Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pumping in the girls room

Little Bean is strictly breast fed thus far. And I am back at work full time. So three times a day I sit down for the little ritual of pumping my milk. Or rather, Bean's milk. Before I returned to work, I was fully prepared for doing so. I had my pump, my bottles, my little ice pack and cooler case, my microwave sterilization bags. All I needed was a place to do it.

The department just moved into a new buliding. This buliding is large and fancy-looking (though poorly poorly designed when it comes to it being a functional lab space). The building is so large, in fact, that there are many empty offices waiting for shiny new faculty to fill them. I had supposed, in my naivete, that the department would gladly allow me to use this totally unoccupied space to pump. After all, it is sitting empy, and I need a space to pump. And all the admin people in charge of handing out keys ARE WOMEN. So, a few weeks before my return to work, I kindly asked if I might be allowed to use one of the empty offices to pump in.

At first, the situation seemed hopeful. The woman I emailed in Admin was polite and said that the department ought to see what they could do to accomodate me. This was followed by two weeks of silence. Then I got the run-around. "You'll have to talk to person B about this" says person A. "Well, I'll have to talk to person A about this," says person B. Then finally, after several weeks of polite pestering, I delivered the entire spiel about why pumping was necessary to my continued success breastfeeding, how breastfeeding my baby benefits my boss and therefore the department, and why I think their pussyfooting is just one more example of how academic science doesn't support science-moms.

I received a fairly cordial reply from the woman saying that the department couldn't be expected to provide a space that would only be used an hour or two a day at most (nevermind that there are currently offices being used for exactly 0.0 hours per day), and that the department DOES support science-moms by providing a generous maternity leave policy (I can't really argue with that as 3 months is RELATIVELY generous), and that I am more than welcome to pump in shower room attached to the ladies bathroom but an office is out of the question. She also assured me that, as a woman who breastfed two babys for 10 months each many years ago, the situation for working moms has improved.

Excuse me? Just because the situation has "improved" over the past 20 years doesn't mean that it's good. Just because woman make $0.75 on the dollar instead of $0.50 on the dollar doesn't mean we should accept it with a polite thank you.

But the administration wouldn't budge, and so I am in fact pumping in the bathroom. And for those of you who might think it's not a big deal to be pumping in the bathroom, I'll remind you that when I pump, I am preparing FOOD. Go make your lunch in the bathroom and see how you feel about it.


Flicka Mawa said...

I'm going back and reading some of your early posts, and I must say, I do quite enjoy them. I'm glad to hear that you DID tell them what you thought about them not letting you use an office - I would have too. Sheesh. How is it out of the question if you just want to use it to pump and not to move all of your earthly belongings into? Are you still pumping in the bathroom? Maybe not pumping in the bathroom is one thing to look forward to about the pumping phase coming to an end?

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