I just finished my first week of school as a graduate student and mother. My greatest trepidation was keeping up milk supply. Would I find time to pump? Would it be easy to schedule a room to pump in? Would I be able to pump enough?
Luckily, the department was more than prepared to accommodate me. Holed up in a conference room for 30 minutes 3 times a day, I managed to pump enough to keep up with Matthew Ali’s demand at daycare. Sometimes I would be unable to get away at the exact scheduled time, but the room seemed to be free enough to allow me 15 minutes or so of wiggle room. After pumping, I’d quickly squirrel away the milk in the freezer, then rinse and clean my pump parts as quickly as possible in the communal kitchen sink. So far the sink hadn’t been cluttered with other people’s dishes. I contemplated putting up a sign to make sure the sink remained clear “Warning. I need to rinse out breast pump parts. If you leave your dirty dishes in the sink, you risk having them come in contact with breast milk.” That ought to gross people out enough to adopt responsibility and common courtesy. But do I have the guts to follow through? I already feel awkward about the whole situation.
Sometimes I’d miss some class discussion, sometimes a lecture, but I had no problem catching up. Then something came up that threw me for a loop. A field trip to The Dalles.
This trip was an urban/city site visit. All day Friday, we would be exploring The Dalles either on foot, in a car, or both. So where would I pump? My car, I suppose.
Using swaddle blankets and duct tape, I recreated my private conference room in the backseat of my car. I hauled ass down the highway to ensure my team arrived in time enough to allow me 20 minutes before we met as a class at 11. I kicked everyone out of the car and set up my blanket and tape curtains. While pumping, I heard another car pull in and park next to me. Seeing the elephant, monkey, and lion print blankets, a male voice concluded, “Dude, someone left a baby in there! There’s a baby in there!” Oh, hi Alan. I hoped the psh psh sound of the pump would be inaudible to those outside my car. Just call me Bessie. Mooooo.
After lunch, I excused myself from my teammates to pump again. The sun had been out for a few hours by now and the car was sweltering. I rolled down a window, but the heat was oppressive. I couldn’t believe people actually leave their dogs in the car. Dogs can’t sweat, and I was sweating profusely. The tape was losing its stickiness and I kept having to reaffix parts of the blankets as they peeled off the ceiling and doors. I was thankful no one was standing near my car as they would have seen my breast affixed to the flange, being sucked in by the hand pump. Psh. Psh. Psh. Mooooo.
When the time came for the third pumping session, I decided to skip it. I figured, one day of irregular pumping shouldn’t affect my supply. By the time I got home to Matthew Ali, I was bursting out of my bra and in pain. Tom’s eyes practically popped out of his skull and I gave him a stern look, “Don’t even think about it.” Matthew Ali sucked the milk down like a vacuum cleaner, then nursed again an hour later. The next day my supply actually increased.
It was awkward. I felt like an animal, or a factory.
But I fed my baby. And that makes it all worth it. 5 months of breast-feeding down. 7 to go.