Friday, April 11, 2008

Doing My Best

I'm now a morning person. It happened when Zane was born, and my attention to my new son was required at every hour - not just after 10:00am. Even so, I still cannot make an 8:00am meeting. It's not for lack of trying, because I have tried everything. As I drove to the Capitol this morning, I figured out why.

Stress.

Every day I use a breast pump to express mother's milk so that Zane will be properly nourished while in daycare. This is not an easy task:

Challenge #1: find 20-30 uninterrupted minutes - twice - during a Session day.

Challenge #2: find an empty room in the Capitol with both an electrical outlet and a door that closes and locks

Challenge #3: hope that the availability of the empty room coincides with the 20-30 uninterrupted minutes - twice

Challenge #4: try to relax as the breast pump screams "WHACK-o," and lobbyists are knocking on said locked door, so that the milk will "let down" and the pumping session will yield at LEAST 3 ounces.

Challenge #5: try to banish nagging thoughts that stress is diminishing my milk supply

Sigh.

In the last three weeks, I've been able to pump maybe 8 ounces - maximum - per day (that's two pumping sessions...) to make Zane's bottles for the next day. That means I have barely enough milk for two bottles at daycare, which leaves zero flexibility in the timing of Zane's feeding schedule. If I feed him even 10 minutes earlier than 7:00am, the poor kiddo is starving by the time I fetch him at 5:00pm and feed him at 5:30pm. Zane is generally a good sport about things, but he does not like to wait for food. He gets that from his father.

So this morning, I was out of bed and in the shower at 5:50am. By 6:50am, I was out of hair & makeup and finishing with wardrobe. The bottles were prepared and ready for quick retrieval from the fridge, the pump accessories were packed in the Ziploc and already stowed in my tote bag, and even "breakfast" (a Special K bar, a banana and a frosty Perrier) was ready for the grab 'n go. Doing good...time to awaken the baby.

Zane was stirring and stretching and full of sweetness. He smiled, he cooed, he gurgled and he didn't even fuss when I pulled his onesie over his fuzzy head. 7:00am, right on time, ready to nurse. He nursed for 25 minutes, and by 7:30am, we were out the door for daycare. Here's how the rest of the morning went:

7:35am, arrive at daycare, feel the daily pang of guilt and sadness about leaving my infant to share the best part of his day with other people.

7:45am, depart daycare for the Capitol, meeting starting in exactly 15 minutes. Start feeling the pressure of running late, anticipate the stress of the day. Slow down from 50mph to 35mph at the sight of Tallahassee's finest using a radar gun on Orange Avenue.

8:10am, arrive at the Capitol. Late. Ugh. Text message from boss asking for a copy of an amendment desperately needed immediately for meeting. Double ugh. Stress cramps my shoulders and neck in a vise grip as I run from my parking spot (on one side of the Capitol Complex) to my office (on the opposite side of the Capitol Complex...a distance equivalent to a city block).

8:15am, arrive at my desk. Out of breath, shoulders scrunched with stress, hair disheveled, and perspiring a little. Meanwhile, in room 404 of the House Office Building, boss is presenting the first of our four super-gnarly bills in the 8:00am Council meeting. And I'm late.

I don't think I expected it to be easy, but I know I didn't think it would be this hard. Especially the pumping. And I know I didn't consider the effects of stress on my milk supply. If I were just able to express 12 ounces a day, instead of 8 ounces, I would have more flexibility. Four ounces doesn't sound like a lot - especially to those who blithely suggest, "just pump more often." Sure. Notwithstanding the fact that it hurts, discouragement quickly sets in at the sight of .5oz in the collection bottle after 15 minutes of pumping.

It seems very odd to me that there is so little support within the Legislature - as an employer - for new mothers; especially given the focus on "family values." I know my stress would be greatly relieved - and my milk supply greatly enhanced, perhaps - if there were some type of accommodation for nursing mothers. Really, I can't be the first legislative aide who chooses to continue breastfeeding her infant, despite Session. And I guess it can be argued there is no need for accommodation since gals like me figure it out somehow.

There are 3 weeks of Session left. 15 work days. I know the challenge of balancing Mama-hood with work will not end when the Legislature adjourns sine die on May 2nd. But, work in the District office is cushy. I have an office with a door that closes. My office is 10 minutes from my house. And the schedule is happily devoid of 8:00am meetings.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Mama's Capable Hands

This is the current screen saver on my desktop at work. I love this photo. I titled it "In Mama's Capable Hands" because it reminds me of my REAL life. That is especially important right now as I try to balance work and mama-hood. It also reminds me that as hard it has been to manage the demands of Session with an infant, I'm doing a pretty good job. I'm reminded of that every time my son smiles at me. And when I'm away from him during the day, this is what I see:




Zane at 8 weeks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WHACK-o

I think my breast pump is trying to tell me something. The sound it makes as it rhythmically expresses mommy's milk for Z is something akin to "WHACK-o, WHACK-o, WHACK-o." The cadence of the message depends on the setting, so, when I adjust the pump to a faster setting, it sounds like a hoarse Marilyn Monroe on crack calling me crazy. It's true enough these days; I mean, really, why else would I voluntarily relocate to Tallahassee (a solid 7-hour drive from Fort Myers...) for 9 weeks, with my 3-month-old baby, away from my love and my beautiful home, to work a ridiculous schedule at the Capitol and be a full-time single mom? Clearly the breast pump is right.