Getting Real with Kira Hazledine
Right now, I am blessed to be a work-at-home-mom. However, I did time in the workplace as a pregnant and breast-feeding mom. I was at work at 41 weeks on the morning of my induction, and I returned to work 6 weeks later (and yes, I cried every morning). While my employer was breastfeeding and pumping friendly (mostly), that didn’t make the workplace any less awkward.
My workplace was great in offering a private space to pump, but it was a conference room. This meant that I had to reserve this conference room at the same times every day, and if my own work schedule forced a deviation from this, it could mean an hour delay to wait for someone else’s meeting to be over. I learned very quickly the schedule of the conference room and would negotiate different times early to avoid full boobs (because ouch).
I also learned that my pumping schedule had to be a public notice on my own work calendar. Almost weekly my supervisor would ask for a quick conversation, or ask why I had declined a meeting with a colleague, or why I couldn’t help with something pressing. “I have to pump”. While the response was “oh, of course”, it was still awkward to have to offer regular reminders of “my boobs will literally explode if I delay this”. After a few months, you would think someone would catch on.
Despite this public notice, there was always something that would throw a kink in my schedule. I made the terrible mistake, only once, of wearing a dress that I could not zip myself. Stuck at work, I enlisted the help of a female colleague who told me to just text her when I needed zipped. No problem, right? Crisis averted, or so I thought.
Five minutes into my pumping session the fire alarm went off. I debated ignoring this interference, because it was probably a drill (which it was), but the nagging potential that it was a real fire had me pack up my supplies and pull up my dress. With all the dignity I could muster, I walked outside, unzipped. I had been delayed a few minutes, so the entire building witnessed my bare back and lacy red bra. With my head held high and a shrug, I walked to the previously mentioned female colleague, who was laughing hysterically as she zipped me up. My male supervisor blushed when he realized, and apologized profusely for not warning me about the drill. Luckily, I could laugh it off, but it was an office joke for quite some time. I went home at lunch and changed, lesson learned.
I could tell endless awkward stories, not limited to explaining how my boobs hurt and that yes, I was going to excuse myself from an unnecessarily long meeting due to said painful boobs. Why I should have to explain that is beyond me, but it was a position I was forced into quite often. I was also asked “how long do you think you’ll need the conference room?” and other judgmental questions. “For as long as I decide to” was my answer.
I do appreciate my employer offering the time and space, because I know other women are not so lucky despite the laws in place. However, I do wish there was more understanding of pumping. If a male employee happened to catch me on my way to rinse out my breast pump supplies, they would quickly avert their eyes as if I was actually holding my bare breasts in my hands. It’s only milk, I promise, and it is nothing for anyone to be ashamed of. I wish I didn’t have to explain, but I’ll explain a million times over to help spread awareness. If my sass can help another woman pumping at work, I’m more than happy to speak my mind.
Not every person has the confidence that I do, and these instances could have discouraged another woman from pumping for her baby. Pumping goes in the same category as breastfeeding, which is none of anyone else’s business. Employers need to be more respectful of pumping moms, and pumping moms, you need to know your rights. Pumping at work can get weird, but it doesn’t have to be awkward. Pumping is your reality, and you’re allowed to own it.
Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABreast_Pump_Parts_1.JPG