I have no expectations of earning any bloggys for this series of posts, in which I share the practicalities of being a working mom of a baby girl. I realize that this solidifies my status as "one of those people" who think that every mundane aspect of parenting deserves to be chronicled.
But I feel strongly about writing about my experience, even if that experience is not that exciting, or doesn't lend itself to engaging prose. I find that as a relatively new mom I slurp up others' anecdotes, as I'm hungry for hearing about how other women manage in what seems to be at times two self-canceling realities: working and parenting. Indulge me, or tune in another time when I am back in working mode...
I had worried about how difficult it might be to return to work. Not the work part, the being away from the babe part. And the pumping part. Actually the transition has been--dare I say--good. Better than expected.
I enjoyed every second I had spent with my daughter on mat leave, but I was jonesing for a schedule. I like having to adhere to a schedule and having dedicated thinking time. Having this space in the day only makes seeing my daughter at the end of it that much more enjoyable.
The pumping is a pain, but everyone at the office is supportive. We've made our supply room the "Pump Room" for the time-being. I duck in and put a sign on the door, requesting 30 minutes of privacy, three times a day. I crank out email and even take calls in there if they are internal. If it's a client call, I take it in my office.
Travel has been interesting. I started off slow--a day trip down to LA--fly in, fly out. How hard could it be? Still, it was my first, and a new milestone in my time away from child.
"It will be like I'm at the office," I told H-band, only it really wouldn't be. I had a place to pump at the office, and I hardly knew where I would pump in LA. Surprisingly I'd yet to have the dignity-dissolving experience of pumping while perched on the john, the slurping sound of my hands-free Medela echoing off the tiled walls of a public bathroom.
I was grateful that my first business trip since returning from mat leave was a relatively simple one. I carried a purse and my pumping equipment in a second canvas bag. It's been beautiful on the West Coast; I didn't even need to fuss with a coat. I figured, what could befall me other than a flight delay?
The first obstacle was in security. I hadn't even pumped yet, but my equipment bag had to go through a second inspection. Still I got through to my flight. Easy peasy.
I didn't fly into LAX but rather Orange County, a smaller airport, but fortunately it had a Red Carpet Club. All of the enclosed offices had glass walls overlooking the airport--a nice touch, but not for someone looking for a private place to pump. I headed to the women's restroom.
It was a onesie. With no stall. Shit.
I did the math: Meeting in little over an hour; four hours since I'd pumped. I needed to do this--now. I held the restroom hostage, grateful that only one poor soul knocked.
I flew out of LAX, which was much more amenable, meaning I used a stall in the club on the far end of the rest room that had a changing table--just enough space to lay out my gear, strap up, and read email on my Blackberry while pumping.
Amazing how grateful you become for the little things.
But security was a bear.
"What's in your bag, ma'am?"
"A pump. And some milk."
"Security check! We have some milk here."
I walk past the conveyor belt toward another station with different equipment.
"Ma'am, do I have your permission to take the contents out of this bag, or would you like me to do this in private?"
It wasn't like he was asking me to nurse in public."
"Here is fine."
I felt a bit sheepish, as he held up half of one bottle--all that I had managed to squeeze out in Orange County. All this freaking work for three ounces.
"I'm going to put this through a radiation test," the TSA official said.
"What does this mean?" I asked, that my milk is radioactive?
"No ma'am. We just need to do another test." He opened the bottle of milk and put what looked like a litmus strip over the top to "test the fumes." I was free to go.
This week I traveled cross-country for several days. I'd mapped out my meetings and marked in my calendar good times to pump, but I didn't know for certain where--or if--there would be places to take my get up. Even if I could duck into a bathroom at any one of the places I was headed, I wasn't sure I wanted to pump at a client engagement. I looked at my schedule and noted that I was cutting it close between my last meeting and my flight home. I wondered if it would be gauche to pump in the cab on my way to the airport. Are there rules about that?
UPDATE: I opted not to pump in the cab--too messy, and the trip went fine, though I'm quite positive my boobs are confused. I pumped at our NY offices whenever I had a chance, then went for long stretches of nada. Watching what I consider liquid gold go down the drain (I had resolved myself to pumping and dumping, rather than try and figure out how I'd keep my milk fresh for three days) was more painful than I thought. In the early days I fought hard to establish a supply, and for three days my goal was to just get rid of it.
On the way back to CA I managed to pump before my flight, in the club restroom. I appreciated all the free tampons, pads, feminine aids that were available in the rest room, but I would have traded this bounty for a stall large enough to place all of my luggage and pumping equipment, and a surface in the stall to place my stuff.
I had just enough time afterward to grab a snack in the club and make it to my boarding gate. By the time I landed in SF I looked like Dolly Parton from the neck down.