Pumping in unusual places

So, I’m in the back of an airport shuttle and it’s near midnight and I have my winter coat over my chest to prevent the driver from seeing what I’m doing underneath. We’re heading toward Vermont where I have a job interview that will begin at 7 a.m. the next morning.

What I’m doing underneath is pumping. I’ve unbuttoned my blouse and wiggled a suction cup onto one milk-engorged boob. The pump is breathing a steady hum that I also try to hide with my giant winter coat. Every so often I get out my phone to look under there and see how much milk I’ve produced. I feel like a surreptitious cow.

I do not get the job. But I am still proud of myself for having produced six ounces that night.

Another story: I’m in an airplane, same winter coat, same pump underneath. Heading toward another job interview. It’s night and the guy next to me has just fallen asleep. I keep thinking, if we crash now I’m fucked. But then again, if we crash now, we’re all fucked. I produce four ounces.

The last time I flew, I used the airplane bathroom instead. It felt luxurious. So much space. I could stare at myself in the mirror. I could read whatever news was saved on my phone before it went into airplane mode. I could use the sink to clean up my pump parts afterwards.

Besides airplane bathrooms and dark shuttle backseats, I have also used other people’s offices and, once, a TV production room to pump. One of them had windows looking out on a snowy mountainside. Another had no windows and no wall decorations, save a giant poster of a historically significant person in transgender history.

If you have never pumped while on the academic job search, you might wonder why I can’t just wait for a more appropriate time or place to do all this. The answer to your question is three-fold:

1. If you go too long with out pumping, bad things happen. I get feverish. Other women start to leak milk. In general it is not pretty or comfortable. So the rule for me is that I need to pump at least every four hours.

2. When universities fly you out for a visit to see if you’re a “good fit,” they jam as many activities as possible into the day or two that you’re in town. There are interviews, tours, more interviews, readings, teaching demonstrations, and meals with people that are also sort-of interviews. Breaks, when they come, have to be on the go. So you ask for an office. Or at least somewhere with a door that locks.

3. When you live in Lubbock, Texas, it takes a long freaking time, and at least two planes, to get anywhere. If you don’t have a long lay-over between planes, you can bet your butt you’re going to be pumping while flying.

The problem of being a working nursing mom, however, is not just limited to the academic job search. At a conference recently, I was pleased to find that there was a designated room for pumping. But then I finally found the room and discovered that it was fronted by windows that faced a long hallway in the convention center. Inside, women were huddled in corners next to plugs like shy, surreptitious cows.

I know this is all better than it used to be. I’ve heard horror stories of the hand-held pumps that women of my mom’s generation used. At least modern technology has left me with a tiny little machine that fits into my purse, one I can whip out quickly and fasten on with ease. At least there are now rooms in many buildings specifically built for pumping.

But as I said the other day to a friend, I really wish that pumping were like going pee. That there were pumping rooms everywhere that you could easily slip into, do your business, and be on your way. Maybe one day. Though probably not in the next four years…

Also, least I complain too much, let me remind that all this discomfort is take on for the good of this tiny creature, who is totally worth it.

Four Days and Counting

Marta and Nico get back on Thursday. In the time that they’ve been gone, I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I miss them. Some people just assume I miss them and say, “Man it must be hard.”

It is hard. I talked to Nico and Marta on Skype and Nico holds up her foot for me to see and all I want to do is squeeze it. I watch Marta talk and think how nice it would be to share a bed with her again. In other words, I miss their physical presence in my life. And, in the case of Nico, I miss witnessing to the way she changes and grows.

I notice some of it, of course. She now uses certain Spanish interjections and conversational words with ease. “Vale,” she says nonchalantly when I ask her to show me something (Vale means OK in Spain). She also likes to throw around the words “Tambien” (also” and “Tampoco” (Neither/either) with a native accent. It’s adorable, but also makes me feel a little estranged from her. How could she go on developing when I’m not there to see her grow?

Mostly, though, this month and a half has been really good for me. I’ve written a lot and read a lot. I am beginning to publish more work. I also feel more grounded in my professional life and have a better sense of what I need to do to foster that life once Nico and Marta return. So, while I missed them bucketloads, I am also really appreciative for the time to work. And I am super grateful to Marta for giving me that time. While I’ve been sleeping through the night and writing and working in peace, she’s been Nico’s sole caregiver, a job that was quite hard at times (though Nico has loved Spain, all the traveling and all the changes have also made her a lot more clingy: she basically doesn’t let Marta out of her sight).

As I get ready for them to come back home this week, I’ve been looking at some recent photos of Nico and Marta (and me) and I thought I’d share them with you all. I promise more current ones once I get those two darlings back in my clutches:

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Nico looking pensive when we went to a greenhouse before she left for Spain

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Nico in Buddy Holly’s Glasses (outside the Buddy Holly Museum)

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Nico at a “ferret talk” at the local children’s science museum

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Marta looking particularly fetching beside our lit-up daughter at an outdoor concert this summer

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Me and Nico practicing the “surprised” face

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Little blue eyes when she had blue lips to match

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Nico having Elmo give Mrs. Butterworth a hug (or maybe something more raunchy?)