I had planned on a short maternity leave, one of only eight weeks. My work does not provide paid leave, so I had rolled together all the vacation days and sick days together and was left with a paltry amount. There was nothing I could do about it without harming my family financially, so an eight-week maternity leave is what I requested. What I had not expected or included in my great postpartum plan was how I was going to keep integrate pumping into my routine once my leave ended and I headed back to the office. It was easy to breastfeed on demand because I was at home, but at work, it proved to be more challenging.
I knew I had the basic necessities to pump at work: a breast pump, bottles, relaxing music and a photo slideshow of my son on my iPhone. I had packed my laptop, my lunch, my pump on that first day, ready to tackle the life of Mona Hickey: Nursing Mother, Working Mother, Woman Warrior.
The first morning I carried my large black bag to the ladies restroom, ready and armed. The restroom on my floor is odd. You enter a door and walk down a short hallway to another room with only one toilet in it. There's a lock on the door, but I am always afraid that the mechanism will fail and someone will walk in and see what cannot be unseen.
Aside from that paranoia, my first challenge was assembling the pump, tubes and bottles all while keeping them from touching the floor or anything else in the room. The pump seemed like a breeze to assemble at home, but that first time in the ladies room, it felt like I was trying to disassemble an atomic bomb. I was a sweaty mess, hunched over shoving my breasts into the plastic shields while eyeing the milk level, all while trying to relax! When I heard the metal rattling of a woman entering bathroom hall, I used my free hand to pound on the metal toilet paper dispenser so they would know that the room was occupied.
And somehow I managed to pump three more times that day, a schedule I have been able to keep despite meetings, mailings, etc. I just experiment with what I do during each session. Some days I sniff the onesie my son's slept in or watch a video of us together or catch funny cat videos on YouTube. But every time I walk into that stall, pump in tow, I am more prepared than the time before.