When I had my third child, I was ecstatic that I would be able to fully stay home with all three of my babies. I had worked part-time jobs when my first two children were little, and had lucked out with a job that allowed me to have my babies nearby to breastfeed. Not only did I feel like an expert at breastfeeding this time around, but I was going to be able to stay at home full time with them. I was excited and nervous to bring yet another human into our family but really looked forward to staying home with all three of them.
A few months after my third baby was born, we had some financial changes that led to me needing to pick up a part-time job. This time around, however, I couldn’t bring my baby. He hadn’t had a bottle before, and I had never attempted pumping before, either. I was nervous that although I had become quite comfortable of breastfeeding in public, I had never pumped in public before.
I wasn’t sure if my new job would make a space for me, or even if they would allow me enough time to pump during my part time work day. I initially wasn’t even sure if I had legal protections that would ensure I could pump at work, or how my new job would respond to my needs and requirement to pump. I was nervous that they wouldn’t accommodate me or would make it difficult to navigate pumping. When they did, I was so relieved.
As my first day of work arrived, I realized that even though I had thought through and worried plenty about logistics, I had still completely underestimated the amount of anxiety, stress, and emotion that would come along with learning how to pump milk in the midst of my work day while also navigating a brand new job as a 5 and 6-year-old classroom teacher. Add that to the anxiety of being unsure whether my little guy would even take a bottle while away from me, and I was a complete emotional wreck during my first day.
I felt a whirlwind of vast emotions on that first day, with everything from excitement for a new job to constant worrying about whether or not I’d feel comfortable enough to pump.
After talking to my new boss, I had learned that another teacher would take my class out for recess during my 15-minute morning break. This would be the perfect time to pump, though I was a little worried that it wasn’t enough time to also go to the bathroom or grab a mid-morning snack, too. At the very least, though, I could pump, and I was thankful for that.
As my classroom of children was taken out to recess that first day, I hurriedly walked over to lock the classroom door. We had already had numerous staff members come in and out of the classroom that first day and the last thing I wanted was for a random person to walk into my room while navigating pumping at work for the first time. I certainly didn’t want to feel embarrassed while pumping, and knowing another person couldn’t come into the room was going to help me feel at ease while pumping.
Once I knew I wouldn’t have an intrusion by one of my new colleagues, my nervous and shaky hands quickly unpacked my breast pump and got it all set up. I threw on a nursing cover, just in case the lock failed or in case someone could see me through the small window next to the door. I was so stressed when I began pumping that my heart took several minutes to stop racing. Fortunately, after a few short minutes, I saw those bottles filling up with milk and started to feel a little bit relieved.
I was doing it. My hands stopped shaking and my heart rate calmed down. As the bottles filled up, and my break time was close to ending, I began carefully packing it all up. I poured my expressed milk into storage baggies and labeled them with the date. I pulled my nursing bra back up and hooked it on, took my cover off, and stored everything away in its bag. I stared at my “liquid gold” while walking it over to our classroom mini fridge.
The amount of relief and pride I felt as I looked at those baggies full of pumped breastmilk was incredible. I hadn’t realized that I would feel so accomplished having pumped milk for my baby. It felt similar to the pride I felt the first time I successfully breastfed my babies. Even though I was proud of myself, I had felt such a strong whirlwind of emotions that I was left feeling completely emotionally drained.
I still had to teach the rest of the morning and had to come up with the energy and emotional mindset to do so. On top of that, I was still fretting over whether or not my little guy was taking a bottle while with his grandma, or whether or not he was hungry. But, in the end, I had done it, and that was my goal.
I had successfully pumped milk while at work for the first time. It was stressful, yes, but new things often are. Over the next couple of weeks, I became a pro at pumping breastmilk on my break. I was less anxious over whether or not someone could barge in, I knew how my breast pump worked and how to set it up quickly, and I knew that my baby was finally taking a bottle and not going hungry while away from me. I was able to breastfeed him throughout the afternoon (and let’s face it, through the night, too), and had plenty of time to bond with him still.
I was still a little sad that I couldn’t continue staying at home full time with all of my babies but loved that I was able to help our family financially while also continuing to provide breastmilk to my little guy.
As I later got pregnant with our fourth, and final, baby. I felt so much more confident as a mom. I knew that whatever life would throw at me, I was going to be fine. I was still a good mom. I could breastfeed while we were together, and pump and bottle feed if I needed to work or be away for a while. I was confident to do whatever I needed to do to feed my baby.
I knew that, in general, motherhood is filled with emotion and anxiety, and I learned to embrace those feelings and recognize that parenting is simply a difficult job for anyone. No matter what life throws at me, I can work to be the very best mom for my kids each day.