Friday, October 31, 2008

No Room for Nursing

Those who have breast fed before know very well that though "breast is best" for baby, trying to maintain this after returning to work is difficult at best. But, as determined as I have been to take on this task, I am not prepared to give up on my efforts in favor of the easier, pricier and less healthy formula alternative.

My efforts, however, are increasingly becoming more futile. Before I returned to work, my complaints about pumping in privacy helped me secure a colleague's permission to pump in her private, windowless office whenever I have a few free minutes. Her office is in Siberia - clear across campus from me - but the door locks, and only she and security have the access key.

But here begins the series of problems:

Number One: finding free time.

Lunch for the high school teacher is a mere 30 minutes bell to bell, with 5 of those needed to usher kids out of the class and to greet them upon return. Subtract about 7 more minutes to get from my classroom to a potential pumping station and I am left with 18 minutes to put together my breast pump and eliminate my engorgement.

Number Two: finding a permanent pumping place.

Using the colleague's office has worked for the last four days. Though I have been rushed in my process, I've pumped a good 6 ounces for Ya's daycare bottles each time. Today, though, I carried my pump kit and munched on a slice of cold pizza (my lunch) toward Siberia and found the office door locked.

Sucking my teeth, I turned on my heels and walked to another colleague's classroom. She has a covered window on one door and a closet that blocks the view from another door's window. But in her classroom, she was not. Instead, I found a substitute sitting comfortably in a student desk in the middle of the room munching on a homemade PBJ sandwich. I assume he thought I was a student when I said, "Oh, she's not here," as he then asked, "Who are you looking for?" - a question that warranted a "duh" response. Of course I meant the usual teacher, but I politely answered him before venturing out in search of another pumping place.

I was told earlier in the week (during a mad dash toward the Siberia) that the nurse had a private restroom. I borrowed her key and after a fight with the lock (I turned it the wrong way), entered a dimly lit student restroom. I sought a handicap stall, but the plug was on the other side of the room. Great. Is this what I was reduced to? Though the bathroom was clean (due entirely to the fact that it is not in use), it is a bathroom. I stood in front of a mirror, pump in hand, trying to be as covert as possible with my process in the event that someone need to use the facility. I am in no way an exhibitionist. My pumping station was the sink, which conveniently allowed me to rinse the pump in the last minutes of my lunch period, but was otherwise a dismal and degrading location for such an important process.

Is it worth it? Surely I am not the first mother to return to teaching? In a career that draws more women than men, one might expect some accommodations. I mean, I'm not asking for free time, just a private space (preferably with a chair) that doesn't double as a human waste receptacle.

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