I’m sleeping two hours at a time throughout the night and still I’m like a well-oiled machine.
A milking machine, that is.
Friday at the newspaper is a day we refer to as "Page Fest" — a single day in which we produce the guts of at least three days’ worth of newspapers. We call the act of production on this day "pumping."
Since returning to work, however, my work station at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 and sometimes 5 p.m. is in the ladies' lounge.
Here’s even more information that you’d probably just as soon not have: sometimes the place smells like the monkey cage at the Bronx Zoo. I wish I were kidding.
I'm lucky, though. I've got a somewhat comfortable chair and handy table, décor circa 1972, as well as the use of a small refrigerator in the newsroom. It also helps that I have coworkers who pretend there's nothing out of the ordinary about a woman returning from the bathroom four times a day clutching a bottle of human milk. They even keep the jokes about running out of cream for the coffee (and dipping into my stash) to a minimum.
I know there are many, many women who make a commitment to feeding their children breast milk when they return to work who have to lock themselves into washroom stalls and hover above toilets to squeeze out the medically preferred substance for infants.
I can totally understand how they often give up, because even in my more opulent surroundings, this part-time pumping gig feels like a full-time job.
When I first returned from maternity leave I was absolutely frantic thinking I wasn't getting enough to replace what The Champ ate while he was with the sitter. It was a struggle that first week to get a few ounces. Lots of people I consulted say that’s the result of stress hormones.
"Relax. Breathe. Don't get all tense."
"Yeah, it's that old oxymoron again: 'Don’t Worry, Mom'."
But the volume confounds me. I'm not a complete novice. I’ve done this before, and successfully, too.
When I sat in the same lounge, listening to the whirr of the mechanical suction for Ittybit three years ago I seemed to have an abundant supply, and only required two brief sessions in the ladies loo. If I ever worried about not being able to keep up with demand, time and distance (and perhaps lack of decent sleep) has stricken it from my memory.
This time, apparently over confident from past experience, I selected a manual pump from the beginning. I knew it was just as good as the electric, but without the motorized racket. But my milk production hasn't been predictable. Some days I get a few vats other days a couple of shot glasses.
Of course the kid’s been a bit unpredictable, too. Some days he eats like a bird and other’s he eats like a goat.
"Don't panic," I tell myself. Just keep at it.
So what if the door opens every four minutes?
So what if the automatic toilets flush mysteriously when the place is empty?
So what if you feel a little like a cow hooked up to an antique milking machine?
So what if you want to run amok, or at the very least sending a strongly worded letter to the Avent people, every time the equipment you dropped $100 on throws a valve and you have to stop everything twice a session, reset the system and start again. No. Big. Deal.
"Just keep your nose to the grindstone," I think to myself. And, so I am keeping at it — pumping 9 to 5.