Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The One In Which I Share My Embarrassing Moments

I am pretty good at embarrassing myself whenever possible. Matt often calls me "Grace" because I can trip over a crack in the sidewalk if given the chance. I am sure there are many friends, namely Josh, who would be happy to tell you embarrassing stories about things I have said or done if you simply buy him a drink. But nothing is quite as humiliating as sitting on the floor of a storage closet in the Houston Airport and pumping breast milk.

In fact, I believe breast feeding, while having many wonderful benefits for a child, is the source of most of my embarrassment over the last 3 years of my life. 

I don't usually talk about nursing on this blog because I have a few guys that read it and they really don't want to hear about this but I decided to share this aspect as nursing just to get it off my chest. (ha!) 

(And because it is on my mind since my pump just broke with only 3 months left to nurse. Such a pain. Luckily my friend Tracy was able to step in and save the day! )

I guess the most frequent embarrassment for me when it comes to nursing is that I have to pump a couple of times a day at work. It is totally obvious to everyone that I work with when I am gone in the mother's room (which is so posh and comfy...with it's flickering lights and straight backed chairs. They do give us a table, so I guess I should be thankful...but the space is contained within a break room so it's always awkward to run into a business partner or co-worker when you are coming out of the 'mysterious' closet). My co-workers have joked about it for a while now. I often get asked (loudly) where I am going when I am on the way to the mother's room. Sometimes I get text messages saying that they have cookies...if only they had some milk...and so on. 

And work doesn't stop just because I am in the mother's room. I regularly listen in on conference calls (and sometimes have to speak on them) while pumping. People on the phone have asked, "who is using a washing machine?" or "what is that breathing sound?" if I don't have the phone on mute while in the room (generally because I have to talk, not because I want everyone hearing my pump. so awkward). It is nice, however, to at least have a dedicated space at work to take care of this. When I travel it is a different story altogether. 

I have traveled for work 2 times in the last 2 months and both times were amazing opportunities for me to humiliate myself in public. It starts at the airport when you go through the screening line. I am always stopped and searched because of my pump. If it is a woman, they search my bag, I tell them it's a breast pump, and they look around some more just in case. Then they send me on my way. If it's a man, the minute I tell them it's a breast pump the search is over and they can't get my bag zipped up fast enough.

When I get to the work site I have to ask if there is a mother's room. So far in both sites I have visited there has not been. In SLC I had to use a man's office (because none of the women had offices) so that was just super. Twice a day I would kick him out of his space in order to pump. Then I would leave the milk in his refrigerator. I am sure he was thrilled by this. 

On the second day in SLC I was in the office when I heard the sound of a key going in the lock of the door. I quickly tried to cover myself while yelling out that I was in the room. As the door started to open in slow motion I shouted, "Don't come in!" but the cleaning lady apparently didn't speak English and she kept on coming in. She got a show and I got a very red face. Seriously, though, even if you couldn't understand what I was saying don't you think the yelling from the other side of the door would make you think twice about coming in? 

In El Salvador I had to pump in a training room because the closet that they used as a "mother's room" didn't have any electricity. Helpful. 

I know the rooms at the site are monitored by security so I can just imagine some Salvadoran security guards in a room wondering what the heck was going on in the training room on the 3rd floor. I tried my best to look for a camera in the room and I did everything I could to cover up but I know I couldn't cover everything. There were probably reports of someone using a washing machine in the area of the training room and they needed to investigate...

On the way there and back from El Salvador I had to pump on the airplane. Continental has power supplies right there in the seats so it made things pretty easy. It was a full flight on the way to El Sal so I had to ask a woman who didn't speak English to trade seats with me so that I could sit in the window seat and pump in relative privacy. It was clear that she didn't understand my request since we had a bit of a language barrier so I decided to show her the pump pieces and then motion to my boobs and then to her seat. She was happy to switch after that. We didn't make eye contact for the rest of the flight. (so ashamed)

On the way back from El Sal I had an empty seat in between me and my co-worker but our power supply didn't work in our row. I moved to a different row with power and put up a blanket to block my pump from everyone going to the rest room. It was working fine until the flight attendant came by to offer water. He reached out to hand it to me and then the blanket fell. Fantastic.

After that I needed to clean the pump pieces with bottled water from the plane and the male flight attendant was unwilling to part with a half of a bottle of water without good reason. Once I showed him my used breast pump pieces he gave me the water without any further hesitation. I was mortified.

The trip through customs also offered a fresh chance to be embarrassed by the US Federal Government. There were three checkpoints with questions and they went something like this:

checkpoint 1: customs agent asks if I have any food or liquid. I tell him that I have breast milk. He then hesitates and says, "I don't mean to get personal but is it yours or someone else's?" Mine, thanks. He goes on to tell me about a buddy of his that is a body builder who buys the milk for $80 per 6 ounces. I wish he hadn't shared that with me so much that I decided you should feel that same awkwardness.

checkpoint 2: same question about liquids or foods. I respond that I have breast milk and the guy quickly signed my form and let me go without even looking at me again.

checkpoint 3: bag search. The man asks the standard food or liquid question and I tell him that I have a breast pump and milk in my bag (a week's worth). He must think I mean baby formula and he asks where the baby is. I tell him that I am not traveling with a baby and that I have stored milk during my week away. He brings out a jar and asks me to provide a sample. 

Oh. My. God. 

I looked at him for a second and then I said, "Sir, that is breast milk. Actual milk. Not formula" to which he looked at me in horror and closed my bag as fast as he could. Search and questioning over. And all this happened in front of my male co-worker. I seriously could not have been more embarrassed. 

All I could say was that Jack better not turn out to be an a-hole after all of this because I feel like I have given up my dignity to attempt to ensure he gets the best nutrition. I have one more trip to go on before he turns one. It is an overseas trip and I don't think the airline has electric outlets like the Continental flight had. I just can't wait to figure out what kind of fresh humiliation I will be put through on that trip. **takes deep breath**


Lindsay said...

I feel your pain... I spent my lunch hour for ten months sitting on the bathroom sink with my feet on the toilet at work. We aren't lucky enough to have a room with a table or even a chair! Not only that, I had to scarf down my lunch afterwards!

Amy H said...

that sounds awful. I had to do that in the DFW airport a few times and I hated it. I think Michelle also had to pump that way when she had Alaina.

the things we do for our kids!