Mona: Staying Balanced While Pumping at Work
Mona's Breastfeeding Blog
Mona's breastfeeding blog chronicles her breastfeeding journey as she returned to work when her baby was only eight weeks old. The blog posts follow her as she learns how to pump at work, overcomes supply issues, finds a breastfeeding friendly daycare, and pumping politics in the workplace.
Mona works and lives in beautiful Seattle
with her two sons. Her biggest fear when returning to work was not being able to breastfeed or pump with enough frequency that she would losing her supply - which she successfully overcame.
Read Mona's Full Bio >
I'm reading this book about management strategy and it says to look at the bright spots, what small glints of success are in the work you do. The authors also explained that laziness is often a disguise for exhaustion and boy, oh boy am I exhausted! So exhausted that I melt into the couch and exert only enough energy to press the buttons on the remote control, or enough energy to open my mouth and tell my four-year-old to find the remote for me.12:00pm on Monday January 31
There's an opportunity I was offered a few weeks ago to travel out of town for business. Normally, I would jump at the opportunity because business travel marries my love for my work with my love for getting out of mom duty! My previous trips were taken before I had my second child and when my first son was already weaned. So now I have to consider if the time away from nursing my son at night and pumping on the road is worth it.12:00pm on Monday January 24
I have had my personal website since 1999 when I was in high school and needed an outlet for my obtuse thoughts and general teenage malaise. It wasn't until 2004 when I was in college that I started actively blogging again, chronicling my life as a student, then graduate, then mom and now a frazzled woman who is trying to have enough time in the morning to eat properly and not just rushing out the door scarfing down some turkey bacon that was only fried on one side because I didn't have enough time to flip it over.12:00pm on Monday January 17
I grew up on a Catholic island where there were two things to be ashamed of: Everything and Everything About Our Bodies. I was the only eight-year-old wearing a white cotton half-slip under her dress and a dab of Chanel No. 5 perfume behind the ears -- "In case the priest kisses you!" my mom said. I swam with a t-shirt over my bathing suit. The nuns in school made us kneel on the ground and if our skirts didn't touch the floor (because we rolled up the waistband), we were punished.2:14pm on Monday January 10
For a few days a week, I get to pump alone in an office. I have the freedom to set my gear on a larger table, prepare the bottle, shields, tube and motor for my daily pumping sessions. I have been trying to multi-task during these times as if I'm trying to go for Valedictorian of Working, Breastfeeding Mothers, Class of 2010. I can have the pump whirring away while I type out emails. I can set the motor at the other side of my desk so I can take a quick phone call. When I first returned to work, I thought I could just read or relax, but often, I'm so pressed to finish deadlines that I worry about wasting that time, even if it's perfectly acceptable to say, I need a moment. So I pump and type, pump and email, pump and file, pump and work.1:39pm on Monday January 3
When I had my first son, I had just finished college. I graduated with distinction, earned a high GPA and was floating on a smartypants cloud. So naturally I thought motherhood would be like another class I would master, an honors course for people who dominate Jeopardy categories and can tell you an author's real name. I had applied the same academic drive and dedication to some of my pre-parenthood preparation like reading phonebook-thick books on babycare and attending classes. Somehow I didn't think I needed to prepare myself for breastfeeding, that it would be a simple enough equation: baby + boob.1:29pm on Monday December 27
On the days when I share an office, I tell my co-worker that I'm going to pump and she shuts and locks her door. Since our desks are separated by a large gray, partition wall, the only way she knows that I'm pumping is the loud whirring that fills the room. We both have a door that opens to our sides of the room, so basically there are two offices in one space. One day, I had started pumping without announcing it to her and she left her side of the room and opened the door. Instead of yelling to her a loud, "HEY HEY HEY!" (the cry often heard in my house when my son thinks it's okay to pour water outside the bathtub), I just continued to pump. When she returned and realized that I had been pumping the entire time, she said, "I"m sorry! I didn't mean to leave the door unlocked!"11:07am on Monday December 20
Last weekend, we had a pretty severe car accident. A large truck fishtailed into our lane, sending us into another car. Luckily, everyone was okay, including my two kids who were with me and the other two drivers involved. It wasn't our fault and the guy who hit me had insurance so soon (knock on wood, gently!) we will have our car replaced since the damages. Our car seats are scrapped. Our car cannot be driven. But none of us were hurt and that's the most fortunate part.12:53pm on Monday December 13
I was not breastfed. Since I was a child, my mother told me about the story of my birth — one rife with complications and dread. She was 40 years old, giving birth on a tiny tropical island with a midwife who sealed her fate and mine with this sentence: "You cannot breastfeed because you have inverted nipples."11:43am on Monday December 6
In October, I took four days of sick leave to cover the plague that fell over my house. For two days, my boys had pinkeye and then two other days my poor baby had an ear infection. Because my bosses are understanding (and awesome) enough to allow for workplace flexibility, I decided to stay home with them. It threw a wrench into my normal schedule. Instead of being at the computer or on the phone or sifting through paper piles, I was at home, attending to the needs of two sniffly boys.4:17pm on Monday November 29
I've taken a different stance lately toward my pumping: broadcast it to as many people as possible. But it's not like I have a bullhorn and I'm bleating into the mouthpiece: "Hello fellow colleagues! On the agenda today: MY ENGORGED BREASTS!"
I heard through the office grapevine that there had been some questions about where I am during the day. Apparently some people had come looking for me, but only came during my scheduled pumping sessions. This meant that when my office door was closed because I was pumping behind it or when I was pumping in another space, it looked like I had gone AWOL, leaving them to ask, "Where is she?" or worse proclaim to others, "She's NEVER here!"9:17am on Monday November 22
I don't want boob implants. I want boob transplants. I want to switch out my breasts for these women who have no issues with their milk supply. They have symmetric orbs that gush out enough breastmilk that not only feed their babies, they could also quell a rabid, pitchfork-wielding pillaging mob or fend off a bear attack. These women are fortunate. Their hair glitters in the sun. Their skin is smooth and blemish free. They never need make-up and their stockings never run. They often say, "Oh! I am so full! I shouldn't have finished that rice cake!"3:29pm on Monday November 15
Last week, my husband and I received a huge sucker punch: we had only two days to find another daycare for our children. Our daycare wasn't in the Seattle School District limits so our older son, who would be attending a special preschool for his speech delay, wouldn't be able to receive transportation and since our provider didn't provide transportation, we needed to find another daycare for both a child and an infant ASAP. No pressure!3:30pm on Monday November 8
There's been some talk at work about moving offices, physically moving our staff into another building. This is not my favorite topic to discuss at my job. I love talking about where to eat (Indian buffet) or what I plan to do during three-day-weekends (sleep, obviously). But the idea of having to move my entire office, computer, files, phone, etc. makes me anxious. It not only means I have to reconfigure where I get the actual work done, but the bigger question is: where will I pump?4:16pm on Monday November 1
I had a few setbacks this week in my pumping schedule. There were too many meetings, calls to make, emails to return. There were days when I had a choice whether to leave early enough to battle downtown Seattle traffic so I could pick up my kids before the daycare closed, or have a late afternoon pumping session and risk not arriving at the daycare at closing and having to call them, ONCE AGAIN, that I would be late.4:34pm on Monday October 25
One of my saving graces about being a full-time working mom with two kids is that I'm not the only breastfeeding mama in my office. My co-worker gave birth about five months before I did. Our pregnancies overlapped as did our maternity leave time. And now, I have someone nearby who just gets it, someone who is mirroring the life of raising two young children, working and breastfeeding.12:00pm on Monday October 18
This week I cried over spilled milk. Well, it wasn't crying, it was more a grimace. I grimaced over spilled milk. And the milk hadn't spilled, exactly, but rather leaked through my breast pad and through my shirt.
I was on a phone call and I hadn't pumped. I expected that I would have to pump right after the call, but it ran long. There were topics that needed to be discussed, issues that needed to be addressed. But what was done was done. My pumping schedule was thrown off and there I was, at my desk where I casually brushed my forearm across my chest—a trick I use to measure any dampness—and suddenly I knew what was happening to my body.9:26am on Wednesday October 13
The other week, I was leaving my desk to pump in the ladies room. I was carrying the large bag with my breast pump inside, reading for my afternoon pump session when one of my male co-workers looked at me and said, "Oh, are you heading out? Beer-thirty?"
I know what he must have seen. A woman with her bag walking out the door, the clock above signaling, "Hey, who wants an early afternoon? It's Beer-Thirty somewhere!"
If this co-worker had been a woman, I might have felt more at ease to say, "I'm just going to pump, Sistah Friend." But he was a man with whom our lengthiest conversations have been at the copy machine while we both tried to figure out why it was printing on 11x17 inch paper. I hadn't talked to him at all about my baby, except for the time he pointed to my large belly and said, "Congratulations," to which I responded, "Thanks."
I was clueless as to how to answer such a light inquiry. Telling him I was going to pump would be more information than he wanted, like when someone asks how's it going and you answer with how your mother is driving you crazy because she is now lactose intolerant and wants all the cheese removed from your house during her next visit. You should have just said, "I'm fine! Everything's peachy keen!"
While I know that many of my co-workers are well-meaning, it's an office and gossip can fester and spread. It can only take one uninformed person to mention how many times I'm away from my desk to cause others to question why I'm so cavalier with breaks and for the "Who does this lady think she is?" line of questioning to begin.
I'm in a weird in-between area. I'm not embarrassed by breastfeeding or pumping. I want to declare that as an employee I need and deserve the space and time to pump so I can be a functioning and contributing colleague. At the same time, I don't want to discuss these intricacies with just anyone. I just spent 41 weeks with a large pregnant belly, an obvious physical sign that announced, "Hey! I had sex to get this way!" Plus during those weeks, I had to field questions from people who felt they had access to my decisions on childcare and even asked me point blank if I was going to have a vaginal delivery. Take me out to dinner before you begin on the nether regions investigation! I'm a lady!
Sometimes I wonder about my male co-workers. I can understand that the younger ones might not have had the same exposure to the challenges of a breastfeeding working woman, but what about the men with wives and children? Surely the conversation must have been raised at some point. Did their wives, partners, girlfriends, etc. never mention the subject at all? Even if there were no breastfeeding woes to be had and it was all triumph, did they never say to these men, "My breast pump works/doesn't work/is a superhero"? Maybe they didn't listen, they tuned out any boob-related conversations.
I didn't ramble on about my breastfeeding to him. Instead I just laughed, told him I was headed to the ladies. "Beer-thirty? Pa-shaa! I wish."
And I did wish. Although it was for a few other things.1:12pm on Monday October 4
I decided a few weeks ago to upgrade my breast pump. There wasn't anything specifically wrong with the one I was using. It was a workhorse, a champion motor that did exactly what it was supposed to do. However, it was heavy and was proving to be difficult to ferry to and from work, especially since I also carry another bag with my laptop, purse, lunch and paperwork. Trying to tetris two bags on my lap on a crowded bus was wearing on me.12:00pm on Monday September 27
When I gave birth to my first son, I was so worried about how other people would respond to my breastfeeding in public. I bought a nursing cover and stuffed extra blankets into the diaper bag and wore billowy shirts whenever we went out. I breastfed in bathrooms, in my car, in fitting rooms – basically away from the public eye. I was 23 and had no real idea of how I wanted to breastfeed. I was just graduating from college and had no real guidance about how to breastfeed. So I succumbed. If I went to a party, I breastfed in another room. I let other people dictate how I was going to nurse my son.12:05pm on Monday September 20
Does it make me a weirdo to say that I love breastfeeding? Well, even with that risk, I would walk in a I Love Breastfeeding parade, raise a flag in front of my house and get a forehead tattoo, declaring that I love nursing. Okay, maybe not a forehead tattoo. I'd be afraid that the tattoo artist would misspell my request and I'd be stuck with, "I love to beastfeed." (That would be hard to explain at family gatherings and would also make first impressions very awkward.)10:09am on Monday September 13
I will admit: I have milk envy. I envy women in moms groups who gloat over their bountiful breastmilk storages or how they fill eight ounces during pumping sessions. These women have fat-cheeked babies who enter into a milk coma after their mothers feed them. Maybe these women hold their breasts, aim and use the tables at their playdates to spell out their names in breastmilk because they just have so gosh darned much of it! Or they visit drought-stricken areas in California to douse fires with their oversupply!3:55pm on Tuesday September 7
I had planned on a short maternity leave, one of only eight weeks. My work does not provide paid leave, so I had rolled together all the vacation days and sick days together and was left with a paltry amount. There was nothing I could do about it without harming my family financially, so an eight-week maternity leave is what I requested. What I had not expected or included in my great postpartum plan was how I was going to keep integrate pumping into my routine once my leave ended and I headed back to the office. It was easy to breastfeed on demand because I was at home, but at work, it proved to be more challenging.10:58am on Tuesday August 3