Yep, that’s my milk up there (with some of Mike’s thin mints). It’s shocking how much of my day is now spent calculating ounces pumped. I had not anticipated quite how humiliating it would be to pump at work. Because it is. Humiliating. That is not to blame my very nice coworkers at my very nice job, who are providing me with places and time to pump. But it can’t be the same place every time, and it is embarrassing to basically have to say, “I’m lactating, where can I go and milk myself like a cow?” To this office or that one. To the bathroom, where I sat on the floor and cried and tried to think about Atticus, about why I was doing this. I have been walked in on by both coworkers and parents. And I don’t even want to talk about the time we had a fire drill while I was right in the middle of producing all that milk. I am still at it. But I completely understand why people would decide it’s not worth it. It is difficult and stressful and embarrassing. On the days when it is the hardest, I remind myself that I am doing this because of social justice parenting, because it is my way of sacrificing and showing the love of God for my child. Sometimes that helps. Sometimes I just cry instead.

My coworkers and the moms at school have all been incredibly supportive. They see that (oh so stylish) black bag and the thing I carry around to block out the windows, and realization dawns in their eyes. And they smile at me, tell me I am doing a good thing. Relate their own pumping stories. I didn’t have any major problems breastfeeding, so I haven’t needed a lot of encouragement there. But I sure have needed some encouragement on this whole pumping thing. I have made it five weeks. Six more until summer. I am not yet ready to talk about the fall. (I am going to try to make it through the fall. But can we not talk about it yet? Thanks.)

pump in style

In actuality, the entire experience since those two lines appeared has been more embarrassing than I thought. I threw up in Starbucks in Canada. I ran out of pants that fit. I had to sit in the waiting room of the hospital trying to be quiet about my massive contractions while a little girl kept counting down like she had just seen Ryan Seacrest do on TV. And now? I feel reduced to my levels of milk production.

I am trying to think of all of this humiliation as fodder. For what, exactly, I am not sure. My comedy tour? My speech at Atticus’s rehearsal dinner? My airing of the grievances at next year’s Festivus? Perhaps it is simply for the story of my life, the one that God and I are trying to write together. To help me remember to pass on the kindnesses and encouragement that I have received, to advocate for people who will be in my position in the future. To say, honestly: I don’t like it, and it’s okay if you don’t, either.

I breathe in rhythm with the pump. As I exhale, I think about how it might be refining me, helping me to be a better person. I let that idea settle in my heart. And then I get dressed, pack up the milk, and do my best to live out of that place of softness. Until I have to do it again.

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  1. Kari,

    I’ve appreciated your honesty about how you’ve felt since you’ve found out you were pregnant and became a mom. So many mom’s feel that they need to come across as “supermom,” so when those of us that feel like we aren’t “supermoms” are struggling, we often feel like failures. I was of mixed emotions when I got pregnant, and sure did fall in love with my little one when she was born. But it was a struggle for me to adjust to the changes in my life. The lack of sleep (she is only just now starting to wake only once a night, at 13 months), the nursing, the changes in my body, and the fact that I no longer could just up and do whatever I wanted when I wanted were a tremendous struggle for me. My husband had trouble understanding why I couldn’t seem to get much done around the house (I am a SAHM), but I was soooo tired and feeling a bit depressed that I just didn’t care. I’m not one of those mom’s who is terribly sentimental about the nursing. We are still going, but I am in the process of weaning, and we will probably be fully weaned around 15 months. There are times I am sad about it, but on a whole, the experience has been weird for me. I’m proud I provided nourishment for my daughter for so long and basically grew her for the first 6 months, but there were times when I just hated nursing. The first few months of motherhood can be rough. At least in my experience. Now that my daughter is older, I am enjoying it so much more. The changes every day are tremendous and seeing her learn and become independent has been rather amazing. I guess I just want you to know that you aren’t alone in what you are feeling, I think that many women are just scared to admit it. But it really does start to get better.

    Thank you for sharing, and sorry for the ridiculously long comment.

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  2. Kari
    Thanks for you honesty. I have to say that pumping was the worst part of motherhood for me. It was so bad that I try to block it out of my memory bank. I give you props for doing even though it sucks. I hope you make it through the rest of the school year a little easier and then just try to stock pile over the summer so you can quit earlier than a year. I was able to do that and stopped pumping at 10 months. Some day when I am done having kids I am going to have a pump burning party and you will surely be invited!

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  3. @Tracey: God bless you, Tracey, because I am going to get the summer off, which is kind of like cheating. You deserve a medal.

    And, funnily enough, I have already discussed when I can burn my pump. I am not planning on having any more kids, so I was going to burn it January 1st, but I will hold off for your party.

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  4. @Heather: Thanks, Heather. I love long comments. πŸ™‚

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  5. brandi

    You are a rock star mom. I don’t know anything about breast feeding or pumping, and am in fact terrified of both. But there aren’t many moms out there who are as thoughtful and intentional about what they do and how they view it as you are. I know a lot of moms. You are winning. πŸ™‚

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  6. Kari….I have only “had” to pump a handful of times, and it was not my favorite. I can’t imagine I’d like any part of what you’re going through…except maybe, you’re right, the knowing that I’m doing what is good for my child by providing him the nourishment God intended. Press on. (And I mean that in a “you’re awesome” way, not in a “suck it up” way. I will facebook suggest you some sites that you might (or might not) find encouragement from. You know me. I *heart* breastfeeding.

    Also, there are all sorts of laws that protect breastfeeding in the workplace, including where that is to happen. And the bathroom isn’t one of them. I am sorry you’re going through that part of it, especially.

    Also, in somewhat related news, Oliver is 23 months old now, we’re still nursing (happily), but he just started sleeping through the night and in his own crib a few days before 23 months old. That is to say, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, even when we aren’t able to see it at the moment.

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  7. ok. and is it totally strange that I can’t get “hello mudder….hello fah-der” out of my head now? was that intentional?

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  8. regardless, you could write (with mike’s help, even, since I hear he loves the musical stuff, too), a song parody about your breastfeeding and pumping woes to the tune of that song. you know…in your spare time. (Don’t hit me.)

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  9. So that no one thinks I am talking badly about my employer: the bathroom thing only happened once, because I didn’t know where else I could go at the time. Everyone has made very sure it didn’t happen again.

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  10. I just liked the way the words sounded together. Maybe when the memories fade we will put them to music. πŸ™‚

    Posted 4/18/2011 at | Permalink
  11. I both love and hate my pump. I love that I can have a “back up” supply of milk for Brennan when I’m not around, but I do feel rather like a cow whenever I pump. You ARE doing a good thing, Kari. Hang in there.

    And I am so, so, so sorry that you had that dreadful bathroom incident.

    Posted 4/19/2011 at | Permalink
  12. @HannahBG: I think the fire drill might have been worse. I am pretty sure the bathroom won’t happen again. But who knows with a fire drill? hehe.

    Posted 4/19/2011 at | Permalink
  13. Rebecca

    I love this post. I’ve loved all your posts since Atticus was born. Your honesty is really beautiful. And Atticus is very blessed to have you as a mom πŸ™‚

    Posted 4/19/2011 at | Permalink
  14. too many times we think that because something is uncomfortable or difficult that it means we should stop…or we just want to stop, because let’s face it, who likes discomfort or difficulty? not me. but, i am so thankful for people that are willing to trudge through (for however long) those times. people who decide that it’s worth the discomfort, the pain, the embarrassment, even the fire drills, to do what you feel is right. i agree with tracey…indeed a medal is in order. πŸ™‚ and another one for your honesty and willingness to say what so many others feel…”i don’t like it, and it’s okay if you don’t either.”

    Posted 4/25/2011 at | Permalink
  15. Bec

    Hi Karibeth, I’ve been a reader for a long time and have commented once or twice. I think we’re about the same age, but we have quite different lives. I really don’t know what’s going on in yours, but it’s been a while between posts and I was concerned for you. So, sending you a ‘hello’. I hope all is well in your world.

    Posted 5/11/2011 at | Permalink
  16. Julie

    I stumbled across this post and saw the too familiar freezer of breast milk. It has been 6 wonderful months since I completed my year of breastfeeding. It is my proudest accomplishment. I hated every minute of it. And what I didn’t expect was that while reading about pumping at work – I started sobbing. Still painful to this day. I am pregnant with #2 and I will choose to do it again — but you are very right, it is such a mixed blessing.

    Posted 5/18/2011 at | Permalink
  17. kari, you are so awesome. thank you for being so real, girl.

    and i’m praying for you sister… you say your mustard seed is dwindling… praying his love will grow your faith each day in spite of everything…. love to you, friend. e.

    Posted 5/25/2011 at | Permalink
  18. For multiple reasons I hated breastfeeding with every fiber of my being. I think the sound of that pump would immediately cause my heart rate to accelerate.

    Posted 7/16/2011 at | Permalink

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