A Working Mom: "P is for Pumping"

As I described in my last post there were several worries I had in returning to work. One of them was pumping.

You see, when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March, 2010 an amendment was made to the Fair Labor Standards Act dictating that:

An employer shall provide—
  1. a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and
  2. a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

What a great and essential amendment! However, this piece of good fortune does you no good if you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees. In which case the employer is under no such obligation, if it would cause undo hardship to them.

As I work for a start-up company with a fluctuating employee count. My situation does not give me the right to ask for a quiet place to pump while I am at work.
But it never hurts to ask, so I approached my boss before coming back to the office, about where I might be able to pump, if I would be required to clock-out during the process, and how much time I may be warranted to complete the process.

Unfortunately my boss was more or less at a loss of answers as I was. We didn't have much space so he didn't know where I could pump (although he generously offered to compensate me for the time I take to pump), nor was he aware of the suggested time allotted for pumping. In the end he decided that however long it took me would be acceptable to him, and although there may be some coworkers uncomfortable with me storing the expressed milk in the community fridge that would be acceptable to him. 

After talking with my boss I realized I would need a plan of attack, come my first full day of work. And so I devised a plan to walk over to the most likely of places to have a room I could use and ask to borrow one. Since our offices are right across the street from the city's public library I decided to go there. I knew they had study rooms so I steeled myself to the notion of checking one out on a daily basis, for my pumping needs. I knew those rooms had outlets, and I could easily set aside some time every day to go there, so I convinced myself that would be the best plan of action.

My first day back at the office came and although I knew my strategy was a good one I was nervous, so I waited until I could not stand it any longer then I walked over to the Library. 

Immediately after walking in I noticed the "No Food or Drink Allowed" signs posted all around. I tried to ignore the signs, as I didn't have much choice but to disobey the signs, and proceeded to the Main Librarian's desk. She didn't question my need of a study room, and walked me over to the right room without any hesitation. When I arrived however, I faltered as there were windows, from the ceiling to the floor, just to the left of the door, looking into the study room. How was I supposed to pump in here? Knowing that anyone could look in on me and see that I was disobeying one of the main cardinal rules of the library? No, this room wasn't going to do. I quickly walked back and thanked the librarian for her time and said I wouldn't be needing the study room after all.

By now I was close to tears, knowing that if I didn't find a place to pump I would not have anything to give our sitter for Genelle to eat the following day. So I started back out the library to think. As I was leaving I looked across the building at the Children's section of the library. 

As if a lightbulb had turned on, the thought came to me that of any section of the library, the Children's area would have a high rate of lactating mothers visiting. So I wandered over to the librarian's desk in that department, hopeful that they might have some type of room available for nursing mothers to use.

The librarian on duty was reading quietly to herself when I walked up. After a moment she looked up, and I asked her if the Children's section had any room available to accommodate mothers in need of nursing child. I'm sure she must have been slightly confused at my answer as there was no such child with me, but she answered anyways, dictating that their story-telling room to the right could be used, as well as their space in the back. 

Those statements were exactly what I needed to hear.

With a shaky breath I told her of my situation and asked if there was any way she could help me out.

She said yes.

Since that day I've been going to the library on a regular basis, using whichever room the sweet Children's librarians might have available for me to use. 

It isn't a perfect situation. Multiple times during my pumping session little hands will jingle the doorknobs of the room I'm in, frightening me half to death that they might come bursting in. And every now and then, a busy librarian, or oblivious volunteer walk in on me. But more often than not I'm blessed with a room to call my own for 15-20 minutes where I'm at peace to express the milk that my sweet baby girl needs. 

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