My first day back at work after 13 weeks at home with my daughter, I headed into the office wearing nicer clothes and more make-up than I had in four months. I had the crying situation under control after a brief outburst at daycare drop-off. I had my pumping bag all ready to go. I could do this.
I didn’t even make it to lunch before texting my best friend an S.O.S.: “Pumping at work–SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.”
During my first session, my thought stream went something like this:
- Wow, my outfit choice leaves a lot to be desired in terms of accessibility. And in related news, I really hope the lock on this door works.
- I’ve never pumped in place of a feeding. I wonder how much I will get. I literally have no idea.
- This pump is really loud. There’s no way people can’t hear this right now.
- Milk is getting EVERYWHERE. Why didn’t I bring a towel or some baby wipes with me?
- I probably need to go order everything I can find on Amazon to make this process easier, because while I understand the mechanics of pumping, I am realizing at this very moment that I’m woefully unprepared to juggle doing it three times a day. In a professional setting. Hurriedly. While wearing dress clothes.
- How many ounces should Lyra be getting per feeding at this age? Should I freeze this milk right now or just stash it in the fridge? Will freezing it on a regular basis affect the nutritional content of the milk? I really need a hands-free pumping bra so I can Google this stuff while I’m pumping. Add that to the list of my gigantic Amazon order.
- Huh. So nipples are kind of like a circular sprinkler. This whole lactation thing is such a trip. I’m really going to strain my neck if I continue staring down like this. But I can’t look away.
- I really, really miss my baby girl. Just don’t picture her adorable little face and maybe you can hold it together.
- Wait, I think I have a meeting at 2:30 and another meeting at 3:00. When will I pump? I can’t start falling behind on the very first day! But how do I bring up my need to pump?
- Okay, I’m pretty sure this is all the milk I’m getting. I sure hope this is enough.
- Why is this drip stain not wiping out from my top? How am I just now realizing that breast milk, even a few drips, permanently stains clothing? Oh, right–I’ve been wearing yoga pants for the last three months.
- Do I need to go wash these pump parts immediately? Or just stick them in the fridge? Or would they be okay in my cooler bag for a couple hours?
- I need a MUCH bigger breakfast. And a well-stocked snack drawer. Am I delirious because of hunger, or is my loopiness more related to the five hours of poor sleep I got last night?
- I have to repeat this whole process two more times today alone? I think I’ve been in here for like 30 minutes. How am I going to get anything done? I really, really need that hands-free bra.
- Alright, guess I’m going to pack up all my stuff and walk out of this room all casual, pretending everyone doesn’t know I was just in here using an electric device to squeeze milk from my nipples.
Thankfully, within that first week, I had stocked my pumping bag with essentials (pro tip: two clean hand towels and a hands-free pumping bra are absolutely musts). I’d figured out a good routine to keep the whole process as smooth and quick as possible, and I was feeling a lot more confident about pumping at work
On Friday afternoon, as I gathered together the week of frozen feedings to drop off at daycare, I felt proud and so, so grateful. Twenty meals for my baby girl.
My body did that.
Breastfeeding is working. Pumping is working. My employer is supportive of me in this breastfeeding journey. So many pieces had to come together for breastfeeding to work for us and continue working after my maternity leave, and the evidence of my success was right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t help but text a triumphant picture to my husband and close friends.
I know breastfeeding is not for everyone. And I know some women desperately want to make breastfeeding work and, for various reasons, it just doesn’t. That’s why I feel so lucky to be able to do this.
After years of battling my weight and constantly feeling like my body has let me down, the experience of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding is helping to heal my relationship with my body. My body might not drop fat the way I would like, or fit into designer jeans, or allow me to wear form-fitting clothes without the need for Spanx. But you know what? My body made this beautiful, perfect baby. My body has supported her completely for 14 months and counting. My body hit this one out of the park, giving me the greatest gift I will ever receive. I will never hate my body again.