Making milk as a working mom is equal parts awful and wonderful.
It's one of the many paradoxes with early working motherhood: You love the idea of breastfeeding your baby, but pumping is terrible. Even under the best circumstances, such as owning one of those discreet-ish in-bra pumps (and someone else handling the annoying cleaning of the delicate parts that shouldn't go in the dishwasher) or having a luxurious wellness room all to yourself whenever you want it, being milked by plastic and suction is dehumanizing.
But most of us do it under far-from-ideal circumstances. I've mostly been working from home because the only private area with an outlet in my company's temporary workspace is in a closet in a bathroom. If I bring a battery pack, I can pump in a larger “interrogation room,” as colleagues jokingly call it, with pipes overhead that leak. And if I'm to leave the office in time for daycare pickup, I have to work while I pump, instead of watching videos of my cooing baby, which supposedly helps milk flow.
And when I'm out at a conference or social event? I'm awkwardly begging staffers to lead me to any out-of-the-way location and usually wind up on a toilet for 20 minutes, issuing occasional warnings to other restroom-goers about the cord stretching from beneath the stall door. I've even pumped standing up in full view of hand-washers, before I got a battery pack compatible with my pump, because the potties were too far from the lone restaurant bathroom outlet.
But nursing the second time around has gone more smoothly than the first. It's even been nice, at least when I'm home and not digging through a cavernous diaper bag for my nursing cover. My dumpling, sometimes gently, places a chubby hand on my cheek or chin or, less adorably, my 10-pounds-above-pre-pregnancy-weight belly. I rub his soft tummy or tickle his feet, when I'm not checking my phone with the non-cradling hand. And he breathes slowly, contentedly, maybe appreciatively, if I'm giving him more credit than a baby deserves. It's just him and me in a soft, gray glider chair for those 20 minutes, which often bleeds into a half hour or more. It's peaceful, so unlike the rest of my frantic days.
I'm excited to get my body back, have it belong just to me for more than the two years between when I stopped breastfeeding my first and started growing his baby brother. I'm looking forward to not leaking when I read a sad story about a baby in the news. I actually can't wait to give my pump to my pregnant sister-in-law, though the idea of beating it with a baseball bat, Office Space-style, is nearly as appealing. And yet I'm sad that the unparalleled closeness of nursing will be no longer, my cuddly baby replaced by an independence-seeking toddler who would rather run and fall on hardwood floors than nestle himself into the crook of my sweatshirt-covered arm.
Sure, I could continue to nurse just when I'm home, before and after work, without ever pumping. I know my body would adjust. But I'm terrified of getting mastitis again. Last time, my pharmacy said my antibiotics prescription wouldn't be ready until the day after I was diagnosed, and I felt damn-near close to death until, after some pleading, they transferred the prescription to a location that could process it that evening. I also want to make a clean break from being a milk machine, as much as I'll miss the closeness with my second and last baby.
And so, I enjoy the warmth of his little body against mine this final month of feeding him this special way. Perhaps even more so, I enjoy packing my pump into my work backpack one last time.
Written by Meredith Bodgas for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.