I walked into the office this morning with my purse, a grocery bag containing my lunch, and a black shoulder bag containing a breast pump. I was surprised when I got to my cube and found it exactly the same; the rest of my life had changed so much.
Everyone stopped by to welcome me back asking how I'm doing and whether I've slept at all in the last six weeks. One coworker asked gently how I was doing and then looked at me with concern, as if to let me know that I could feel free to open up. I replied that I was doing fine, and he turned away, almost disappointed, mumbling something about women having trouble leaving the baby.
I did not have trouble leaving the baby. I told my husband where he could find the milk and then reassured him that taking care of an infant was not hard. Well, it's not complicated. And then I just left with my discrete black shoulder bag, off to bring home the bacon. And the milk.
Mid-morning, I decided to investigate my options. I went into the ladies' room and discovered that there is one outlet located by the sink. To pump in the relative privacy of a stall, I'd need an extension cord. My other option appeared to be a storage room, which was more private in that it had a lock on the door and no one would be able to hear the telltale whirrr-click whirrr-click. However, I'd have to put some kind of sign on the door to prevent others with a key from coming in to get the old accounting records, which felt pretty conspicuous. Also, all the outlets were hidden behind shelves of boxes. There were a couple of empty offices and conference rooms, but they all had windows. The only other woman at work recalled that when she'd gone through the same thing a decade and an office ago, the maintenance crew had come in and installed blinds on a window.
It seems like there are laws about accommodating working mothers who need to breastfeed. Installing blinds would be accommodating. Had I brought this up more than half an hour before I needed it, that might have been possible. Since I did not do that, for the time being, I was given an extension cord. A bright orange, thirty-foot extension cord. Itis not ideal, but it works.
So I sat on the toilet, pumped, emptied the full containers into the jar, and then pumped some more. I got milk on my shirt, and the jar I brought was too small. I left the pump parts drying on a paper towel by the bathroom sink, but I had to put the milk jar in the company fridge. I thought about labeling it, in case someone thought about using it for their coffee. Being a working mother is so glamorous.
In the afternoon, I texted my husband to ask what time he would be bringing the baby by to meet my coworkers, because it is apparently a crime to have a baby and then not show it to everyone. He responded that he was at the store, picking up ingredients for dinner. I admired his ambition, as I have only been on a solo excursion with the baby one time, and it was for a required doctor's appointment. I wondered if the baby would fuss or if he would have to change a diaper in the men's room, where there was probably not a changing station. Being a stay-at-home dad is so glamorous.
Today my old life met my new one. It was the first day of the new normal.