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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Adventures in Pumping (and breastfeeding in general)

When I first began breastfeeding my son, I could have never imagined I'd have such a hard time with doing something that was so "natural."  If you've never read my blog before, look back at this entry, The Triumphant Tale of my Teeny-Tiny TaTas, and you can see for yourself just how difficult the task was for me at first.  Not only had I never dreamed breastfeeding would be so difficult for me to cope with at first, I also never would have thought that it could be such a comedy of errors.

After the day I've had, I thought to myself that I really should write about all the "mishaps" I've had  so far in my breastfeeding journey.  Trust me, there have been quite a few...

Nothing screamed to the world (and my innocent early 20-something male cashier) "Look at me!  I just had a baby and this is my first time out of the house without her! Oh, and by the way, I breastfeed!!" like being alone in the grocery store, harmlessly standing in the check out line with my "last minute" can of tomatoes and bag of cheddar cheese when I suddenly felt a rushing sensation in my boobs and I realized, "Holy crap. I forgot to put on nursing pads."  The big give away that I was a brand new mom?  Oh, that'd be the 2 matching, gigantic wet spots that bled through my t-shirt, ever so blatantly exactly over top of my boobs.  The poor guy's face when he realized that I was leaking in front of him- he had desperation in his eyes and I could literally see him straining NOT to glance down at my chest or even hint that he'd noticed  I was suddenly and disgustingly covered in breast milk. It felt like the walk of shame, going from the check out line to my car- like I had some profane sign tied around my neck, so that every person I passed gawked, stared, or immediately darted their eyes away from me in embarrassment.  By the time I got home, my shirt was soaked with milk and I had devised a plan for never having to shop at that store again so that no one would recognize my face, or my leaky boobs for that matter, after the total embarrassment of having a very public let-down.   

I'm an elementary school math and science teacher and I'd like to let it be known that I love my job, I love my school, and I love my boss.  My boss, the principal of my school, is a great man whom I respect deeply and from whom I've learned so much.  The man knows his stuff and I look up to him and rely on him for advice and direction.  He hired me six weeks after I had my son and he was thrilled when, just 8 short months later, I came to him to tell him I was pregnant again.  He has become a friend of mine and somewhat of a "father" figure to me, not to mention a real mentor to me in my profession.  All that being said, I never, ever dreamed the man would see my boobs- but, he did- and it was as mortifying as you can probably imagine it was.

I was sitting in my classroom today, alone, during my planning period.  This planning time is really my pumping time now that I'm back to work because it's the only "student free" time I have during the day.  I was sitting at my desk, with my shirt off and my pumping bra off because I had just finished pumping and I was putting my milk away.  I always put my milk away first thing when I finish pumping, before putting my shirt back on, because I'm paranoid I'll knock it over and spill it and  the whole 40 minute nipple pulling session would have been done in vain.  So, I'm at my desk with boobs exposed trying to pack away my milk (I mean, I had literally just finished taking the pump off of my boobs) when I hear the jingle of keys.  I always wear a  lanyard around my neck with my classroom keys attached to it so, distracted and not thinking to throw my shirt on, I glanced down at my neck looking to see if I was still wearing my key and if I was making the noise.  Nope- not me.  So I turned to look at my desk when I suddenly realized that my classroom door was opening and in walked my boss.  I shrieked from the startle of seeing someone in my room and then with the sudden realization that the person in my room was my boss AND I was sitting at my desk with my boobs hanging out, totally exposed for him to see.  He turned a whiter shade of pale and backed out of my room, slamming the door behind him.  In the meantime, me and my boobs sat at my desk, shell shocked and utterly mortified.  Why me? Why me? Why me?  Really, why in the world would he have to waltz in at just that exact moment?  Why not 5 seconds later when I had my shirt on?  It would've still been embarrassing because my milk would have been sitting out, but I could handle that.  I could definitely handle that in comparison to the total embarrassment I felt after him having seen my bare boobs!

I cleaned myself up and put my milk away and decided I'd better just go and face him.  I had sent him an email earlier in the day asking for him to come up to my room to see me, though I had specified in the email that I wanted him to come while my students were there (I needed him to see how dysfunctional my overhead projection system in my classroom is).  I knew that he hadn't realized my students were having their fine arts classes and that I was in my room alone.  My door shade was down and my door was locked, though, after the horrendous tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, it has become "normal" for teachers to leave their shades down and their doors locked at my school.  He'd become used to having to unlock classroom doors to get in.  I knew it was a total mistake on his part, that he'd walked in at just the exact wrong moment and I knew he had to be just about as embarrassed as I was (although, not quite as much, after all, I'm the one who was sitting there with my boobs hanging out!). When I walked into his office, he was still a sickly shade of green and he immediately and profusely began to apologize.  The poor guy was shaking with nerves and looked like he was going to have a heart attack.  I gave him a hug and let him know it was okay and everyone in the school's office got a big laugh out of it.  Never, ever,though did I think my boss would see my boobs...

Speaking of folks I never thought would see my boobs- 4 unsuspecting students of mine last year caught a glimpse of 'em during my pumping time.  I felt like a freak show exhibition.  I pumped in my classroom last year,which was a different classroom than I have this year.  My room last year adjoined to another classroom through a common set of bathrooms for the kids.  Anyone could walk into my room from the other classroom because the bathroom doors did not lock.  When I would pump, I'd lock my classroom's front door and pull my window shade down, and I'd close the door that joined my classroom to the other teacher's room and put a big "DO NOT DISTURB" sign on it. Several times, I begged and pleaded for the teacher in the other room to remember to lock her classroom door because my students knew that if they forgot something in my room they could always get in through her classroom if my door was locked.  4 times!  4 separate times, with 4 separate kids, I had was stormed in on because they'd forgotten their lunch money, or lunch box, or they wanted to talk to me about something.  Granted, I did not tell my students what I was doing during their lunch time because I didn't want to have to explain to them, or their angry parents for that matter, where milk comes from on a mommy and how my machine worked- I also didn't want my students thinking about my boobs.  I wanted the poor little things to go on oblivious to the thought of me breastfeeding and pumping.  I was mortified to have it happen once but after the fourth time, I bought a door jam so I could block the door to keep the kids out while I pumped.  I'm pretty sure I've had to have shown up in their nightmares, though.  Have you ever seen yourself pump or someone else do it?  It's pretty freaky looking, especially if you're a little kids without a care in the world who unsuspectingly walks in on someone yanking their nipples through a milking machine, hearing the pump make a "woosha- woosha" noise.  It looks and sounds like a torture device!

Breastfeeding, talking about it, tends to make people very uncomfortable. They start to look at you like your boobs will pop out of your shirt at any moment and begin spraying them in the face.  Just saying that I have to go pump to any of my male co-workers sparks fear in their eyes and causes an immediate change of subject.  But then there are those creepy folks who like to ask completely inappropriate questions about nursing and pumping- like a woman I work with who never had children and wanted me to describe how it felt to pump and what the milk looked like. Ummm...gross. Pumping is not a football game and I don't need to give anyone a play by play just so they can vicariously experience it.  I've also encountered several men who find it fascinating and ask me if I've ever tasted my own milk.  What the heck is wrong with them? They make me want to barf.  I am a lactating, working, and overly tired mother of 2 who's body has been wrecked from having two kids in less than 18 months and who has been breastfeeding for a year and a half and I'd like to let the world of the creeps know, there is nothing sexy or attractive about it and no I have no desire what-so-ever to dabble in taste tests of my breast milk. My babies are the only connoisseuers who have ever drank from the tap,so to speak.  My boobs leak, they drip, and they squirt when you squeeze them.  To me,and to any other normal person out there, unless I'm feeding my baby, that's just gross.  Yes, it is totally natural but so is pooping and most people think that's gross, too- so stop asking me if I like the way it tastes!

I've still got another eight months left in my breastfeeding journey this time around.  I'm sure I'll have many more mishaps when it comes to my boobs.  This too shall pass, though, right? I mean, no- I never thought I'd have students see me with my shirt off, or my boss get a free peep show, or whacked strangers ask me if I put my milk in my coffee, but it won't last forever (thank God!). No matter who barges in on me or squirms when they learn I'm breastfeeding, I'm doing what's best for my kids, so if I've got to endure some major public embarrassment, then so-be-it- it's all worth it in the end.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes... pushing a double seater baby carriage. This nursery rhyme is commonly sung on playgrounds all around the country.  What it doesn't include is "then comes 30 pounds that linger, stretch marks on your tummy, and countless sleepless nights."  Oh, ahhhhhh...  it's been 4 years since I said "I Do" to my husband and on my anniversary, reflecting back on that magical day, I just can't believe the sequence of events my life has taken.  I guess, more specifically, I can't believe that 4 short years later I already have 2 kids.

I got all sentimental on the day of my actual anniversary and sat my son down on my lap to look at pictures from my wedding day.  He loves to look at pictures of his family members, so I knew I could get "away" with getting to browse through my photos and keep his attention if I pointed out everyone in them.  I came across one specific picture that struck me because of what the photographer said when she took it.  Here's the picture:

That's my waist.  It's naturally all mine.
 No corset underneath that dress.
 Just a bra and my body

The photographer said "I've got to get a picture of your waist so you can look back at it and remember it after you have kids."  I laughed then.  "Oh, ha ha" I thought.  Little did I know, that literally 4 years to the day later, I'd find this picture, stop and gawk at it for a solid 5 minutes and think to myself "Dear God, she was right!  THAT'S what my waist used to look like!"  I can not, for a moment, even believe that I used to be unsatisfied with that.  I mean, LOOK AT IT!  I don't feel bad about saying it, I don't feel full of myself for saying it.  I don't feel like I'm gloating.  I had a good thing going and don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Me and my wedding day waist of my 2nd baby, who came just a mere 17 months after my first baby, it is GONE!  I mean, the natural, "I was just born with it"-ness of my waist is gone.  On my wedding day I was a size 7.  I weighed 130lbs.  I didn't "fad" diet before my wedding. I didn't excessively work-out.  I just was... naturally, a size 7.

Now, I have 2 kids under the age of two, and a weight that is considerably higher than my wedding day 130.  My hips are wider, my butt is wider, my boobs are saggier, and my eyes are baggier from lack of sleep.  I'm 14 weeks postpartum now and I'm in a size 12.  I feel like everything jiggles and my thighs have gotten to know one another when they didn't know the other existed before kids.

  I would like to get back into shape- close to the shape I was in on my wedding day if possible, but I have to say, I AM NOT unhappy with my body.   It's a pretty big deal for me to be able to say that considering where I've come from...

I'll be honest, without getting too "heavy"- I had a serious problem with anorexia and bulimia when I was in my early 20's. It is an aspect of my life that I don't hide but I don't freely discuss either, because it happened in the past and I am a dramatically different person today than I was when I suffered from the disorders.  I have found in my recovery that not dwelling on the details or bringing them up often helps with moving forward and away from the disease.  By the time I got married, though, I had recovered from the disorders.   It is a big deal for me to say I'm not unhappy with the way my body looks because it does look dramatically different than it used to.

Now that I have 2 children, and I have this "slightly used" body, the body image I had has been put into sharp perspective.  I had a bangin' body!  I looked great.  I really was hot.  And I think, the sad thing is most women are like me in not realizing that about themselves before it's "too late."  Most are like me and look back at pictures of what they used to look like and finally realize how beautiful they were- and it's a shame that in the moment when they did actually look that great, they didn't realize it/believe it/trust it about themselves.

I don't have what I used to have, in terms of body dimensions and weight, anymore.  My waist is not sculpted and hour-glassy like it used to be.  I have stretch marks on my tummy that make me look like I got into a sword fight with Zorro and I lost.  Here, I'll prove it. Look at that!

Yikes- yes, that is my tummy.  You can also see my appendectomy scar on the right
side of my stomach from my emergency surgery when I was
28 weeks pregnant with my daughter.  I'm 12 weeks postpartum in this picture
  I am going to have to work pretty darn hard to achieve what used to come very naturally to me.  But what I DO have now, that I didn't have then, are the most beautiful, amazing, and wonderful kids in the world.  Something else that has been put sharply into perspective for me since looking at my wedding pictures is, while I did look great and I would like to look that good again someday, I would not trade the blessings God has given me for even a milisecond to have that body back.  My wedding day really was the happiest day of my life, but 4 years later, looking like I do now, I've never, ever felt more joy or love.  

I'm a far cry from looking like I did
 exactly 4 years ago on my wedding day.
But notice the 2 people in the mirror with
  I didn't have them 4 years ago and they've made my
life infinitely better than it was four years ago! 
I am working to get back into shape.  I realize that I may never look the same as I used to.  I may never have that "tight" look that I had on my wedding day.  I've accepted that.  After all, I'm a happily married mommy of 2.  No hot body will ever be better than that!

 Sure, I totally have days when I cringe when I look at myself in the mirror.  It is frustrating to not be able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes.  I'd like to sit down without being able to feel my stomach touch the tops of my legs (I'd really love to not feel that!) but I'm not going to dwell on  it.  I've  made it a point to either look at my kids or picture my little beauties in my mind when I start to feel down about how I look.  How can I possibly feel bad about what my body has done for me and what it has been through for me to give me the most wonderful gifts any woman could ever receive?  I make it a point to try and eat healthy, to squeeze exercise in when I can (I have 2 kids under 2...there's not a whole lot of free time, and I do like to blog when I get a free moment!)- But I'm not beating myself up for not looking like I used to- it's a total waste of my time- valuable time I could be spending with my kids instead of sulking over my pant size or the number I got on the scale (by the way, I put the scale in the top of my closet and won't step on it for a few more months.  It's not worth tempting myself with.  It could be a total bummer if I don't see the number I want and what's the point?  It is just a number, after all)

What I'm trying to say is I think there's no space in my life right now to feel like crap about my body because being a mommy and a wife fills up all the space I have.  I try to make it a point to be happy about myself everyday and shun the self deprecating thoughts- that's why I shared that awful picture of my stomach.  I'm honestly OKAY with it, I have nothing to be ashamed of or feel down about but I have every reason in the world to be happy!  I'm healthy, my kids are healthy and happy and if I'm a little more "padded" to enjoy it, then so be it!  I think, as moms, we need to let go of the stigma of being perfect in all the different facets of motherhood- perfect kids, perfect body, perfect home, perfect husband- and just stop and relish the imperfectness of our lives and how wonderful they are in spite of the flaws.