Out of Sight, Still in Mind

Mona Hickey

Posted By: Mona Hickey

I went back to work at eight weeks. The biggest fear I have is that my milk is going to dry up. I can't stress out because it zaps milk supply! How do I keep zen about something I have become obsessed with?

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!"

I wasn't told who these people were but it was discomforting enough for me to realize that in order for me to give a better perception of what I'm really doing during the times I'm away from my desk, I need to use the same office system of hearsay and speculation to my advantage. Perception is reality for a lot of people and with budget cuts and people being let go, I'm afraid of the ire brewing because someone thinks I'm gone goofing off.

Even though I'm only shutting the door or gone for up to twenty minutes at a time, some people have been filling in the blanks with ideas of their own. I'm probably playing Sudoku! Or watching funny cat videos on YouTube! Or eating an uncomfortably long sandwich with both hands! Or sleeping under my desk! Not preparing sustenance for my growing baby!

When I was in college, I worked in an office and would bring a granola bar every day to eat it at my desk. However, it seemed that whenever this one executive breezed by me, my mouth was full of granola, rendering me unable to even say hello and too embarrassed to make eye contact since my mouth was busy crunching away. I'm sure this was why this executive called me, "Gina" or "Monica," I never saw her when I had a mouth clear enough to correct her. Now I have a more serious misunderstanding at hand.

I slip into water cooler conversations and random deskside chats that my baby is almost six months old, I'm still breastfeeding him at home and pumping at the office. That way, if someone asks, "Where is she?" there might be another voice that will pipe back that I'm pumping or that I'm in the ladies room and that alone will be enough to satisfy curious minds. Or at least someone will say that I'll be right back and I haven't ducked out for the day.

I work hard enough during the times when I am visible that I shouldn't worry, but I still do. I care enough about my job to at least attempt this, even at the risk that it might not work at all. The people who were raising questions about my whereabouts might still be too clueless to figure out what a full-time working and nursing mom might be doing behind closed doors three times a day (hint: NOT SUDOKU). But for now, I love the way my voice carries through the office when I announce, "IT'S TIME TO PUMP!"

9:17am on Monday November 22
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