How the Stress of Pumping Helped Me Find Peace
July 27, 2016
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My breast milk journey has been interesting, to say the least. It started with a flurry, with our daughter not latching on. But the milk was there, and I determined to provide it. So I pumped and have pumped for almost eleven months now. What started as a flurry turned into a sprint. At the height of this race, I was pumping six or seven times a day. The result was a milk supply that even I was shocked at.

My initial goal of providing breast milk exclusively for six months was reached. After six months our daughter started a diet of fruits and vegetables with her breast milk.

Each day she eats more food, takes more water, and less and less breastmilk. Now the sprint is in the home stretch of a marathon. My goal of providing breastmilk for one year is only four weeks away, and I can see the finish line. My six or seven pump sessions a day have been reduced to four and with each passing day, I prepare for the next stage of my motherhood journey.

And yet, a small part of me will miss pumping. Those 15 - 20-minute sessions have become my solitude during an otherwise hectic, and busy life. It is when I pump that I have time for a lot of the things I love to do: scan celebrity gossip (not sorry), review the news headlines of the day, read thought provoking articles, and finally it has become a time to write.

While I pump, I think about my life, reflect on my purpose, and wonder what type of parent I want to be. I quietly, and sometimes loudly, reflect on the racial tensions of our time - wondering what authentic impact I can make. I think about the legacy I will leave my daughter - and if she would be proud of my contributions to society.

As the milk flows I review my professional goals and sharpen how I will accomplish them. I push myself to think outside my comfort zones - challenging what I think I am capable of. I check my professional hesitations caused by fear - and dare to do more of what makes me happen inside and outside the workplace.

What has emerged from my near eleven-month journey is a more confident and unapologetic Black millennial working mother. I made the choice to pursue my extra-curricular passions, strive to continuously improve professionally, and truly cherish my role as a parent.

This growth and appreciation were made possible by the "quiet" time pumping gave me to reflect. To pray for guidance. To seek the advice of others. To read about the successes of women who look like me - who are the same age as me - who have daughters like I do. Pumping gave me what I needed most - clarity.

And yet with clarity must come a healthy level of dissatisfaction. One of my favorite quotes - not by Maya Angelou- is, "To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage." - James Baldwin. I want to expand on his quote. To be a woman and conscious in America is to be a constant state of rage. Women consistently make less than men for the same jobs. We are often overqualified for positions - and yet still don't get them. The glass ceiling is not glass at all - it is titanium.

To be a working woman and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage." I work in a field dominated by women, and yet the policies, practices, and procedures of most organizations in my industry don't match this fact. Pumping rooms should be an expectation - not a luxury. Being able to work a flexible schedule or having on-site childcare are exceptions instead of the norm. Paid maternity and paternity leave are so taboo that even I find myself conceding it may never happen.

To be a working Black millennial woman and conscious in America is to be a constant stage of rage. How will I wear my hair to work? Will my coworkers acknowledge the tensions of the times, or remain silent to avoid challenging conversations. Will I see positive representations of what I can become in the media? Do our lives matter?

So naturally the advocate in me chooses to channel this "rage" into action. I want Black mothers' experiences to be valued - and shared. I want working mothers to be supported - beyond the pumping room. The change has to start with us.

Over the coming weeks, our daughter will transition from breastmilk and my time pumping will come to a close. I will also transition to my new blog and online platform, which will continue funneling my thoughts and words in meaningful dialogue. I hope everyone will join me as I embark on this journey. I am looking forward to it!
Written By
Victoria Graham
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