Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Locked in a bathroom stall

Reflecting on returning to class when Lucas was 5 months old...

I've locked myself in the large bathroom stall reserved for people in wheelchairs. Sitting on the toilet, fully clothed, I open my purse and pull out this yellow contraption. The batteries have fallen out, so I dig around in my bag. I can't believe I'm doing this, but my breasts are full and my class is five hours long. In the fifteen minute break when every one else is scarfing down dinner, I'm preparing dessert for my five-month old son.

I pull open my shift, unhook my nursing bra, suction the plastic cup to me, and flip the on switch on the Medela pump. Whir-whir-whit-whir it goes echoing loudly in the empty bathroom. I use my free arm to pull open my text book onto my lap and elbow the pages until I get to the next chapter. With more than 100 pages of reading assigned each week, the only way I'll get through this class is to read while nursing.

I look down at the little yellow-capped bottle attached to the suction cup and wonder at hoe I will get the four ounces I need for him. I don't want to supplement with formula if I don't have to. I have been down that road before, fought those feelings of inadequacy and helplessness during the first three days of my son's life before my milk came in. Just want to make it to the magic six month mark when I can introduce solids. Besides, I'm already away from him for six hours for this class every Monday night, I can't take away his Mommy-milk too.

Stop it! Think positive! I remind myself that milk won't flow if I focus on not producing. I pull out my cell phone, flip it open and squint at the fuzzy picutre of him lying on a yellow mat staring at a toy in front of him. I can barely make out his gummy grin. Closing my eyes, I see his little lips chomping on my breast, his huge blue eyes staring at me in satisfaction. I imagine my milk flowing to him and yes, the bottle seems to be filling quickly.

The door outside creaks open and the image vanishes suddenly. The women who has walked in has stopped in front of my stall. The machine continues to whir-whir-whir-whir and I hold my breath, paralyzed. She walks to the next stall, closes the door, does her business, then bolts out without washing her hands. What did she think I was doing?

Really, there should be a room for me to do this. I shouldn't have to hide in this disgusting beige metal cage and feel ashamed for what I'm doing. I want to tell my classmats where I've been, what I did on my break, but I picture their reactions. Blank stares and awkward silences like they gave me when I introduced myself as a mom of an infant, when I stupidly shared my nervousness at leaving him for so long, which I regretted when I heard a big sigh from behind me.

The alarm on my cell phone rings. 15 minutes is up. I turn off the pump, share the drops from the suction into the bottle, cap it and put it into the tiny freezer bag I've brought. I pull out an apple and run to class before I'm late.

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