Thursday, August 7, 2014

17 Weeks - Working Topless.

Oh, hi there, friends! Ever so sorry that I haven't been blogging much lately. Well, what with my baking, sewing, macrame, dog obedience competitions, baby-raising and working full time, I've barely had time to squeeze in my daily workout let alone a blog post! Let me just shake the crumbs from my floral skirt and sit at my keyboard (tap at my iphone in bed). There, that's better.

I have been back at work now for over a MONTH. When I'm at the office, it often feels like business as usual. Not much has changed in the daily minutiae of work. Sure, I stop what I'm doing three times a day to sit in a file room, topless and hooked to a double electric breast pump, while I will greater quantities of milk to drip into little plastic bottles strapped to my chest. Nudity in the workplace will never feel normal but it will always feel extra chilly. Pumping aside (and it never is, wait for the rant), work feels like work. And that's good. The first day was complete torture. I just felt eviscerated. Gummy pieces of heart littered across the 7 miles from my apartment to the office. I spent the day feeling very put-upon, like the first woman ever to go back to work after having a baby. Un peu dramatic. Fortunately, that was just the first day. Every day since has felt more and more normal. I don't enjoy the chaos of the mornings or the fact that I only have a few waking hours with my little guy in the evenings, but I savor what I do have. Maybe I'll win the lottery soon and won't have to work or will be able to work less. Until then, J and I are trading off daycare pickup and drop off responsibilities, going broke by calling in take out orders because the grocery store is an entire 4 blocks away (yes, I've heard of Peapod. the effort...), and loving the poop out of our baby boy. Our weekends are more appreciated than ever. But still no grocery shopping.

I feel I absolutely must write about pumping. Henry was kind of a breastfeeding genius from the get go. While we had a few latch issues here and there and a clogged duct or two (I ooze glamour), feeding my kid during maternity leave was pretty easy peasy. He was hungry, I had boobs, my boobs had milk. A lot of women have it way tougher than that with under-supply, mastitis, cracked nipples, all sorts of boob-hell. Starting at about 6 weeks post partum I started pumping once a day to build up my stash for returning to work. While pumping was kind of a chore, it felt like a necessary not-so-evil. I wasn't winning any awards for my pumping output but I didn't really think much of it. Then I went back to work and my daily leisure pumps (always done while watching Bravo - you know, to boost my supply) became thrice daily grinds in a cold file room. I was all of a sudden struggling to pump enough and my boobs started aching. I could feel clogs forming. I went from 15 minutes on the pump to 20 plus 5 minutes of hand expressing, ie. milking myself like a goat. Big thanks to The Farm in Door County, Wisconsin for teaching me proper milking technique. Milking oneself is shockingly similar to milking a goat. 5 more minutes of cleanup and milk storage and I'd spent 30 minutes away from my desk. An hour and a half a day where I really struggled to work - invoice review, phone calls - and pump. Feeling as though I was begging for a nasty bout of mastitis, I called a lactation consultant. During our phone consult, she determined that I was a "poor responder" to pumping. My baby sucks that milk out like a champ; the pump, not so much. Leftover milk was sitting there all day, sticking in my ducts and causing horribly painful spasms. Oh, the glamour. 

Semi-solution: a hospital grade pump. I got a prescription for this bowling ball bag sized contraption and I keep it in the file room for all my coworkers to admire. "Jealous much?" I ask. Yes, yes they are. The upside of the turbo milk machine is that I pump more effectively during my morning pump when the old storage facilities on my chest are rather full. It's easier to get closer to some semblance of "empty." I still need to hand express at times. Plus, I don't want my 4-H skills to get rusty. I will win that blue ribbon for livestock management, by God! Another plus to Big Bertha is that it feels a lot less like its ripping off my nipples. So that's a win. Pump time hasn't really gone down but I'm more comfortable and better at keeping up with Henry's intake at daycare. Another huge help from the lactation consultant - I feel certain that you have either stopped reading already and/or have spontaneously become lactose intolerant - take Lethicin supplements to prevent clogged ducts. It really, really worked. I started taking them a week before Big Bertha hit the scene and pain be gone. Why are you still reading.

If I ever really figure this whole corporate pumping thing out, I'm going to write a book or perhaps a pamphlet (let's be realistic) entitled "Pumping at Work: Why It Doesn't Have to be a Let Down." Ha! Anyone else with me on the breastmilk jokes? 


  1. A little more than a week away from going back to hell (more commonly known as work), I appreciate this post. I am terrified that my boobs will simply dry up, in like, a day. Have I mentioned how grateful I am that you go through everything a few weeks before I do, so I can prepare myself via your posts? Thanks for that. Anyway, sounds like you found a good solution, so that rocks. Though I will be praying that you (and I) win the lottery tomorrow and get to stop working. Because I also feel like the first woman EVER who had to go back to work when CLEARLY I should be home with my wee little baby. Cue a whiny chorus of, "But it's not faaaaaiiiirrrr!" (Also, "Why am I not Canaaaaadian?") Anyway, pretty soon I'll be joining you in the closet (in a way), so no worries. I'll send you good energy and think milky, goat thoughts.

    Out of curiosity, what kind of pump did you have? The hospital pump from her birth and my Medela seem on par performance-wise, but I could just be dumbly optimistic...

    1. Your sacrifice of returning to the workplace is unparalleled. Except by my own sacrifice. And we are probably the only 2 people ever to make such a sacrifice.
      I too want to be Canadian. Or Scandinavian. WTF, 'Murica?!?!

      It's a good thing we purposely timed our pregnancies through normal, pleasurable intercourse so that I could bravely pave the way and be your pumping Yoda. I was using (and still use while traveling or at home) a Medela Freestyle. It's a totally fine pump unless you're a "poor responder" (mwah mwah) like me. The hospital grade I have is a Medela Symphony. If they seem the same, your boobs are probably just normal. My boobs are special.

  2. The first day back at work was hell. Despite having 2000 emails to attend to, I'm pretty sure I didn't do any work and it just felt weird. While I could never be a SAHM, it would have been nice to have a few more months at home.....

    My insurance paid for a Hygeia Enjoye which I was told was a hospital-grade pump. Thanks Obama! Also, do you think that they named it Enjoye because pumping is so enjoyable? HA HA HA HA HA HA.

    1. Oh you and your breast milk humor, I love it! I figure the Medela Symphony is thusly named because of sweet, sweet sound of the pump.
      I think its laudable that you didn't do any work the first day, implying that you accomplished something the second day. I felt lost for the first solid week and a half. Thanks for paying me, employer.

  3. That's such a good trick to know about the Lecithin! I have a bunch of bags of frozen milk in my deep freeze because I am so full in the morning I am in pain. I never feed her the bottles though because I'm worried if I skip a feeding I will get too full again... I think I might try the lecithin just in case.

    1. Make sure Andino or a friend gives her a bottle occasionally so that you have the option of doing something sin bebe in the future! Whenever you give the bottle, just replace with a pump.
      Your supply will start to even out at night so that you aren't so uncomfortable in the AM.
      Regardless, lethicin seems to do the trick! Also, if I am exclusively breastfeeding with no need to pump, I skip the supplements.