The Working Mother Warrior

 

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Finding out I was pregnant was definitely a shock. I’d just completed my divorce and was celebrating with a fleeting friend of mine, or so I thought, when I realized my life was about to totally change…again! I was told year prior that it would be very difficult to conceive with my fibroid and that I should give it a try for quite a while before expecting a child. Apparently my body had other plans. I had no idea what my body might go through over the next few months. I was concerned about the responses I would get from family, close friends, and even my partner at the time. Least of all was I worried about my co-workers and supervisor – they were all women and the talk of having a family had often come up in casual conversation. My workplace was the least of my worries…at the time.

After months of careful watch over my health and seeing that the pregnancy was progressing healthily, I informed my boss and coworkers of my pregnancy. I did not want them to be alarmed at my sudden illness or fatigue without knowing what I was going through internally. The initial reaction was excitement but after a while, I guess reality set in. I slowly realized the downside to being a working Mother in our society.

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Several comments were made about my size and inability to do some of my tasks. I was not far along before my doctor advised me to be very careful on my body because of complications. Even after relaying that to management, I was asked to move furniture. When I objected, I was snarled at and met with a comment about how women used to be able to do so much more when they were carrying children decades prior. Very inappropriate and I did NOT move one piece of furniture…I knew better. Even the day before I was to be induced, I was given an evaluation (stress much?).

The day I had my daughter was the most surprising and challenging experience in my life. After being home 6 weeks, it was time to go back to work. I had to repeatedly request private space for nursing and was still often interrupted. There were comments made about my reliability since I now required so many ‘breaks’. Thankfully, that position ended and I started consulting…with a baby on my hip. It was weird and uncomfortable at times but if Mommy didn’t work, there was no money for childcare let alone bills and food.

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I often received looks of confusion like, Why is she here? Can’t you get a sitter? Where is your family support? At the time I ignored it all and attended trainings, seminars, and networking events all with my well behaved little baby. And let’s not even get started on the nursing! I would be so stressed about the comments and looks I’d get in the office or public places that I started to lose my supply! It was AWEFUL! I was fully determined to nurse my child for at least 6 months but the pumping inconsistencies, toxic work environment, and stress of having to leave my child for 9-10 hours a day just left me inept. I was devastated.

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Many people have different ideas about how to raise their children. As a new Mom, I had to make a decision of whether to succumb to the fear of being embarrassed or simply continue to grind with by daughter in tow. Nowadays, I am thankful for my close friends who have generously agreed to watch my little one when I need the support. At the end of the day, however, I pray that I am able to pursue the kind of career that warrants me financial stability AND flexible time to raise my own child on my terms.

The next big idea should come from the vein of Moms being allowed to either work their same positions from home or having a community of employers who look to hire working Moms, welcoming their small children a space in the workplace or at least the personal office assigned to them. I’d like to see that progression…as well as the change in the culture’s view on nursing in public. ITS LEGAL IN ILLINOIS BTW! So leave these mothers alone and let them feed their babies how they want to! #Conquer2016

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What have been your concerns about being a working Mom?

 

~ladiSims

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When Breast is Not Best

“Breast is best!” How many times have you heard that slogan? Although I am an advocate for breastfeeding moms, I do believe that every woman has to make her own decision about what is best for her and her baby. There are no right answers. Repeat, there are no right answers.

When Baby C2 was born I had him at a hospital that was competing for the title of “Baby Friendly Organization.” One of the pillars of being baby friendly is that all moms leave breastfeeding their babies. This is an idealistic goal, but definitely not a realistic goal. Baby C2 had borderline low blood sugar. In order to be discharged they had to have a specific reading three times in a row. Whenever his blood sugar fell below the desired number they would provide us some formula. When he drank the formula in combination with nursing the number would go up, but when I would nurse exclusively the number would go down. There was a simple reason for this. My milk had not come in yet. Despite pumping and nursing it just wasn’t happening yet. This is why his blood sugar would drop. I didn’t have anything, but a few drops of colostrum to feed the poor child.

I knew from H’s birth that it took three to four days for my milk to “come in.” So I knew exactly why we were having this problem. When I asked the nurse for formula I received a huge lecture about how breastfeeding was important and the best way to feed your baby. The second time Andy stepped in and tried to get formula and the nurse lectured him. The third time Baby C2’s blood sugar dropped I had had enough.

In an angry voice I said, “The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result. I don’t have milk yet, so his blood sugar will continue to drop. Bring me formula, now.”

I was fortunate. A few days later my milk came in and I was able to breastfeed BabyC2 without even needing to pump from that day forward. However, it doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes your milk doesn’t come in, you don’t produce enough, your baby has an allergy… The list goes on and on. Sometimes, the stress of wanting to breastfeed prevents it from being easy or possible. I remember the shock and dismay that I felt because this nurse was so rude about the choices I was trying to make for my baby. Every family has unique needs. Every baby is unique. No woman should be made to feel badly or less than for choosing to breastfeed or to use formula.BOG-22902-3

Just like with H, I will probably need to supplement for Baby C2 at some point before he starts whole milk. Before I picked a formula I was comfortable with, I did a lot of research. Most infant formulas, even organic formulas, use high fructose corn syrup. I was so disheartened. As a family we have decided to eat organic, real food whenever possible so choosing an organic formula was very important to me. The Cornucopia Institute provided me with some great information about how to pick the best organic formula for H and so I am sharing with you this wonderful guide by Charlotte Vallaeys. She provides detailed information and even graphs to help you quickly access and choose the best organic choice for you.

GUIDE: Finding the Safest Organic Infant Formula 

Peace, Love and Choosing What is Best For Your Family,

Kristen

Breast is Not Best is the Last Article in a Series About Breastfeeding & Pumping for Your Infant.

Read Part 1: USAirways & The Breast Pump Drama
Read Part 2: Swallowing the Pumping Pill

Swallowing the Pumping Pill

When I had my first baby I looked at pumping as a miracle that would allow me to work and simultaneously care for my baby. I thoroughly researched and bought what I believed was one of the best pumps on the market, a Medela Freestyle. I even purchased the pump bra so that I could pump hands free and work or type.Simple-Wishes-Hands-Free-Breastpump-Bra-2

My first experience with pumping was in the hospital. H was premature and so I had to pump since he was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Pumping became my job. I pumped every few hours to get as much colostrum as I possibly could. I would then proudly take it down to the NICU for his feedings. Every drop seemed like gold.

When we got home from the hospital I had to pump and give the breastmilk to H in a bottle. This would allow us to monitor exactly how much he was receiving. It was exhausting. I would let him practice nurse a little while, feed him his bottle and then pump. By the time I finished pumping I had about 15 minutes before he needed to eat again. It was a labor of love, and I powered through it.

Then I went back to work… Pumping at work is not easy. With H my supply dipped dramatically when I started pumping. I had to pump at least 20-30 minutes just to get the minimum amount of milk he needed while he was at school. It was a constant challenge and I started to feel anxious every time I pumped because I knew the average I needed to achieve in order to meet his feeding needs. Despite this we used breast milk exclusively until 8 months. At that time he started weaning and my supply really dropped, but he continued to nurse with supplemental formula until 10 months.

With Baby C2 I nursed from the moment he was born. In fact I didn’t even break my pump out more than a handful of time during my maternity leave. It was easy, natural and he ate on his schedule or when he needed to eat. I dreaded having to drag the pump out when I went back to work. Having to decline meetings or ask them to be rearranged because it doesn’t fit into your pump schedule is a little humiliating. Not to mention, you constantly feel like you are being judged. To be clear, I said feel. I don’t know that I actually am being judged. Regardless it is highly inconvenient to need to pump at least three times during the work day. People don’t understand that pumping for a nursing mom is like using the restroom. If the milk doesn’t come out you become engorged and it is just painful.  I also feel strange putting the pumping sign on my office door. Coworkers don’t necessarily understand that I am in my office working hard on my laptop while hooked up to this milk machine. The New Yorker published a piece in 2009 about how we are turning into our own milk maids as we create pumps to simulate real babies. Meanwhile we take babies away from their mothers.

“If breast is best, why are women bottling their milk,” the article questions.

I want to make it at least ten or twelve months breast feeding Baby C2. However, as the travel demands for my job begin to increase due to an organization realignment, I am afraid it won’t be possible. During my last work trip we used all of my frozen reserve. I may end up having to choose providing for my family over feeding my baby.

We know that breastfeeding until six months is recommended by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The WHO even recommends breast feeding in combination with allowed foods continue beyond the six month time frame. There has been a lot of recent discussion surrounding maternity leave and benefits for mothers of newborns. Specifically, Vodafone just announced new maternity leave policies to attract and retain women employees. Policies that support mothers being able to breast feed their babies for at least the minimum recommended time frames should also be seriously considered by government and employers.

As a working mom were you able to breast feed? What choices did you have to make to feed your baby?

Peace, Love and the Whirring Sound of Pumping,

Kristen

*It is important to note that I am able to afford, beyond healthcare compensation, for a very good portable pump. If I could not afford the $300+ dollars to purchase a quality portable pump, it would take much longer to pump and the decrease in breast milk supply could be greater.

Image Credit: huffingtonpost.com

Swallowing the Pumping Pill is Part 2 in a 3 Part Series About Breastfeeding and Pumping for Your Infant.

Read Part 1: USAirways & The Breast Pump Drama

Hump Day Humor 

Yesterday was no laughing matter for my friend, Kristen, as she prepared to board a plane to travel for work.  She was challenged by an airline worker as she attempted to carrying on her breast pump.  As a former breastfeeding mom I am appalled and disappointed that she experienced the embarrassment of having to get out of line and try to repack her carryon with a breast pump.  Despite those challenges, she held her head high and “fought for the right to” carry on her breast pump.  I am so proud of you, Kristen, for speaking your mind, hopefully bringing more attention to this important and sensitive matter.  Muah!

As such an organized mom, 😉 I hope this short video from “The Mom’s View” will help lift your spirits!

http://youtu.be/OBCZjMNdYI4

Until next time-

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

God’s best-

Alexis

USAirways & the Breast Pump Drama

I am extraordinarily sad. It is 2015. As a woman and mother, I should not be harassed for needing a breast pump.

On a recent flight, while boarding, I breastbagpumpwas asked to step outside of the line. I was confused. The boarding attendant became stern. “Ma’am, you are only allowed one personal item,” she said. I mentioned the other bag was my pump. I don’t know if she didn’t understand or was confused, but she refused to let me board. She required that I step outside of the line to “consolidate my things.” A pump is a medical device. Per USAirways policy, medical devices are allowed in addition to your personal item and carry on bag. In fact, per their own policy it states “Assistive devices such as wheelchairs, canes, crutches, strollers, car seats, medical supplies or equipment, and outer garments do not count as personal items.” However, they do not specifically state breast pumps.

Embarrassed and frustrated, I stepped to the side and shoved my pump bag into my carry on. I was only able to zip my bag half way and I had items spilling out, but I rushed by hoping she wouldn’t notice.

As I boarded the plane there were two women in front of me giving me odd looks. I said, “I can’t believe they wouldn’t allow me to carry on my pump.” I wanted them to know I wasn’t trying to sneak on two bags. They smiled politely and then one women reiterated, “You can only have one personal item.”

Wow! Really? As women is this the type of treatment we accept and even expect?

After  I boarded the plane a nice gentleman helped me stuff my oversized bag into the carry on bin. As I sat in my seat I begin to get angry. I double checked the USAirways policy and then flagged a flight attendant named Denise. I told her I knew that she was busy, but I had a question if she didn’t mind once the flight took off. She stopped right then and said she was happy to help me now. Denise was amazing. When I told her what happened she told me that breast pumps were allowed in addition to your personal item. She then helped me retrieve mine to prevent from crushing my suits and allowed me to place it under my seat. Later she checked on me to make sure my bag was alright (I thought I had broken the zipper.)

Denise knows great customer service! Kudos Denise. She also saved USAirways from my full blown wrath. Imagine how different this post could have been if it wasn’t for Denise’s understanding and accommodating attitude. What troubled me however, was that she told me that she just read a memo that they were now classifying breast pumps as medical devices. Her explanation to me was  that everyone had probably not been trained.

Wow! Really? It is 2015. Why is this just being implemented. Breast pumping when you are away from your infant is as much a necessity as using the restroom. It is painful if you don’t; it can cause infection and more importantly if I don’t pump my supply will dry up. This means no more breast milk for my baby.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states: “Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”

USAIRWAYS ARE YOU READING THIS? THE AAP BELIEVES INFANT NUTRITION IS A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE! (Yes, I realize I am yelling. I am sorry. Let’s consider this passion.)

Let’s also be clear about pumping. Pumping is not fun! Sitting in bathrooms, cars or even closets to express breast milk for your child can feel demeaning. Even places of employment often don’t have adequate or enough facilities to accommodate nursing mothers. Not to mention, having to pump for at least 15-20 minutes every 3 hours is anything but convenient. It also is embarrassing. Imagine sitting in an important work meeting, scheduled during a time you should be pumping,  with your breasts hurting and pounding until you finally have to excuse yourself to pump. Let me tell you how many fun looks you get for that announcement.

So I am sad. I am sad because organizations like USAirways, and the American culture in general, discriminate against women in a myriad of ways. The first National Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1850 and we are still needing to fight for basic rights, such as the ability to breastfeed or pump in order to feed our male and female children.

Despite being sad, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that even though it has taken this long organizations are starting to do the right thing.

So listen up USAirways (and all other organizations). Train your employees. Train them all. Train them quickly, because you are behind the times.

Have you been discriminated against for breastfeeding in public or needing to pump? Share your stories in the comments below.

Peace, Love and Forward Progress

Kristen

Update 3.10.15: After talking to several people about this incident I realized that this is not isolated for USAirways. They have denied boarding to several women for trying to carry on their pump. However, on my return flight I simply stated I was carrying a medical device and I had no issue.

This is part one in a several part series on breast pumping and feeding for working moms and all moms who have chosen to breast feed.