid foods.   When done, I sold my pump and its gazillions of attachments plus extra supplies on CL to some super lucky lady for $30.   She got a hell of a deal on me thinking I would never put my breasts in that torture chamber again.   Well, I was wrong.

Sparreaux.   I did not even think about getting a pump prior to Sparreaux's delivery.   I knew I had about three months maternity leave and I did not really see why I would need a pump right away.   Well, long story short- the day following her birth, my breasts were fucking boulders.   Absolutely bulging with milk that my newborn baby was not up to the task of taking down.   By the time I realized by dilemma, the medical supply store was fifteen minutes away from closing for the weekend.   I called them in tears begging them to wait for Justin who was flying up there, the valiant breastfeeding advocate he is to procure a pump for me.   I tearfully tried to hand express any milk I could but seriously, my breasts were so full that my nipples were virtually flat!   Argh!
I probably would have killed to use this.   Looks almost steam punk.

  So, when the pump came I was never so glad to see that machine in my whole life.   I hooked up to it with a bliss never before experienced in my life.  Just to round out this tale of desperation: I did get about 6 ounces out of each breast.  Damn!   With Sparreaux, I never had a concern about low supply.  My boobs were on hyper-mode.   I was pumping and nursing her every day while stock piling breastmilk in the freezer.   By the time my maternity leave was up, I probably had close to 240 ounces of liquid gold to spare.

Returning to work was much better this time.   I was at a new job in a small office with a boss who is very family-focused and friendly to breastfeeding moms and our needs.   However, I did mention we are a small office so therefore there really is not a place to pump so it was in the bathroom with me.   Given the change in circumstances and how supported I felt in helping my babe get the best food, I did not mind.   It was super gross to go in there if someone had just taken a dump or something but other than that, it was not a bad deal.   We have a little bench in there to hang out on and we ran a cord under the door to plug in my pump.   Thanks to a co-workers absolute dismay that I did not know what a pumping bra was and demanded that I get one like right fucking now, I was able to pump hands-free.
Before the pumping bra.   See the thrill on my face?  No?  Oh yeah, it's not there!
Me, after the pumping bra.   See how all of my stretch marks disappeared too?  That is how amazing this thing is!       *Disclaimer: this is not really me.

  My job is a busy one and I have a ton of responsibilities and I felt like I was really not utilizing my time very well by being shut up in a bathroom so I had the genius idea of putting up a curtain at my desk so I could pump and work at the same time.
With a pumping bra anything is possible.   I would totally NOT rake with a pump.

You can even stand around drinking alcohol and looking disinterested in a brick-walled studio apartment.

  I know, I know what you are thinking!   Wait!  Didn't I just say that it is important for a woman to take a break for herself and pump?!  Yup, I did say that and I still stand by it.   What I like about the set up I have now is if I have something time-sensitive to attend to, I can work at it and not stress out about it but I do not necessarily need to.  My job is not structure-ridden.  I can take a break whenever I want and take care of whatever needs I may have at any time but the work still needs to get done.   It is a sort of "just make sure it's done by the end of the day" sort of deal.   In my previous job where even taking a two-minute bathroom break was monitored and counted against your "stats", I needed that me time otherwise I probably would have either killed someone or had a serious mental-health break down.  So, yes, in my tiny office all of my co-workers get to sit and listen to the "er-er, er-er, er-er" sound of my breast pump from behind my sage green curtain and they couldn't care less.   I have a pretty progressive little company I work for and I am uber grateful for their support and lighthearted approach to my parenting needs.
My job is pro-breastfeeding!!
  Sparreaux is now nine months old so I am sure the pumping will begin to wane soon and truth be told, I am actually a little remiss to let it go.   Pumping is certainly not like a party for your boobs or anything and I do not look forward to it but in doing this routine everyday, I know I am making a contribution to my baby's health and well-being.   Even when she is away from me, we are connected through my milk.   I know so many ladies who ditch their breastfeeding efforts once going back to work comes into play and I must say, I can understand, it is not the most ideal thing to be exposing your breasts in a public place and drawing milk out of them with a machine that does not even get the concept of discreet.  But really ladies, it is worth it.   So, I will continue to pump up the jams from behind my curtain while my co-workers crack jokes about what it sounds like my pump is saying to them (and that listening to Florence + The Machine is going to make my milk curdle) and relish in the fact that I am almost done and all that I have done in the name of breastfeeding.

Pumping milk for your baby makes you a rad mom!

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