I love and hate breastfeeding. I love it for all the health reasons for baby and me, and of course because of the closeness and intimacy created between my sons and I. I hate breastfeeding because the only way to keep doing it, is to do it A LOT. There are no days off when it comes to nursing. The more you nurse, the more milk you have, and the bigger your child grows, the more they eat.
With Gadget, I had my first breastfeeding challenges when I was working and did not have an office, and there was no designated pumping area at work. At first, I asked other people if I could use their office to pump, but the only people who had offices who I was close enough to ask where men. One day, while I was pumping inside a male colleagues office with the door locked, I heard him fumbling around with his keys outside the door. Apparently, he hadn’t seen the sign I posted on his door, and open the door flew! I think that was one of the last times I pumped at work.
I was so flustered and angry that my job had not made a place for such a necessary component of life, that I took the matter into my own hands. By the time I left that job there was a designated place for ALL women at the workplace to pump (not just the salaried employees), which locked from the inside and had a couch, table, outlet, magazines and no toilets.
Applying to business school while exclusively nursing was a bit tricky as well. I pumped extra bottles whenever I could. When we attended Explore Wharton, our first prospective student event, we got a hotel room not far from the school (even though we lived only 15 minutes away), so that I could easily feed Gadget during long breaks. At the Duke MBA Workshop, I would leave seminars early to go pump in the bathroom. Oh, I was so naive. The bathroom is a disgusting, disgusting place to pump. I eventually learned that all business schools had small private rooms for on-campus interviews, which are great places I could have used. I missed the workshop’s group photo because I was pumping in the bathroom. My life evolved around how many hours it had been since I last pumped. I tried not to go more than four hours without pumping, but life easily jumbled up that ideal schedule.
At NYU Stern, for Discover Stern, I was still not hip to interview room scene, but I did know that many places had refrigerators I could use to store my milk if I was going to be there for ten hours. I went through boxes of breast pads like water. I was never without one.
The second time around with the Lion, I knew that pumping was going to be a chore, but this time I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for six months. When I say exclusive, I meant not even introducing rice cereal until he was six months old.
I began this feat very aggressively. I planned to pump once immediately before I left the house for class, twice on campus, and then breastfeed upon walking in the door at home. I had located the PERFECT place to pump. There was a women’s changing room inside Stern that was large enough for two or three chairs and a bench. It locked from the inside and had outlets. I was in heaven! It was available every time I needed it. The best part about pumping at school was that my friend, Evelyn, who was pumping for her twin boys several states away, would text me right before she went to pump, so I felt like I was not alone. It was challenging keeping it up, because the social life in business school is extremely fast paced, and lots of times I gave up attending a CEO speaker or other event to go pump. I often felt left behind.
As October and November came around, I found myself only pumping once during school hours, and when I returned home sometimes the Lion had just eaten a bottle, and I was too exhausted to pump. Some nights I forgot to wash my pump, and then next morning I had to scrub it clean, find all the parts, two clean bottles, and make sure I’d remembered to freeze the icepack the night before.
Some days I just did not pump. Some days I longed to breastfeed the Lion when I got home, and not because of the physical relief, but because of the emotional relief. I was depriving him of our experience. Something that Gadget had experienced in a much different manner. Holding and providing nourishment for your own infant is so incredibly intimate.
Eventually formula found its way into our home and became a staple of the Lion’s diet. I felt guilty about this, but told myself that there was no way I could be a fulltime MBA student, a wife, a mother to a rambunctious two year old, recruit for a fulltime job AND exclusively breastfeed. I could not do it all, and I could not be everything to everyone.
Recruiting for a fulltime job added a whole ‘nother dimension to the breastfeeding thing. Hubby and I attending the National Black MBA association and the National Society of Hispanic MBA conferences last fall. National Black was in Atlanta, and NSHMBA was in DC. In Atlanta, my dear friend and maid of honor babysat the boys when hubby and I had overlapping time commitments. He had to be present at his company’s event booth, and I had back-to-back first round interviews. As soon as my interviews ended, I rushed back to the hotel to nurse. Some days I went back and forth in a taxi three or four times. I felt like a lunatic paying $8 for a taxi just to go back to the hotel to pump a six ounce bottle, but the Lion was only 12 weeks old, so it was mandatory in my eyes. I simply did not feel comfortable pumping in the bathroom stall, next to a would-be job interviewer, so like a yo-yo I went in-between the convention center and our room. In DC, for NSHMBA, we bought an extra bus ticket for Marina Poppins, and she watched the boys while hubby and I attended the conference. My interviews were more intermittent, so I could plan my day around pumping much easier.
December of 2008 was the last time I breastfeed the Lion. When hubby and I heard that we could take a three-week course in Australia, we registered and said we’d figure out the details later. We were blessed to have hubby’s mom and aunt stay with us for those three weeks. It was in preparation for the trip that I decided to wean the Lion. The week before we left I only nursed him at night. By the time we boarded the plane, I wasn’t even wearing breast pads anymore.
In Melbourne, there were some days that I STRONGLY regretted weaning him. He was only seven months old. But, there were times when I thought, boy am I glad that I’m not lugging around a pump all day, as we traveled to the Melbourne zoo, attended Cricket games and toured wineries in Victoria.
My breastfeeding experiences have been like a roller coaster. Initially, I felt like a milk slave for Gadget, but by the end of the experience, I couldn’t wait for baby number two, and now, for the next one whenever we’re so blessed. I was even bold enough to breastfeed in public (with a cover) with the Lion, and I wish I had been that brave the first time. I encourage all breastfeeding moms to keep it up!