Don’t laugh, but I’ve discovered that I like hooking my breasts up to an electric pump and expressing breast milk.
It’s a surprising discovery, given that while I was on maternity leave, I fed my baby on demand while also desperately trying to pump milk so I could create the so-called freezer stash, and that I found this incredibly stressful. I was convinced that I had to have lots of milk in the freezer so my daughter could have enough to take with her to nursery. In order to make this stash, I would strap the pump on in the middle of the night, or after a long feed, or at other inappropriate times, and I’d be really upset when I was only producing small amounts of milk. I was convinced my baby would go hungry after I was back at work, and even though logically I knew that I should forget about pumping for the time being, I couldn’t quite give it up. Pumping became just another task on my to-do list.
Before I had a baby, I regularly worked 60 or 80 or sometimes even more hours per week. I’m passionate about my job at the university and I enjoy it, but I probably went overboard in my dedication to it. Now that I’m back to work after maternity leave, I’ve tried not to work quite so many hours per week so that I can prioritize my family, but I still am very busy and sometimes work more than I really should.
Somewhat strangely, this has led me to the realization that I love pumping milk.
When I’m in my office or while teaching, I’m very focused and efficient, because I want to get my work done to the best of my ability and not have to do a lot more work in the evening or on the weekends when I would rather be with my daughter and wife. Maybe it’s my type-A personality, but it’s all too easy for me to keep working instead of taking a proper break for lunch, or to make a cup of tea, or even to have a pee. Before I had a child, I usually did just keep working, and I’d be shocked when I looked up from the computer to find that it was hours later, and my back was stiff and my tummy was rumbling.
But now, when I make the decision to pump milk, I’m forced to take a break. I have to eat and drink enough to keep my milk supply up, so I regularly make cups of herbal tea and eat healthy, homemade meals and snacks. And it’s sensible to go to the bathroom before I get comfortable and sit still while hooked to the pump; walking to the ladies’ room lets me stretch and move for a few minutes.
Besides that, while pumping, I look at pictures of my daughter. This encourages the milk flow, but it’s also just a wonderful interlude in my day. I have to go hours without being with her, so it’s a chance for me to connect with her from a distance. I think about some of my favorite times with her, and I look forward to seeing her again later in the day. Studying her sweet little face in a photo reminds me of what’s important in life.
I find that after pumping, not only have I filled a bag with milk for my daughter to have the next day at nursery, but I also have relaxed briefly and taken a few minutes to remember that I’m a mother as well as an employee. I feel more comfortable physically and mentally, and I’m refreshed from the break.
Like many mothers, I’ve had to learn to balance my job and my home life, and this is still a work-in-progress. Pumping milk during the day helps me in this balance; I’m taking a few minutes to do something for my child and for myself, and this in turn makes me a better, less stressed worker. Who could ever have guessed that my breasts would increase my productivity at work?