By: Brandy Black
“Shit, why did I wear a dress today?” I said to one of my colleagues right before I asked her to step out of our meeting into the hallway and unzip me. I raced to the bathroom with a sweater wrapped around my bare back, stepped out of my dress and hung it on the hook of the cold stall of the penthouse office. I unfastened my bra and stood only in my panties and heels staring at the pump. I then sat on the toilet holding suction cups to my breasts listening to the “hee haw hee haw” humming of this dreaded piece of equipment with the mantra “I need to feed my kids, I need to feed my kids” rolling through my head. I was 30 minutes from giving a very important presentation and had to kill 10 of them praying that no one would walk in and wonder what the hell that strange sound was coming from the stall next to them.
I have pumped in the most awkward places: outside of meetings in my car, ducking when I saw people while holding one arm across the plastic cups and the other as a shield to passersby. Hidden in a supply closet at work with my back against the door that has no lock hoping that no one barges in to finish a phone call. On a last minute conference call at 7AM on my bed explaining to the listeners that I’m in the kitchen and that awful sound they hear is a dishwasher. Don’t all of these places seem like they should be reserved for something a little more…fun?
It is no easy task being a working nursing mother. I’ve made social sacrifices I never dreamt of. I have announced at inappropriate times in all day meetings that I must pump because I can’t think of any other excuse for why I should walk out of another “very important presentation” with my black and yellow bag every three hours. It’s not that I’m ashamed, it’s just that I always feel like the only one. How are the rest of them so cool and discrete? Do they ever forget and wear the wrong dress or bra or stain their silk blouse with milk or drip it down their stomach and have to feverishly wipe it down so they won’t smell like warm milk for the rest of the day? Do their meetings run so long that their boobs get hard and full and ache and they look down every two minutes to make sure that milk isn’t spraying all over the place? Do they, sleep deprived as I, forget parts of their pump and have to sit for twenty minutes squeezing the milk out of their boobs by hand? It’s hard. I count down the days to the one-year mark when I can kiss this pump goodbye forever. Yet I also dread the day that will be my last feeding of the babies. I have become accustomed to our time together, their heads side-by-side, legs on either side of me kicking, big eyes staring at Mama, suckling. I cherish it, I own it, I love it and I don’t ever want to forget it.
I never knew how much being a parent would take out of me, how much I would be willing to give, no matter the cost. I give them my sleep, my mommy brain, my sore boobs, my tired eyes, my pride, my open heart, all of my love and a bunch of frozen milk to get them through the moments they are without me by their side. It is the only job that truly matters.