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Tuesday
Mar112008

Yup, She Was a Breastfed Baby--I Have the Mileage to Prove It

I don't usually participate in this sort of thing, but Sarcastic Mom encouraged peeps to share their breastfeeding stories today, and I thought it seemed like a good opportunity to throw a little something under a nice big bus. I've always been pretty quiet about my biggest challenge associated with breastfeeding because it seemed just so plain ridiculous. Well, that, and I didn't want to give any hints as to how I was managing to lay low.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Right from the start, Alexis was a breastfed baby. I was home with her for essentially the first six months of her life, and while I wanted to use her head as a hockey puck a whole slew of times in those early days when latching felt like an alligator clamping down, we really didn't have any major problems. She never had a single drop of formula and I was able to build up a decent stockpile of frozen liquid gold. Then I started working. Along with that, of course, came the need to pump at least twice per day.

That topic was one that I had discussed with my future boss when I interviewed, so I wasn't really expecting to have any problems with it. I was very, VERY wrong in my expectations. At first, I was told that I could just use a vacant office for those two brief disappearing acts. But midway through my first week, I learned that the office was slated to get an occupant. My supervisor didn't have any ideas for alternatives, so I emailed the Human Resources Department. Nothing. So I emailed again, this time copying the HR Representatives supervisor. I got an answer quick, but it basically said, "Use a restroom or reserve a conference room. The end."

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not game for making my own food in a bathroom, so I wasn't really game for making my kid's food in a bathroom. Besides the fact that it's a gross idea to me (I compare it to taking the Foreman grill in there and cooking up a hamburger--would you do it?), it was a logistical impossibility. The restroom housed two stalls, neither of which had an outlet. The only outlet happened to be right by the door. Silly me, I've never had aspirations of putting on a peep show complete with wondrous sound effects. So, the bathroom wasn't happening. The conference room idea was just plain dumb given that there is a major shortage of conference rooms in that particular building, so they are impossible to get. Oh, and there's the small manner of most of them having windows in the hall and none of them having working locks on the doors. Again with the discrete issue.

Maybe now would be a good time to mention that my former employer was a very large hospital system. As in, one of the twelve largest and one of the most profitable in the United States. There are over 45,000 employees, including over 4,000 physicians. Last year, that particular non-profit organization reported NET profits of well over $500 million. I worked in the Corporate Headquarters, just a few stories down from one of the best paid CEO's of a non-profit in the nation. Anybody else see a wee bit of a problem with the lack of appropriate accommodations?

Anyway, when it became clear that the Human Resources Department was full of useless idiots, I devised a plan. I would go down to my SUV twice a day, every day, and sit in the back seat and pump. It was an underground parking garage, so it was relatively dark and my tinted windows afforded for a small amount of privacy. Of course, I can tell you that at least four people saw things they probably wish they hadn't, but it was a livable option.

Then I was told I needed to move over to a different building. It made a fair amount of business sense, but the new building was a warehouse. With even less in the way of accommodations. And no parking garage. The only viable answer was still the car, but this time there was an outdoor lot complete with LOTS of traffic (for you Pittsburgh folks, it's on the South Side right between the FBI building and Carson Street--yeah, high traffic). Obviously, I couldn't just sit in the parking lot with my boobies hanging out and various machinery hooked up. So, I went cruising for options. I ended up finding a car wash where I could park my SUV in a stall and only have potential traffic on one side of me. So that's what I did, every day, twice a day, for months. Four months in fact.

The lack of accommodations severely hindered my ability to be efficient in my breaks, I was less productive at work, and I was constantly stressed. Trying to maintain a professional schedule and needing to drive ten minutes just to pump milk really put a strain on me. I skipped lunch to make up for the lost time, I pumped in the morning before leaving for work, I pumped in the evening after work, and I nearly always brought work home with me in a feeble attempt to balance it all. I can tell you that many important people at big giant hospital system were aware, and not a single one actually gave a crap. Not a one made any attempts to make some sort of accommodation. In fact, when Alexis was nine-months old, a high-level manager told me, "Isn't your daughter almost a year old? It's time for her to quit getting breast milk anyway."

Moron.

*smoke comes out of ears*

*deep breaths*

*more deep breaths*

OK. ANYHOO, Alexis and I made it to 13 months. She never once drank a single drop of formula, and overall, I'd say we had a very positive experience. Our only real challenge was making sure she had ample supply while I was at work. THAT was a significant struggle every.single.day. Looking back, I have no idea how we made it, other than to take it one day at a time. It sure wasn't with the help of one of the nation's leading health care systems.

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Reader Comments (53)

Darn, I was hoping for a picture of Alexis with a sign that said "You suck (Stupid hospital system)!"

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I should have taken that photo! Oh, and I'm not adverse to saying it was frackin' UPMC. Everybody who lives here knows it anyway. I just figured the name was meaningless to those who haven't felt the long arm of the beast.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBurgh Baby's Mom

wow. that's quite a story!

it's amazing that you didn't get any action from HR ...

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjanet

I nursed my daughter in our car in the daycare parking lot for at least 6 months. I was offered the use of the staff break room once when I came to get her by bus but otherwise I sat in the car and smiled at the inquisitive people who looked in at us. Since Reid was between 12 and 18 months, we got a few "that kid is big to be nursing" looks. Oh well, maybe one person decided extended nursing wasn't deviant after that exposure.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMomOnTheGo

Hats off to you!

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNap Warden

I am super impressed! great post! I want to/wanted to do this but couldn't get coordinated enough today. ugh.
Awesome lady, awesome.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I wish I'd known you then. I so would've helped you file suit for discrimination. And, a HOSPITAL SYSTEM! That is insane. Like pot calling kettle insane. Way to stick with it 13 months. Huevos grandes.

Okay, ANYONE who pumps gets all my respect because no matter what I do, pumping gives me NO milk.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica

Wow, thanks for sharing your story. That was a lot of dedication - I was given the bathroom line from my workplace, too, but eventually we figured it out - and it didn't involve pumping in my car.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarketing Mama

Way to go mommy.... wow so determined. What a lucky girl you have! Very well written!

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterOHmommy

That's dedication!! Maybe you should have gone in to the HR offices and started pumping in their waiting room...maybe then they would have paid more attention!! Of course, I'm mostly joking.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe VerWaynes

Ugh! Western PA health care systems can KISS MY DOUPA!

GOod job, Mama. :) And really? Pumping next to Carson Street? Don't fret. I think I showed more on Carson street than you did during my .. uh ... blurry phase of life. ;)

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

wow. I have no words. After pumping for four months at my gigantic conglomerate company in a dark, dirty office (but thankfully with no windows and a lock), I was exhausted just thinking of pumping. It didn't help that no matter what I did I couldn't get more than 3 ounces at a time. A good day was when I was on Reglan and got 12 ounces over the course of 3 pumping sessions at work.
I also have no words for the dirtbags that couldn't make something work. I was lucky enough to have a nursing mom come back to work a few months before I went out to have Cooper. She said she pumped in the bathroom once or twice before throwing a fit and scaring our director and the facilities manager with words like "lactate" and "breast". Totally disgusting that a health care system didn't have lactation rooms, etc. Hope all those HR punks get indigestion.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Poor pitiful baby Alexis. What in the world did you do to her???? {:>

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpam

Wow. That is an incredible story. I always felt weird EATING in my car, but that is a whole new level--good for you. That picture is crazy precious.

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHRH

You are the most determined breast feeder I've ever heard of. I am beyond impressed! Way to go!

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah O.

Ah man! I wish you could have gotten a pic of yourself pumping in the car. That's awesome! Listening to tunes, having a little snack...at least that's the way I picture it. Rose-coloured glasses, I guess...

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNot Afraid to Use It

This is so irritating. What the hey!!! And this was a HOSPITAL system. And whoa . . . the comment from the high-level idiot, er, manager--nice, really, really nice.

Kudos to you for keeping it up when the cards were stacked against you. Above and beyond . . .

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaskiGal

wow! that's awsome that you made it that far working in a stupid place like that! Lots of kudos to you for that!!! No wonder Alexis is so smart! :)

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermomandmonster

Wow, I'm very impressed! You are unbelievable sticking to expressing in those conditions! Well done!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenty

Grrrr. You should have had your attorney send a nice little letter on his firm's letterhead. That's usually enough the get the a-holes's moving. I'm super impressed by your committment! That is impressive!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMadame Queen

That is just plain ridiculous in this day and age. I can't believe the insensitivity. Good for you for sticking with it.

Somehow I missed that whole breastfeeding post thing. My horror story lasted merely 4 months. She latched on so hard, for so long, at birth that I scabbed over. And the next time she nursed she sucked said scab off. Every 3 hours for 4 months. I truly wonder why I stuck it out. The pain brought literal tears to my eyes.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I've actaully been surprised that my work (also a hospital system) has been as good as they have been. But mostly it's because of my boss. She gives up her office to me every day to let me pump in private.
If not? I have a feeling I would have been in the same boat.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBecoming Mommy

Kudos to you for making a terrible situation doable. You are an impressive woman. I would have given it up ages earlier.

You rock! But your employer at the time sucked donkey ass!

Hallie :)

That just sucks that they were like that! Good for you for sticking it out so long. This is an big reason why other women quit bf-ing. Because they get no support from employers. how hard would it be to set off a room for you to do that?

I didn't go through that as I've always been at home, but my sister pumped/fed for 13 months as well and she also got ZERO support. She works at a chemical plant is one of only a handful of women. She does have an office, but it was a very public office where people came in and out whenever they pleased. Her only option was to keep pumping while they dodged her desk. She figured if someone complained she fight back with an harrassment suit for walking in on her private time (because she posted emails each to day to let them know when her office would be closed). By the end I'm sure everyone of those men had seen her boobies. When she moved up to a higher position two years later she had a room built for breastfeeding mothers even though she caught lots of flack for it.

Way for me to take up your comment box!

If men had to do it, there be all the room in the world.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterandria

That is ridiculous! It really is. I mean they of all people shou;d have understood! Good for you girl for keeping it up.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarmarbug

I pumped in a bathroom, but hello I didn't work at a hospital or for a company that works with hospitals! And they need to get educated on breastfeeding -- the benefits of long term breastfeeding are well known by many women and many health care professionals. What an ignorant comment by that official. I just can't believe it. Of course, I also heard a story about a woman breastfeeding in a hospital..in a private waiting room, with her breast covered and a nurse walking by and telling her people would be offended and she needed to go elsewhere. A nurse! What the heck?! When people get offended by nursing it just ticks me off. Hello people -- how do you think Mary fed Jesus?! From the boob! There were no bottles back then! Duh!
OK, stepping off of soap box..for now. It is here in the corner should I need it again later.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJonny's Mommy

That sucks! I had a feeling it was UPMC. I was lucky enough that whe I nursed or pumped, I never had any problems (and boy was I ready), but I know that women are facing those sorts of problems every single day.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGina

You are freakin' KIDDING me? What? You deserve a serious award for "not a single drop of formula," especially given the circumstances.

My jaw is still open.

Seriously.

Wow.

You rock.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjust jamie

P.S. I've tagged you for some homework over at my blog. :)

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjust jamie

You know? People just suck. I can't believe not one person was willing to give up their private office (there had to be SOME) for 10 minutes twice a day. That really is crappy. Good on you for making it work!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTootsie Farklepants

Way to go, BBM!! Way to overcome some serious adversity so your daughter could get your breastmilk. I'm very impressed with what you did, and really frustrated at the obstacles you encountered from a company that really should know better. You rock!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercaramama

I can't believe they wouldn't accommodate you, a freaking health care system wouldn't accommodate you!! Unreal! Kudos to you for sticking it out. I'm not sure in the same circumstance if I would have been able to stick it out!!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

And people wonder why more women do not breastfeed.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwheelsonthebus

wow. I'm from the Burgh so I have a *pretty* good idea who you worked for, and I worked for them too for about a month. heh. I didn't have anything major like that, but in my experience, their HR is the worst. I cannot believe they would not work with you- I'm pretty sure it's illegal to not provide women with adequate areas for pumping, etc but I could be wrong. I give you MAJOR credit for sticking with it all that time... THAT is some dedication.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I feel like a serious whiner now...I wanted so badly to breastfeed but his 4 weeks in the NICU being fed mostly by a tube wrecked my plan. I pumped and brought it in to the NICU, then pumped and bottle-fed after he got home. Since he was never actually on the boob, my supply was low and I quit after 3 months, about 2 weeks after I came back to work. I had the fancy "Nursing Room" at work and everything (BTW, isn't that the law?)...you are such a trooper!! Despite the obvious benefits of breast-milk, formula is freakin' expensive!!

I will think of UPMC much differently now...I'm in MN, and they're a client of the company I work for.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Zookeeper

Hi!

My mom was the v.p. of human resources for a small company she worked at. She would have absolutely flipped out hearing a story like yours, that's terrible! It's hard to stomach the fact that women are still treated like dirt in the work place. The company she worked for actually had a lounge, not IN the bathroom, but adjacent to it, that had couches and a door that locked for moms who needed to pump. I guess I didn't realize how progressive her company was until now. You were amazing going through all of that for such a long time, you should be proud of yourself for what you did for your daughter. Of course, Alexis is the winner here, the benefits of your breast feeding will stay with her for her lifetime! Good job!

Lizzy

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLizzy in the Burbs

Wow. That is incredible. I can't believe you went through all of that. God bless ya! I think I would have caved. You are awesome!
Thanks for sharing your story!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Just goes to show that hospitals don't care about keeping people healthy (HELLO! breastmilk!), they care about money.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjennifer

Good grief! That hospital system is awful! Kudos to you for sticking it out so long.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSandy C.

OMG . . . please tell me you've read my posts on pumping in the parking garage at my law school! There's some freaky parking attendant who comes EVERY TIME and stares into my window when I'm pumping.

Also, I have long since given up my modesty when it comes to pumping. I'll do it outside like a sexual deviant if necessary. It's important, damnit! Also, my back seat thankfully has tinted windows . . . so unless they stare into my front seat, they can't usually see me. Notice I say "usually." The parking garage attendat SPECIFICALLY stares into my front seat so as to see me back there. Weirdo. Oh, and the "isn't she old enough to be weaned" comment pissed me off as I've heard stuff like that myself even though my kid is 7 months old.

I'm impressed you could make enough milk pumping! My kid has to get formula, too . . .my twice a day doesn't generate enough to keep Sumo Baby going.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaw Student Hot Mama

WOW! I can not believe how uncaring your employer was, that is just insane! Kudos to you for making it work though, that's awesome!

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

You are a real trooper! I would have given up for sure. I have a friend who was told to pump in a bathroom as well. that didn't fly for her either - she told a few people off. It didn't help any, but at least she got to tell them off.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPam

"Big Important People' prey on "Young Inexperienced Mothers". I wouldn't put up with that crap now to save my life. But when I was nursing? Young mom? I shut up and did what I was told. So sad. It's true that youth is wasted on the young. I'm trying to teach my kids to be polite and assertive at the same time.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFlea

that was just plain wrong. i can't even believe you were treated like that.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

You'll stalk me no matter what I talk about on my blog? I just love you Burgh Momma! Your comment today really made me smile.

I can't thank you enough for that.

You're the best!

Hallie :)

you should run for president. seriously.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkatydidnot

I'm so glad I was able to have a decent maternity leave after both kids, because I suck (pun totally intended) at pumping. I can't believe you pumped in a carwash - now that is dedication.

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterandi

Oh, now I won't sleep fuming about that; how indescribably hypocritical. URggH! Glad you survived it!

March 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShellie

It is a sad reality that healthcare systems typically offer the poorest employee assistance tools. It makes absolutely no sense!!

Continuing on through such difficult circumstances speaks volumes about how much you love your punkin and what you will do to ensure her wellbeing. GOOD JOB MOMMY! You are an inspiration!

March 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDamama T

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