Friday, December 08, 2006

whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP

You may recognize in my title the telltale sound of the breastpump: three times a day, for ten to twenty minutes at a go, the whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP ties me to my Miss Baby, now at home with Pynchon while I pick up the pieces of my academic life at the office.

whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP, whup-WHOMP.

Initially, I looked on the pump askance: I considered it a mommy-replacement device, likely because my desire to have Miss Baby drink from a bottle owed largely to my increasing desperation to get a little distance from the milk vampire, in ways I simply couldn't when she was eating every 90 minutes every day. The pump, that is, was marking me as a bad mommy, because it indicated my desire to get away.

Soon, though, as my return to work loomed nearer and nearer , I rethought my attitude to the pump: now, since it was unavoidable that Miss Baby and I be separated for eight or nine hours during the day, was it not a testament to my motherly love that I would still work hard to provide her with Mommy-Milk in my absence? In this case, the pump marked me as a good mommy, one who sacrifices personal dignity and time to hook herself up to a milking machine for the benefit of absent baby daughter.

This was all fine and good for most of the first week back at work.

But I keep forgetting to pump.

Here's the thing: I have no reason not to pump. I have a private office, with a door that both closes and locks. My schedule is my own to devise, and I come and go and set my own day as I please. The pump is sitting right beside my desk. And yet. It's usually a throbbing boobie or a call from the home front that actually makes me lift up my shirt and set the whup-WHOMPer in motion. So now I'm all worried about messing up my milk supply, which is a practical concern. Less practical is the return of all the guilt and anxiety and self-recrimination: how could I so totally forget baby daughter as to allow myself to get caught up in my own thoughts? Her Bad Mother describes a gruelling scene of similar selfishness, and while not waving back at your baby is much more heartwrenching than developing sore boobies, both cases promote in the unlucky mommy a real sense of shame at her own selfishness.

Here's what I'm not supposed to admit: sometimes, at work, I get so caught up in what I'm doing--reading, or writing, or completing petty paperwork, or organizing ideas--that I forget all about my baby. It's at once so obvious and normal, and so guilt-provoking and heartcatching. Sometimes I forget. But I always always come back to remembering.

Sigh. It's astonishing how I can find stuff to feel guilty about, non?

1 comment:

cinnamon gurl said...

I think the pump is most definitely a testament to mommy love. I have never really been able to get the hang of it myself, so I have to take my breaks between feedings... now that he's ten months old this is getting easier and easier. If I'd had anything going on before now, he'd surely have gotten formula while I was gone. When I go back to work, he'll probably get cow's milk.

Not sure how old your little one is and I haven't bothered to go back through your archives to find out, but you probably don't have to worry too much about milk supply if she's a bit older (like eating solids older). Even if you end up not giving her breastmilk during the day, my understanding is you can keep up with the evening, night and morning feedings for as long as you like.