It's Working Project

"I took it upon myself to find a place to pump . . . I didn’t ask permission, rather, I went ahead and did it and figured asking for forgiveness was easier than asking permission."

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?

Your life as you know it will never be the same, but for the better. It will be harder than you ever anticipated and sweeter than you ever could have imagined.  Take time to savor every moment of pregnancy, the good, bad and the ugly, because every moment brings you closer to meeting your little one. Don’t forget to include dad in the process as you plan and prepare for baby’s arrival. Even though you are carrying the baby, he’s just as excited and nervous as you are and this is a nerve-wracking time for him as well. Also, don’t forget to take pictures and document your pregnancy!

What was your primary motivation for deciding to return (or not) to work? How early did you tell your employer?

When I was 12 weeks along, I told my boss and colleagues and then reported it to HR so I could begin discussing my maternity leave options.

FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, was there a place for you to pump that met your needs and was conducive to your success? If you breastfed, how did you decide to continue? FOR DADS: What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby? Was it specific to your manager or larger, whole work culture?

I planned for my return by practicing with my breast pump and building up my freezer stash of expressed breastmilk (in addition to breastfeeding on demand) as it was crucial to me to keep breastfeeding and leave my milk for my babies when we were apart.  I did some dry runs at the daycare so I could get used to the routine and get my babies used to the setting before their first days.  Getting a balance with breastfeeding and pumping took a lot of practice but it was a major goal of mine to keep breastfeeding as a working mom.  When I got back to work, I built in time during the day when I would go to the daycare to feed the babies so I could ease us into being separated for feedings. Eventually, I stopped going to the daycare during the day and pumped at regular intervals to ensure that I could keep up my supply and to keep building up the freezer stash. 

I realized early in life that best laid plans are often a fantasy so I was not too rigid in my expectations and was able to embrace flexibility when I went back to work. The balancing act involved a lot of pumping, a lot of nursing when we were together, and not having unrealistic expectations of a perfect situation and that served us well.  One of the biggest issues I confronted was apathy by my employer who did nothing to support me as I returned to work.  While my boss was not resistant to my pumping, he did not offer any support  and there was no formal structure to assist pumping moms in locating a space.  Given my determination, I took it upon myself to find a place to pump and carved out that time to feed the babies early on. I didn’t ask permission, rather, I went ahead and did it and figured asking for forgiveness was easier than asking permission. It was important to me that breastfeeding continue despite going back to work and I was not going to let anyone deter me from that. It was during that time that I realized many moms did not have that same voice or ability to get what they needed because of barriers and challenges at the workplace and that is ultimately why I switched my career to be a breastfeeding educator and advocate.

How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it?

I was fortunate to work for an international organization and had a fully paid 3 month maternity leave, which I realize was quite lucky since that is not the norm for many women in the US. I had enough leave banked so I was also able to take an additional month off before my due date—though my first had other plans and came two weeks early!

What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

On an emotional level, it was hard to leave the babies when I went back to work after each pregnancy but working was important to me as I wanted to retain that aspect even as I became a mom.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work? What was your biggest pregnancy indulgence?

My kids’ dad was super supportive and I would not have been able to return to work or breastfeed as long as I did without him. From the many words of encouragement, hugs when I was feeling overwhelmed, to helping me clean pump and bottle parts, he was able to help me accomplish my breastfeeding goals and handle the juggle of being a working, breastfeeding mom.  We both worked full time and it was never an issue for us realizing that we both were doing our best to balance work and home life.  I had the added layer of breastfeeding and pumping which he was also hugely supportive of and that made a big difference in how much easier my return to work was.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I craved milk-the creamier the better, and when I was pregnant with my son I could not get enough citrus-especially fresh squeezed orange juice and lemonade.

Fill in the blanks: As a working parent, I never expected ____ would be so hard and ____ would be so much easier!

I never expected the balance of work and home life would be so hard and breastfeeding* would be so much easier! (*with a lot of support, confidence and determination!)