I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom, so when it came time for me to return to work a few months after my oldest was born, I knew pumping would be a major part of my experience as a working mom.
Luckier than most, though far from ideal, I only had to go to the office once a week.
As a nursing mom, I had to pump on those days I couldn’t breastfeed at home. This meant lugging my pumping equipment, along with my regular bag and often my laptop back and forth from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
It was cumbersome and exhausting and I still can’t believe women do this every day.
While at work, I had to hope the one spare office was available, otherwise my only option was to use the ladies room.
Yes, I pumped in the bathroom.
I would hide in largest stall and hope nobody could hear the pump motor, which always seemed ridiculously loud. I felt ashamed for pumping in that place, and for not demanding something better.
As far as I was aware, at the time, my company was not large enough to have to comply with any federal or state regulations on providing lactation rooms at the office. But even if they were, I was too exhausted to deal with it. On top of that, I was already grateful to only have to come in one day a week, and I didn’t want to push my luck.
Looking back, however, if I did speak up, and made my experience more comfortable, I might have been motivated to stay a bit longer.
Instead I left about three months after returning to work.
It was the last time I worked full-time.
The last time I had to pump in a public restroom.
When I found my old pump the other day, I thought about the hassle and hardships I faced as a new mom at work.
And it made me think of those who face them every day.
This is for you.
This is for the moms who go to work each day, hoping their milk won’t leak through their blouse.
This is for the moms who sit through never-ending meetings, gritting their teeth from the pain from engorged breasts, and trying not to show how much it sucks.
This is for the moms who carry their pumps into a bathroom, a utility closet, or the copy room, and still feel like they are being an “inconvenience” for needing a space to express milk.
This is for the moms who endure dirty looks, whispered comments and passive aggressive complaints from coworkers who don’t understand why pumping moms need to take so many breaks.
The moms who know they deserve better but are too tired, too scared and too ashamed to speak up.
I would say you’re amazing for enduring all that just to feed your baby.
But, you deserve better.
You deserve universal policies, which don’t require a law degree to understand.
You deserve compassionate employers, who show they value your contributions to the company, by ensuring your lactation needs are met.
Because no mother should ever feel like pumping in a bathroom is her only option.
This post originally appeared on my Facebook page.