Yes, I’m talking about pumping breast milk. In public. Well not really in public, but in a public place.
This week, my days are spent at a professional development conference at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, which means I’m away from my nursling for many hours every day. This also means I need a private place to pump so that Nana has milk for my daughter while I’m away.
I began querying the organization hosting my conference on Monday. The three reps I spoke with looked at me like I was a crazy woman, as I inquired about “a private place to pump breast milk”, and all three suggested the public bathroom. The bathroom. ”Really?” I asked them, “is that the best we can do?”
From there I went to the concierge desk and spoke with a young fella who blushed and stumbled over his words as he told me that he had no other options. He gave me a brief glimmer of hope when he said, “Well there is the tenth floor”.
The tenth floor? I hopefully questioned.
“Yeah, there’s a bathroom up there that’s out of the way, and there shouldn’t be too many people using it.”
I told him as nicely as I could, “Umm, no I will not be sitting on a toilet while I provide nourishment for my child.”
I mean, can you imagine? Would you have your lunch on the toilet?
I have to add that the Marriott is the largest hotel in Atlanta, a city of more than four million people. The place is huge. Huge! It has hundreds (thousands?) of rooms. I was in shock that no one could find a small room for me to pump in for twenty minutes a day. While I was paying over $500 to attend this professional conference at the hotel, I was not a guest of the hotel in the sense that I wan’t sleeping there, but I was spending eight hours a day attending classes within the hotel.
I was in a bad way that afternoon as I left the hotel. I’m generally an optimistic person, my glass is always half-full, but as I stepped out onto that hot asphalt I had no faith in society. My half-full glass had a leak.
What the hell is up with us that we do not allow comfortable places for mothers to feed their babies? I happily nurse in public everywhere I go: the grocery store, airplanes, restaurants, shopping malls, bars, swimming pools … you name it, I’ve probably nursed there. I’m discreet, but unabashed in my approach to breastfeeding my child. Pumping though, that’s a little different.I do enjoy a bit more privacy while hooked up to my trusty Medela Pump-n-Style automatic pump. Here’s the thing though; if we as a society were more accepting of breastfeeding, if we weren’t so freaked out by seeing a babe attached to their mama’s boobs, if we weren’t such a walking contradiction, celebrating cleavage at the same time we shun seeing it on lactating mamas, then maybe, just maybe we might think of providing comfy places for nursing mamas to nourish their children.
I was drained. My glass was … empty.
Tuesday morning I walked into that Marriott with my Medela Pump-n-Style slung over my shoulder, and I had a mission – I was going to find a place to pump that did not involve a toilet. Period.
It’s all about who you talk to, and with a little more effort, I finally made my way to the top. I tracked down the two ladies organizing this massive conference, briefly told them of my needs and within 10 minutes they’d found me a empty conference room, had me a key made and I was good to go.
Just. Like. That.
My glass filled up again. And so did my bottles.
Fortunately, this is the first time I’ve encountered any such challenge with breastfeeding my daughter. I am grateful that my family is fully supportive of me providing the best, most naturally-perfect food for Zinnia, and I’ve never been ostracised while breastfeeding in public.
Even so, this felt big and it felt defeating. If I were the kind of person to give up easily, I would have been sitting clothed, on the toilet while my Medela hummed away.
Have you encountered obstacles to pumping while away from home? How did you handle it?
I wrote this piece for my blog in July 2011. It feels appropriate to share now as we come to the end of the 2012 World Breastfeeding Week.
About Lisa Coffee
I’m a crafting, gardening, homebirthing, Colorado Mama with a two year old named Zinnia and baby number two (affectionately known as Turnip) due this fall. As a family we strive to live close to the earth and her seasons and my best days are spent gardening the heck out of our quarter-acre backyard, making homemade meals and planning our family’s next big adventure. I’m especially fond of a good Mojito happy hour and I have a weakness for far-too-expensive jeans, but those luxuries sing of life before motherhood. These days, when I’m not stripping cloth diapers or cleaning up after another toddler shenanigan, I can be found barefoot in the garden, at my sewing table, or heading for the hills in the Big White Van. Join me daily, as I share snippets from the good life at littlecoffeebeans.com .