Monday, June 24, 2013

Pump hero

I needed to meet with a team to grade their students and had set up a time to meet them in their team room. This is one of the best team rooms we have in the hospital. It's spacious, with a wall of computer stations on either side, and windows lining the opposite wall from the door, filling the room with natural light. When I'm bringing the third-year students around to their team rooms after orientation, I always deliver this team's students last since it's kind of like closing the curtain between first class and coach.

I walked into the room and saw a medicine intern with her back to me, working at her computer. At the other wall, the senior resident was reading some papers before him. They greeted me as I sat down with my folders and took out my forms for grading.

"I hope you don't mind, but I'll be pumping while we do this." In the sudden quiet, I heard the telltale rhythmic sounds that I knew so well. She was pumping. Right there. In the team room. I didn't notice earlier, but she apparently had a hands-free set-up going, and was typing away, doing her notes. I glanced back at the senior resident, nonplussed. This was routine business.

I was filled Admiration. So impressed.

"I think it is so awesome that you pump in the team room!" (Could I have?)

"I've lost all modesty after 9 months," she said with a smile.

We graded. She finished pumping, cleaned up, stored the milk, and I could not stop smiling.


  1. Am I a prude for not wanting my co-workers to pump in public spaces?

    1. I don't think so, and I think many would feel the same way as you. What I saw was an intern who has overcome the obstacles of pumping at work to breastfeed her child for 9 months and counting - a feat - and it wasn't a big deal because no one made it a big deal. It has similarities to people's feelings towards breastfeeding in public (very strong opinions on both sides). For a room of physicians to be able to treat this as a normal, everyday occurrence was progress in my eyes, bringing the promise of future MiMs having it easier than I did.

    2. I don't think it's like breastfeeding in public at all. Pumping is like a medical procedure, whereas breastfeeding just isn't. I'm not trying to argue that she's wrong to do it, I just don't personally want that to be held up as some sort of standard I need to achieve. Kind of like I don't want to be held to the standard of answering pages while I am in labor. It strikes me as ostentatious martyrdom.

    3. I have spent two years pumping for my two kids (in medical school and now residency). I do not feel comfortable pumping in public (although I have pumped privately in front of MANY of my friends and family) just as I would not feel comfortable exposing my breast during public breastfeeding. However, I am completely comfortable with other woman doing that, and I support it.

      I appreciate other people's values...but by no means do I judge my own achievement based on them. Neither should you.

    4. I don't judge my own achievement based on them, but to deny that other people might judge me, or view my unwillingness to do this myself as a "lack of support," is naive.

    5. Judgment is ubiquitous. It is what we do with that judgment that shapes us as human beings. We can allow it to jade us, making us intolerant of concepts different from our own. Or we can allow it to mature us, affording us the opportunity to show compassion (which is essential to our practice as physicians).

      It is inevitable that people will misinterpret your actions. What really matters is whether or not you mean harm.

      (KC - I am very grateful for the actions of my predecessors, who have "fought" for the right of MiM to steal the time to feed their babes. In many hospitals, it is much easier today than I am sure it used to be).

    6. Honestly, your comment doesn't make much sense. I don't believe that listening to the opinions of others (or not) makes one more or less "compassionate." It just makes you someone with a pair of ears and a brain.

      Pragmatically speaking, if your boss misunderstands you, then it doesn't matter what you "mean," life will be harder for you at work. Perhaps one shouldn't care about that, but the reality is that it's sort of difficult not to.

      Do you think I'm being unsupportive of this person, or cheerleading her insufficiently? I don't think I am. In fact, I stated above that I didn't think she was wrong to pump in public. I just don't think doing so is especially admirable. It's just what she has decided she needs to do to get through the day. And for the record, I do think it's great that her workplace allows it. I just don't want to be expected to do it myself.

    7. 1.I said nothing of opinions. I only spoke about values and judgments.

      2.I said nothing about bosses, but if your life situation involves this type of miscommunication, than I agree with you. I am sorry if this has happened to you.

      3.I am not sure if you are Old MD Girl, but if you are not, I am certain I do not have enough information to make that conclusion. What I do think is that sometimes people experience hardships in life after which they unconsciously feel entitled to intolerance and pass judgment. This post is about celebrating a mother, her role in her child's care, and the advances we women have made in the medicine world. Your decision to focus on YOUR stance ("I just don't think doing so is especially admirable"), rather than those aspects of the post suggest this attitude.

    8. I have to retire for the evening. If you need more clarification on my opinion, I welcome further discussion, although I feel a different venue might pay this post the respect it deserves.

    9. I pumped in a shared coed office during grad school because it was the only option other than the bathroom. If it bothered other students, they were free to find a clean private place for me to pump which I would have preferred as well. Sometimes you have to work with what you got.

  2. Haha...I know that feeling. I am now 9.5 months into the full time fellowship and pumping gig myself. I too have very little modesty left. Interns frequently sign out ER consults to me in the pump room. It used to be a few of them bring me water when they come to sign out. It helps that I am an OB fellow though.

  3. I agree KC - since it can be so discreet these days with the new hands off pumps - I would have loved to have remained a part of the team during my process. I know universal acceptance may not happen, but her boldness and comfort would have brought me to near tears. I remember once sitting in a hot car at a soccer game (my ex's) nursing my newborn, wishing for the courage to be able to nurse under a blanket in the bleachers. I was too embarrassed of what I was doing in public, however proud and wonderful in private.

    Despite my hiding behind closed doors, I was thrilled to receive at my end of residency banquet the "Golden Pump" award for my hours devoted to breastfeeding my two kids during residency (right after my chief resident award). It may not have been universal, but I had huge support and respect and I proudly accepted the award from my male program director, who devised it. They called me "The Iron Lady" - the name was given as recognition for my strength and leadership and pumping:)

    Go future MiM's, I agree!

  4. Hats off to this young mother for pumping in the team room! Not something I would ever have done, but that is a reflection on my own unwillingness to blaze the trail, rather than a judgement on her actions! As physicians, we espouse the virtues of breast feeding our babies, yet apparently judge our own for trying to do exactly that! Mothering is hard, medicine is hard. The two together can be impossible! The day that pumping in the team room goes unnoticed is the day that we truly have reached true acceptance of breastfeeding! Until then, pump in the team room or don't pump in the team room - its the individuals choice! Totally awesome move!

  5. This is the best!!! I am so happy to read this post!!!! Not that long ago (2007), in med school, I was told to go pump in the bathroom. Like, standing up, in a stall. It's hard enough to relax to pump well while at work, but in a germy hospital bathroom, no thanks. Our tertiary care children's and maternity hospital had NO breastfeeding room. I like to hope that is b/c breastfeeding was so popular that it was done in public w/o a second thought. I would have liked to have a space to pump, though. I scrounged offices and other spaces for years, and, in fact, almost everyone was incredibly supportive and really tried hard to find me a place (every new rotation, the same conversation... "Nice to meet you, I have to step out at hour four of rounds to pump, where can I go?"...)
    Anyway, I think this is awesome, and I would have smiled all day, too. I don't know if I would be able to relax enough to let-down in the team room, but good for her. So, so awesome.


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