The first week of nursing Henry was hard. I was so stressed out about it that I would break out into a sweat. There I was holding Henry, trying to establish a latch, sweating, and crying! It was an ugly and frustrating sight. Within 72 hours, I was convinced it was not going to work and that my little baby was belligerently opposed to the whole nursing experience as he thrashed about and beat his little tight fists against me. I had never felt so completely powerless and clueless. And, talk about feeling like a failure. While no one was judging me and no one was expecting me to nurse, the pressure to do it and do it perfectly felt real. In the end, the only thing that really mattered was getting food into the little guy. He needed his most basic need met either with a bottle or breast. It was hard to be patient with myself. I kept thinking this is supposed to be natural. If so, why was I completely mystified by the whole process and feeling like a “bad” mom for not being able to do it. It took a LONG time until I felt “comfortable” breastfeeding and weeks before I would venture out around meal time with Henry. In some ways, it felt harder than labor because at least with the labor my body had no choice, I was just there for the ride. When it came to the breastfeeding, it somehow felt like I should be able to control this process more….
Despite these early challenges, we stuck with it! Henry and I now have a beautiful and easy nursing relationship and I am so incredibly thankful for being in this spot right now. Of course, there are so many fears that nag at me though. My biggest being: will I be able to keep up with his growing appetite. I am starting to worry that Henry will out pace what I can pump for him at school. Obviously this stress is counter-productive to the whole “making milk” process but it is a real and present concern. At the hospital, the lactation consultants always seemed to encourage a relaxed approach to breast feeding: relax and the baby will latch, relax and you won’t overheat, relax and you will make milk. So I just need to heed their advice.
Now that I am back to work Henry takes about 18oz of milk from 7AM-4:30PM. This means I have a second job of pumping: Melissa Pumper Extraordinaire. After waking up and tackling the morning “routine” which isn’t quite routine at all, I drive frantically to school in order to get into work with enough time to pump before classes. Ideally this is by 7:30AM. Then it is back to the pumping room around 10AM, 11:40AM, and 3PM. It is a busy day of dressing and undressing as quickly as possible! When I first started this whole pumping-at-work dance, I felt very clumsy. I always wore the wrong thing: dresses without zippers up the back, pencil skirts, and necklaces. All of these items while fashionable slowed me down and assured me of more complicated dressing and undressing within my 10 minutes constraint. Then there was the issue of just knowing how to set up and take down the system. I realized shortly that since I am not currently sharing the pumping room with another teacher, I might as well just set-up shop and leave it until the end of the day. Then there was the issue of storage: Do I pump into multiple small bottles that fit into my carry tote or two big bottles that don’t fit into my carry tote but would keep me from screwing the pump tops on and off all day long? Lastly, there was the issue of learning my schedule. At home all day, Henry dictated the schedule and it was mindless. Now, I have to juggle classes, student meetings, teacher meetings, special schedules, and fitting in the fastest lunches just to accommodate the pumping that needs to get done in order to ensure Henry’s food source for tomorrow. This adds an intense amount of stress to the day. But sometimes, some days, I feel like I have it under control.
The hardest part about pumping at work isn’t the mechanics of it all. That is a learned skill that over time is becoming easier to manage. The challenge that I face each day is the isolation. Of course, I am lucky to have a clean and comfortable designated space for pumping, but it is isolating to go and use that space. And, so far as the temperatures have been cold most mornings but then the day heats up, the space has not had regular heat which also means it is a bit cold right now (although this will undoubtedly change once the heat is turned on more regularly to address the falling temperatures outside). But back to the isolation. Part of my job that I love is having the opportunity to spend time with my colleagues during the “down time” in the school schedule. They are a pretty dynamic group of men and women but my pumping schedule cuts into part and sometimes all of these “down times.” As a result, I feel at times outside of the community. Yes, this is temporary and yes I am doing the whole pump at work piece out of choice but it still is tough. While I am getting more and more accustomed to my daily schedule to accommodate the pumping that needs to be done, a part of me remains saddened by it. The consolation: (a) knowing Henry is having the best chance of being EBF (exclusively breast feed) and (b) knowing that I am the fastest dresser this side of the Mississippi!