Moms who pump at work are amazing. Period.
Being a new mom is hard. Breastfeeding and getting into a rhythm or schedule is hard. Returning to work is gut wrenching because you have to leave your little bundle of happiness with someone else all day, and scary because you’re not sure how this new version of yourself fits back into your old work schedule, and exciting because you get to talk to adults again and wear clothes that aren’t covered in spit up (most of the time). Pumping isn’t fun. Pumping at work is even worse. Combine all of these things and you’ve just created one of the strongest, sensitive, and most amazing people on the planet – the working pumping mom.
*ALL moms (pumping or not, breastfeeding or not) are equally amazing, I’m just writing about my experience being a working/nursing/pumping mother during my baby’s first year of life, and from all the experiences I’ve talked about with other new moms who breastfed after returning to work.
She’s the strongest: Becoming a mother makes you stronger than you ever thought possible. Suddenly you have a new meaning in life, and a love and driving force inside you that you never even imagined existed before.
She’s the most sensitive: Becoming a mother also makes you more emotional and sensitive than you thought possible. You feel everything deeper, and that new force and love for your baby that drives you can also makes you more terrified than anything you’ve ever felt.
She’s amazing: The day her baby was born, she became a new version of herself, one that was more selfless, with more tolerance, compassion, strength, grit, and courage than before. She transformed into someone who immediately and unquestioningly always put another’s needs before her own and still rises to meet the challenges of every day.
To the working pumping mom:
Mamma, I hear you. I know what you’re going through. I know how hard it is to be pumping at work. So many women ARE you, and even though it may feel like it, you are not alone.
I know that you’ve cried while pumping at work because you miss your baby so badly it hurts. Or that you’re so overwhelmed with the changes in your life combined with the demands at work, you don’t know how you’re going to survive the next week.
I know that when you have to leave a meeting that’s running over to go pump you feel like everyone is judging you, or even more rudely commenting that they wish they got so many “breaks.”
I know that you skip lunch to either leave and feed your precious baby, or you spend it in a pump room or office simultaneously pumping your baby’s lunch, feeding yourself, and catching up on emails.
I know that you miss hanging out with your co-workers: having lunch, heading to a happy hour, or even just taking a break in the hallway to chat. Since you spend every free second pumping at work for your baby there isn’t time for those things anymore.
I know you don’t like having immovable holds on your calendar every three hours, or feeling like your baby will starve if you don’t rush out the door to pick her up at 5 p.m. on the dot. I also know that you feel guilty for the holds and for “leaving early.”
I know that when you decline a meeting because it interferes with your pumping schedule you wonder if you’ll ever be looked at as a valuable employee again, or that if you accept the meeting you’re counting down the minutes until you can squeeze in the next pump to make up the ounces you missed in that session.
I know you count precious ounces and will add in pumps, and drink tea, and eat milk boosting foods in order to have enough milk for your baby the next day. I also know that there will be many days you won’t make enough ounces and you’ll stress about burning through your freezer stash and do furious math to find out when you’ll have to supplement.
I also know that you’ll squeeze in an extra pump before bed, in the middle of the night, and after baby feeds in the morning to try and make up the ounces you missed from the day before.
I know that no pumping mom believes that crying over spilled milk is silly.
I know that when your baby gets sick and refuses the bottle, only wanting to nurse from mommy, your heart will break as you leave her with a caregiver – knowing that all she wants is you.
I know that engorgement, leaking, plugged ducts, and mastitis are all part of your vocabulary and that you wonder how in the world you’re supposed to deal with all that on top of the momming, and working, and cleaning you also need to do daily.
I know that you constantly feel like you’re failing.
Most of all, I know that you’re doing your best, trying to do what’s right for you and your baby while balancing the demands of your career, your family, and your sanity.
This too shall pass
From a mom who made it to the other side, all I can say is be kind to yourself. This is one tough season and adjustment to motherhood, but it will pass. After a few months you honestly won’t even remember how hard it was. Do what you can to take care of yourself because you’re an amazing mother. You’re doing what you can for your baby and you should be proud of that – and let the rest fade away.
Give yourself a break. I know you won’t – but at least try for me.