Back to work

Two weeks ago I went back to work. I am lucky enough to be working part time right now, as a sub stage manager on a show, which means I fill in when one of the regular stage managers is sick, on vacation or has the night off. Its very flexible and just the right thing for me right now. I need to be making some income, and accumulating work weeks so that I can keep my health insurance (in my union we have to work 20 weeks a year in order to get a year of coverage), but my main focus and priority is to be home with Lila, so a full time job is not something I am interested in right now. Subbing is the perfect middle ground.

I was a sub at “Rock of Ages” before I had Lila, so it has been great to be back. Its been so nice to see everyone again. Some of the folks who I had less interaction with before have looked at me quizzically, as if to say “do I know you?”. I respond, “I was REALLY pregnant the last time you saw me.” Then they remember – “Oh right!”. I stopped working on the show when I was eight months pregnant. It was getting a little impractical having my very large belly in the very tiny backstage.

Going back to work has meant childcare for Lila, which luckily, Eric and I have been able to mostly juggle between each other. Eric has been doing a lot of lighting and rigging calls in the city lately, but we have been trying to work on opposite days so one of us can always be home with Lila. On days when we both work, or when there is some overlap, Nana (Eric’s mom, Marge) or Auntie Dana have been nice enough to help out with watching Lila.

Going back to work has also meant figuring out a whole system for pumping breast milk. Lila is exclusively breastfed, so I have been working on building up a stockpile in our freezer for bottles. I also have to pump when I go to work so that my milk supply doesn’t diminish. This means pumping every 2 1/2-3 hours. Right now I am pumping at half hour before the show, and then immediately after the show. On two show days, I’ll do that same routine for both shows. I carry my pump with me to work, along with a small cooler, which I keep the bottles of expressed milk in.

The theater where “Rock of Ages” plays is teeny tiny. Everyone shares dressing rooms. So, there’s not really a great place for me to pump in private. So far I have been doing it in the stage management office (which you have to walk through to get to the hair room, so its a fairly high traffic area), under an apron. Its not ideal because its hard for me to see what I’m doing and I also can’t pump both sides at once this way (which means it takes twice as long, pumping each side individually), but I’m making it work. Its interesting to see how people react. Most people don’t care. Its theater. Everyone walks around with their clothes off. But at the same time, a lot of people in theater don’t have kids. So a couple of people have been embarrassed by the pumping. After my first day back I was feeling a little daunted by it. I can see why many women do give up breastfeeding at this point. It is a major commitment to pump and keep up your supply when your baby is not with you 24/7. Its hard taking the time out of your work day to it. I feel guilty about it! Then I read this article about pumping at work from the NY Times. I loved the final sentences: “At some point, you have to stop hiding in the bathroom and stand up for yourself. It may be embarrassing, humiliating and awkward. You may turn lollipop pink. But these discomforts are little compared with the satisfaction of (finally) showing ’em what you’re worth.”

It totally made me feel proud to be a pumper! I’m feeding my kid! Lila is in the 70th percentile for weight because of ME! There is no reason to be embarrassed, or to feel like I’m putting people out because of my need to do this. So now I pump with pride and everyone around me is just going to have to deal! Its good for people to see. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and everyone needs to just get used to it.

I miss my Lila when I’m away from her, but thanks to Apple, I am able to Facetime with her whenever I need to! Its also a nice break to be around my peers again and to be back in the city. I have felt a lot more balanced these past two weeks. I’m grateful that Eric and I are working out a system of one of us almost always staying home with Lila so that her world is not disrupted too much. It really feels like our new life is falling into place. And that makes me really happy.

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4 thoughts on “Back to work

  1. You are doing right by your girl. It’s not glamorous, but your milk helps Lila be healthy and strong. As someone who works full time and has been pumping 3X every week day for 6 months now, I enthusiastically recommend the hands free pumping bustier from Medela. You slip it on, position the horns over your breasts, attach the pumping machinery… and go on with your life! Your hands are free, and both breasts are pumped at once. For some privacy you can use a nursing cover which allows a quick peek to make sure everything is going well (bebe au lait). Good luck! You can do it

    • I actually have a pumping bustier – its just that there isn’t really a private place for me to put it on at work. There is only one bathroom for the whole company and during the half hour before the show (which is when I need to pump) it is being used heavily. I actually thought about wearing the bustier under my clothes to work so that it was already on and I didn’t have to deal with getting into it. Ah, we’ll see. This is all still a work in progress!

      • Try one time to wear something that opens in the front – a button down shirt, a cardigan, or a zip-up hoodie. I think you’d be able to find a corner, open your top, and slip on the bustier without totally getting undressed.

  2. The pumping was the *hardest* part about returning to work. I’m impressed that you’re able to do it under such unusual circumstances. I did manage to have people walk in on me while pumping in a locked office, I nearly died. You’rd doing such a great job!

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